Posts Tagged ‘carbon dioxide’

Doing your share, and nothing more

January 15, 2010

A Swedish reader of this blog made an interesting, albeit misguided, observation yesterday. He was responding to a blog entry about Swedes who are opposing the country’s ambitious build-out of wind power.

Because Sweden doesn’t release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when producing electricity, he wrote, “wind mills wouldn’t make a difference in Sweden.”

Indeed, Sweden could serve a poster child in the global warming debate. All, but 4 percent of the nation’s power supply is generated by hydro or nuclear power.

It’s true that Sweden is a leader in clean energy production. Nearly all, 96 percent, of the nation’s power supply is generated by hydro power or nuclear plants. Moreover, the country has switched to become a net exporter of energy. This year, Sweden was projected to export 11.1 tWh of electricity, according to a recent forecast by the Swedish Energy Agency.

Clearly, the country is doing more than its share. Conclusion: No need for Swedes to invest in additional renewable energy – at last not from a global warming perspective. (They still have the headache of nuclear waste to deal with.)

But with all that electricity being exported — by 2030 as much as a quarter of the electricity produced by the Nordic kingdom will be shipped abroad, government forecasters predict — it appears those wind power stations are really doing some good. They might even close down a Polish coal plant or two.

That’s what I call doing smart business while addressing a global problem. Now who’s looking smart?


Where’s my cheap charter flight?

December 2, 2008

“You went to India?” Lisa asks surprised over lunch.
Yes, just like that. And to London, Amsterdam, Tallinn, Prague, Hong Kong and Italy (twice) – in the span of just two years.
How unconscionable of us, considering that air travel has become Europe’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases – and even though the region is in a desperate race to meet its Kyoto obligations. (Unlike the United States, which wouldn’t even sign the treaty to halt global warming.) 1055986_clouds_and_shadows4

Indeed, a nation as eco-minded and prominently green as Sweden is breaking all-time records for long-distance air travel thanks to a still-booming charter travel industry. I did my best fueling this trend while living there for two years, thanks to cheap flights and generous vacation benefits.

And here I am, picking on Americans who still drive around in their big SUVs when they just as easily could bike, walk or take public transportation. I can’t feel holier than thou, knowing that by taking one round-trip to Asia, I emitted as much carbon dioxide as I would have if I drove my car 9,000 miles for several years. Which, of course, I don’t. Where’s the logic here?

Well, for one, it sounds a lot more cosmopolitan and global to tell people, “We had to land in Azerbajan so the plane could refuel,” or “We spent two days in Palermo,” than to say “I sat in traffic for an hour on the Beltway trying to get to work,” or “We’ll drive up to New York for the holidays.” A well-traveled person is perceived to be educated, cosmopolitan, experienced, smart…


As for the Swedish charter tourists who flock to far-flung destinations such as Thailand, Brazil or India, traveling is neither about class nor world citizenry. They’re just after cheap beer and sun. Here’s the story I reported for The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year on the globetrotting Swedes.