You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Europe’ category.

Portugal plugs itself in

Portugal plugs itself in

Glad to read this article in the Global Post about Portugal’s commitment to electric cars. The government plans to have 100 electric-car stations operational by the end of the year and 1300 on line by the end of next year. As the article notes, Portugal is Western Europe’s poorest nation, which perhaps gives impetus to its quest to shake off the shackles of energy dependence. Photo by Seuss in NC

h

What if the whole world could vote? The American election via The Economist

The Economist magazine ran a cool democratic experiment in which they created a Global Electoral College online and allowed the world to vote on the American election. The result: Obama sweeps the world, capturing 9,115 out of a total of 9,875 electoral votes. Which explains my inbox, crammed with election excitement and good wishes from friends outside the U.S.

Curious to see the McCain-leaning red states around the world: Iraq, predictably, but Algeria? The Congo? Cuba? Click on through to check out the interactive map.

The stability of oil supply takes another hit

The stability of oil supply takes another hit

The all-out war in Georgia finally moved from page 14A to the front page in my local paper today: about time. But the story leaves out entirely one of the most important elements of the conflict: the oil factor. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline runs from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Georgia and, with a one-million-barrels-per day capacity, is a key provider of energy for the EU and the United States. In fact, along with the sister Baku-Supsa Pipeline, it’s the sole supply link for oil resources in this area that wasn’t controlled by Russia or Iran.

Bonus points for you if you recognize the destruction of this pipeline as the world-shattering MacGuffin in the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough.

News reports in the U.S. seem to downplay the oil angle, probably in hopes of maintaining the recent slide in oil prices. But the threat is very real – not just that hostilities will damage the B-T-C pipeline (which is already shut down for the moment due to PKK insurgency last week in Turkey), but that Russia will seize control of the pipeline and use it as a tool to control prices and exert power over the West. Indeed, that may be a prime reason for the Russian attack on Georgia. As noted in earlier posts, in the World Without Oil game, players predicted aggressive moves such as this by the new petropowers to consolidate their energy control…. As with Iraq, if oil is not the #1 reason given for invasion, it will be a faithful and constant #2. Photo by YourLocalDave via Flickr.

Inspiration this morning in a national press release from Germany:

Pedal power to the people

Pedal power to the people

Stuttgart to Launch Electric Bike Share

With gas prices climbing and the threats associated with global warming becoming more apparent, more and more commuters think two wheels look better than four…

The city of Stuttgart has announced plans to rent electric scooters from locations around the city. The idea injects an electric jolt into the bike-sharing programs like Paris’ popular Vélib’.

The city’s government has inked a deal with British firm Ultra Motor to provide the moped-like vehicles. It hopes to have around 1,200 such vehicles ready for rental and covered charging stations located every 500-600 feet around the city in about less than a year.

The LEVs can travel up to 37 miles before needing a charge – which takes about 15 minutes – and have been especially engineered to travel up steep hills.

Interested users will be able to buy a monthly LEV subscription for 15 euros ($24), which will provide them with rides up to 30 minutes, a fraction of the price for a monthly Stuttgart train pass.

I believe the LEVs are combination pedal-electric: that is, you can pedal yourself as much or as little as you want.

More info on the LEV Share program here – coming soon to more cities in Europe. We need to welcome initiatives like these and consider them for American cities, which take oil-burning vehicles off the road and help us make the transition into a more electric-powered and efficiency-oriented (i.e., more sustainable) transportation mindset. First, of course, we have to start making riding two-wheelers safer by cutting back on the car-first design of almost all our streets… Europe has a 30-year or so head start on us on this. Photo by JS North via Flickr.

The Next Slum?

The Next Slum?

The single most disturbing thing that arose in the World Without Oil game had to be the disintegration of law and order, especially in the suburbs. WWO players realized that if only 20% of the families in a neighborhood left (because it no longer made sense to commute, for example), it caused a chain reaction that led to increased crime – a situation compounded when communities were hard hit by budget shortfalls and a contracting economy, and thus shrinking and overstressed police forces and services. And the crime led to more people leaving the neighborhood, which led to more crime, and so on. And scenes like this, from player Warnwood.

Which is why it’s utterly disturbing to hear that our players predicted this correctly, and that the process has already begun – catalyzed of course by the subprime mortgage crisis. You can read all about it in this article in The Atlantic magazine.

In Europe, I am led to believe, the most desirable property is typically closest to the city center. Something to think about? I’m within walking distance of two downtowns, myself… Photo by robertpogorzelski via Flickr.

photo by Michallon via FlickrThanks, John Thackara, for alerting me to the City Eco Lab being planned for November, in st. Etienne, France. City Eco Lab are “design steps to a one-planet economy”: by demonstrating a full range of projects that rethink a city’s consumption of fuel, food, energy, water, etc., CEL moves the focus beyond an individual’s choices to the systems that citizens depend on for their livelihood. It’s a really great idea and one that should be extended to cities in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Is it possible, however, that an oil crisis will strike St. Etienne even as the City Eco Lab gets underway? And citizens of St. Etienne will be phoning in reports live as the crisis progresses? It’s certainly possible, given the current state of fuel protests spreading like wildfire across Europe. And it’s possible in a WWO sense too (and maybe you can help). Stay tuned.  Photo of St. Etienne tram by Michallon via Flickr

by Robert WhitlockSo said Peter Carroll, a representative for the trucking industry in the UK, about fuel prices, shortly after he parked his big rig on the A40, closing that major artery into London. The blockades are beginning again in Europe, in a manner prescient of the Petrol Wars of 2000, which pretty much shut down France and the UK at that time.

The problem is this: ordinary citizens can adapt to rising fuel costs by using transit or cutting back miles driven. But truckers, fishermen etc. have no such elasticity to their lives, and now that diesel is near $10 a gallon they’re not about to suffer alone.

Which brings up the question: when can we expect renewed blockades and truckers’ strikes in the US, where truckers are similarly stretched past the breaking point? Expect no warning, as these events, loosely organized by CB and cell phone, are classic flashmobs.

Photo by Robert Whitlock via Flickr

The Stockholm Challenge has brought together people using information technology for civic purposes from all over the globe. Naturally we’ve been networking like mad. In this quick video, the finalists in attendance from the Environment category list their partnership needs. Anybody know of a potential resource?

Gathering Information Technology ideas from around the world

Here’s a map showing the home locations of the finalists in the 2008 Stockholm Challenge. There are some great ideas and great works going on all over the globe, and I’m looking forward to meeting some of them in Stockholm next week and exchanging some knowledge.

Plus: Corrina McFarlane (Bodi Lane in WWO) pinged me on Saturday, which was Pangea Day – an exciting day of global connection. She’s collected reader comments on her blog.

May 10, 2008

Finalist, Stockholm Challenge 2008!Cool beans. The Stockholm Challenge has selected World Without Oil as a finalist in its 2008 program, in the “Environment” category (subcategory: Energy and alternative technologies). The Stockholm Challenge is all about using Information Communications Technology (ICT) to help counteract social and economic disadvantage. If you look at the finalist list (and you should) you’ll see two main areas: groups that are extending known technologies into underdeveloped regions (often in innovative ways) and groups that are coming up with new technologies or approaches for serving the public good (WWO is in this second area). Here’s the WWO brief at the Stockholm Challenge.

I find three other game approaches among the finalists, both in the Health category: Freedom HIV/AIDS,which uses mobile games to raise awareness in India, and Reach Out Central (Australia) and SmartUs – Games in Motion (Finland), both aimed at health awareness. This is a good showing for serious games, folks, showing their rise globally. I look forward to meeting all the finalists in Stockholm during Challenge Week, May 19-22. The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) does select winners in each of its six categories, but it seems the real prize is to meet and share ideas and aquavit with some really innovative and dedicated people from all over the world.

“The current surge in the price of oil is certainly not driven by a conviction that oil supplies have peaked and can only decline from now on. The dealers in the London and New York exchanges who make the market react to the daily flow of news  and don’t bother much about longer term issues like peak oil. The market is a simple-minded beast: Supply is tight and disruptions are possible, so the price goes up. But the market is so tight because demand has been growing faster than supply for years, and now the fear is that supplies may have stopped growing altogether.” Read the rest here.

France-Belgium border, 2000 - BBC NewsI posted earlier about the oil mini-crisis in Europe in 2000. Reading some more about it today… fascinating stuff. Especially this analysis by Will Hutton of the Guardian, which pegs this crisis as a “smart mob” before that term came into vogue. Also pay attention to the lessons about “just in time” supply and how worker loyalties fall, when push comes to shove. From his article: “In other words, the new mania to maximise shareholder value above any other strategic corporate objective has exposed the whole delivery and supply system… If the Government wants more protection against a repeat, it will need to calm down the British corporate sectors’ increasing preoccupation with profit and self-interest.” As I said, fascinating.

Photo from BBC News archive

I heard WWO players in Europe refer to “the events in 2000” but I never knew what they were, until I read this. If you run into people who don’t believe that the events of WWO are anything close to possible, have them read this story by Kathy McMahon. All the more scary if you remember that Britain’s oil fields hadn’t yet declined in 2000. This all happened back when it was an oil-producing nation.

It was the world's first serious alternate reality game, a cooperative pre-imagining of a global oil crisis. Over 1900 players collaborated in May 2007 to chronicle the oil crisis with their own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock, but its effects continue, as game designers analyze its unique gameplay and we all watch the continuing drama with global oil prices and supply.