Thursday, October 7, 2010

We Could Learn a Few From Denmark

This week for my blog, I was inspired by a video I watched in my Social Psychology class last week by the PBS NOW Series: Electric Dreams. It's about Denmark and how sustainability has become a part of their culture and daily lives. They follow a family and talk about how they keep their carbon footprint low. The video also talks about how electric cars are going to become more popular and take over their cities.

The people of Denmark are used to riding their bikes to work. Ramps are placed on stairs to make it easier to walk their bikes up them. They also have huge bicycle parking lots. A family of four seems to get by most of the year without using their car. The husband rides his bike to work from April to October. The wife walks her son to school every day. It takes them 45 minutes each way. Even when they go visit grandma, they take a bus to a train and then ride the train for 3 hours and then walk another 20 minutes to her house.

Keeping their carbon footprint low outside, they keep it pretty low inside their house. They monitor their energy use every week. To make sure they aren't using too much, they write it down and compare it to the week before. They want to keep their consumption at 50 kilowatts hours per week. That's a quarter of what Americans normally use. The family tries to reduce it even more, if they are using a little more than their goal.

For the second ingredient to Denmark's sustainability, they had to figure out how to use their stored wind energy. The answer, Danes are putting more electric cars on the road. They're hoping that in the next year or so, their roads are going to be filled with them. I found this interesting  while watching the video, a way to get more Danes to buy the electric cars, the government is putting ridiculous taxes on the cars that are still gas powered. One gentleman that filled up his gas car, paid $88 for 13 gallons of gas! That's just for a mid-sized car. If a Dane still wants to buy a gas car, there's a 25% government tax and an additional 180% tax just because it uses fuel. So a $20,000 car, turns out to cost $70,000 in the end. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for the electric car that costs less and is more friendly to the environment.

Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, came up with a technology to store the wind energy in lithium ion batteries. A GPS system in the vehicle will let the driver know where an "electric filling station" is on the way to their destination. These "filling" stations will remove the current battery and replace it with a full charged battery and the people are good to go back on the road to grandma's house. They would pay Agassi a fee for every kilometer they drive and he would pay DONG Energy for the energy used. By storing the energy in these rechargeable batteries, Denmark is able to put 750 windmills in the sea, that's if all the cars in Denmark are electric powered.

Nissan Electric Concept CarAgassi leaned on the auto industry to develop an electric car that can be mass produced and that's affordable. Nissan wanted to take on the challenge. Charging stations would be available at the owners home, work, and leisure destinations. The cars could all be charged at night, which is important for the environment because they can use the stored energy. DONG Energy said it would be expensive to do this and aren't sure how many people are going to want to invest in this purchase quite yet.
 I think if America wants to become more sustainable, we need to be looking at countries like Denmark as an example to change they way we live and to reduce our footprints.

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