Get Amsterdam back on track for 2035 climate target!

Meeting the 2050 climate target is unfortunately not going well here in Amsterdam. The city is turning to its residents for fresh ideas, to improve the situation. In this post, I present my ideas.

An important note about the perspective from which these ideas need to be viewed: I’m not interested in optimizing the local pollution footprint but see things on a global scale. E.g. If a reduction in Amsterdam causes an increase somewhere in Germany, it’s really not that interesting!

Excessive energy waste in the inner city!

The inner city (inside Singelgracht) is a UNESCO protected world — along with The Great Wall of China, the pyramids at Giza. One thing is different from the other sites: This is a city, where lots of people live their lives, and it’s changing through times. I think the time has come to start accepting, architecturally respectful, energy renovations. Many of the “monument” buildings are so far behind that the return-on-investment for such renovations would be very low and hence perfect for financing. Recently regulation has been implemented to penalise banks, which does not have enough “green-loans” on their books. So it looks like there’s both a buyer and sell here, the only thing needed is an efficient, friendly and fair regulator.

Turns out I’m not the only one to think of this, in the Journal Sustainablity back in 2010, an article was published by Anke van Hal, Birgit Dulski and Anne Marj Postel from Nyenrode Business University and Delft University, on this very subject: Reduction of CO2 Emissions in Houses of Historic and Visual Importance

Energy extraction through geothermal heat pumps

The use of geothermal heat pumps is not very widespread here in the Netherlands, I guess this is due to the average house not having particular much land surrounding it. What we do have down here though is: Water! Lots and lots of water, that is nicely-being circulated. Absolutely nothing is better for a geothermal heat pump than circulating water! Therefore I propose the city look into the possibility to install collector hoses in some of the wider canals (e.g. Herengracht and the likes), rivers (the Amstel and Ij) as well as the small inner harbour surrounding Nemo.

Temporarily stop the hunt on residents heating their house with natural-gas

Both logic and math are straightforward. Natural gas emits roughly half the CO² versus that of coal (source: MET Group - Natural Gas Vs. Coal). Switching the heat source away from natural gas, only makes sense if the alternative is a sustainable energy source (wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal or nuclear energy).

What happens now is that the switch is ether is to electricity or central heating - both of them using a mixture of energy sources, but of which the most dominant ones is natural gas, oil and coal! (source: IEA: The Netherlands 2020, Energy Policy Review) So what really happened here is that a lot of money and time is being wasted converting households to what ultimately is a worse energy source(s)!

Just to break even half of the energy used for heating, needs to come from a sustainable source (not happening anytime soon) if the other half is from coal.

Money spent on conversion subsidies intended to decrease CO², actually cause more CO² to be emitted. It’s just a bad idea: It’s not the intention nor a good investment.

Stopping this does not require scientific breakthroughs or new inventions, it’s simply putting a pure initiative to an end. I do acknowledge though, that it does require political courage to go against the “green propaganda”.

Smarter tax/restriction on fossil-fueled cars

Ultimately we all want to switch the whole car fleet to electricity - all from sustainable sources. The trick is to not completely trash the environment while doing it.

There’s a common belief that diesel = bad. I guess we all have experienced a Mercedes 70s bus driving past us spitting a few m³ of black smoke our way or had to roll up the window because of the sotting diesel car in front of us.

What few fail to realise is that the refinery process of fuel is a distillation process: Crude oil goes in and through various refining stages, different products with different applications are produced. If you only want 1 litre of benzin you are going to end up with a lot of waste material if you don’t continue to the next stages. So it’s an “if you want one, you can’t avoid the other” situation, and hence it does not make a whole lot of sense to go all-draconian on eliminating one of them.

There’s a smarter way… The optimal way…

Crude oil that comes into a refinery as the input gets roughly refined into 45% benzin and 30% diesel (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration - Oil and petroleum products explained

Using this information, a ratio of the optimal car fleet can be constructed.

Benzin: (45 / (45 + 30)) * 100 = 60%
Diesel: (30 / (45 + 30)) * 100 = 40%

So our car fleet should consist of 60% benzin and 40% diesel.

This can be made further sophisticated by taking fuel consumption (diesel cars on average is more efficient per litre) and usage type (diesel cars usually is driven by people a lot on the road).

If there are too many diesel cars, increase the tax or impose additional restrictions, but do the same if there are too many benzin cars.

Use central heating for the first celcius degrees in the washing machine

This is just an energy tip and has multiple magnitudes less impact than the other ideas, and is an idea we danish people, would refer to as “en del af de små kartofler” (part of the small potatoes).

Simply add a heat exchanger (like the one that adjusts the water temperature when taken a shower) before the washing machine and adjust the temperature to e.g. 40 celcius, this will avoid the washing machine to use electricity to heat the water the first 40 celcius, this is more efficient due to fewer and better conversion ratios, but that’s a subject by itself.

This solution will probably break even for a couple without children and be the subject of saving for families - naturally, all depending on how many machines they run.