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Getting It Right
August 10, 2008 4:26 AM   Subscribe

Denmark: Flush With Energy.
posted by chuckdarwin (47 comments total)

 
The Danes imposed C02 taxes as a result of the Oil Crisis of 1973 says Thomas Friedman. Unlikely says I.
posted by A189Nut at 4:35 AM on August 10, 2008


I thought it was a Petrol Tax...
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:40 AM on August 10, 2008


He lists CO2 taxes among a list of reasons why Denmark has been able to achieve energy independence. In a completely separate paragraph from the one where he mentioned the 1973 crisis.
posted by XMLicious at 4:55 AM on August 10, 2008


Our toilet even had two different flushing powers depending on — how do I say this delicately — what exactly you’re flushing. A two-gear toilet! I’ve never found any of this at an American hotel. Oh, if only we could be as energy efficient as Greenland!

Yes, people should use dual-flush loos, but this man is an idiot if he thinks it's an energy-saving measure in Northern Europe.
posted by pompomtom at 5:19 AM on August 10, 2008


But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:20 AM on August 10, 2008


Not that MeFi is just an echo of the New Yorker, but, well... [The New Yorker]
posted by paisley henosis at 5:20 AM on August 10, 2008


Many toilets in Japan have a "small" and "large" option for flushing which only changes the amount of water sent through the toilet in 1 flush.
posted by gen at 5:21 AM on August 10, 2008


paisley henosis, is this what you were trying to link to?
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:28 AM on August 10, 2008


In just over 30 years, to have gone from 99% of all energy coming from the Middle East to less than 1% - that's pretty impressive. I wouldn't have thought that such a dramatic turn around could happen in that short a time. There are lessons to be had here.

Meanwhile, we started a few wars to try to deal with our energy needs.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:32 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


In just over 30 years, to have gone from 99% of all energy coming from the Middle East to less than 1% - that's pretty impressive.

North Sea Oil would have helped a lot there, but it's refreshing to see a country with such reserves looking to renewable resources instead.
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:40 AM on August 10, 2008


Barack OBama Inflates HIS TireS!! LOLOLOLOL!
posted by billysumday at 5:46 AM on August 10, 2008


an architect i know was talking about the two-option-flush toilets. in her office the general consensus is that americans are too stupid to use them without being terribly confused.

i recently had a toilet replaced in my house, and it's a low water usage type that will adjust (within some parameters) how much water is used for flushing just based on how long you hold down the flush handle. (i have to say, low water usage toilets have come a *long* way)
posted by rmd1023 at 5:46 AM on August 10, 2008


WTF, I thought toilets with two flushing options was the norm everywhere.
posted by sveskemus at 6:07 AM on August 10, 2008


sveskemus: "WTF, I thought toilets with two flushing options was the norm everywhere."

I'm pretty sure that I've seen them somewhere, maybe California, but they're very rare in the US. We just had new bathrooms put in and I don't remember seeing any of those for sale in the fixture showrooms that we looked at. It might be a regional thing though, we don't have water shortages where I live.
posted by octothorpe at 6:19 AM on August 10, 2008


WTF, I thought toilets with two flushing options was the norm everywhere.

You should stop reading the internet so you can enjoy living in the happy dreamworld where things in Copenhagen are representative of the "norm everywhere"! The norm in America is a toilet with an automatic sensor to trigger it for the sort of dumb slump who can't be trusted to flush at all.

I saw the first one of these two-option toilets just a couple days ago, incidentally, in a hospital.
posted by nanojath at 6:29 AM on August 10, 2008


You should stop reading the internet so you can enjoy living in the happy dreamworld where things in Copenhagen are representative of the "norm everywhere"!

It's not just Denmark. Australia has these as standard as well (which is kind of expected given they were invented here). They're called Duosets and they've been around since the early 80s here.

We've had them for so long (as long as I can remember our houses have had them) that I've personally expected that they'd be standard around the world by now.
posted by Talez at 6:49 AM on August 10, 2008


WTF, I thought toilets with two flushing options was the norm everywhere.

These are ubiquitous - although by no means universal - throughout Australia and Europe. It's puzzling that Friedman, who should be well-travelled, hasn't encountered one before.
posted by outlier at 6:58 AM on August 10, 2008


What was the trick?
I'm pretty sure at least part of the trick for America to actually move forward on energy -- or do anything else important -- will require that we have a public discourse that doesn't prominently feature gasbags like Thomas Friedman.

I know jail time is too much to ask for, but honestly, what would it take in this country for news outlets to say "Oh, him? We don't carry him any more. He's been wrong too often, and about too many important things."

But no. I still get to hear Richard Perle talk about what should be done in Iraq. And Thomas Friedman talk about what taxi drivers told him and the deeper significance of the shitter he just used.
posted by Killick at 6:58 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


You should stop reading the internet so you can enjoy living in the happy dreamworld where things in Copenhagen are representative of the "norm everywhere"!

Just assuming everything in America is as wasteful as possible seems to work. Though weirdly they're very keen on recycling.
posted by Artw at 8:20 AM on August 10, 2008


You should stop reading the internet so you can enjoy living in the happy dreamworld where things in Copenhagen are representative of the "norm everywhere"!

Wow. Pot... kettle
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:38 AM on August 10, 2008


Decentralized Energy
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 8:43 AM on August 10, 2008


Two-state flushing is norm in Finland too and it sure isn't because of water shortage. Aesthetics of economy?
posted by Free word order! at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2008


We've had them for so long (as long as I can remember our houses have had them) that I've personally expected that they'd be standard around the world by now.

By the same token, Canadian homes have basements, giving us a place to escape summer heat, while Aussie homes typically do not. Which is, frankly, bizarre. We also have ducted heating and cooling, making it much easier to control the interior environment; Aussie homes typically do not.

So while you guys are way up there on the toilet flushing technology, you've got a helluva long way to go on the home design front.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 AM on August 10, 2008


Just assuming everything in America is as wasteful as possible seems to work. Though weirdly they're very keen on recycling.

Which criminal association is reknown for controlling garbage collection programs in the USA?

I'll bet there's some excellent government pork to be had in setting up recycling programs. The Mafia ain't dumb.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on August 10, 2008


I'm pretty sure at least part of the trick for America to actually move forward on energy -- or do anything else important -- will require that we have a public discourse that doesn't prominently feature gasbags like Thomas Friedman.

For you, Killick, and for all Americans, I'm happy to do my ongoing Mefi-civic duty of linking to Matt Taibbi's magnificent evisceration of His Flatness every time Friedman is linked favourably in the Blue.

The real pisser of it is that no matter how misguided or sloppily reported or flat-out wrong Friedman's work is, his stature means that he dictates the agenda in the high-school-clique-like circles of the New York media even among people who think he's an idiot. (Here I cite a staunchly liberal Upper West Side Asian Studies prof friend of mine, who laments the fact that everyone she knows kvetches constantly about how full of shit the New York Times is but will only deem a topic worthy of serious discussion if it's been written about in the Times.)

In the case of Denmark, I've got a bit of direct experience that might be apropos here or might just be an opportunity for me to shamelessly self-link. Back in 2005, when I was doing the field research for a book on the move to sustainability and renewable energy and all that, I pitched stories about the wind-driven Danish energy revolution and the like far and wide - including to some sympathetic and well-placed editors in NYC. The most common grounds for rejection was that this stuff, nifty as it was, just wasn't relevant to a US audience.

Last month, The New Yorker ran a very long feature focussed on the exact Danish case study I used as the centrepiece of the first chapter of my book - right down to the Danish farmer introduced in the New Yorker piece's opening passage, who appears as a prominent character in my book as well.

Point being, as near as I can tell, that what matters is not the merit of a topic but who's talking about it, and alas the braying blather of Tom Friedman and his ilk is apparently what's needed to get not just average Americans but even the sophisticates in charge of the story mix at magazines that likely consider themselves far above his stature intellectually to pay attention.

Yeah, I'm venting a bit. Imagine for a moment that the project that's consumed every moment of your professional life for the last three years will forever more be associated with Thomas Friedman - that, indeed, you will look hereafter like you are following his lead - and cut me some slack . . .
posted by gompa at 10:27 AM on August 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Gompa, the economy of attention at work, Friedman is hooked in. Style over substance and all that.
posted by stbalbach at 10:47 AM on August 10, 2008


Articles on Denmark's energy policy tend to focus, quite rightly, on the big ticket items (wind power etc.) but I remember an alternative energy conference in the '70's where they discussed generating energy by incinerating garbage:
Question: Don't you have problems incinerating some items?
Answer: Well we have to screen out the occasional corpse and sometimes hand grenades or other munitions get through - but the incinerators are strong enough. It's all energy.

They were also touting very efficient hot water distribution systems much of it solar powered.
All this thirty years ago and all technology which could have been far more widely implemented in the U.S.
There are problems of course with these technologies - PVC incineration is pretty nasty and hot water heaters are a good environment for bacteria - but they seem to be working on it.
posted by speug at 11:48 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've seen the two-state toilets in the U.S. (my friend's East Coast college dorm room) -- hopefully universities can set a good example and educate our youth to a modern version of "If it's brown flush it down, if it's yellow let it mellow," and to environmental awareness more generally.
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:31 PM on August 10, 2008


Umm, it's a freaking oped piece, which means he's a) trying to sound erudite in 500 words or less and b)attempting to convey a semi-complex idea to people who look to opeds for interesting insight (not that bright a crowd). Complain about friedman being a simplist and I'll agree. But make that argument based on an oped and I'll wonder who the real simpleton is.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:05 PM on August 10, 2008


Metafilter: Well we have to screen out the occasional corpse and sometimes hand grenades or other munitions get through


I'll be going now
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:51 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


So while you guys are way up there on the toilet flushing technology, you've got a helluva long way to go on the home design front.

Ooo basements! Woop de doo, FFF.
posted by nudar at 4:50 PM on August 10, 2008


And then there's the hot water piping in my sister's place near Perth, in which the hot water tank is outside and, get this, the hot water pipe runs in the ground around the house to the shower.

Thus heating the earth one helluva lot more than the shower.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:15 PM on August 10, 2008


The saddest bit is that Romans had houses IN ENGLAND with underfloor heating centuries ago and some twat decided that was a bad idea. A BAD IDEA to have a warm floor.

The Dark Ages sucked.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:35 PM on August 10, 2008


Yes, FFF, your sister in Perth = Australia.
posted by nudar at 6:16 PM on August 10, 2008


That's exactly what I said, nudar. "Sister," I said, "you are Australia!"

By which I meant she has no insulation in her attic.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:32 PM on August 10, 2008


...the hot water pipe runs in the ground around the house to the shower...
By which I meant she has no insulation in her attic.


So your sister lives in a shitty house, this is interesting why?
posted by nudar at 9:35 PM on August 10, 2008


But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today.

This isn't very accurate. The application of taxes wasn't really the key reason for the stimulation of the Danish wind industry sector, which actually stemmed from a number of other policy initiatives and social factors, though the Danes did have a CO2 tax from the 1980s and the exemption from this for wind made it more attractive to utilities. I'll expand on the other factors in case anyone is interested

Firstly, its worth noting that Denmark had something of a history in wind, besides the traditional use of mills for flour and irrigation Poul la Cour ('The Danish Edison') for example, had experimented with wind for electrical generation in the late 19th century, and there had been uptake of the technology in both world wars when Denmark lacked access to fossil fuels. Following WW2 there was a shift back to traditional fuels but experimentation did carry on in Denmark. Juul built the 200kW Gedser turbine in 1956-7, in the process developing some of the technology which is still in use today (for example, stall control), the design was very much a fore-runner in terms of being three bladed and can be seen as the most distinct ancestor of the three bladed 'Danish concept' turbine which is the basis for today's technology. You can still see the remains of the Gedser turbine at the Electricity Museum in Bjerringbro, Northern Denmark. (I've been, without knowing it was there, and had a thoroughly geeky moment of awe when I walked into the field and realised what it was.)

The fuel crises of the 1970s stimulated Danish government interest in alternatives (as it did elsewhere) and R&D monies were provided for work in various areas, including both large and small scale wind generators. The Gedser turbine was seen as key in these efforts, with replicas at three times the capacity being built at Risoe, the Danish National Energy Laboratory, though the Gedser did not actually scale up very well. At the same time however, the Danish government also decided to reinvestigate nuclear power (it already had a nuclear research facility at Risoe. This led to the formation of an anti-nuclear movement. Rather than just campaign against nuclear these activists tried to promote an alternative that could make Denmark more energy independent and came up with wind, leading to the formation of the Organisation for Renewable Energy (OVE). This proved to be important as it led to a grass roots movement that combined environmentalists with engineers to produce working wind energy technology. The turbines were at a fairly small-scale and in terms of production quality looked pretty poor when compared with the larger scale wind turbines being trialled in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the US and the UK at the time - turbine weight was a number of times bigger per unit of output. However, their key advantage - and a fairly substantial one - was that they worked. They could be reproduced and sold to interested parties. One key development was Christian Riisager's construction of small wind turbines, again based on the Gedser turbine, but scaled down - the initial version was 22kW. By the late 1970s Riisager was able to build and sell over a hundred of these to enthusiasts, though he was not the only one producing them. There were actually quite a few small manufacturers, some better than others. This led to the formation of a social aspect of Danish wind energy that would prove hugely significant in the next decade; enthusiasts began to collate and disseminate information about the relative performance of different turbines (I think I'm right in saying that the main organ for dissemination was 'Naturlig Energi', which is still going today.) This basically meant that people stopped buying turbines which didn't perform and forced manufacturers to up the quality of their machines.

The next major step in the expansion of the Danish wind energy sector happened not in Denmark but in the US. Support mechanisms had been introduced federally in the US to stimulate the building of wind turbines, but in most places was insufficient to stimulate capacity, when California introduced a state level subsidy, the two subsidies together were enough to create a market. Wind turbine companies from all over the world rushed to meet demand, some with decent machines, some not. The quality control that had been a feature of the Danish market however, led to distinct advantages for the Danes and they came to enjoy over 50% of the Californian market, right up to the point in the early 1980s when the subsidies ended and the market died. At this point many turbine manufacturers from all over the world went bust; this is when Danish policy actually became effective. Rather than let the Danish turbine makers die, with the movements for renewables and anti-nuclear in mind, as well as its continuing energy dependence on imports, the Danish government introduced policies to support demand, it granted the exemptions on its carbon tax to wind but also introduced a policy to force utilities to purchase 100MW of capacity, later switching to setting a tariff for renewably generated electricity.

California was a huge step forward for the Danish manufacturers, it made them formalise a lot of their knowledge, in a sector where it is not agreed that knowledge capital is hugely important to future development, it allowed them to grow in scale and, it can be argued, it also brought home to the Danish government the possibilities for the development of significant opportunities for new export industries, offering employment and potentially a rich source of exports. Policy following California was aimed not just at supporting capacity - which remains the sole aim of many national renewable energy policy frameworks to this day - but also at maintaining the expansion of Danish industry. Stable policies, with reasonably generous levels of subsidy leading to predictable levels of demand have kept companies innovative at home and competitive in the international environment. The sector continued to expand through the 1990s despite challenges from German, Spanish and American companies, all supported with a strong and largely consistent home market dominated by domestic manufacturers. Whether the Danish pole position can withstand the onslaught of Chinese companies as the sector becomes truly global is another matter.

Danish policy in this issue does provide a template as to how further renewable energy technologies might develop and the advantages, both social and economic, that might be claimed by the companies of any country which can effectively and efficiently stimulate new markets for new technology. Germany is already trying this with photovoltaics. China is already dominating the world solar water heating sector.
posted by biffa at 3:52 AM on August 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


I had no idea teasing Australians could be so much fun.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:38 AM on August 11, 2008


Heaven forbid we should discuss the possibility of actually going the Danish way - it's more than just dual flush loos here, people.
posted by imperium at 8:33 AM on August 11, 2008


Umm, it's a freaking oped piece, which means he's a) trying to sound erudite in 500 words or less and b)attempting to convey a semi-complex idea to people who look to opeds for interesting insight (not that bright a crowd). Complain about friedman being a simplist and I'll agree. But make that argument based on an oped and I'll wonder who the real simpleton is.

Bullshit, it's not a 'simplification' to say that people are trying to save energy by having two flushers on a toilet, they're trying to save water. Friedman isn't a "simplist" (whatever that is) because of this one article, he's a an idiot.

Friedman is a complete moron and you don't need to read 500 more words to know it.
posted by delmoi at 9:55 AM on August 11, 2008


And then there's the hot water piping in my sister's place near Perth, in which the hot water tank is outside and, get this, the hot water pipe runs in the ground around the house to the shower.

Thus heating the earth one helluva lot more than the shower.


Where else would the pipes go? If they were above ground they would heat the air.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 AM on August 11, 2008


Jesus Fuck, delmoi, that's some video clip.

The fact that Charlie Rose just sucks up Friedman's argument like literal schoolyard bully tactics justified however many hundreds of billions spent and hundreds of thousands of lives lost like this is the reasoned and mature analysis of a respected public intellectual really kinda underscores my point about ole Flathead. Taibbi's right - he could argue that outsourcing to India means the moon is made of green cheese, and the Charlie Roses of the world would set their jaws in their best reasoned skeptic casts and straighten their sober journalist ties and ask, "What kind of cheese, Tom? Ripened or unripened?"

(Best part of that clip might be "9/11 was the peak of that bubble," further evidence of Taibbi's argument that Friedman is a "Joyce in reverse," incapable of employing even the most mundane metaphors in anything other than an absurd mixedness.)

/FriedmanFilter derail
posted by gompa at 11:53 AM on August 11, 2008


A very interesting comment, biffa. Thank you.
posted by sveskemus at 3:02 PM on August 11, 2008


Friedman isn't a "simplist" (whatever that is) because of this one article, he's a an idiot

Thank you for that link, it was sensational.
posted by Wolof at 3:55 PM on August 11, 2008


So, that's what you call your ignorant bullshit noise, "teasing".

Hmm, let me think about it - no, I'm pretty sure it's plain ignorant bullshit noise dude. But feel free to keep it going for the sake of antagonism, it's what you do best.
posted by nudar at 4:36 PM on August 11, 2008


Where else would the pipes go? If they were above ground they would heat the air.

How about through the studs, where they'd be insulated? How about along the floor joists — if they'd be sensible enough to put in a basement — where, again, they'd lose a lot less heat due to convective loss.

The half-dozen places my sister has rented this past decade have all had the strangest construction techniques. They haven't been dives, but they sure as heck aren't half the house quality that you get anywhere in Western Canada. Myself, I'm a little astounded that they don't all have basements: even in Canada, where it usually doesn't get above 30°C, it's a wonderful way to escape the heat. And central heating (and its summer opposite, central cooling) makes such perfect, obvious sense. Yet it's been nothing but radiators and in-window air conditioners for her.

Nudar, you need to pull the 'roo from your ass. Lighten up already.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:09 PM on August 11, 2008


I suppose, actually, that the pipes through the ground are suffering conductive loss, while pipes through the air (ie. kept inside the house) have convective loss. Maybe. Either way, earth is one helluva heatsink, which makes running hot water pipes through it about as silly an idea as can be had.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:12 PM on August 11, 2008


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