Paul Andersen: Harnessing innovation for a New Normal |

Paul Andersen: Harnessing innovation for a New Normal

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

Now that coronavirus has taught us how to appreciate a cleansed environment, the incentive to maintain clean air and water should be compelling.

Why fall back into the same patterns that made polluted air a death sentence under the virus? Why surrender the most important freedom we have — that of choosing to live healthy lives in a clean world?

A new normal can lay the groundwork for a different approach on how we live — without resorting to cave dwelling. There are technological approaches worth harnessing, like those demonstrated on the Super-Yacht.

Also called the “Energy Observer,” this space age-looking catamaran plies the oceans as the world’s first energy self-sufficient, zero-emissions sea vessel. I’m not suggesting we all go out and buy yachts, but that we look into implementing the technologies this cutting-edge vessel employs.

“Its engines are powered completely by renewable energy harnessed from vertical-axis wind turbines and 34 kW photovoltaic panels. It uses this electricity, backed with lithium-ion batteries, to split seawater to create hydrogen to power a Toyota fuel cell that it then uses to power its engines and onboard services.”

The Super-Yacht, launched from France in 2017, is setting a new standard on a four-year, round-the-world voyage of 20,000 nautical miles, including three ocean crossings. This is a vessel that Greta Thunberg might even book passage on.

I learned about the Super-Yacht from EcoNet News, a dynamic, online newsletter from Southern California where posi-tech solutions are uplifting. “This issue is full of big, green steps. It’s about hope and innovation and dedication and has nothing to do with coronavirus.”

Eco-breakthroughs offer an inspiring message of hope for humanity and for the natural world that sustains us. Optimism is defined by novel approaches that invite humanity to thrive with best practices.

For example, EcoNet reports that Philadelphians can elect to purchase renewable natural gas to heat their homes and hot water, and to cook their meals. “Biogas” comes primarily from landfills. Instead of entering the atmosphere, it is burned for energy. Participating homes pay an extra $15 per month.

Closer to home, the Los Angeles Fire Department announced in February that it had purchased its first hybrid electric fire truck, “a $1.2 million investment in the future.” Made in Austria, the truck will be the first hybrid electric fire truck in the country. It runs on two batteries with 100 kW capacity. The fire truck can run for two hours before having to power up its auxiliary diesel engine.

On the food front, EcoNet celebrates a New Zealand company that will end plastic packaging for fresh produce in supermarkets. This is in keeping with the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration. The goal is to make all label packaging 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

The “Food in the Nude” movement has been driven by grocers who were inspired by visiting Whole Foods in America where fresh food is displayed without plastic, thanks to misting with reverse-osmosis-treated water to keep food fresh. Most suppliers are happy to provide produce free of plastic.

Scaling up to regional energy grids, EcoNet reports that “Los Angeles aims to be the first city in the nation to use renewable hydrogen to store and produce electricity, with the goal of ending the use of carbon-based natural gas entirely.”

The city plans to replace 1,900 MW of coal-fired capacity in Utah with a pair of gas-fired generating units built by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems to produce 840 MW. These units will link to a $1 billion storage project where excess renewable power will produce and store hydrogen that will increasingly replace natural gas altogether by 2045.

This is just a sampling of innovations that can avoid a regression to the polluted world of the past that was inadvertently cleansed by coronavirus. This is a golden time in history to appreciate a healthy environment by implementing and innovating new systems, large and small, that can provide goods and services without sacrificing health, beauty and sustainability.

Now is the time to define a new normal that respects and honors the future by not returning to the past. See more at

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at


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