Another Planet

Just 31% of renewable biofuel being sold in the UK market is making sustainability targets according to a new report. Edie.net reports that research by the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) criticises BP, Chevron, Murco, Total, INEOS and Morgan for all missing three sustainability performance targets set as part of the UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).  One of the worst performers identified is Murco, which failed to report any fuel meeting the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO)Environmental Qualifying Standard. According to the RFA, one of a swathe of Government funded bodies to lose financial backing last year, the fuel industry as a whole is ‘not keeping up’ with targets designed to encourage more sustainable biofuels. Despite the poor performance by many, the report also identifies suppliers who are demonstrating what can be achieved – Greenergy and Shell undertook independent sustainability audits of Brazilian sugar cane with Shell also carrying out independent audits of German oilseed rape.  Lissan and Topaz supplied all of their fuel from wastes and by-products. There are also many companies supplying only biofuels and meeting all three sustainability targets – this includes all companies supplying solely biodiesel from used cooking oil or tallow.
www.edie.net

Australia has been hammered by more freak weather: One of Australia’s biggest storms has brought severe rainfall to a stretch of the coast more than 190 miles long in North Queensland. “This is a cyclone of savagery and intensity,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a nationally television news conference before the storm hit. “People are facing some really dreadful hours in front of them.” Cyclone Yasi roared toward the coast bearing destructive winds gusting up to 180 mph. Satellite tracking showed a front some 300 miles across, with an eye that officials said would take around an hour to pass over any one point. Thousands pf people have evacuated their homes. It also will lash the coast with up to 28 inches of rain, and is predicted to send tidal surges far deeper inland than usual, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said “It’s such a big storm – it’s a monster, killer storm” adding that the only previous storm measured in the state at such strength was in 1918 “This impact is likely to be more life threatening than any experienced during recent generations”. For months, Queensland has been in the grip of one of Australia’s largest, most costly natural disasters. Tropical rains that began in November have flooded an area larger than France and Germany combined, destroying homes, isolating towns and virtually paralysing the state’s lucrative coal industry. Last month, flash flooding inundated several towns in the state’s south, including the capital, Brisbane, destroying some 30,000 homes and businesses and killing 35 people.

The UK may have to face the scenario of its own marine pollution disaster where up to 180 million gallons of oil could spill out into the North Sea if there is a disaster or blow out at the proposed Cambo 4 drilling platform which will be operated by Hess, a US Company, in the Shetlands. Can’t happen I hear you say – ermmmm – Gulf of Mexico anyone?  See the Times (4th February 2011 for more).

A study by the University of California shows that 85% of the world’s oyster beds have disappeared from  estuaries and bays . The problem has been the dredging of natural habitats on the shoreline, and the replacement of native species with farmed stock – with the Pacific oyster now preferred. These new species have now been hit by an outbreak of a new form of herpes across Europe. In France oystermen are losing 90% of all juveniles to the disease.  The famous oyster beds of Whitstable were hit last summer and although the now endangered native species is not affected, it too is in decline. Nick Cordes, who is one of the Glastonbury Festival  photographers and whose pictures sometimes grace these web pages, was an oysterman and wrote and photographed a lovely book ‘Diary of a Native Oysterman 1993 – 1996’ a few years ago in 1998 when he was the last Whitstable born oysterman still working on the oyster beds for Seasalter Shellfish.   700 million oysters were consumed in Britain in 1864 – by the 1960s this had dropped to 3 million and catches have not recovered.

It seems that the UK government couldn’t wait to consult anyone on selling off our woodlands – and have sold quite a few already – with complaints coming in that local people didn’t even know the woodlands and forestry was for sale by the Forestry Commission.  I heard about this a couple of weeks ago when speaking to a some local farmers and this seem outrageous if sales were made secretly. You know what – usually a bit of competition puts UP prices and brings in a better price. Indeed we have been looking for woodland for our ‘Festivals Wood’ project and the prices offered by one of the alleged beneficiaries of this early sale have been sky high – and yet they seem to have been able to buy the woodland cheaply in these secret sales.  Sales of 44 woodlands sites totally more than 4,000 acres were made – and it seems there are 20 more sales in place but yet to be completed. It does seem now that the Coalition government is a little bit shaken by the public outcry over new sales and have promised t maintain public access and not sell of  special sites – but there still doesn’t seem to be any effective mechanisms in place to allow local residents or charities like the National Trust and the RSPB to bid for local woodlands – or indeed that sales are handled properly. If we are going to have to sell them, the taxpayer might as well get some benefit. So now it’s a double whammy – we (the public) have lost the forests AND not been paid a proper price. Wow. I am fast going off Caroline Spelman, the minister “in charge”.

There was an interesting letter in the Times newspaper (Saturday 5th February) titled ‘Fish Farms and the decline of wild fish’ pointing out that rather than being the salvation of fish stocks in our oceans, fish farms are actually depleting the seas as they send out boats to harvest ‘cheap’ fish like anchovies, sand eels, capelin and sardines to turn into feed for luxury farmed fish such as salmon. It seems US and European fish farms need 2-3kg of wild fish to feed up just 1kg farmed salmon – and that rises to 10kg  of fishmeal to produce 1kg of farmed fish in Chile.  With the fish farming industry now targeting krill – which is one of the building blocks of the marine eco-system, the future of our marine life might now be at risk.

Finally with news that the University of British Columbia have found the Arctic fish stocks are being deleted far quicker than figures available from the United Nation Food and Agriculture Agency show,  it seems right to remember that wise Cree Indian prophecy  –  Only when the last tree has been cut down, Only when the last river has been poisoned, Only when the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that we cannot eat money …

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