Burning wood in power stations might actually be good for trees – so says Professor Robert Malmsheimer at the State University of New York. A number of environmentalists and scientists have argued that burning wood in power stations harms forests, produces pollution and once the carbon cost of transport is added in is hardly a ‘green’ or sustainable solution. But Professor Malmsheimer says such arguments misunderstand the forestry industry and the type of wood used in biomass – and that an increase in and for wood would increase forest area and productivity as land owners respond to economic stimuli.
It seems billions of pounds of UK taxpayers money will be given to ‘dirty’ coal burning power stations in the UK – to guarantee that the lights stay on in the UK when power from sustainable power – in particular wind power – fluctuate and cannot meet peak demand. Coal, gas and nuclear plants are all entitled to bid for the funding. Even the energy companies know the scheme is bonkers – back in October Sam Laidlaw the boss of Centrica said there was something wrong with government policies that tax coal plants for carbon emissions with one hand and subsidise them with another and that the paradox means that old dirty coal plants “will be paid extra to stay online for longer”. Greenpeace – agreeing with Centrica (!) called the policy ‘counter productive’ and ‘bizarre’ and that it would be consumers who met the cost.
And the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that the public was “fed up” with onshore windfarms and said the country did not need any more subsidised turbines on land now that the energy source was capable of providing 10% of UK energy. He said: “Let’s get rid of the subsidy, put them into the planning system. If they can make their case, they will make their case. I suspect they won’t and we’ll have a reasonable amount of onshore wind, we’ll have safer electricity supplies as a result but enough is enough and I’m very clear about that. Cameron’s remarks to the liaison committee of MPs are at odds with polling conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change that suggests onshore wind is popular and his own Climate Secretary Ed Davey. And Secretary of State Eric Pickles has been sharply criticised by the renewable energy industry for delaying the approval of many onshore wind energy developments in which he has intervened. The criticism comes in the wake of a new report from the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee, which warns that Pickles’ recent actions risk reducing investment in the clean energy sector. However on a more positive note the UK Government has tannounced details of the National College of Wind Energy based in the Humber area. Set to open its doors in late 2016, the college will offer students post-A-level professional qualifications; equipping young people with the engineering and technical skills required in the wind industry – particularly offshore, where ‘a large growth in skills is needed’.
Lord Stern has made broadly positive remarks about the results fron the UN Cop summit in Lima. Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change said “This is an important step towards a new agreement at the climate change summit in Paris in December 2015, but it still leaves a number of important issues to be worked out between countries over the next 12 months” adding”It is vital that countries put forward before the Paris summit intended nationally determined contributions that are both ambitious and credible. However, it is already clear that the scale of action to control and reduce annual emissions of greenhouse gases will collectively not be consistent with a pathway that will mean a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous global warming of more than 2C above pre-industrial level.”
Also at the Lima climate summit, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) restated the importance of biofuels, such as ethanol, in reducing GHG emissions in the transport sector. Biofuels are presently one of the most commercially viable fuel alternatives to crude oil in the medium term, proven to reduce GHGs from 40% to 90% compared with fossil fuels. GRFA spokesperson Bliss Baker said: “Nearly a third of global GHGs come from the transportation sector, those GHGs need to be a priority if we are going to make a significant contribution to combating climate change. Biofuels must be an integral part of that fight.”
Many Alpine ski resorts are facing their worst season for 150 years with snowfall way below the annual norm. The glacier resort of Tignes has only 13 of its 79 lifts operating and some guests in Chamonix are being bussed to other resorts. The snowfall on Flaine’s upper pistes – just 20cm in 2014 – is less than 10% of 2012’s 240cm snowfall.
President Obama has taken action to protect one of Alaska’s most powerful economic engines and one of America’s greatest national treasures: Bristol Bay. He signed a Presidential Memorandum that withdraws these beautiful and pristine waters from all future oil and gas drilling. “These waters are too special and too valuable to auction off to the highest bidder,” the President said.
More than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes, are floating in the world’s oceans, causing damage throughout the food chain, new research has found. Data collected by scientists from the US, France, Chile, Australia and New Zealand suggests a minimum of 5.25tn plastic particles in the oceans, most of them “micro plastics” measuring less than 5mm. The volume of plastic pieces, largely deriving from products such as food and drink packaging and clothing, was calculated from data taken from 24 expeditions over a six-year period to 2013. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, is the first study to look at plastics of all sizes in the world’s oceans.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) says global governments must ‘radically accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technology’ as a new report reveals demand for coal will break the nine-billion-tonne level by 2019. The organisation’s annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report concludes that the fate of the global coal market will be determined by China, which will continue to account for three-fifths of demand growth during the five-year outlook period.
Australian researchers have set a new world record by converting more than 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity. The record was achieved by scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, and verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the United States.”This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Scientia Professor Martin Green said. “The new results are based on the use of focused sunlight, and are particularly relevant to photovoltaic power towers being developed in Australia.”
Anaerobic digestion (AD) enjoyed a bumper year in the UK according to the latest sector survey published today (11 November) by WRAP, but Scotland did not contribute to the growth. The number of AD sites in the UK has increased from 87 to 117, while capacity increased by 55% to 3.20mt. This operational growth has led to a boost to employment in the sector – up 36% to 482 full-time jobs.
The “Schnippeldisko” (chopping disco), which is organised by Slow Food Youth, raises awareness of the industrialisation of farming in Germany. On the 16th of January 2014 many helping hands come together at Zirkus Cabuwazi in Berlin Friedrichshain to chop about a ton of vegetables as ingredients for a “protest soup” that will warm the hearts and bellies of the thousands of “Wir haben es satt!” participants the following day. And even better – all vegetables used for the protest soup are from the region of Brandenburg and are usually rejected by retailers as they don´t fit into the German trade standard – too big, too small or have an unusual shape, but there is literally nothing wrong with them – of course! To make cutting of all those vegetables more fun and to create a real ´disco´ feeling the organisers have invited DJs Florinn & Decent, who will pump out the best music around!
And finally from Jarno in the USA who reports that the International Music Festival conference, IMFcon, took place in Austin from the 7th until the 9th of December. An interesting conference where topics such as big data at festivals, fan loyalty, marketing & sponsorship, and the global success of EDM were discussed. One of the discussions was dedicated to sustainability with panelist such as Karen Cohen from Symbiosis Events, Melissa mcClary from Klean Kanteen and Nick Algee. Jarno says in his opinion “more time could, and should, have been dedicated to this particular subject. Sustainability is a vast area that can not possibly be discussed and explained in 45 minutes”. But its a start! And Lightning in a Bottle, awarded the Outstanding Award from A Greener Festival this year, were at IMFcon and this presented the perfect opportunity for Jarno to present Dede and Jesse Flemming, from The Do Lab, their award. As Jarno says – Two very humble men who are passionate about their festival and about sustainability. Congratulations!