Environment/Sustainability - 1 July, 2005
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Blair may snub US on climate
Paul Brown, The Guardian
Leaked papers reveal huge gulf between Europe and Bush as PM ponders political gamble
Tony Blair is contemplating an unprecedented rift with the US over climate change at the G8 summit next week, which will lead to a final communique agreed by seven countries with President George Bush left out on a limb.
The alternative is to face a "catastrophic failure" of his plan to get concerted action to combat global warming, which he has long said is the greatest threat the world faces.
Mr Blair's cabinet colleagues have described him as showing great courage in sticking to his guns, despite being advised that it is "a very dangerous thing to do politically".
...The text, described as "the base for Friday, Saturday meeting", shows that the US refuses to accept either the science surrounding climate change or that the burning of fossil fuels is contributing to it.
...The problem for the Bush administration is that if it concedes that the science is right and the risk is great, then action to curb emissions must be taken. This is politically difficult in a country that emits 25% of the world's carbon dioxide and is wedded to cheap petrol and big cars.
Mr Bush acknowledged last night that economic factors played a large role in guiding US environment policy. "Kyoto would have wrecked our economy," he said."
In a frank admission of the US thirst for oil, he added: "We're hooked on oil from the Middle East, which is a national security problem and an economic security problem."
(1 July 2005)
Nightmare vision of underwater Britain
James Reynolds, Scotsman
THE UK's major coastal cities could be submerged as a result of massive sea-level rises over the next two centuries, transforming the British mainland into a string of islands, according to latest research.
• Worst case scenario would see much of the UK submerged
• Research is based on 3 major ice sheets melting
• There still remains a 1 in 20 chance of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melting
(28 June 2005)
Climate Change: Warnings of Imminent Disaster Fall on Deaf Ears
Marcela Valente, Inter Press Service
BUENOS AIRES - If a select international group of architects and engineers warned that a house already showing cracks and leaks was in danger of collapse, the residents would logically adopt immediate measures to prevent the imminent disaster.
But when it comes to the warnings made by scientists about the impact of climate change on the planet, their alarming forecasts are largely downplayed, and government commitments to reduce the risks are half-heartedly fulfilled, as if some magic solution will eventually make the problem go away.
The results of the preliminary meetings leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 in Montreal, reveal that there is a serious lack of will to live up to these commitments.
(1 July 2005)
More flushed pharmaceuticals turning up in our waterways
Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post via Seattle Times
WASHINGTON — Academics, state officials and environmental advocates are starting to question whether massive amounts of discarded pharmaceuticals, which are often flushed down the drain, pose a threat to the nation's aquatic life and possibly to people.
In waterways from the Potomac to the Brazos River in Texas, researchers have found fish laden with estrogen and antidepressants, and many show evidence of major neurological or physiological changes.
(1 July 2005)
Several PO writers are focusing on water supply as a critical problem in a low-energy future, for example, Jan Lundberg in his recent offering at Culture Change: Petrocollapse: Can you live without indoor running water?.
British Scientists Say Carbon Dioxide Is Turning the Oceans Acidic
Kenneth Chang, NY Times
Whether or not it contributes to global warming, carbon dioxide is turning the oceans acidic, Britain's leading scientific organization warned yesterday.
In a report by a panel of scientists, the organization, the Royal Society, said the growing acidity would be very likely to harm coral reefs and other marine life by the end of the century.
"I think there are very serious issues to be addressed," the panel's chairman, Dr. John Raven of the University of Dundee in Scotland, said in an interview. "It will affect all organisms that have skeletons, shells, hard bits that are made of calcium carbonate."
The 60-page report was timed to influence next week's Group of 8 economic summit meeting. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, president of the group this year, has been calling for strong action to limit climate change. Unlike forecasts of global warming, which are based on complex and incomplete computer models, the chemistry of carbon dioxide and seawater is simple and straightforward.
(1 July 2005)
Solutions and Sustainability
'Clean energy' power station move
The world's first industrial-scale clean energy power plant to generate "carbon-free" electricity from hydrogen could be built in Aberdeenshire. The £330m project will split natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
The hydrogen will fuel a new power station to be built near the existing power station at Peterhead. The carbon dioxide (CO2) will then be liquefied and piped underground for storage in BP's Miller oil field where it can also help to recover more oil.
(30 June 2005)
Related story in the Independent: Oil giants back green power station.
Why a clean-car California matters outside of California
Union of Concerned Scientists, HybridCenter.org via WorkingForChange
I'll bet a few of you have looked at HybridCenter and said, "ZEV, PZEV, SULEV, oh my!" What are all of these crazy California clean vehicle acronyms and why should you care if they come to your state?
(1 July 2005)
Ethanol's Potential: Looking Beyond Corn
Danielle Murray, Earth Policy Institute
[Conclusion]“Energy crops,” such as hardy grasses and fast-growing trees, have higher ethanol yields and better energy balances than conventional starch crops. One likely candidate is switchgrass, a tall perennial grass used by farmers to protect land from erosion. It requires minimal irrigation, fertilizer, or herbicides but yields 2-3 times more ethanol per acre than corn does. Such crops could potentially be harvested on marginal land, avoiding the conversion of healthy cropland or forests to energy-crop production.
Still, with world energy demands rising, biofuels will meet only a fraction of fuel needs unless there are substantial improvements in vehicle fuel economy. Fortunately, the technologies required are available and affordable. Shifting vehicle production to gas-electric hybrids, like those on the market today, and reducing weight and drag would decrease fuel use several fold. Adding an extra battery and plug-in capability to hybrid vehicles would allow short trips to be made using only electric power – preferably produced from wind – decreasing fuel demand to levels that could be met with ethanol alone.
Increasing the role of ethanol in meeting fuel demand will require ongoing research and development to improve biomass-ethanol conversion technologies, along with consistent legislative support for biofuel production and greater fuel efficiency in the automotive industry. Shifting government energy subsidies, such as from oil exploration to biofuel development, is a clear choice as new oil fields prove increasingly elusive. With improved vehicle fuel economy and the use of more-efficient cellulosic feedstocks, biofuel has the potential to supply a substantial share of the world’s automotive fuel.
(29 June 2005)
Article compares various methods of ethanol production: corn, sugarbeet, sugarcane, but concludes that woody material or hardy grasses offer much better potentials.