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Austria puts its energy into plant power

Delphine Strauss, Financial Times via LA Times
High-tech boilers and biomass fuels are providing electricity and heat in the nation.
Wood smoke curling from chimneys of an Alpine village encapsulates the picture postcard image of Austria. But the reality is fast becoming more high-tech: sleek, smoke-free boilers burning wood pellets or other biomass fuels to heat villages, factories and urban housing, with a neutral effect on carbon emissions.

In 2003, nearly 70% of Austria’s domestically produced power came from renewable sources. Biomass fueled 11.2% of Austria’s total primary energy supply and 21% of heat production, according to International Energy Agency statistics.

As businesses in Europe struggle with mounting energy costs, worries over supplies and pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Austria’s biomass proponents are keen to show that small-scale schemes offer an economic solution. With almost half of Austria covered in forests, wood-fired heating schemes have grown in popularity. Even the fashionable Lech ski resort has a biomass plant that provides 90% of its heat.

Biomass energy is a growing business in Austria, sustaining a new market for wood pellets and building a technology cluster that increasingly exports its services.

Forestry, Austria’s second-largest economic sector after tourism, has a growing stock of wood and is keen to put by-products – chips, sawdust and low-grade logs – to use. And not only do forests grow back, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air as they grow.
(13 February 2006)

Patagonia wind aids remote communities

Max Seitz, BBC
Wind energy is the most widespread renewable energy source in Argentina – and Patagonia in particular has extraordinary potential due to its strong and constant winds.

As part of the BBC’s Fuelling The Future series, Max Seitz went to southern Chubut province, where wind energy is making life easier for a number of isolated communities, many of them home to indigenous peoples
(10 February 2006)
The original article has links to more articles in the BBC series “Fuelling the Future.”

Capturing Pig Power
The Kyoto pact puts nearly 600 projects in the developing world. One example: energy fueled by hog waste.

Marla Dickerson, LA Times
…Thanks to the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international treaty on climate change, efforts by industrialized countries to fight global warming are popping up in far-flung places like Villagran, a hamlet about 40 miles southwest of the city of Queretero.

Nearly 600 Kyoto-related projects are in the pipeline in the developing world, according to a recent tally by a Danish climate research center funded in part by the United Nations. About 40% of them are in Latin America, including hydroelectric power plants in Honduras and wind-powered turbines in Chile.

The accord, which the United States has not ratified, calls for reducing overall greenhouse-gas emissions by major industrialized countries in the period 2008-2012 to amounts at least 5% below 1990 levels.

More than 150 nations have signed and ratified the treaty, but the burden to reduce emissions falls on about three dozen industrialized countries responsible for most of the climate mess. One way for industrialized countries to meet their reduction targets is to support environmental projects in developing regions. Dubbed the Clean Development Mechanism, it was designed to lower compliance costs for rich nations while funneling much-needed development to poor ones.

The climate agreement set up a trading system – administered by the U.N. – in which the rights to spew pollutants can be bought and sold like stocks. That has spurred interest from entrepreneurs who are funneling money into environmentally friendly projects in exchange for anti-pollution credits.
(12 February 2006)

A Latin American pipeline dream
Regional leaders put weight behind gas plan

Monte Reel, Washington Post
BUENOS AIRES — South American leaders from Venezuela to Argentina are proposing to build the world’s largest fuel pipeline across Latin America, and they hope it will deliver much more than natural gas: They portray the plan as the first blueprint for a new era of regional cooperation, greater independence from international markets and a more prominent voice on the world stage.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has labeled the proposal a 5,000-mile symbol of diminishing U.S. influence in Latin America. Enthusiastic support for the project from regional heavyweights, including Brazil and Argentina, has prompted others to describe the project as the first true joint venture of a political coalition determined to forge a new South American identity.

“This is the end of the Washington consensus,” Chavez told reporters in Caracas last month, using the term for the market-driven economic policies that many Latin American countries adopted in the 1990s with U.S. encouragement. “It’s the beginning of a South American consensus.”

But the pipeline is a long way from being built, and many potential obstacles — finding the estimated $20 billion to pay for it, resolving the environmental concerns of burrowing through the Amazon rainforest, dealing with competing interests of individual nations — have caused some analysts to wonder whether the public pledges of unity can withstand a concrete test.
(12 February 2006)

Nigeria’s oil hope and despair

Alex Last, BBC
The west African state of Nigeria is the continent’s biggest oil exporter. But despite its huge energy reserves and potential wealth, millions of people live in extreme poverty.

…For 50 years oil has been pumped from beneath the creeks, swamps and forests of the Delta, an area about the size of Scotland.

It has earned the Nigerian government billions of pounds. Yet the communities in the Delta say they continue to live in poverty.

Most of the promised development projects, like schools, roads and electricity supplies, have failed to materialise. Instead, they say, their land and water have been polluted by oil spills and their air ruined by the constant burning-off of natural gas.
(12 February 2006)

Tom Adams of Energy Probe on nuclear power
David Room, Global Public Media
Tom Adams, executive director of Energy Probe, talks to GPM’s David Room about the folly of nuclear power. Energy Probe is a charitable organization that promotes resource conservation, environmental sustainability, democratic decision-making processes, and economic efficiency for Canada’s energy sectors.
(18 January 2006, but just posted at GPM)