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Renewables & efficiency Feb 12

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Wind Turbines in Europe Do Nothing for Emissions-Reduction Goals

Anselm Waldermann, Spiegel (Germany)
Despite Europe's boom in solar and wind energy, CO2 emissions haven't been reduced by even a single gram. Now, even the Green Party is taking a new look at the issue -- as shown in e-mails obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Germany's renewable energy companies are a tremendous success story. Roughly 15 percent of the country's electricity comes from solar, wind or biomass facilities, almost 250,000 jobs have been created and the net worth of the business is €35 billion per year.

But there's a catch: The climate hasn't in fact profited from these developments. As astonishing as it may sound, the new wind turbines and solar cells haven't prohibited the emission of even a single gram of CO2.

Even more surprising, the European Union's own climate change policies, touted as the most progressive in the world, are to blame. The EU-wide emissions trading system determines the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by power companies and industries. And this amount doesn't change -- no matter how many wind turbines are erected.

Experts have known about this situation for some time, but it still isn't widely known to the public.
(10 February 2009)


New study praises corn as source for ethanol

Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, St. Paul)
A University of Minnesota study released last week played nicely into the hands of the anti-ethanol crowd and upset the state's powerful corn lobby, which extols the corn-based gasoline supplement as a cleaner-burning domestic fuel that is blended with gasoline sold in Minnesota.

The university study found that corn-based ethanol, including the environmental effects of growing and harvesting, is no better an energy alternative than gasoline and it may be worse for air quality.

The corn crowd should get over any umbrage. The U's Institute on the Environment study won't put ethanol out of business. At the same time, another ag-research institution released an encouraging study about the environmental and fuel-replacement strides made by corn ethanol.

The University of Nebraska research reveals that the latest crop of efficient corn-ethanol refineries has helped cut greenhouse gas emissions to half that of gasoline and the industry now is producing up to 1.8 units of energy through ethanol for every unit of energy used to produce it. That's quite a leap in efficiency for an industry that early on had efficiency ratios that barely exceeded 1 to 1.
(9 February 2009)
What surprises me is that the claim of an EROEI of 1.8 is seen as a victory. An 1.8 EROEI is still very low. -BA


A line in the green sand

Paul Kingsnorth, Guardian
Last week the government published a shortlist of five schemes for harnessing the tidal power of the river Severn, to provide renewable electricity. It is no secret which is favoured in Whitehall - the biggest one, as ever: a 10-mile mega-barrage that would cost £14bn, and could generate 5% of Britain's power

... A battle is being joined over the fate of Britain's longest river, and it is highlighting an uncomfortable truth which environmentalists don't much like dwelling on: some green technologies can have distinctly un-green impacts.

... It is de rigueur among greens to respond to such heresy by explaining that we have less than 100 months to get to grips with global warming; a few turbines on the odd hillside is a small price for preventing the apocalypse that would result from our failure.

Well, maybe. But while renewable energy is a good thing in principle, if schemes end up, like their conventional forbears, as centralised mega-projects that override local feeling and destroy wild landscapes, then they become precisely the kind of projects that people like me cut their teeth trying to stop.
(10 February 2009)

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