Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scientist slams spread of climate change 'misinformation'

ABC news

A leading climate change scientist says there is too much misinformation being spread about the theory.

Professor Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide says those who deny climate change often have ulterior motives.

He has published an article calling for scientists to step up and support the research being done in the field.

Professor Brook says it can take just a few minutes for popular opinion to undermine years of scientific research.

"Anyone can get up there on a website or on a blog, or even get an opinion piece published in a newspaper that just says a bunch of crackpot ideas that haven't been through any rigorous scrutiny," he said.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ali Moore speaks with Dr Gavin Mudd about nuclear issues (ABC interview)


Broadcast: 24/04/2007
Reporter: Ali Moore

Ali Moore speaks with environmental engineer, Dr Gavin Mudd, about the future of uranium.


ALI MOORE: Well, when it comes to resources it's uranium that's been in the spotlight of late, albeit more for the politics of the topic than the economics of the industry. Whether Labor will abandon its long held ban on new uranium mines will be a big issue at this weekend's ALP national conference. While the Prime Minister has made it clear he believes nuclear power is part of the solution to Australia's future nuclear energy needs. Certainly, there are big predictions about demand for uranium. But in fact, there's been no new nuclear reactor built in either the US or Britain for more than 20 years. For his views on how important nuclear energy will be in the future I spoke earlier to Monash University's Dr Gavin Mudd, an environmental engineer who specialises in the mining sector. (to Gavin Mudd) Dr Gavin Mudd, welcome to the program.

DR GAVIN MUDD, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Thank you Ali, good to be here.

ALI MOORE: Let's start by looking at this picture globally. Nuclear energy supplies currently around 17 per cent of the world's energy needs, will it ever have a significantly bigger role?

DR GAVIN MUDD: I suppose that's where the current debate is. There are those who would like to see that role increased. But we know for about the last 20 years or so that it's been around about 15, 16, 17 per cent of electricity now for the last 20 years or so. And I suppose the debate at the moment is really whether that will grow into the future, and if there is, you know, a justifiable place for nuclear.

ALI MOORE: Do you think there is?

DR GAVIN MUDD: Personally I don't. I think there's alternatives such as renewable technologies, there's solar thermal, there's biomass, there's now photovoltaics, there's wind, there's a whole range of technologies combined with energy efficiency, which can supply baseload, which can supply peak demands and which can meet, you know, our energy needs in order to boil our coffees in the morning and power our computers and all of the things that we like to do at appropriate levels.

ALI MOORE: That may be the case, but if you look at where the nuclear industry is right now, to throw a couple of statistics at you, to quote our own Industry Minister from a speech at the end of last year he said almost 30 new nuclear power reactors are being constructed in some 11 countries including China, India, Russia and Finland. The Ziggy Switkowski report recently which had a full page on plans for new reactors in Asia, or indeed Tim Flannery who says that China is going to approve two new power stations, nuclear stations per year for the next 20 years, that to me sounds like a significant increase in the use of nuclear energy.

DR GAVIN MUDD: And over the same time frame, a lot of reactors are going to be decommissioned in the West. There were six reactors in the West that were decommissioned on December the 31st, including four in the UK. So, I think there's a big debate there. But I think ultimately, they're not building new reactors in the West, they're building reactors in sort of centrally planned economies, and the one new reactor that they've ordered in the West over the last several years in Finland is significantly behind budget and you know, also behind time. So, I think there's real issues there that over the same time frame of which they're supposedly going to expand nuclear power, a lot of the existing ageing reactors and it's not without risk will also be decommissioned.

ALI MOORE: And you'd say those decommissioned plants are not going to be replaced by newer more efficient, perhaps less, but more efficient plants?

DR GAVIN MUDD: Well that … well, the future remains to be seen. But certainly at the moment, they're not building new reactors in the US, they're not building new reactors in the UK, they're not building new reactors in Germany. So, where are they building new reactors on the same scale to replace the existing ageing fleet of reactors, and then to build additional new reactors that are actually going to drive new nuclear capacity? And I think that's the big question at the moment.

ALI MOORE: The plan is on the table though, for China and for India. Are they not eventually going to end up on the same scale as what we've got in the European countries?

DR GAVIN MUDD: Well, China for example, they're promising to build reactors at a rate faster than they've ever built them in the past. So, I think there's a real question there whether they can actually achieve that. Now, for the same time frame that they're proposing to double their nuclear capacity, they're also planning to increase their renewable energy component to about 15 per cent, whereas nuclear will still only be 4-5 per cent. So, renewables will play a bigger role than China's energy future than nuclear. And yet, you know, we're not falling over ourselves to sell renewable technologies, which can provide significant export revenue, which can provide significant jobs in terms of the manufacturing sector. And why aren't we doing that? I think that's an important political question about our economic future.

ALI MOORE: Before we get to renewables, I must ask you, I mean if you're right, if the world is not embracing nuclear power as some in the debate would have it, why is it that we've seen uranium go through the roof in recent times, up 57 per cent in price this year alone?

DR GAVIN MUDD: It's a good question, and, you know, I don't think anyone I've seen has a good answer for why the uranium prices has hit the sort of magnitude that it has. And a lot of mining industry analysts are also asking about this bubble at the moment, about what is causing this price. I don't think anyone ever predicted the price would go this high.

ALI MOORE: Well, let's talk about renewables, and about energy needs. I mean, the International Energy Agency says by the year 2030, Australia … well, the world will need 60 per cent more energy than it needs today. How do we make up that gap, and when you talk about renewables, can they ever be used for baseload generation in our lifetime? Will we see that?

DR GAVIN MUDD: Well, we're talking about building, you know, baseload renewable energy stations in Australia now. They're talking about building solar thermal towers that work 24 hours a day. There's existing prototypes of that around the world, it's an existing technology, it's proven, and it can work and it's economic. A lot of these things, the technology is around. And I think what we also have to question is this insatiable increase for continual growth in energy demand. What we want to be able to make sure is that we know that there are impacts associated with a range of energy production, whether that is coal, whether that is renewables, whether that is uranium and nuclear. So, what we need to make sure in the long term is that we also couple, you know, supply with also efficiency. We also change the way we do our engineering designs. We make, you know, cars more efficient, we make, you know, buildings more efficient and we start to put all of these things, integrate them together in a proper policy that actually says in 30 to 40 to 50 years, we can achieve significant cuts in greenhouse emissions without actually having to cop a drop in the standard of living.

ALI MOORE: Dr Gavin Mudd, many thanks for talking to us.

DR GAVIN MUDD: My pleasure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ford Nucleon - Solution to global warming?

The Ford Nucleon was a nuclear-powered concept car developed by Ford Motor Company in 1958. No operational models were built. The design did not include an internal-combustion engiine, rather, a vehicle was to be powered by a small nuclear reactor in the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle featured a power capsule suspended between twin booms at the rear. The capsule, which would contain radioactive core for motive power, was designed to be easily interchangeable, according to performance needs and the distances to be traveled. The passenger compartment of the Nucleon featured a one-piece, pillar-less windshield and compound rear window, and was topped by a cantilever roof. There were air intakes at the leading edge of the roof and at the base of its supports. An extreme cab-forward style provided more protection to the driver and passengers from the reactor in the rear.It was said that cars like the Nucleon would be able to travel 8000 km (5,000 miles) or more, depending on the size of the core, without recharging. Instead, at the end of the core's life they would be taken to a charging station, which research designers envisioned as largely replacing gas stations.

Source: Wiki
Nice tail fins and I am glad that they put the cabin forward for safety!
Terrorists would love it!
Still I think I would like a red one.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day: Balancing consumer passions and eco values

To consume? Or not to consume?

Since its inception in 1970 Earth Day has become much more commerical.

The debate is dividing environmentalists on Earth Day 2008.

The international day of eco-activism was born in a different era -- literally and metaphorically.

The first Earth Day was in 1970 and it still embodies all the qualities of the environmental movement at that time: angry, impassioned and positive. If it had a soundtrack it would have been by Jefferson Airplane and if it wore shoes they would be Birkenstocks.

But the world has changed, and while Earth Day still offers the same powerful mix of education and activism, the way people engage with the message has changed.

Marking the day through marketing

This year, as well as a whole host of official workshops and other activities, companies are offering ecologically conscious citizens the chance to shop their way to a better environment; an offer some environmentalists claim is contradictory to the fundamental tenets of sustainability.

Major retailers including Virgin, Banana Republic and Dell are all marketing special Earth Day offers to their customers, all promoting the message that we can consume with a clear -- or clearer - conscience.

Earth Day claim that their "international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year."

As more and more people become interested in marking Earth Day, it seems more and more corporations want to reflect their customer's new values in their marketing.

Plus, in an increasingly materialistic world many people seem to equate "participation" with "shopping" and the mall seems to have replaced the protest march in many people's minds -- and big business is there to meet them.

So, at Banana Republic one percent of sales from April 22-April 27 benefit the Trust for Public Land.

Virgin America and Method (that company that creates the hand soap provided on all Virgin America flights) are pledging $3 for every person flying with them on Earth Day for environmental restoration projects in California.

At Macy's customers can get 10-20 percent of most merchandise in return for making a $5 donation to the National Park Foundation.

Verizon Wireless is offering customers five tips on how they can celebrate and make the world a better place.

Wal-Mart is running a series of ads promoting their "Budget-friendly prices. Earth-friendly products."

Newsweek readers can turn the cover of the April 14 issue into an envelope they can use to send old plastic bags to Target and in return receive a reusable tote bag.

Most bizarrely, perhaps, Dell is offering to plant a tree for customers in MMRPG Second Life ("Each tree carries with it a link back to our Plant a Tree for Me page on, where we hope residents will take the opportunity to participate and offset a bit of their carbon emissions in the real world," say Dell).

The perils of trying to buy a better world

The idea that we can buy our way out of environmental problems is ridiculous for British environmental campaigner George Monbiot, who has said green consumerism is becoming "a pox on the planet."

He blames the media's obsession with wealth and beauty for confusing the issue: "There is an inherent conflict between the aspirational lifestyle journalism which makes readers feel better about themselves and sells country kitchens and the central demand of environmentalism: that we should consume less."

"Uncomfortable as this is for both the media and its advertisers, giving things up is an essential component of going green... Ethical shopping is in danger of becoming another signifier of social status."

Others argue that companies have a definite role to play in the greening of our 21st century consumer society, but that they need to prove their interests are genuine.

"While it's important that major companies pay heed to events like Earth Day, it's equally important that any initiatives they are involved with are genuinely sustainable and not just about a quick press hit," says Clare Harris, editor of New Consumer magazine.

"We know many retailers want to be more sustainable in terms of their sourcing and social policy, but they have a long way to go to prove that they will remain committed over the long-term."

Using consumer power to force companies to change their ways is nothing new: boycotts and positive buying -- the favoring of ethical goods -- has been going on for some years.

It began with a boycott of South African goods co-ordinated by anti-apartheid groups in the 1980's, and was fine tuned by organizations like Fair Trade and the Body Shop in the 1990's.

This Earth Day the message seems to be: buy better, not more - and make sure those you shop with are green all the way to the core.

Meat in a test tube challenge

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activists dressed with fresh lettuce leaves pose for photographers in Manila on April 18. Steaks out of a test-tube? The animal rights group PETA is putting up a million dollar reward for anyone who by 2012 can grow in-vitro meat that looks and tastes like the real thing.

Ecology flag

The Ecology flag was created by cartoonist Ron Cobb, and was published for the first time in October 25, 1969. The flag was patterned after the flag of the United States, and had thirteen stripes alternating green and white. Its canton was green with a yellow Theta. It originally had a symbol that was a combination of the letters "E" and "O" taken from the words "Environment" and "Organism", respectively. Later flags used either a Theta because of its historic use as a warning symbol, or the Peace Symbol. Theta would later become associated with Earth Day.

Earth Flag

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since there is no official governing body over Earth. The flag holds a photo transfer of a NASA image of the Earth on a dark blue background. It has been associated with Earth Day. Although the flag was originally copyrighted, a judge ruled that the copyright was invalid.

Earth Day Protest (Manilla)

Greenpeace activists put up a sign after taking water samples to examine pollution levels of Laguna Lake, the country's largest freshwater lake, which is being used as a dump site in Angono, Rizal province south of Manila, Philippines Monday April 21, 2008. To mark the country's Earth Day celebration with water protection as its theme this year, the environmentalist group called the attention of the government for the strict enforcement of waste laws to protect the country's threatened freshwater sources. Laguna Lake is being eyed as a potential source of potable water for metropolitan Manila's more than 11 million people. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

World's Biggest Windfarm in Texas

Oil mogul throws caution to the wind

April 18, 2008

Legendary Texas oil man T Boone Pickens has gone green with a plan to spend $US10 billion ($10.7 billion) to build the world's biggest wind farm. But he's not doing it out of generosity - he expects to turn a buck.

The Southern octogenarian's plans are as big as the Texas prairie, where he lives on a ranch with his horses, and entail fundamentally reworking how Americans use energy.

Next month, Pickens' company, Mesa Power, will begin buying land and ordering 2700 wind turbines that will eventually generate 4000 megawatts of electricity. This is the equivalent of building two commercial scale nuclear power plants and enough power for about 1 million homes.

"These are substantial," said Mr Pickens, speaking to students at Georgetown University yesterday. "They're big."

Mr Pickens knows a thing or two about big. He heads the BP Capital hedge fund with over $US4 billion under management, and earned about $US1 billion in 2006 making big bets on commodity and equity markets.

Though a long-time oil man, Pickens said he has embraced the call for cleaner energy sources that don't emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

"I'm an environmentalist - I can pass the saliva test," he said.

But Mr Pickens is not out to save the planet. He intends to make money.

Though Mr Pickens admits that wind power won't be as lucrative as oil deals, he still expects the Texas project to turn at least a 25 per cent return.

"When I go into these markets, I expect to make money on them," Mr Pickens said. "I don't expect to lose."

America is facing a looming power crunch, with electricity demand expected to grow 15 per cent in a decade. And while many states have rejected big coal-fired power projects on environmental concerns, they are offering a bounty of incentives to build renewable sources.

US crude futures at new records above $US115 a barrel means a bright future for renewable sources like wind and solar.

Mr Pickens' wind farm is part of his wider vision for replacing natural gas for power generation with wind and solar, and using the natural gas instead to power vehicles.

To picture Mr Pickens' energy strategy, imagine a compass.

Stretching from north to south from Saskatchewan to Texas would be thousands of wind turbines, which could take advantage of some of the best US wind production conditions.

On the east-west axis from Texas to California would be large arrays of solar generation, which could send electricity into growing Southern California cities like Los Angeles.

The end result would be to free up more clean-burning natural gas - primarily a power-generation fuel now - to power automobiles.

Major oil companies have embraced so-called natural gas liquids because they have spent billions of dollars building refineries and pipelines to turn crude oil into petrol, Mr Pickens said.

But shifting natural gas used in power generation to transportation needs could cut US crude oil imports by nearly 40 per cent, he said.


T. Boone Pickens confirmed news reports Wednesday that falling energy prices have forced him to delay plans to build a massive wind farm in western Texas.
"Things have slowed down, but, no, the (turbine) order has not been canceled," the energy investor and former oil magnate said on CNBC. He said he still expects to take delivery of the project's 2,700 turbines in 2010, as originally planned, but that their installation might be "slowed down a little bit" until wind is more competitive economically.
The Associated Press also reported Wednesday that Pickens has decided to cut spending on his multimedia renewable-energy campaign to between $40 million and $50 million from an initial budget of $60 million, due to the falling price of oil.
"Patience is what we're practicing. We think it's going to get worse, and there will be better opportunities," Pickens said.

UNEP observes massive deforestation in Afghanistan


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Climate change to impact beer: scientist

April 8, 2008 at 4:43 AM EDT

The price of beer is likely to rise in coming decades because climate change will hamper the production of a key grain needed for the brew — especially in Australia, a scientist warned Tuesday.

Jim Salinger, a climate scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said climate change likely will cause a decline in the production of malting barley in parts of New Zealand and Australia. Malting barley is a key ingredient of beer.

It will mean either there will be pubs without beer or the cost of beer will go up,” Mr. Salinger told the Institute of Brewing and Distilling convention.

Similar effects could be expected worldwide, but Mr. Salinger spoke only of the effects on Australia and New Zealand. He said climate change could cause a drop in beer production within 30 years, especially in parts of Australia, as dry areas become drier and water shortages worsen.

Barley growing parts of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales would likely be harder hit than growing areas in New Zealand's South Island.

“It will provide a lot of challenges for the brewing industry,” even forcing breweries to look at new varieties of malt barley as a direct result of climate change, Mr. Salinger said.

New Zealand and Australian brewer Lion Nathan's corporate affairs director Liz Read said climate change already was forcing up the price of malted barley, sugar, aluminum and sugar.

Ms. Read said that in addition to climate change, barley growers are grappling with competition from other forms or land use, such as the dairy industry.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Greenhouse cuts to cost $430billion

Brian Robins
April 4, 2008

MAKING the cuts to greenhouse emissions recommended by the nation's economic adviser on climate change would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and slash the size of Australia's economy by 4 per cent, modelling by the NSW Treasury shows.

The NSW Treasurer, Michael Costa, said it would cost $430 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent as outlined by Ross Garnaut, and the sharp reductions proposed would impose a substantial cost on the economy. The Rudd Government has consistently said its target for 2050 is 60 per cent. The 80 per cent figure was predicated on other nations making similar cuts.

In a hard-hitting speech to a business audience last night, Mr Costa said that based on NSW Treasury modelling, the proposed sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would wipe 4 per cent off the size of the Australian economy over the next 20 years.

This is significantly larger than the 1 per cent economic impact signalled by earlier reviews such as that by the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern.

Mr Costa did not say what the Treasury calculations were based upon - for example, what its estimate was for a carbon price.

He said it was essential the electricity industry be given carbon credits as part of any emission trading scheme, because of the economic impact of complying with cuts.

Canberra's response to the Garnaut report would not affect the NSW Government's electricity privatisation program, he said.

Mr Costa's response is the first by a state government to Professor Garnaut's paper a fortnight ago. It raises questions about the economy's ability to make the changes, as well as the fallout from overseas investors if Australia moved unilaterally to change policy without compensation.

The Federal Government will release its own modelling of the economic impact midyear. Mr Costa said that if Canberra accepts Professor Garnaut's recommendation not to compensate those affected adversely by carbon trading, it would damage the perception among global investors that Australia is a sovereign risk-free place to invest.

The Federal Government should be realistic in responding to the issue, Mr Costa said, adding that international investors would be looking at how it treats property rights of asset owners.
Mr Costa outlined two scenarios based on the modelling for the impact of Professor Garnaut's recommendations in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

If the 80 per cent cut to greenhouse gas emissions signalled by Professor Garnaut by 2050 was to be achieved, it would cost the economy $430 billion by 2030. Australia has a $1.3 trillion economy at present. If they were to be cut 60 per cent, it would cost $280 billion.

The State Government is believed to have received advice that the power industry be reorganised into three units, two to be sold to private sector bidders, and the third sold to residents through a public share issue.

Its advice points to three strong bidders for the assets: TruEnergy, Origin Energy and AGL. Smaller groups such as Babcock & Brown might also bid.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Geosequestration demonstration plant opens in Victoria

Here is a story about the Otway Basin Project which is a demonstration geosequestration (carbon capture and storage) plant that has just opened in Victoria. 'Clean' coal would be the saviour of not only the coal industry but also many governments including the NSW and Australian Governments. The idea is to trap carbon dioxide below the ground in geological formations. However, there are safety concerns that carbon dioxide may escape out of these formations. The idea of 'burying the problem' may be attractive to many, but until the new risks of this approach are better understood and able to be managed, it is sensible to remain skeptical about claims that 'clean' coal technology will help solve climate change. After all, it was burning all that 'dirty' coal that helped get us all into this mess. The Greens claim this is a tiny demonstration plant and it will do little to prove the safety of the method. The minerals council and the chief executive of the project claim it is significant and will help demonstrate the safety of the technology. Anyway, here is some of the story.
CO2 plant 'a step towards' clean coal

April 2, 2008

The opening of Australia's first carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plant in Victoria has been hailed as a major step toward making "clean coal" viable.

The Otway Basin Project in south-west Victoria will see up to 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide captured from natural gas injected 2km underground in a depleted gas reservoir.

During the two-year trial, CO2 will be compressed and transported to the basin near Nirranda, about 30km east of Warrnambool.

The project is part of research to learn if emissions can be successfully trapped in geological formations, as a way of curbing the greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuels.

The Otway project is being conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies - known as CO2CRC - using $40 million in funding from federal and state governments, research organisations and industry.

"Using an innovative geotechnical monitoring program, the CO2CRC Otway project plays an important role in demonstrating the safety of geosequestration technology to communities, industry and governments worldwide," CO2CRC chief executive Peter Cook said.

"(It) has a very important role to play in demonstrating the technical and environmental feasibility of geosequestration to Australia and the world, and preparing the way for its widespread application," Mr Cook said.

The Australian Greens said the project is tiny in comparison to similar efforts overseas and would do little to improve understanding of carbon capture and storage.

Greens energy spokeswoman Christine Milne said it would not prove if carbon can be effectively and affordably captured at coal-fired power stations.

"The Otways project is government-funded PR for the coal sector and would be a perfect place to start for a government looking to find budget cuts," Senator Milne said.
"There simply cannot be a global solution to managing climate change without a clean-coal strategy as part of a suite of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in an international response to managing climate change," Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitch Hooke said.