The European Commission has announced its new blueprint to phase out coal and energy inefficiencies, while supporting clean energy — but a coalition of civil society groups warns that the revised EU Renewable Energy Directive is fatally flawed.
And guess why? Because certain industries are not going to let go of their profits.
The campaign groups — Global Forest Coalition, Woodland League, Econexus, Biofuelwatch, Transnational Institute, NOAH, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin — point out that in the EU energy plan, bioenergy and waste account for some two-thirds of all energy classed as ‘renewable’. Most of this ‘bioenergy’ will also come from burning wood, both in power stations and for heating.
However, scientific studies increasingly prove that big bioenergy projects produce more greenhouse gases even than traditional fossil fuels.
According to Biofuelwatch, the EU’s cavernous demand for wood to burn for energy is directly tied to the acceleration of logging, land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in countries like Brazil and Ghana, and the conversion of more forests, farmland and grasslands into monoculture tree plantations. This has endangered biodiversity and caused “added harm to forests and people.”
Meanwhile, a new report by the conservation group Birdlife reveals that masses of protected forest areas across Europe are being felled to provide wood for the burgeoning biomass industry.
The European Union’s proposals for revising its renewable energy policies are greenwashing and don’t solve the serious flaws, say environmental groups.
The EU gets 65 per cent of its renewable energy from biofuels – mainly wood – but it is failing to ensure this bioenergy comes from sustainable sources, and results in less emissions than burning fossil fuels. Its policies in some cases are leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than burning coal.
“Burning forest biomass on an industrial scale for power and heating has proved disastrous,” says Linde Zuidema, bioenergy campaigner for forest protection group Fern. “The evidence that its growing use will increase emissions and destroy forests in Europe and elsewhere is overwhelming.”
On 30 November the European Commission unveiled a draft “clean energy” package for the period up to 2030. On the surface, these proposals address some of the issues with existing renewable energy policies.
But environmental groups who have been analysing the proposals say that the changes will make little difference.
“It’s almost worse than doing nothing,” says Sini Erajaa, the bioenergy policy officer for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, who describes the changes as greenwashing.
Sharmini Peries talks to Chris Williams, Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Pace University and the author of Ecology and Socialism. They are also joined by Steve Horne, a research fellow at DeSmog Blog and a regular contributor at the Guardian and The Nation. Williams and Horne discuss the many grandiose claims made by President Obama in his final State of the Union address and expose the limits and missed opportunities of Obama’s energy legacy. (The Real News)
- Obama’s Dueling Climate And Energy Legacy: Reducing Carbon Alongside Expanded Drilling
- In Climate Move, Obama Halts New Coal Mining Leases on Public Lands
- Obama Forecasts Economic Opportunity in Fighting Global Warming
- SOTU 2016: Obama’s Energy and Climate Legacy
- The Irony Of President Obama’s Oil Legacy
- Barack Obama’s fragile climate change legacy
- VParis: Victory for Obama, Defeat for the Planet and a Challenge to the Climate Justice Movement
- Obama and Keystone XL: A Bastardized Legacy
- Obama’s Bipolar Approach To Energy And Climate Change
On Tuesday 22 September, Middle East Eye broke the story of a senior member of the Saudi royal family calling for a “change” in leadership to fend off the kingdom’s collapse.
In a letter circulated among Saudi princes, its author, a grandson of the late King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, blamed incumbent King Salman for creating unprecedented problems that endangered the monarchy’s continued survival.
“We will not be able to stop the draining of money, the political adolescence, and the military risks unless we change the methods of decision making, even if that implied changing the king himself,” warned the letter.
Whether or not an internal royal coup is round the corner – and informed observers think such a prospect “fanciful” – the letter’s analysis of Saudi Arabia’s dire predicament is startlingly accurate.
Like many countries in the region before it, Saudi Arabia is on the brink of a perfect storm of interconnected challenges that, if history is anything to judge by, will be the monarchy’s undoing well within the next decade.
- Saudi Arabia to run out of cash in less than 5 years, says IMF
- Reports of Saudi Arabia’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
- Eight of King Salman’s 11 surviving brothers want to oust him
- No more new cars or furniture, says Saudi king as oil slump forces cuts
- It’s Time for the United States to Start Worrying About a Saudi Collapse
- Inside Saudi Arabia: Butchery, Slavery and History of Revolt
- Senior Saudi royal urges leadership change for fear of monarchy collapse
- Saudi Arabia’s finances: Asset-rich, cash-poor
- Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US oil industry buckles
- Forecasting OPEC crude oil production using a variant Multicyclic Hubbert Model
- Saudi Arabia Delays $109 Billion Solar Program Eight Years
- A quantitative assessment of future net oil exports by the top five net oil exporters
- The US-Saudi war with OPEC to prolong oil’s dying empire
- Saudi Kingdom imports 80% of food products
- Subsidies ‘distort’ Saudi Arabia economy says economy minister
- Response to Climate Change in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- Climate change to hit Saudi’s agriculture, water
‘In just 15 years, the world as we know it will have transformed forever. The age of oil, gas, coal and nuclear will be over. A new age of clean power and smarter cars will fundamentally, totally, and permanently disrupt the existing fossil fuel-dependent industrial infrastructure in a way that even the most starry-eyed proponents of ‘green energy’ could never have imagined.
These are not the airy-fairy hopes of a tree-hugging hippy living off the land in an eco-commune. It’s the startling verdict of Tony Seba, a lecturer in business entrepreneurship, disruption and clean energy at Stanford University and a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
Seba began his career at Cisco Systems in 1993, where he predicted the internet-fueled mobile revolution at a time when most telecoms experts were warning of the impossibility of building an Internet the size of the US, let alone the world. Now he is predicting the “inevitable” disruption of the fossil fuel infrastructure.
Seba’s thesis, set out in more detail in his new book Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation, is that by 2030 “the industrial age of energy and transportation will be over,” swept away by “exponentially improving technologies such as solar, electric vehicles, and self-driving cars.”’
- Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation (Book)
- We Have Five Years to Stop Building Coal Plants and Gas-Powered Cars
- The inevitable demise of the fossil fuel empire
- Why Morgan Stanley Is Betting That Tesla Will Kill Your Power Company
- Natural gas: The fracking fallacy
- It’s Almost Cheaper to Go Off the Grid
- Vaclav Smil: “The great hope for a quick and sweeping transition to renewable energy is wishful thinking”
‘Industrialized countries face a future of increasingly severe blackouts, a new study warns, due to the proliferation of extreme weather events, the transition to unconventional fossil fuels, and fragile national grids that cannot keep up with rocketing energy demand.
“We need a fundamental re-think about how electricity is generated and distributed and who controls this,” said lead author Prof Hugh Byrd of Lincoln University, a specialist in international energy policy and urban sustainability. “It is not in the interests of the privatized power industry to encourage less electricity consumption.”
Every year, millions of people around the world experience major electricity blackouts, but the country that has endured more blackouts than any other industrialized nation is the United States. Over the last decade, the number of power failures affecting over 50,000 Americans has more than doubled, according to federal data.’
- Are You Ready for the Blackout Epidemic Coming Our Way?
- Report: Exhaustion of cheap mineral resources is terraforming Earth
- Aging US Power Grid Blacks Out More Than Any Other Developed Nation
- Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure
- As Temperatures Climb, So Does the Risk of Blackouts
- Exergy and the City: The Technology and Sociology of Power (Failure)
- White House Grid Resiliency Report (2013)
- Power Blackout Risks Report (2011)
- Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035
- World Water Development Report 2014
- Report: Fracking water use could lead to severe droughts
- A Texan tragedy: ample oil, no water
- Fracking Is Making California’s Drought Worse, Say Activists
- The European Energy Markets Observatory Report (2014)
- Whispers from the Ghosting Trees
‘Should ethical investment funds be putting millions of pounds of people’s money into oil, gas and coal companies?
A new report says too many UK ethical funds are still invested in fossil fuels and heavily polluting industries, at a time when growing numbers of people are looking to reduce their exposure to these sectors.
Launched to coincide with Good Money Week (the new name for National Ethical Investment Week), which kicks off on Sunday 19 October, the report from ethical independent financial adviser firm Barchester Green names the “sinners” and “winners” of the multibillion-pound ethical and environmental funds industry.’
‘In the face of a mounting carbon crisis and the lack of action by commercial utility companies to adopt greener energy solutions, communities across the nation are opting to take hold of the power—literally!—and switch to more local, less polluting energy sources.
Reporting from Sonoma County, California on Tuesday, LA Times reporter Evan Halper highlights this growing trend known as Community Choice Aggregation. Established by law in six states thus far, including California, CCA allows communities to pool their energy load and then direct the purchase of their energy supply while working in partnership with existing utilities, who then deliver the power.
Established by law in six states thus far, CCA is an energy supply model that works in partnership with the region’s existing utility which continues to deliver power, maintain the grid, and provide customer service and billing.’
‘Cities might be humanity’s greatest invention — if you listen to Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, author of “Triumph of the City.”
“So much of what humankind has achieved over the past three millennia has come out of the remarkable collaborative creations that come out of cities,” he said in an interview. “We are a social species. We come out of the womb with the ability to sop up information from people around us. It’s almost our defining characteristic as creatures. And cities play to that strength.”
Indeed, many modern metros are pushing the limits of industry, design, and urban planning, while rethinking the way people live and work.’
- 20 Most Innovative Cities In The US
- 10 Global Cities With The Best Infrastructure
- Copenhagen really is wonderful, for so many reasons
- Why Vienna Was Named The World’s Best Place To Live
- The new smart city – from hi-tech sensors to social innovation
- Rio de Janeiro’s bid to become a smart city
- 8 Smartest Cities In Latin America
- These 6 cities are among the greenest in the world
- Munich Aims for 100% Green Energy by 2025
- Bicycle Cultures Are Man-Made
- 24-Year-Old Transport Engineer Is About To Free Her City From Car Ownership
- Triumph of the City (Book)
- 11 Cities With The Most Opportunity
- Bangalore: India’s IT hub readies for the digital future
- City of the Year 2012: Medellín
‘Globally, there has been a three-fold population increase in the past century and a six-fold increase in water consumption, the report said. If trends in population and energy use continue, it could leave a 40 percent gap between water supply and demand by the year 2030. In most countries, including the United States, energy production is the biggest source of water consumption — even larger than agriculture, researchers said. In 2005, 41 percent of all freshwater consumed in the U.S. was for thermoelectric cooling, according to the study.
Power plants produce excess heat, requiring cooling cycles that use water. Only wind and solar voltaic energy production require minimal water. “If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage — even if water was free, because it’s not a matter of the price,” Sovacool said. Researchers said nuclear power and coal — the most “thirsty” power sources — should be eventually replaced with more efficient methods, especially renewable sources like wind and solar, the report said.’
- 25 Shocking Facts About The Earth’s Dwindling Water Resources
- Brazil rations water in 140 cities amid worst drought in decades
- Thirst for Profit: Corporate Control of Water in Latin America
- Experts Name the Top 19 Solutions to the Global Freshwater Crisis
- Singapore’s four solutions for water scarcity
‘President Hassan Rouhani’s government has quintupled its spending on solar power projects in the last year, taking advantage of Iran’s 300-odd days of sunshine a year that make its vast sun-kissed lands one of the best spots on earth to host solar panels. While being good for the environment, the panels also offer rural Iran steady power amid uncertainty over the country’s contested nuclear program as it negotiates with world powers.
And as the Islamic Republic cuts back on subsidies that once made gasoline cheaper than bottled mineral water, a push toward self-sustaining solar power could help the government save money and bolster its sanctions-battered economy. “A big change is in the making in Iran,” said Saman Mirhadi, a senior official in charge of solar projects. Iran, home to some 77 million people, is a fossil-fuel powerhouse, even in the crude-oil rich Middle East. It is home to both the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and massive natural gas reserves. However, sanctions have cut into the country’s refining and production capabilities.’
‘How do we quickly get power to a remote village sitting miles off the grid or a bunch of homes hit by a natural disaster? “Not very easily”, would usually be the answer, but now we have ’the PowerCube’, a new ‘pop-up’ solar station that can be transported via shipping container and installed anywhere with the push of a button.
Developed over the past seven years by Ecosphere Technologies, a technology and licensing company in the US, the PowerCube is completely self-contained, remotely monitored and controlled, and can be manufactured in three different sizes to match standard shipping container varieties. The first model will be released this month.’
After several months of debate, officials in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana have chosen a final design for the massive site that will host the World EXPO 2017. The sprawling, wind- and sun-powered neighborhood was designed by Chicago architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the designers of Kingdom Tower—the forthcoming world’s tallest building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Take 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. Control them with computers to focus the Sun’s light to the top of 459-foot towers, where water is turned into steam to power turbines. Bingo: you have the world’s biggest solar power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.
China, the top emitter of greenhouse gases, is also the country that’s “doing it right” when it comes to addressing global warming, the United Nations’ chief climate official said.
The nation has some of the toughest energy-efficiency standards for buildings and transportation and its support for photovoltaic technology helped reduce solar-panel costs by 80 percent since 2008, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York.
The country is facing growing public pressure from citizens to reduce air pollution, due in large part to burning coal. Its efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable power stem from the realization that doing so will pay off in the long term, Figueres said.
“They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she said. “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.”
China is also able to implement policies because its political system avoids some of the legislative hurdles seen in countries including the U.S., Figueres said.
It sounds like a tale from a science fiction novel, but a team of Japanese engineers really is hoping to turn the moon into a giant solar panel.
Shimizu, a giant civil engineering and construction firm, plans to install a ‘solar belt’ around the moon’s equator.
To be built almost entirely by remote-controlled robots, the Luna Ring would run around the 6,800 mile lunar equator and be 248 miles in width.
The solar energy collected would converted and beamed back to earth as microwaves and laser, where it would then be converted into electricity and then potentially supplied to the national grid.
Shimizu says the Luna Ring could generate a massive 13,000 terra watts of energy. The Sizewell B nuclear reactor in Suffolk produces 1,198 megawatts (MW).
Flickering façades, curved monitors, flashing clothing, fluorescent wallpaper, flexible solar cells — and all printable. This is no make-believe vision of the future; it will soon be possible using a new printing process for organic light-emitting diodes.
Time is slowly running out for bulky television sets, boxy neon signs and the square-edged backlit displays we all know from shops and airports. It won’t be long before families gathering together to watch television at home will be calling out: “Unroll the screen, dear, the film’s about to start!” And members of the public may soon encounter screens everywhere they go, as almost any surface can be made into a display. “These may just be ideas at the moment, but they have every chance of becoming reality,” says Dr. Armin Wedel, head of division at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Potsdam-Golm. The first curved screens were on display at this year’s consumer electronics trade show (IFA) in Berlin. The technology behind it all? OLEDs: flexible, organic, light-emitting diodes.
Brazil will probably scale down its plans for new nuclear plants due to safety concerns following the 2011 radiation leak in Japan and pick up some of the slack with a “revolution” in wind power, the head of the government’s energy planning agency said.
Mauricio Tolmasquim, chief of the Energy Research Company, told Reuters it was “unlikely” the government would stick to its plans to build four new nuclear plants by 2030 to meet rising demand for electricity.
He declined to specify how many might be built instead.
Tolmasquim’s comments, part of a broad assessment of Brazil’s long-term strategic plans for electricity generation, highlighted continued global doubts regarding nuclear power more than two years after an earthquake and tsunami led to an accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.
British Gas today refused to rule out a price RISE – despite making a £356million profit in the first half of the year.
The bumper haul – equivalent to £22 a second – was fuelled by a 13% jump in gas use as households cranked up the heating to keep warm over the winter and angered customers and critics.
It also followed a 6% price increase last November.
Despite the profit, up more than 3% on the same time in 2012, it hinted that bills could rise again before next winter.
Nick Luff, finance director at British Gas owner Centrica, said: “We will keep prices as low as we can for as long as we can.
“If prices do have to go up, we will delay it for as long as possible.”
The company put the blame on Government green taxes which are added to all bills.
It warned the scheme, which has landed it with a £1.4billion cost, would “inevitably impact on customer bills ultimately”.
However, critics slammed the firm after it was revealed half-year profits at Centrica leapt by 9% to £1.58billion.
The Liberal Democrats are aiming to ban most cars from the roads by the year 2040, according to a party policy proposal. This would see only “ultra-low carbon vehicles permitted on UK carriageways for non-freight purposes”.
The party’s plans also include introducing a road pricing scheme, an initiative already mooted under the current Lib Dem-Conservative coalition government.
These new proposals, set to be discussed at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow next month, reveal how some party members want to outlaw all but the most environmentally friendly, low emissions private vehicles.
This could mean that the car you drive today – maybe even the cars you buy within the next decade – would not be allowed on UK roads by law in 2040. A focus on emissions, moving towards low-carbon vehicles by the year 2020 is already a current government policy.
However, sales of mass-produced ultra-low carbon vehicles – classed as electric or hydrogen-powered cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles – have yet to record any meaningful numbers.
Arizona’s biggest power utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), has announced their intention to implement what would effectively be a tax on the sun. The whole idea behind net-metering is that if you install a solar system on the roof of your house or business, you can buy power from the grid when you need it, and sell extra power when you have a surplus. Often these rates are advantageous to provide an incentive for renewable energy adoption, a very fair thing considering all the subsidies, direct and indirect, that fossil fuels have had for decades.
But APS would like to start charging a monthly fee to sell clean power back to the grid (in their Orwellian language, they call it a “convenience charge”). A source says that that the fee could be of around $100/month or $1,200/year, enough to change the economic attractiveness of small systems. It’s not entirely clear if the fee scales up for larger systems, but that seems likely.