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ANOTHER PLANET?

solarSolar energy is an incredible resource, but one of its weak points is affordable storage options to be able to have a bank of power that can be used when demand is high but the sun is down. A number of high-tech solutions for an energy storage system that can overcome that issue are being developed, but many of them have a high cost or are dependent on expensive materials. However, an older technology could be a viable way forward for solar energy storage, by using steam piston engines and pressure vessels to accumulate and store the energy for when it’s needed. And a group of Australian engineers have been developing this novel energy storage solution, and their startup, Terrajoule, already has one demonstration system in place in California, and is taking aim at some promising cost figures by 2015. The Terrajoule system couples concentrated solar with steam engines and an integrated storage system using an insulated pressure vessel to deliver cost-effective solar energy 24 hours a day.

Treehugger reports on the cramped, unhygienic, and horrific conditions that were recorded by secret camera at two egg farms in Alberta this past summer. The video footage, taken by activist group Mercy for Animals Canada (MFAC), shows chickens being treated with shocking cruelty. Some get “thumped,” a barbaric practice that kills animals by smashing their heads against a hard surface. Chicks are piled in a garbage bag and left to die. Other dead chickens aren’t removed from the cages where live chickens are stuffed in, unable to spread their wings or move around. You can see the footage here. But don’t try before an omelette.

chickensSpeaking of eggs, new research from Professor Christine Nicol, a expert in animal welfare at the University of Bristol, says that chickens kept in cages often have better lives than free range birds. It amazed me but Professor  Nicol says that birds in enriched cages (where they have room to move around, can scratch and perch) have lower mortality rates, less injuries, peck each other less and have less stress – not least as free range farms have widely differing standards  – some brilliant – some “dismal”. Almost all animal welfare charities promote free range eggs are more humane. Professor Nicol says “There’s nothing to be ashamed of in buying eggs from enriched cages”. Enriched cages replaced battery cages on intensive farms after a 2012 ban in the European Union.

The UK has no justification to reduce its efforts on cutting emissions, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). In a new report, the CCC says that there have been no changes to global science and policy that would justify a loosening of the UK’s fourth carbon budget, covering 2023-2027, which was set in June 2011. The report says: “In respect of science, international and EU criteria, there has been no significant change in the circumstances upon which the budget was set. In this regard, there is therefore no basis to support a change in the fourth carbon budget”.

And Prime Minister David Cameron ,ad broad suggestions that Britain should keep cutting carbon emissions – comparing action to prevent global warming to home insurance – there is a real but not 100% proven risk that greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change and recent global weather disasters, and that “the evidence seems to me to be growing”.   As Japan announced that it was to scale down its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is set to repeal carbon taxes, former cabinet minter Peter Lilley, one of the few MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act, said that Britain, which produces 2% of global greenhouse gases,  should not “further disadvantage itself” by taking a lead in the fight against global warming and that unravelling global consensus should prompt a rethink and that mankind could adapt to climate change.

melissa bachmanMelissa Bachman, the self styled American huntress who posted a picture of a slaughtered South African lion on her Facebook page (see right – along with her and her high powered rifle with telescopic sights – oooohhh what a brave brave hunter she must be shooting the male lion from 60 yards away) is facing a backlash from tens of thousands of animal and nature lovers. She has since removed the picture from Facebook – same the lion can be reinstated in its place.  The hunt though was legal – South Africa still has regulated hunting.

New techniques for editing genes could “open the floodgates” of new strains of animals being bred for farming, testing and even as pets.

More than 100 London buses will run on fuel derived from used cooking oil and other food waste in a pilot scheme announced by London Mayor Boris Johnson. All of the buses that run from a depot in Barking, East London will be powered by a blend of 80% regular diesel and 20% biodiesel in a scheme that aims to cut the carbon emissions of each bus by about 15%.

Less good news for Boris – four cyclists have been killed in London in the space of just eight days. The fourth victim, a woman in her mid 20s, was dragged under a truck on the Bow Roundabout, East London.

Changes to the migratory patters of birds are due to chicks hatching earlier due to warming weather from climate change. New chicks are destined to migrate at different times to to earlier generations to cope or eve benefit from climate change.

Global pressures on materials demand and the environmental impact of material use call for a revolution in “our mind-sets and behaviour” towards a resource efficient circular economy, says the EU Commissioner for Environment. Addressing delegates at WRAP’s annual conference via teleconference, the Commissioner Janez Potocnik said that it is “pretty obvious” that the private sector must be at the centre of any transition to a resource efficient and circular economy. “It is companies creativity and innovation that determine what technologies and systems we will use tomorrow; companies product design choices that determine the features of products,” said Potocnik.

Waste industry leaders have voiced grave concerns over plans by Defra to cut back its involvement in the sector following an announcement by the new resource minister Dan Rogerson. Rogerson wrote to members of the waste industry informing them that his department will take more of a back seat on policy intervention and funding activity during the period 2014/15 due to financial pressures. He insisted however that waste remained “one of his priorities”. Various trade bodies such as the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the Resource Association have reacted with disappointment to this news

The UK landfill tax system is failing to divert food waste from landfill but introducing mandatory separate collections of the material will help the UK to achieve a food waste-free future by 2020, according to ReFood. This is one of four key recommendations in a report launched by the food waste recycler in collaboration with entrepreneurial charity BioRegional.

Edie.net reports that early a third of people admit to not recycling as much as they could due to the fact that they can’t be bothered, according to a new study. The survey by Greenredeem highlights a growing complacency among the British public to embark on green actions, in the wake of recent statistics from Defra which revealed that the rate of increase in recycling rates has slowed down. Two-thirds (64%) of Brits reckon the Government doesn’t yet do enough to incentivise recycling, which would suggest that that current schemes to drive up recovery rates are not having the necessary consumer impact.