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ANOTHER PLANET

Go bananas for biofuel! Banana farmers in the West Indies are finding new outlets for their crops – including for biofuels. The crop, which is St Lucia’s second biggest export, are mostly farmed by small growers who find it hard to compete with bigger producers in Latin America. Now they can sell their crop to local producers who turned it into ethanol – and with 1500 tonnes of bananas wasted on this one island each year, which also has to import 90% of its oil.

A new coalition of energy providers and technology giants are working to develop a ‘smart grid’ in the UK – to deal with both varying power generation and variances in power consumption. At the end of the Royal Wedding the UK suffered an enormous power use surge as people went into their kitchens and switched on kettles and ovens, and new forms of power generation such as wind, marine and solar are less predictable than fossil fuel generators – meaning that a smart grid can smooth out supply and demand. As the UK and other countries have to increase the amount of electricity they generate from sustainable sources this will become increasingly important. The smart grid will be able to store power
to meet peaks in demand and communicate with households to encourage appliances to be used outside of peak times – communicating with ‘smart meters’ in homes. South Korea is
investing over £120 billion on a ‘smart city’ that is expected to run entirely on renewable energy.

Whilst gardens can provide food, relaxation and a habitat for wildlife, and can cool cities, UK gardeners will soon be soaking up 9% of the UK’s water – and as water becomes an increasingly scarce resource scientists are warning that UK gardeners need to rethink their gardening habits, moving away from thirsty plants such as ‘subtropical’ bedding that requires a lot of water, to more drought proof plants such as Mediterranean species and desert species. Leicester University economist Paul Herrington found that in 1961 the average
household used 85 litres of water per person per day – by the mid 1970s this had grown to 121 litres per day, and 1% was used for gardening – now Herrington estimates that we will each use 166 litres per day (7.5% on gardening) and estimate that by 2021 that will be 178 litres and 16 litres (9%) will be used for gardening.

And England and Wales are having their driest spring for 100 years – with extreme dryness in the South and East of England and the West Midlands. The conditions are severely stunting crop growth – with rainfall down 61% against norms.  It is the third driest spring since 1766 with just 74mm of rain falling.

Britain’s hill farmers should be paid to become ‘stewards’ of the countryside according to a new government report on the future of farming. The idea is one of the key findings in the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) which will be published by DEFRA, the environment and farming department next month, recognising that Britain’s hills, moorlands and mountains are vital for recreation, biodiversity and water supplies. The NEA aims to put a monetary value on ‘services’ provided by our rural environment and ecosystems – and eventually these values would form the basis of an agricultural subsidy system.

Speaking on the first day of the Sustainabilitylive! event at Birmingham, RDC’s head of sustainability, Gary Griffiths said that up to 10,000 jobs could be created in the reuse sector for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) once organisations start adopting the new PAS 141 standard.

The waste sector looks set to be one of the early beneficiaries of the Green Investment Bank (GIB), along with offshore wind and non-domestic energy efficiency. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg revealed that these three areas were “possible early priorities” for the GIB and speaking at the Climate Change Capital in London morning on the 23rd May he also announced that investments would be able to be made from April 2012, and that the Government was looking at the potential for using the GIB to help deliver the first stages of the Green Deal.  Britain will need to spend an estimated £450 million over the next 15 years to meet carbon reduction commitments according to accountants Ernst & Young. The new Green bank will initially have £3 billion per annum to invest, with the expectation that this will attract a further £15 in private investments.  Along with waste, the Bank will focus on renewable power. But Business Secretary Vince Cable left the door open for investment in other areas that could include trains, nuclear power and flood defences.

An electric motorcycle has set a new UK record at the Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire. Edie.net reports that the bike, designed by Phil Edwards, won the standing start quarter-mile run in the Alternative Energy Racing event with a time of 14.1245 seconds, beating the previous record of 14.99 seconds. The rider, racer Rob Moon, reached speeds of 96.5 mph in the race – another record.

Former England and Manchester United defender Gary Neville has teamed up with a green energy company Ecotricity with the aim to make sport more sustainable and spread the green message. The new initiative ‘Sustainability In Sport’ was unveiled at Old Trafford before Mr Neville’s testimonial game against Italian giants Juventus. All the electricity used during the game was matched by electricity generated by green energy firm Ecotricity’s 52 windmills across the UK, to effectively make it a ‘wind-powered’ game.

A senior policy advisor for Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK ECC has admitted the road to the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) has been a ‘painful’ one. Speaking at Sustainabilitylive! in Birmingham’s NEC, Hannah Greig of DECC gave an update on the progress of the CRC. Greig admitted the numerous changes to emission cutting system were ‘painful’, but added “It would be worth it in the end.”

China is reportedly looking at cold fusion to provide cheap, clean, limitless and safe power with a Chinese scientist giving a paper on the technology and an up and coming UN conference.  Currently coal provides 70% of China’s power with hydroelectricity contributing 20%. China is also building 26 new nuclear reactors.

Two campaigners against illegal logging in Brazil have been brutally murdered. Jose Claudio Ribeiro (‘Ze’) de Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo were left shot dead and mutilated in the rainforests  they called their home. The couple had been actively campaigning against loggers, blockading roads and stopping lorries and had received death threats.  The Catholic Pastoral Land Commission said that more than 1,150 rural workers, environmentalists, judges and priests had been killed since the death of environmental activist Chico Mendes in 1988, and less than 10% of cases ended up in court.

Former BBC Radio 1 and now Smooth DJ Mark Goodier (weekdays on Smooth, 10.00 – 13,00) says that his eco-car saves him £10,000 per annum. Mark, who also runs radio production company Wise Buddah, drives a Nissan Leaf  and he was the first in the UK to drive the car off a forecourt and estimates that he saves 310,000 every year on fuel, parking and congestion charges. Mark started with elcctric cars in 2000 and says ‘They basically need no servicing  they don’t break down” and the car does 100 miles for a £2 charge which takes six hours overnight – and Mark told the Sunday Times that he uses his home’s solar power to make the process even greener – in fact as Mark says with Feed In Tariffs he is effectively being  ‘paid to drive’.