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Its time for change – but is it too late?

Google  has announced that it will invest in an offshore Mid-Atlantic electrical transmission backbone running from New Jersey to Virginia that will be able to connect 6,000 megawatts of wind turbines, enough to serve about 1.9 million households.  Called the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) the backbone will be built around offshore power hubs that will collect the power from multiple offshore wind farms and deliver it through sub-sea cables to the land-based transmission system. The AWC project is led by an independent transmission company, Trans-Elect, and is financed by Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corp., with Google investing 37.5% of the equity in this initial development stage.  The Mid-Atlantic region offers a high level offshore wind potential in relatively shallow waters, making it easier to install turbines 10-15 miles offshore, where they can take advantage of stronger winds and are virtually out of sight from land, Google said. From DMW Canadian Media Wire. And see more at  http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/wind-cries-transmission.html.

But in the UK  ambitious plans to harness the power of the Severn Estuary to light up one in 20 of the UK’s homes are to be abandoned as a result of the Government’s attempt to address the nation’s deficit. Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy, will jettison the world’s largest tidal energy project, rather than make the taxpayer foot an estimated bill of £10bn to £30bn for the untested technology. Wildlife activists welcome decision to halt the tidal energy scheme in favour of exportable technologies as they feared the barrier would devastate wetlands, but may be less happy that new nuclear plants also get the green light. More at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/huhne-drops-severn-barrage-to-invest-in-wind-power-2108968.html

The Co-operative in the UK has teamed up with the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) to launch TOXIC FUELS, a campaign to combat the shocking global trend in extracting oil from unconventional sources like tar sands and shale oil – threatening dangerous levels of climate change and extreme damage to local environments, including the magnificent Boreal Forest in Canada. EU legislation on this has recently been watered down after pressure from Canada and the oil industry – You can add your photo to an online petition (with WWF and Greenpeace) to keep the tar sands out of Europe at www.tarnishedearth.co.uk and look out for the free street exhibition coming to a number of major UK cities soon. You can also ask your MP to take action on climate change by moving towards clean, sustainable and renewable energy production – go to www.toxicfuels.com/takeaction to add your voice.

 A long time ago on this Blog we wrote about the possibility of mining landfill sites to ‘re-use’ the valuable materials thrown away. The recession seemed to put paid to that idea as prices for plastics, glass and metals dropped – but it seems its back on the cards again, particularly as the value of metals has risen. A UK company, APP, has formed a joint venture to dig up landfill sites in Belgium – recycling half the rubbish and converting the rest into electricity. The project will become operational in 2014 and looks to  reuse 16.5 million tonnes of municipal waste in 30 years. See more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/oct/11/energy-industry-landfill .

Research from the WWF, the Zoological Society of London and Global Footprint Network says that we need an extra planet – well, at the moment at least half a planet, to sustain our gorging lifestyles – with comment by Tony Juniper in the Observer ading “The extinction of tigers, the melting icecaps ansd the ravaging of the rainforests are symptons if an emerging global crisis” –  Not good news! The only glimmer of hope is that the UK  has dropped from 15th to 31st place in the league  table – actually an improvement – with the list topped by (1) the United Arab Emirates (2) Qatar (3) Denmark (4) Belgium and (5) the USA – who all need roughly five planets worth of space for each of their citizens. There again, have we just shipped our pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to other countries?  On average we will need a ‘spare’ earth by 2030 at current rates of consumption of natural resources (The Metro, October 14th 2010). It seems that economic and technological solutions are only part of the solution – in a world driven by ‘markets’ and consumerism and where progress is determined by economic advances, it seems we need a major cultural shift if we are going to make a real change. The emerging crisis comes in three parts: (1) the vast quantities of greenhouse gases we are pumping into the Earth’s atmosphere and the acidification of the oceans, which are almost certainly causing or adding to global warming (2) the destruction of species, plants, habitats and eco-systems and finally (3) the depletion of resources mankind needs to survive. So unfortunately will need a whole spare planet soon – and there isn’t one.

Enrico Bonadio (University of Abertay Dundee) has published a new article “Climate Change and Intellectual Property” (European Journal of Risk Regulation, March 2010, p.72), which is conveniently available on SSRN. The IP Kat reports that according to the abstract, the article first highlights the poor results obtained by the 2009 Copenhagen Conference with reference to Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs), particularly climate technologies. Enrico stresses that the Copenhagen Accord makes no specific reference to intellectual property rights as a necessary tool to stimulate the transfer of climate technologies, especially to developing countries; in certain cases, though, IPRs can obstruct the dissemination across countries of ESTs, as is apparently confirmed by (i) how IPRs legislation is devised in industrialized countries (e.g. the Bayh-Dole Act in the US) and (ii) a sharp increase international patent litigation in this field. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1686962 

Bees keep Newcastle top of the city green table. The Guardian reports that ‘Britain’s two greenest cities’ (Newcastle and Leicster) are pulling ahead of the pack in the annual league table of sustainability. Newcastle boasts an electric car hub with nearly 600 charging points and an urban bee programme, meaning the city features strongly in all 13 indicators in the league bar the strength of the local economy. Brighton and London are also strong in the competition and Leeds won praise for its recycling scheme. Nottingham fell four places to 12th after previous strong years. 

Britain is growing greener at the expense of the world by Tony Juniper http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/17/global-warming-environment-west-waste and see ‘Harmony’ by Tony, Ian Skelly and HRH the Prince of Wales: Published by Harper Collins.