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Planet Update

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Russia is 8C hotter than usual this year

The massive oil leak from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico may well be plugged but elsewhere there is mixed news for the environment.  Firstly, the ongoing heat wave in Russia is taking its human and environmental toll, and now the resulting fires and drought in Russia, combined with dry weather in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the European Union have wrecked crops and eaten into stockpiles. “I think it is appropriate to introduce a temporary ban on the export from Russia of grain and other agriculture products made from grain,” Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, told a government meeting in Moscow on Thursday. The ban, along with drought in Australia and floods in Pakistan and heavy rains in Canada and India , are beginning to alarm economist and politicians who are now predicting a global grain shortage in the coming months – and rising prices. The price of grain is already up 7.9% on the news, and is up 91% since June.

In the UK, Drax, operator of the coal-fired Selby power station in Yorkshire, have axed plans for a biomass station at nearby Immingham that would have generated 290 megawatts of electricity – enough for a city the size of Nottingham. Drax blamed uncertainty over long term government policy for the decision to scrap the £2 billion scheme.  Biomass power stations burn wood, straw and agricultural residues and generate electricity.

Better news is that a new car designed to run on gas from sewage has been developed – Wessex Water are generating methane from a treatment plant at Avonmouth, near Bristol. The Bio-Bug will be able to cover 10,000 miles annually on the by products from the waste of 70 homes. As the plant treats the homes of 1.1 million people the company hopes to run its entire fleet of vehicles on the gas.

Lastly, an interesting article in the Times this week by Bryan Lovell titled “if carbon looked like oil, we would act now”. The heading says it all really and Mr Lovell, a Senior Research Fellow in Earth Sciences at Cambridge University ends up saying this “Deepwater Horizon reminds us that that terrible accidents may take the lives of the skilled workers  who probe rocks to find the fossil carbon that has fuelled our prosperity over the last century. What is written in those same rocks tells us, with increasing urgency, that we simply cannot burn the carbon with impunity” (August 4th, 2010, p18 Opinion).[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]