“27 January 2011 : Australia floods: PM Julia Gillard unveils new tax : Julia Gillard announces the details of the new tax : Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a new tax to help pay for devastating floods that she says will cost A$5.6bn ($5.6bn; £3.5bn) in reconstruction. Ms Gillard said the 12-month tax, starting from 1 July, would be levied on those earning A$50,000 or more, and those affected by floods would not pay. “We should not put off to tomorrow what we are able to do today,” she said…”
“Gillard warms to permanent disaster fund : Phillip Coorey : February 1, 2011 : THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is prepared to entertain the idea of a permanent natural disaster fund if it helps win the support of key independents in both houses. But she is not prepared to bend on the details of her one-off $1.8 billion levy to help with flood reparations in Queensland. As negotiations began with independents yesterday before the legislation for the flood measures is tabled in Parliament next week, Ms Gillard would not rule out a permanent fund. ”We’re happy to have a conversation about the longer term,” she said. But the floods, she said, were ”an extraordinary circumstance which requires a response in the short term”…”
“January 25, 2011 ; The Future of Algae Fuels Is … When? : By TOM ZELLER JR. : As I write in Tuesday’s Times, a new study from the Rand Corporation, the global policy think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif., and formed more than 60 years ago to advise the American government on military issues, suggests that Department of Defense is wasting its time exploring alternative fuels. It raised particular questions about the near-term viability of algae-based fuels, which the study’s authors considered to be more or less laboratory-level stuff — and certainly not likely to scale up to any significant extent in the next 10 years. Given that the military has gone to great lengths to publicize its ongoing efforts to go green, and in particular, algae-green, the report did not sit well with with everyone…”
The eagerness around algae biodiesel seems to stem largely from those who want something to invest in, now that fossil fuels are starting to look like a liability :-
“…Certainly a number of investors continue to bet on the promise of squeezing oil from algae in amounts substantial enough to put a dent in the use of petroleum-based fuels. And dozens of companies and academic labs are busy chasing that dream. Despite all this, the Rand study’s lead author, Jim Bartis, remained steadfastly skeptical that the technology would be ready for prime time within the next decade — and certainly not ready for widespread military use…”
Highly crucially, hypothetical research has shown that the return on investment may not be very high :-
“…What Colin discovered was that the EROI of the Reduced Case and Literature Model were 0.13 and 0.57, respectively. This shows that we have much to learn for the potential of making viable liquid fuels. Additionally, Colin’s calculations for the experimental setup (and Reduced Case analysis) show that 97% of the energy output resides in the biomass, not the bio-oil For his idealized Literature Model, 82% of the energy output was in the biomass. While these results seem discouraging, we do not have much ability to put these results into context of the rate of development of other alternative technologies and biofuels. How long did it take to get photovoltaic panels with EROI > 1 from the first working prototype in a lab? We have somewhat of an idea that it took one or two decades for the Brazilians to get reasonable EROI > 1 from using sugar cane for biomass and biofuel production (Brazilian sugar cane grown and processed in Sao Paulo is estimated near EROI = 8)…”
Can it be that venture capital is chasing an imaginary rabbit down a virtual warren ?
For just $250 (ker-ching !) you can purchase a copy of an informative report, that just might explain it all :-
Interestingly, it is noted, “The yields of oil and fuels from algae are much higher (10-25 times) than competing energy crops”. Those “energy crops” would be the genetically modified food crops that are intended for the BioEnergy agri-industry, then.
And what at the food crops that the GM scientists want to splice with ?
I think we need to understand who has intentions for which crops :-
“Gene stack increases biofuel crop productivity : Thursday, January 20, 2011 : By Jim Lane : In Illinois, Chromatin announced the successful first demonstration that genes can be assembled, stacked, and expressed in sugarcane using the company’s mini-chromosome technology…Developers, however, want to insert genes that offer improvements in multiple traits – when an organism has more than one gene inserted in this process – for example, for disease resistance, insect resistance, herbicide resistance – this is called a gene stack. In 2007, for example, Monsanto and Dow introduced an eight-gene stack (SmartStax) that contained eight herbicide tolerance and insect-protection genes, including Dow’s Herculex I and Herculex RW; Monsanto’s YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR2 and YieldGard VT PRO, Roundup Ready and Liberty Link tolerance genes. Gene stacking, thereby, is foundational in the drive for higher productivity from land crops…”
“…Not every plant genome is stable enough to support extensive cross-breeding in order to introduce desired genes. One of those is sugar cane. So, let’s say you wanted to introduce several genes, not just one – for example, insect resistance, herbicide resistance, disease resistance, higher sugar concentrations, and enzymes to enable better bagasse digestion. If you could do it at all in cane – and it would be a monumental, unprecedented achievement in cross-breeding, it would take, say 13 years or so to accomplish it. It has made changes at this level uneconomical. So that’s what the Chromatin breakthrough is all about. Creating a method to bring the sort of possibilities that have materially advanced yields in, say, corn and soy, to a whole new array of energy and food crops. Opening up the door for more rapid improvement of the underlying per-acre yields. Thereby reducing the amount of acreage needed to support, say, a cellulosic ethanol or renewable diesel processing technology. Increasing thereby the radius over which biomass can be transported at economically viable rates. Making the processing plants larger, and more cost effective. Speeding up the point at which a given technology can achieve parity with fossil oil. Pushing us faster towards the scaling of energy crops and biofuels…”
“Sugarcane and other feedstocks : Chromatin has wrapped itself into a worldwide exclusive with Syngenta in sugarcane – so, for improvements in the sugarcane genome, that’s where they will come from in so far as this technology is concerned. Meanwhile, Chromatin is pretty well wrapped up in terms of licenses for its technology in corn, soy, canola and cotton. And, Chromatin said last year that it would pursue opportunities in sorghum as a developer. But there are the energy canes, and the energy grasses like switchgrass and miscanthus. Or the woods like eucalyptus or poplar. Or the aquatic species, like algae. For those platforms, this is a licensable technology…”
Tampering with the genes of some of the most important crops in the world. That’s bold. Will we accept that ?
Syngenta are going to mess with sugarcane, all in the name of Climate Change alleviation.
And where will this sugarcane be grown ? In Brazil.
And who will be farming this sugarcane for BioEthanol use ? Dirt-poor people from the landless underclass, just as now.
So, corrupting the gene pool of one of the world’s most important food crops for some dubious possible gains in energy productivity, and still not resolving the human rights issues of how this is farmed.
In conversation yesterday evening somebody summarised the behaviour of banks and the energy industry as “greedy”, but I simply could not agree.
“It’s not greed”, I said, “most people are just trying to make a living.”
The corporations have an obligation to make profits for their shareholders, business managers have to be pragmatic, governments have to negotiate compromises and consumers are just looking to make the best use of their cash.
This is how we find ourselves locked into a vicious cycle of energy waste, through the production and use of cheap fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are so cheap, nobody can spare the investment budget to make vehicles and power generation more efficient. Natural Gas is so relatively inexpensive that it’s cheaper to heat leaky homes than insulate them. Petroleum is so cheap (even with the rising global trade price and proposed increased taxes in the UK) that a high proportion of its energy value is wasted.
“It’s not greed,” I said, “look at who owns the wealth. The overwhelming proportion of people don’t have any control. They’re just trying to get by.”
To talk of “greed” anthropomorphises the machine of the economy, imbues it with a human emotion where it has none. To say that bankers are “greedy”, or that corporations and their Chief Executive Officers are “evil” entirely misses the point. Almost everybody is employed by somebody else, and has to follow instructions.
Even High Net Worth Individuals are under pressure to respond to their “electorates”, those who consume their intellectual property rights.
However, “just following orders” is no excuse to let people off the hook when it comes to carbon emissions, just like it is no excuse for war crimes.
But it’s not “greed”.
That would imply guilt, but guilt is not a lever that can be used successfully to correct excess carbon emissions.
“U.S. Call to Preserve Copenhagen Accord Puts Climate Conference on Edge : By Stacy Feldman at SolveClimate : Mon Nov 29, 2010 : Many poor countries want to scrap the three-page Copenhagen agreement that the U.S. wants to preserve : CANCUN, MEXICO — The United States said Monday it would not back down on its plan to turn the unpopular Copenhagen Accord into a final global warming deal, setting the first day of already fragile UN climate talks in Cancun on edge. “What we’re seeking here in Cancun is a balanced package of decisions that would build on this agreement … [and] preserve the balance of the accord,” Jonathan Pershing, lead U.S. climate negotiator in Cancun, told reporters at the talks…”
“Cancún climate change summit: America plays tough : US adopts all-or-nothing position in Cancún, fuelling speculation of a walk-out if developing countries do not meet its demands : Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 30 November 2010 : America has adopted a tough all-or-nothing position at the Cancún climate change summit, fuelling speculation of a walk-out if developing countries do not meet its demands. At the opening of the talks at Cancún, the US climate negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, made clear America wanted a “balanced package” from the summit. That’s diplomatic speak for a deal that would couple the core issues for the developing world – agreement on climate finance, technology, deforestation – with US demands for emissions actions from emerging economies and a verifiable system of accounting for those cuts. In a briefing with foreign journalists in Washington, the chief climate envoy, Todd Stern, was blunt. “We’re either going to see progress across the range of issues or we’re not going to see much progress,” said Stern. “We’re not going to race forward on three issues and take a first step on other important ones. We’re going to have to get them all moving at a similar pace.” In the run-up to the Cancún talks, Stern has said repeatedly that America will not budge from its insistence that fast-emerging economies such as India and China commit to reducing emissions and to an inspection process that will verify those actions. The hard line – which some in Washington have seen as ritual diplomatic posturing – has fuelled speculation that the Obama administration could be prepared to walk out of the Cancún talks…”
An “inspection process” ? Agreeing to the same use of satellite snooping and the threat of the penalties of economic sanctions as applied to the fabled Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and the current pincer on Iran ?
I can’t quite see China agreeing to that.
If we’re thinking about paranoia, who should be monitoring whom ?
The Clean Development Mechanism should have been more closely monitored, but it wasn’t, and it’s collapsed in a big pile – fake credits, false accreditation, poor success rate. Where has the verification process been, there ?
New schemes for “climate finance” will essentially involve creating debt for Climate Change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing and emerging economies. Why more debt ? To prop up the ailing industrialised economies. And allow the Bank sharks to feed.
And “technology transfer” ? That’s all about intellectual property rights – America owning all the rights, and China and India and so on owning nothing, of course. What great technologies have parasitical American companies been keeping hidden away up their sleeves to sell to the Chinese under a Climate deal ? Or are they just rubbish deals, like expensive and untested Carbon Capture and Storage ?
“Deforestation” ? Virtually all proposed schemes under the REDD banner (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) include an element of emissions trading – just the kind of offsetting that large, dirty American companies want to buy to justify carrying on with Business As Usual. Protecting the rainforests ? Nah – just finding another way to make money for the Carbon Traders, and protect the Oil, Gas and Coal industries of the industrialised regions.
What is needed is for the industrialised nations to commit to domestic emissions reductions, not continued attempts to coerce other countries to make cuts that can be traded.
Nobody has learned anything in the last year. The same ridiculous non-options are on the table, and nobody’s biting.
I learned about various views on social and positive impact investment, and about elements of the Coalition Government’s “Big Society” and the proposed Green Investment Bank.
Ethical Investment appears to have come a long way since I put some money into a Fair Trade company many moons ago, where I knew I would never see a dividend, or even be able to sell the shares at some point.
Grown up people in sharp suits and big name frocks now do moral banking, and often reap a healthy return on their investment – “doing well” as well as “doing good”, as Adam Ognall of UK Sustainable Investment and Finance says.
I was challenged to think about what faith communities do with their money around a month ago, all precipitated by a conversation I had with Martin Palmer of the Alliance of Conservation and Religions, and then I heard something at a recent meeting that caused me to investigate a little…
Well, it would seem the wheels have definitely come off the Climate Change sceptic-denier trolley bus, and the passengers are raving, and metaphorically drowning in their own pus-riddled intellectual bile, judging by the spluttered, splattered comments I am receiving on this web log.
Wegman is going down (the anti-science, anti-Hockey Stick Wegman Report, you understand, not the man himself) – and I mean down; down to the depths of dissmissal and reproach, and scorn mountains will be heaped, and his “strange scholarship” will be ribbed and ridiculed and his assertions and claims fobbed off for ever more, it seems, by those whose opinions really count :-
Michael Mann was right. You, dear sceptic-deniers, are wrong. Even the Daily Mail newspaper says so, and don’t retort that, of course, the Daily Maelstrom is not exactly the Source of All Validity, and testily question why I trust the Daily Maul when it agrees with me, and not otherwise :-
“Influential climate change report ‘was copied from Wikipedia’ : By DAILY MAIL REPORTER : 23rd November 2010 : Research questioning the validity of global warming was copied from Wikipedia and textbooks, it has been claimed. A report by statistician Edward Wegman criticised earlier research led by scientist Michael Mann that said global temperatures were highest in the last century than the previous 1,000 years. But according to plagiarism experts, ‘significant’ sections of the 91-page report were lifted from ‘textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticised in the report’…”
You can take or leave your truth universe, and the Daily Mall certainly does that, but I’ll stick with the data, thanks, the hard-won, carefully-kept, un-fudged, un-compromised actual measurements…
Forget Nigel Lawson and his struggle to keep the British energy system in the privatised 1980s by denying the realities of Climate Change.
The lords (and sadly, some of the ladies) of this land want to stay rich from their shares in fossil fuels and mining. They’ll say anything to protect the value of their holdings.
But where’s your new North Sea Oil and Gas, Nigel ? Do you want to bankrupt this country by forcing us to ramp up our imports of energy as the North Sea production falls away ?
The chief executives of the “traditional” energy companies of these islands are just trying to keep themselves in a job when they decry wind power, biogas, marine energy projects.
No, Vincent de Rivaz of EdF, we don’t want expensive, inflexible and toxic Nuclear Power. No, Dorothy Thompson of Drax, we don’t want dirty coal continuing to heat up the world, poison fish and raise coughing kids. No, Rupert Soames of Aggreko, we must maintain the Renewable Energy obligations we have agreed at the European level, and raise the bar even higher, to protect the economy going into an uncertain future, by having homegrown energy.
We need an energy evolution in this country.
And so, what is needed is a social movement – involving ordinary, working people, unions, communities, academics, trained professionals from the engineering trades, local political activists and faith communities.
“Global warming ‘unquestionably’ due to humans: France : Global warming exists and is unquestionably due to human activity, France’s Academy of Science said in a report published Thursday and written by 120 scientists from France and abroad. “Several independent indicators show an increase in global warming from 1975 to 2003. This increase is mainly due to the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide,” the academy said in conclusion to the report. “The increase in carbon dioxide, and to a lesser degree other greenhouse gases, is unquestionably due to human activity,” said the report, adopted unanimously by academy members. The report contradicts France’s former education minister Claude Allegre, a geochemist, who published a book called “The Climatic Deception” which claimed that carbon dioxide was not linked to climate change. The report was commissioned in April by Minister for Research Valerie Pecresse in response to hundreds of environmental scientists who complained that Allegre in particular was disparaging their work. Allegre is a member of the Academy of Sciences and also signed off on the report. “He has the right to evolve,” the academy’s president Jean Salencon said. Pecresse said: “The debate is over.”…”
To my Climate Change sceptical readers, you, too have the “right to evolve”.
Come on over from the dark side to the side of light, life and understanding.
Stop the blame game, the game of suspicion, nitpicking, paranoia and irrationality, and reflect on the path of right dealing, factual research, and true and cooperative human endeavour.
Human beings are genetically encoded for pragmatic policies and practical decisionmaking; yet sometimes the fastest route to a solution is the least successful in the longer term.
Digging high calorie substances out of the ground and burning them in very large quantities is having a negative effect on the ability of the Earth to sustain Life. Ponder that for a while.
Eventually virtually all mining activities will be curtailed. As an elderly relative commented to me when discussing recycling – if we recycled all materials then people wouldn’t have to risk their lives going deep underground for new resources – like those poor miners in Chile and China.
The mines are getting deeper and more dangerous – something the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem encountered to its irrecoverable loss earlier this year.
We can live without mining. We can garner energy without mining. We can live having all our wants and needs provided for by the power of sunlight and the winds and waves it drives, and by the gravitational pull of the Moon turning the tides restlessly.
That kind of productivity will keep us in industrial development for as long as we survive as a species, whilst preventing destruction of our habitat, which would finish us off as a species altogether, along with millions of others.
but the Church Commissioners report in the last year has confirmed that the Church of England still holds shares in companies such as BP, responsible for ecological devastation of the Gulf of Mexico :-
Groups such as the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility and National Ethical Investment Week are all active in encouraging communities to put their money where their mouth is – and the faith communities have a very large amount to play with :-
With the launch of the Green Investment Bank – even though severely under-capitalised – there is a chance to tie up the questions to the answers.
If every consumer choice were a green choice, there would be no environmental problem. The only way to reach that point is for every contract, every stock and share, every procurement order, every transport vehicle, every energy source and every material resource to be green.
The choices that companies make in the business they conduct is based on the premise that people want what they sell so much they are prepared to invest directly in them as well as buy their products.
There are several levers for change here. Investment, such as pension funds, if moved in bulk, can have a de-securitisation effect on unsustainable business models. Not so much a “boycott” as a “landslide” of change.
The faith communities have already proved that they can change international commerce with the Fair Trade movement. Now it’s time for the Green Investment movement.
But you never reckoned a Conservative (if Coalition) Government would do it.
Everybody knew that the Carbon Reduction Commitment was going to reduce some people to tears. Something so labyrinthine was never going to work. But now it appears that this New Labour “challenge” is going to morph into a Carbon Tax.
The basic idea behind the New Labour Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC was to encourage medium-sized businesses to lower their Carbon Dioxide emissions.
Everybody was to fully disclose their emissions the first year, and then make a report on their emissions in the following years.
At the start, they were told they would be judged on a “league table” of performance. At the start of a measuring period they would pay into a common pot according to their emissions levels, and then if they performed better than other companies in reducing emissions, they would get money back out of the pot.
But George Osborne has just waved the “league table” magically away, it seems. All revenues from the CRC will be considered as public money.
OK, OK, so all firms using more than 6000 megawatthours of power a year would be forced to take part, and maybe large companies do need a negative incentive to seriously consider how to keep their electricity use down – they seem to waste a lot, after all.
But what about those companies and organisations that don’t qualify for the CRC because they are already part of the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) ?
Any player that’s large enough to be under the EU ETS scheme gets their Carbon permits for free, and can trade them for cash if they use less than their entitlement.
OK, so in 2013 EU ETS Carbon permits will be under an auction scheme, but between now and then there is a huge disparity in the way that medium- and large-sized companies will be treated.
In ETS ? Free permits until 2013.
In CRC ? Obliged to pay a Carbon Tax.
“…John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Business Council, spoke for many across the low carbon economy when he said he was surprised by the decision. “The announcement that government is keeping the money from Carbon Reduction Commitment allowance sales has come out of the blue,” he said. “It may make the scheme simpler but this is something you’ve got to consult with industry on before plunging into.” Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, Climate Minister Greg Barker said the decision had not been taken lightly and had been made as a result of the ” catastrophic” deficit inherited from the labour government. He admitted that the changes would increase costs for businesses, but argued that the structure of the CRC meant that “progressive businesses that act to improve energy efficiency will be able to minimise their exposure”. Harry Manisty, environmental tax specialist at PwC, said businesses would effectively view the change as an additional tax, which may cause carbon price discrepancies with the EU emissions trading scheme…”
My guess is that this ploy is the opening salvo in a game of political ping pong that will ultimately destroy implementation of the CRC.
Already there have been wars and rumours of wars that people won’t play this particular emissions cutting game. For example, the start date of various parts of the scheme have been set back, and there are reports that organisations have over-assessed their Carbon Dioxide emissions now so they can look good later when they “cut” them.
George Osborne has served the first (wrecking) ball. What will the response of business be ?
An incomplete recording of the BBC Horizon programme “The Death of the Oceans ?” narrated by David Attenborough is below.
It’s about Global Warming, of course (and overfishing, and sonar making whales deaf – which is the bit that’s missing at the end). But it’s also about Global Warming’s evil twin – Ocean Acidification.
Believe what you will about the Anthropogenic component of Global Warming, and I know some of you resist the Science as if it were a hairy, sweaty, alcoholic dentist threatening to pull your teeth without Novocaine, but there’s no way you can deny that the increasing concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, most of it a direct result of humankind’s burning of Fossil Fuels, is turning the Oceans into a giant bucket of fizzy soda, and is threatening marine life, which is a huge risk to the whole of Life on Earth.
The only solution is to stop burning so much Coal, Oil and Gas. Really, that’s the only way.
Oh, you can fight this inevitability with every brain circuit you have, trying to force others to believe that everything’s still OK, that the Earth is not dangerously heating up, that Life on Land and in the Oceans is not on the cusp of mass extinction, and that Progress is just fine, and Economic Recovery, or Shiny New Technology, or Geoengineering will save us, but one day you will understand. You will accept. The global systems of production, transport and agriculture have to change. The Carbon-based Industrial Age will be gone in only a few decades, only a couple of hundred years after it started.
You can relax. Everything will be fine – eventually. When we have Wind Farms on every ridge top, Solar Power plants in every desert, Geothermal stations in our Town Halls, Combined Heat and Power running on Biomass in every street, Marine Power-gathering machines, Organic food, small electric cars, useful 24 hours-in-a-day networks of electricity-powered public transportation. The time is coming for the new human world to be born – and it will be green, clean and less energy-hungry than before.
It’s going to be a bit of a traumatic birth and the Climate Medics are working hard in the delivery suite, but soon, very soon, Green Investment will see the light of day – those who are wealthy will, as one, put their finances towards Renewable Energy and Energy-efficient machines and Energy Demand Management, real assets, with real returns on investment, and the future will be secured.