Saturday, October 29, 2011

EU - Drawing a Line in the Tar Sands? A Controversial Move to Prohibit Oil Imported From What’s Been Called the World’s Dirtiest Fuel Source Could be an Example for the Rest of Us

Tar-sands-collage                          Tar Sands Collage - Wikipediaby Robert Mellinger, Yes! magazine:

Tar sands imports to the EU could be banned altogether after the EU Commission on Climate Change backed new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards as part of the Fuel Quality Directive first adopted in 2009.

Pursuant to the directive’s original goal of a 6 percent reduction of CO2 emissions from transport fuel production by 2020, the new standards set values for each fuel based on estimated grams of CO2 released per megajoule of energy produced.

They set a much higher emissions value for tar sands oil than conventional oil production, making oil produced in Canada's controversial sands an unviable option if the directive’s goals are to be achieved. [1]

Although tar sands oil is not a major import to the EU, the move reveals a sharp contrast between international business interests and environmental realities, and would set a precedent for future bans on other controversial fuels—including shale gas, whose extraction process is known as fracking.

EU member states will vote in just a few weeks on the directive, which could be blocked by two nations that have expressed opposition: the UK and the Netherlands.

Britain’s Under Secretary for the Department of Transport, Norman Baker, said in a September 26 letter that he would oppose the inclusion of the tar sands in the directive, The Guardian reported.

Incidentally, the UK recently began drilling for domestic shale gas reserves, which could also be threatened if the emissions standards are eventually extended to non-transport fuels.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Four Reasons We Need Less Gas: These Days, Americans are Driving Less - What That Means for the Future of our Oil Dependence

Photo by Hopefoote
by Lester Brown, in Yes! magazine:

As the debate unfolds about whether to build a 1,711-mile pipeline to carry crude oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas, the focus is on the oil spills and carbon emissions that inevitably come with it. But we need to ask a more fundamental question. Do we really need that oil?

The United States currently consumes more gasoline than the next 16 countries combined. Yes, you read that right. Among them are China, Japan, Russia, Germany, and Brazil.

But now this is changing. Not only is the affluence that sustained this extravagant gasoline consumption eroding, but the automobile-centered lifestyle that was considered part of the American birthright is fading as well. U.S. gasoline use has dropped 5 percent in four years.

Four key developments are set to further reduce U.S. gasoline use: a shrinking car fleet, a decline in the miles driven per car, dramatic mandated future gains in new car fuel efficiency, and the shift from gasoline to electricity to power our cars.

The U.S. fleet appears to have peaked at 250 million vehicles in 2008. From 1994 through 2007, new-car sales were in the range of 15–17 million per year. Since then they have totaled 10–13 million per year, and they are unlikely to top 14 million again. Retirees likely will exceed sales of new cars throughout this decade.

The contraction that began when the fleet dropped from 250 million in 2008 to 248 million in 2010 is likely to continue. Sales of new cars are not matching those of earlier years in part because the economic prospect has dimmed and in part because we are still urbanizing. Today 82 percent of us live in urban areas where cars are becoming less essential.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Plastic Is Killing Us

Seal trapped in plastic pollutionImage by tedxgp2 via FlickrBy Norma Holt

Drowning in Plastic

Try to avoid it and you quickly find that it is impossible. In today's world just about everything comes in some type of plastic wrapping or container.

The oceans and everything alive is drowning in it as the chemical nature of the substance does not break down and particles are becoming the new covering on the beach, the new food forced down baby animal's necks, the top layer over the sea and the toxic waste that will eventually kill us all.

Recently the Canadian government declared bisphenol A (BPA) a 'dangerous substance' and thereby opened the door for it to be banned. This is a chemical found in hard plastics used for containers such as baby bottles, food storage boxes, drink bottles, and as a sealant in dentistry.

It has attracted some media attention in Australia but the Food and Drug authority here sees no reason to ban it. In fact they are so slow to even consider that it might be a toxin.

Scientists have published reports that prove this chemical leeches into food when the plastic is heated, as in the bottling process or even in the microwave where it may be simply warmed up for consumption. To have it removed from the market place would involve a hefty change of practices for most manufacturers and a great big increase in costs.

But how did we let this happen? A glance around the supermarket demonstrates that things that were once packaged in glass or a better substance are now contained in plastic. Such things as sauces, fruit, frozen meals, spices and even mustard comes in it now with no choice to buy it any other way. The shopper wants the product and apparently does not take into account that the wrapping might just give them cancer.

There are no warning labels or ways to alert the buyer who happily puts the product into the shopping basket and continues on home.

Everything made of plastic eventually gets into the landfill and then the oceans. While wave action will break it into ever smaller particles there is no way it will disappear. Ultimately it may sink to the bottom or be washed ashore onto the beach.

Fish are suffering as shown by salmon in a Canadian river where they no longer go to the depths to avoid the sun and heat of the surface. Their exterior is showing signs of sunburn and the reproduction of their species is suffering as well.

Many ocean animals are becoming extinct and fishermen around the world catch fewer in their nets and many have retired because they cannot survive.

People are just too relaxed about what they buy and of the danger some products may cause them. This site is a wake up call and demonstrates what plastic is doing to the environment

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Adelaide Custom Tours: The Adelaide Experience

Old Government House in the Belair National Park.Old Government House, Belair National Park - Image via Wikipedia
Hi everyone,

If you are planning a visit to Australia, stop in to Adelaide which is a wonderful city. I operate custom walking and driving tours around the city and surrounds.

Experience #1: Adelaide's Universities - This is a half-day tour where you are driven to each university campus around Adelaide. As I have worked in all 3 universities here, I have a unique insight into the history, architecture and philosophy of each institution, and I know each campus intimately. Maximum - 4 people (A$50 per head).

Experience #2: Bushwalking in Belair National Park and Mount Lofty - This is a full-day tour where you will be picked up from the city to go bushwalking in the Park. I live about 5 minutes from Belair Park and so I know it intimately, the old buildings (Governor's residences, old railway stations and pavilions, the only cafe in the vicinity (included the best coffee in Australia, seriously!). I know the terrain and the story of much of the flora and fauna of the region. As for Mount Lofty, I know a number of trails, most of the cafes, the private Botanic Gardens, and the strange stories of the region (and there's a few). Maximum - 4 people (A$60 per head).

Experience #3: Cricket Adelaide style - This is a half-day walking tour for cricket fanatics! Being one of the spiritual homes of cricket, Adelaide has a great history and a great group of organisations who have recorded it's history. There's the Bradman Collection Museum, the South Australia Cricket Association Museum, Adelaide oval (of course), the State Library Bradman Collection, and the Bradman Digital Library. Also, having played cricket for many years and knowing lots of great cricket stories, this would be a very entertaining experience for people. Maximum - 25 people (A$40 per head).

Experience #4: The Aboriginal Bush Tucker Tour at the Adelaide Botanical Gardens - This is a short walking tour lasting for 2 hours, through the Aboriginal Bush Tucker (tucker is food) tour in the Adelaide Botanical Gardens. Very few people (even locals) know that this exists. I have taken a number of visiting school groups through this tour and they love it. This is an interesting cultural experience. Maximum - 25 people (A$20 per head).

Experience #5: Mitcham and Springfield, the heart of historic Adelaide - This is a full-day walking tour after being picked up in the city. These are some of the oldest suburbs in Adelaide, nestled into the foothills, where some of the first settlers lived, with many old homesteads still standing. Great old churches, cafes, tea houses, hotels, picturesque streets, Carrick Hill (Adelaide's most famous stately mansion), and even the beautiful Brownhill Creek Recreation Park. Lots to see, all of which can be done on foot. Maximum - 4 people (A$60 per head).

If you are interested in seeing Adelaide with your own personal guide, just call me on 0433 354 383 or email me on:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

CASE STUDY: Can Households Help Create a Carbon Neutral City?

Your Carbon Footprint Challenge             Image by Leonski via Flickrby Richard Conlin, on Yes! magazine:

Seattle hopes to become the world's first climate-neutral city. It's no small task: The City must account for, and reduce, the carbon footprint of everything from transportation to trash for hundreds of thousands of people. City Council President and YES! Magazine board member Richard Conlin is blogging about the city's efforts.

Much of the work on climate change has focused on making major policy or systems level changes that will have dramatic impacts on carbon emissions. Critical as it is to change emissions systems, create new technologies, develop energy efficient buildings, or provide better travel options and renewable energy systems, most such big ideas require pose major barriers to implementation.

As the saying might go, ‘you can lead a community to a low carbon future, but you can’t make them stop emitting carbon.'

But there are lots of actions that people can take that do not require systems change, and may form the best foundation for making systems change happen. In 2009, a group of scientists developed a model for specific actions that people can take without major new technological or policy inventions.

They published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled ‘Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce U.S. carbon emissions’.

The article suggests that a set of behavioral changes that could be taken right now would reduce US carbon emissions by some 7.4 percent - an amount, they note, “slightly larger than the total national emissions of France." These savings can be realized at a very low cost using current technology and without significant changes in lifestyle.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

VIDEO: Innovative Energy

by FRANCE 24 Environment, on YouTube:

This week Environment is looking at innovative energy. To start, French researchers try to identify the sweetest of trees with a high sugar content to produce a fruitful harvest of biofuels.

Meanwhile in Spain CO2 from a cement factory is sucked up by algae leading to the mass production of bio petroleum. Finally how green are the latest shiny engines to hit the road? They avoid polluting petrol but nonetheless need powerplants many still fueled by coal to run.