Thursday, January 26, 2006

No more party-political bitching? We might just get somewhere!

Today, five political parties have signed up to a joint agreement on the need to tackle climate change together. The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the DUP together representing 276 Members of Parliament, have put aside party differences to develop policies on "the most serious threat we face". The Labour Party has been invited to join in this approach, but has so far declined to do so.

The Joint Statement, published in the week when Government statistics revealed that UK C02 emissions are again rising, accepts the scientific consensus that human activities are causing climate change, and asserts that normal politics are not delivering the action needed.

They therefore propose the establishment of an independent body, outside the political domain, with a long-term remit to:

*Set binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and monitor progress;

*Advance measures to achieve year on year cuts in emissions;

*Publish an Annual Report on its findings; and

*Develop policy in the light of changes in scientific knowledge.

The Parties have also pledged to work together on specific policy proposals.

Commenting on the initiative, Shadow Environment Secretary, Peter Ainsworth said:

"Two issues are quite clear: the threat of climate change is real and potentially disastrous; and current policies to tackle it are not working. To get effective action we need to suspend normal politics, find agreement wherever possible, and commit to robust long-term policies which can survive electoral cycles.

"I am delighted that we have been able to achieve so much cross-Party consensus so far; but it is undeniably a weakness that the Government has so far refused to sign up. I sincerely hope that they will think again and meanwhile I look forward to engaging in discussion with MPs from all parties who share our belief that finding a way forward on this issue ought to be placed above party politics. Of course we will not always agree on the detail, but we owe it to our children, and to generations to come, to agree on the direction we need to take."

Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper said:

"This is an extremely important political initiative. Climate change is the biggest threat faced by humanity. By introducing a legal framework to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions every year the UK can play a major role in showing the rest of the world the way towards developing a low carbon economy. We hope that the Government will join the political consensus for a safer and cleaner future. "

Head of climate at Greenpeace, Charlie Kronick said:

"If this initiative bypasses politics-as-usual to deliver real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Greenpeace gives its full support to the Cross Party Consensus on Climate Change."

Ron Bailey, Partnership Organiser of the Sustainable Energy Partnership said:

"All SEP members will be very pleased to hear about this important initiative which brings together parties across the political divide to agree the measures necessary to combat climate change

We particularly welcome the proposal of a new independent body with a remit to set binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions and to publish a report on their findings with an annual debate in parliament. The Partnership is unanimously behind this and hopes that the Government will support it too."

Friday, January 20, 2006

A climate-change chorus, and one deaf ear

A climate-change chorus, and one deaf ear.
Six former EPA administrators urge action on global warming, but the Bush administration still isn't listening
Friday, January 20, 2006 The Oregonian

Six former administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including five Republicans, are urging the White House to impose mandatory greenhouse gas controls. They are surely right, but the Bush administration remains deaf and dumb on climate change.

Twenty-nine leading U.S. economists, including three Nobel laureates, have proposed a market-based cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. Scientists, senators, governors, mayors, industry leaders and many others around the world all are pushing serious steps to slow climate change.

But not the White House. It still acts as though climate change is some distant, theoretical problem, one it can brush off with a token, voluntary program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That's not enough, and every living person who has served as EPA administrator, except two who still work for this president, knows it.

At an event Wednesday to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the EPA, the former administrators ripped the White House for its failure to address to climate change. "This is a major disaster for the world," said Russell Train, who directed the agency under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1973 to 1977. "We need leadership, and I don't think we're getting it. To sit back and just push it away and say we'll deal with it sometime down the road is dishonest . . . and self-destructive."

Yet that is the policy of this administration. The White House clings to the idea of a voluntary plan to cut emissions "intensity," a measure of total emissions as a fraction of economic output. But even if the president's wishful thinking about voluntary compliance comes true, it would barely change emissions in the United States, which is responsible for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

At the EPA event Wednesday, current Administrator Stephen Johnson insisted again that the voluntary program and technological innovation are the best ways to address climate change. Johnson propped up and knocked down a straw man, asking, "Are we going to tell people to stop driving their cars, or do we start investing in technology? That's the answer, investing in those technologies."

No serious leaders are telling people to stop driving. But California, Oregon and other states are demanding that automakers use proven technology to reduce auto emissions in the new cars they sell. Meanwhile, Johnson and the EPA are sitting on the federal waivers the states need to move forward with their new emission controls.

The longer the EPA stalls, the more it looks as though the White House doesn't believe its own rhetoric about the power of new technology to reduce emissions and slow the rate of climate change. Like the polar ice caps, the administration's vague promises to address global warming just keep melting away.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Year in review, the climate group.

One of the most interesting online news letters I`m subscribed to is that provided by the "Climate Group".

An organization set up in 2004 to tackle climate change:

"The organization was founded in 2004 by a diverse group of companies, governments and supporters who saw the opportunity to create new momentum in the international effort to stop global warming."
In 2006 the top stories of interest to the Climate Group where:
  • January:The Commencement of the EU emissions trading scheme .
  • February: The coming into force of the Kyoto protocol.
  • March: The launch of NorthSouthEastWest.
  • April: The commitment of several Australian states to an emmisionstrading scheme.
  • May: The launch of Ecomagination by GE
  • June: Gov. Schwazernager's emissions targets for California.
  • July: G8 summit in Gleneagles.
  • august: Asia-Pacific clean development and climate change group.
  • September: EU-China partnership on climate change.
  • October: HSBC goes carbon neutral.
  • November:MOP in Montreal.
  • December:Low Carbon Leaders conference.
For more on these stories check out the climate group website.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

GridwiseTM, Demand Side Management- The key to future energy systems.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has announced research into an advanced demand side management system know as GridWised (TM). This system will utilise the internet to dynamically controll power consumption at enabled households by shutting down base-load such as water heaters and refrigirators, for brief peak periods. Usually power grids are hugely overspecified for normal usage just so they can cope with peaks, such as when a popular tv event breaks for adverts and everyone putts on the kettle. Removing some of this redundancy could save money and the environment.

"Approximately 200 homes will receive real-time price information through a broadband Internet connection and automated equipment that will adjust energy use based on price. In addition, some customers will have computer chips embedded in their dryers and water heaters that can sense when the power transmission system is under stress and automatically turn off certain functions briefly until the grid can be stabilized by power operators."
There are two distinct parts to this project, optional power reduction by consumers to save money and automated power off for heating/cooling devices over short periods of time.

"In the pricing study, automated controls will adjust appliances and thermostats based on predetermined instructions from homeowners. The volunteers can choose to curtail or reduce energy use when prices are higher. At any point, homeowners have the ability to override even their preprogrammed preferences to achieve maximum comfort and convenience."
The economic and environmental benefits of this approach could be sizeable but future innovations including integrated micro-renewable generation, batteries as an added buffer are also likely to dramatically increase the affordable level of intermitant renewables in the system.

An earlier PNNL study shows that creating a smarter grid through information technology could save $80 billion over 20 years nationally by offsetting costs of building new electric infrastructure – the generators, transmission lines and substations that will be required to meet estimated load growth.
For more on distributed energy systems have a look at my previous article here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Wind+Compressed Air; Thats a neat idea!

DES MOINES, Iowa - A group of Iowa cities intends to not only harness the wind, but also capture it, store it underground and use it to help make electricity when demand peaks.

Members of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities have invested in a proposed power plant that would use wind turbines to drive compressed air into underground aquifers. The air would be released to generate electricity when needed.

It's a new twist on the idea of using wind energy in a way that removes the unreliability of nature.
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"Wind energy is dependent upon whether the wind is blowing or not," said Bob Haug, executive director of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities. "But if you can use the compressed air as a storage medium, you get the certainty and the dispatchability that you need to make wind compete."

The plant will use power from its own wind turbines, supplemented by cheaper electricity bought at off-peak times, to force air into rock formations at least 2,000 feet underground.

Current plans call for pressurized storage of tens of billions of cubic feet of air in rock formations deep underground.

Natural gas to help
When it is needed, the air will be released and mixed with small amounts of natural gas to power electricity-generating turbines.

"We've done quite a few studies in last couple of years and the economics look very favorable," said Tom Wind, an energy consultant who is a technical adviser on the Iowa Stored Energy Plant project.

Haug said the plant would use a third to half the amount of natural gas needed by conventional turbines. However, instead of natural gas, the plant could burn biomass such as corn stalks or switchgrass.

"In the future, we could get very close to a totally renewable plant," he said.

The idea of pursuing the wind storage plant came as the municipal utilities were considering investing in their own electricity generating plant in 2001. The group first considered a coal-fired plant, but began considering the increasing cost of environmental regulations and the impact coal plants have on the environment.

"For us, it's really risk management," Haug said. "We know generating electricity with coal produces mercury and that's dangerous to the health of our children."

Global warming also focuses attention on renewable, clean energy sources, he said.

The project, backed by 74 members of the municipal utilities group, obtained a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Energy grant last year to study the idea. It anticipates another $1 million this year to continue to evaluate the project's feasibility. About $700,000 has been raised by the utilities that support the idea.

Organizers also plan to seek support from major utilities, Wind said.

Two earlier plants
Only two other underground compressed air plants are in operation. A plant in Huntorf, Germany, was built more than 23 years ago and a plant in McIntosh, Ala., is 11 years old. Both store compressed air in underground salt caverns.

Iowa's project is unique in that it would use wind power to store the air and combine it with massive underground storage capacity.

The Germany and Alabama plants store hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of air in a thermos-bottle shaped container installed in the salt mines. The Iowa project would use naturally occurring pockets embedded in sand or sandstone formations sealed by shale or other rock.

The area, which would cover hundreds of acres of land, could store tens of billions of cubic feet of air, Haug said. That capacity would allow the wind energy plant to compete with fossil fuel plants.

The ground above the storage area would remain undisturbed. The group building the plant would need only to acquire leasing rights to the underground storage, Haug said.

The Iowa project's initial plans call for construction of a 100 megawatt wind farm and a 200 megawatt compressed air energy storage plant.

The plant is expected to cost about $300 million. A site has not yet been chosen, but it likely will be in central Iowa, where suitable underground formations are known to exist, Haug said.

Plans call for the plant to go online by 2010.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Climate Change Concert, Nice !

With their new release "First Impressions of Earth" getting some generous press, The Strokes are in a perfect position to promote climate change awareness when they play the upcoming One Earth Concert in Cardiff, Wales. Manic Street Preachers, The Darkness, & Super Furry Animals are also on the bill, which is guaranteed to be a fabulous show as it takes place in the Millennium Stadium. Climate Change Now organized the concert, which was produced to help bring climate change issues to the national agenda. UK concertgoers and those watching the television broadcast of the show are invited to log on to and switch to renewable energy. Those making the switch can reduce their CO2 emissions from household energy by a third or more. It is free to make the switch and only takes 5 minutes. Tickets for the concert are £40, which will be broadcast in the UK by the BBC, are available from

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