Protecting the Planet: updates.
Topics in alphabetical order:
#Deepwater Horizon(oil spill)
#NETs (Negative Emissions Technologies)
James Tapper, Observer 21st Jan 2018 quotes a coalition of green groups saying there is a significant risk that our environmental protections will be reduced after Bexit. Greener UK represents 13 groups including WWF, National Trust, RSPB, FoE, Green Alliance and the Wildlife Trusts. Chair Shaun Spiers says there is a lack of willpower to ensure high standards across the UK when we lose the common frameworks currently provided by the EU. MEP Julie Girling (who had the whip withdrawn when she supported an EU resolution saying the UK had not made sufficient progress in the talks) said the UK was no longer working effectively with the EU on environmental issues.
17th Jan 2018: Damian Carrington – UK will miss its Carbon targets if no detail is added to the government’s ‘vague’ plans, according to the Committee on Climate Change. Solid plans must be made if petrol and diesel cars are to be banned by 2040, and more trees will need to be planted. There are also significant risks attached to the Hinkley C project. The government published its Clean Growth Strategy last October. A number of pledges are made with little or no detail on how they would be delivered. Making all homes energy efficient by 2035, for example. The chair, Lord Deben (John Selwyn Gummer) said if the bonus paid to Persimmon’s chief executive had been used on the 18,000 houses it built last year it could have saved everybody electricity bills.
The CCC also argues for more carbon capture and storage: CCS is essential (to save costs...) – George Osborne cancelled a £1bn programme in 2015. Since then only £100m has been pledged for it. Oil and gas companies need to get working on it.
How was the government going to drive up sales of electric cars? At current rates of tree planting it would take a century to plant the 70,000 hectares of trees promised for 2025.
17th Jan 2018: BP has had to make another payout of $1.7bn for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The total compensation is likely to be $65bn (£47bn). The total for 2017 is $3bn (it expected only $2bn). Eight years after the disaster, BP has processed nearly all the 390,000 claims made under the court-supervised settlement, and hopes to complete the process in coming months.
The spill, at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people and affected fishing and tourism.
23rd Jan 2018. Adam Vaughan: Provided divers shift charging to off- peak times, the grid will be able to cope. Aurora Energy Research predicts growth of electric cars from about 120,000 today, to 10m by 2035, and then over 17m by 2040. Tariffs need to be offered to get drivers to use ‘smart’ charging (e.g. not on returning from work!). 0.5GW of peak demand would be added, which is not significant. Taking advantage of cheaper charging times could halve the driver’s electricity bill, at £110 a year (as against £280 for charging at peak times).
22nd Jan 2018: Lloyds of London plans to stop investing in coal companies. Insurance is one of the industries worst affected by hurricanes, wildfires and flooding in recent years. Lloyds offers a marketplace for almost 90 syndicates of other insurers (it doesn’t underwrite operations directly). Big insurance companies have moved £15bn away from coal in the past two years, says the Unfriend Coal network (NGOs, Greenpeace, 380.org). AXA has dropped companies with at least 30% coal, and Church of England uses 10% as criterion. Analysis by ClimateWise shows that the ‘protection gap’ – the difference between the costs of natural disasters and the amount insured had quadrupled to $100bn a year since the 1980s.
1st Feb 2018, letter from David Smythe Emeritus prof of geophysics, Univ of Glasgow: Ken Cronin (Letters, 17 January), of the UK onshore fossil fuel trade body, responds to your editorial on fracking(10 January) by claiming that imported natural gas has “higher [environmental] emissions” than the gas “beneath our feet”. This claim is akin to the 40-a-day smoker with lung cancer telling their doctor that only the last two or three cigarettes of the day do the damage, and promising to stick to 37 a day. There is a global gas glut. The UK is well supplied by imports from stable countries, the price of which is predicted to remain low and stable for years to come. So no additional bridging supply is needed while the 23m UK households that depend on gas are weaned off their fossil fuel addiction over the next one or two decades.
The UK shale basins are far more complex geologically than in the US, and a fully fledged drilling industry will need to be developed from scratch – Lancashire is not Texas. This will require several billion pounds of capital investment, the training of several thousand technicians and engineers, and will take at least a decade to create. UK shale gas will probably cost around double that of US gas. The Committee on Climate Change report only sanctioned shale gas development on condition, among others, that indigenous gas replaces imports and does not add to it. Mr Cronin should tell us whether he favours a tariff on gas imports, an import ban or else a subsidy, to make UK shale gas competitive.
26th Jan 2018, Adam Vaughan: extra hurdle for fracking as Greg Clark, business secretary, says an application by Third Energy to begin fracking until it had completed a financial resilience assessment, which would include being able to clean up the site afterwards. The company has already met delays because its accounts were not in order. It has overdue accounts for the period ending 31st December 2016 (due last September). There are 13 other technical tests the company has to pass as well. Cuadrilla and Ineos will now have to go through these financial checks as well. Third Energy wants to start fracking at Kirby Misperton. John Dewar resigned as director this week, and the company’s acting chief executive Keith Cochrane was a director of Carillion which went into liquidation January 20128.
Hydrogen cars: Jan 20th Oliver Franklin-Wallis: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/20/hydrogen-cars-hugo-spowers-future
28th Jan 2018, Observer, Robin McKie: (link to follow...) talks of a project set up by Climeworks, which extracts (only) 900 tonnes of CO2 a year from the atmosphere, and uses it in greenhouses to help grow plants.
There will be a report this week from Natural Environment Research Council on techniques for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. These include burying biomass and burying the CO2 that results, adding fertilizers to the sea to boost the growth of carbon-absorbing blooms, crushing and spreading rocks over fields and beaches (‘enhanced weathering’), and planting new forests.
But ocea fertilisation could create too many algae, and increase acidification; ‘beccs’ (biomass energy with carbon capture) would require vast amounts of trees at a time when we need more land for food – and CCS is as yet underdeveloped; enhanced weathering would require large amounts of power to crush and transport the rocks.
Other (myself included!) argue that developing negative emissions technology would be used as a pretext so that ‘we’ could go on burning fossil fuel. The problem is urgent, and such explorations remove the incentive to get to the bottom of it, viz, cutting emissions!
1st Feb 2018 (Damian Carrington and others): A report from Southampton University says that methods of sucking CO2 from the atmosphere would not work on a large enough scale to help beat global warming. The IPCC had included this method as a way of meeting the Paris targets. It calculated that about 12bn tonnes of CO2 a year would need to be captured and stored after 2050 – about a third of all emissions today. John Shepherd, an author of the report says there is no silver bullet. ‘NETs are very interesting but they are not an alternative to deep and rapid emissions reduction. These remain the safest and most reliable options.’ NETs include tree planting, but this raises the problem of having enough land to grow the food needed for a growing world population.
Amazing article by Adam Vaughan, 22nd Jan (posted on Twitter) describing the lengths that are being gone to, in order to bury highly radioactive waste safely – for ‘hundreds of thousands of years’. Waste mixed with resins, in steel containers forms insoluble blocks; these placed inside copper and steel sarcophagus; deep underground would be tombs of buffer materials to soak up radiation and minimise water seepage, around each container; this all buried hundreds of metre down under rock, and storage tunnels filled with concrete...
26th January 2018. Damian Carrington. Plastic has been found to cause disease in coral reefs. 89% of the corals examined that were fouled by plastic were found to be diseased. Scientists examined 125,000 corals across the Asia-Pacific region. At least 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year. Corals are not only home to a diverse range of life, but they are vital for at least 275 million people who depend on them for food, coastal protection from storms, and income from tourism. Plastic was found on a third of the reefs examined between 2011 and 2014. They did not assess microplastics... Diseases found include: skeletal eroding band disease, white syndromes and black band disease. These diseases spread across a colony once there is infection. Plastic cuts the living creatures in the coral, and blocks out sunlight. Plastic pollution is estimated as likely to increase to 16bn pieces by 2025 (an increase of 40%) unless action is taken. Repeated bleaching is now the ‘new normal’ according to Prof Terry Hughes of James Cook University’s centre for coral reef studies.