Archive for March 19, 2009

Governments in coal producing nations like Australia, the US or China are beholden to their coal industry captains, for a number of reasons. One spin they like to use to greenwash coal production and use is the idea of ‘clean’ or ‘environment-friendly’ coal. BUT: there is no such thing – unless mega investments are being made in the whole coal related process: from extracting it to neutralising the effects of CO2 emissions to dealing with the waste after coal has been burnt. These investments would be too big in terms of research efforts, implementation and dollars to be spent to create the beneficial impact we need NOW for coal to contribute to the reduction of global warming. The following post by Jesse Jenkins on her Watthead blog highlights the ridiculous claims made by coal supporters as well as many of the problems of using coal to generate energy.

coal-train330Writing today for the New York Times, Matthew Wald looks at the increased prospects for new coal plants that capture and store their CO2, due to investments in CCS demonstration plants included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Writing about Duke Energy’s plans to build a new coal gasification plant that would demo carbon capture and storage (or CCS) technology in Edwardsport, Indiana, Wald writes:

“Duke Energy has high hopes for this two-acre plot: If all goes right, and there is a happy convergence of technology, money and federal energy policy, the construction project could become the first environment-friendly coal-fired power plant in the nation.”

Mnnnggggg! Sorry, wrong answer!

A coal plant that captures some (or even all) of its CO2 emissions is NOT “environment-friendly” by any stretch of the imagination. “Slightly-less-deadly,” certainly. Maybe even “climate-friendly” if it captures most or all its emissions. But environmentally-friendly? Give me a break!



sony_lithium_ion_batteriesBattery charge and discharge happens through ions moving between two poles, anodes and cathodes, thus creating electricity. And the speed by which these ions move determines charge and discharge rates. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), using lithium ion batteries, have discovered that by coating particles of lithium iron phosphate in a glassy material called lithium pyrophosphate, one can create a somewhat perfect-sized tunnel for the ions to blast through, creating super-fast charge rates (let’s hope the tunnels are one-way street speedways). So, instead of waiting for hours for a recharge we’re talking seconds for example for AA batteries.

Sounds great for any appliance I can think of, from mobile phones to laptops and especially to car batteries, whose long charge rates are one of the obstacles for electric cars becoming an instant hit. As far as car batteries are concerned though there’s a hitch. Pulling a high charge in a very short period of time requires a large electricity amount; a mobile phone battery being charged in 10 seconds for example could pull up to 360 watts. Take the batteries for average-sized electric vehicle being recharged in five minutes, and you might be talking 180 kW – which means you can forget about your power point at home.  Recharging these batteries would need a commercial appliance, such as the electrical equivalent to a petrol station. And while that might speed up the acceptance of electric cars, one would have to ask: at what cost (economically and environmentally)?

When could the new technology be commercially available? MIT researchers can see it hitting our streets and shopping malls in 2-3 years.

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Pope Benedict XVI said that the distribution of condoms ‘aggravates’ the Aids crisis, as he embarked on his first trip to Africa.

Once there was such thing as papal infallibility. But the Pope blew that myth recently himself, and not just once but twice – by having to apologise first to Islamic and then to Jewish sensibilities. So maybe it’s time for Catholics to wake up and trust themselves rather than their now less trustworthy leader, which could make the Pope’s words as reported in Nick Squires’ following article a little bit less dangerous. But only a little bit because people’s faith unfortunately often is simply too powerful and manipulative.


Pope Benedict XVI gestures from the airplane before leaving from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport for a trip to Africa that includes stops in Cameroon and Angola Photo: AP

While en route from Rome to his first stop, Cameroon, the Pope said that the condition was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.”

Speaking on board his official plane, the pontiff insisted that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against Aids, advocating sexual abstinence and fidelity within marriage as a way of fighting the disease. During the seven-day visit, which will take Benedict to Cameroon and Angola, he said he would address the continent’s “grave problems and painful wounds”.

Africa is crucial to the Vatican because of its growing number of believers. Within 15 years around a sixth of the world’s Catholics, or 230 million people, are expected to be African. The continent also produces a large proportion of the world’s Catholic priests. But it also presents huge challenges for the Pope, including tension with Islam in some countries, competition from evangelical churches and opposition to the Church’s ban on condoms in countries where Aids is rife.

Pope Benedict, who has mostly confined his travels to Western countries during his four-year papacy, will first visit Cameroon during his week-long trip, and then Angola. His only previous visit to Africa was to Kinshasa in 1987 when he was a cardinal.

He will appeal to rich countries which are grappling with the global financial crisis not to forget Africa’s acute needs. An estimated 800 million Africans suffer from chronic hunger and the crisis is already affecting the level of remittances sent from abroad as African immigrants in Europe lose their jobs.

Although he will only visit two of Africa’s more than 50 countries, he hopes that his visit will “embrace the entire African continent”, he said on Sunday during his weekly blessing in St Peter’s Square in Rome. He referred to Africa’s “ancient cultures and its difficult path of development and reconciliation, its grave problems, painful wounds and enormous potential and hopes”.

He is expected to meet African bishops, Muslim imams, politicians and women’s advocacy groups. The six-day tour will be the 81-year-old pontiff’s 11th foreign trip. He is scheduled to visit Israel and Jordan in May.

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This clip has been sitting on my to-post list for quite afew days now, and by now half the planet probably knows it anyway ;). Nevertheless: an amazing mashup!

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The Real AIG Conspiracy

moneyDon’t be fooled; you cannot trust politicians or the mainstream press. If either of them would be truly outraged about business executive’s salary packages, they could have shown their misgivings for the last 2 decades, but they hardly ever did. So why now? And why at a time when the government is under pressure for bailing out banks and AIG?

Let’s remember that AIG was insolvent because its assets didn’t cover its debts. So where do the billions of taxpayers’ bailout dollars then go to? AIG’s creditors. Many of these creditors were speculators too, like AIG itself, which already means that the US taxpayer rewards them – even though they are as responsible for the collapse of the financial markets and the misery of main street as the AIG executives everyone is pointing their fingers at.

So who are they, how much did they get from the bailout and how do those sums compare to the money in question for the AIG execs? Michael Hudson sheds some light on the true dimension of the rip-off Washington’s politicians and the current US president have inflicted on an unsuspecting ordinary America.



This post by Hydrogen Cars & Vehicles just shows the hypocrisy of the large oil companies when promoting their “green” image:

I’ve talked about ExxonMobile and Shell Oil before in regard to creating alternatives to oil that will green the environment. At this time it was hard to tell whether their interests were legitimate and just another public relations greenwashing ploy from yet another set of major corporations.

Well, now both Big Oil companies have decided to show their true colors. Shell Oil, after putting up hydrogen fueling stations in places like Washington DC, Iceland, Los Angeles and Shanghai, China have announced that they are winding down their investments in wind, solar and hydrogen in favor of the more lucrative biofuels sector.

Over the past 5 years, Shell Oil has spent $1.7 billion in renewable energy development, mostly in the wind sector, with smaller amounts invested in thin-film solar and hydrogen development for cars. ExxonMobile, on the other hand has decided to jump on the hydrogen bandwagon and scale up their efforts.

The only catch is that ExxonMobile wants to use gasoline to produce hydrogen on demand inside the vehicle. While this research is being sold to the public as a green alternative, the goal is the sell more gasoline.

ExxonMobile does not address with this new technology the desire by many to wean ourselves from dependence upon foreign fossil fuels. Conversely, the ExxonMobile plan will keep this dependence alive and well for years to come. And will be very profitable for them.

Now, just like a tiger can’t change its stripes, neither can Big Oil transition into Big Alternative Fuel. Oil companies at the core sell fossil fuels. They may put on alternative energy dog and pony shows every once in a while to throw the public off their trail, but when push comes to shove and its time for profit, its all about the oil. It always has been.

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I wouldn’t agree with Green Tech Gazette’s conclusion of their post below that with the concept of sustainability integrated into the schools, the green future is looking very promising indeed, but it’s good to see awareness growing. And after all: it’s the new generations that will have to deal with the results of the mess we have left them with.

sustainabilitySustainability has been a core value for a small number of people for a long time and now even businesses are getting into the act. But, if you want to change the world you need to start in the schools.

Today, I’ll outline three different schools where sustainability is making an impact. The first is the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California where students incorporate sustainability into the core values along with form and function.

Some of the students are working on projects such as designing bikes from local materials for third world nations, making attractive designer bags from Army tarpaulins and dog tags and inventing an electric tea set that does not waste heat.

Students in the Art Center College’s Design for Sustainability class must submit their projects for a life-cycle analysis first that measures the environmental impact from the beginning of the source materials to what happens after the consumer is finished using the product.

The Denver Public Schools have signed on to using TREES software that will help in reducing greenhouse gases at over 180 public schools in the area. Energy savings and efficiency are key components to using the software.

And, in Cooper Elementary School in Northwest Arkansas, the students have just won the “It’s Good to Be Green” contest for sustainability. Producing a video, a banner and writing an essay on sustainability was the task and the grand prize was a playground made of recycled parts.

Let’s hope sustainability will become a core part of curricula all over the world.

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