Before Covid, giving up flying was taking off. We need to get that momentum back

It’s hard to remember what life was like before the pandemic hit. A year and a half ago, 2019 was drawing to a close with something like a promise. It had been the year of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes, and the momentum was with climate activism. And 2020 promised to be the year of change.

Helped by Thunberg’s yacht journey across the Atlantic, the spotlight was on aviation’s role in the climate crisis. An airline ticket is about the most carbon-heavy thing consumers can buy, and for those of us fortunate enough to be able to access air travel, our flights can quickly put us among the top polluters in the world.

Climate crisis: Boris Johnson ‘too cosy’ with vested interests to take serious action

Read more

Personalities including John Humphrys drew attention for declaring they’d given up flying, but beyond the headlines a growing number of ordinary people were also quietly ditching plane trips. Enlightened countries, such as Sweden, saw a drop in air bookings, and rail provision rose across Europe. Much Better Adventures led the charge with Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, a collective of outdoor and travel outfits taking action on the crisis. The travel pages of this paper drastically reduced the number of flights it took and wrote about.

Continue reading
  37 Hits
37 Hits

Before Covid, giving up flying was taking off. We need to get that momentum back

It’s hard to remember what life was like before the pandemic hit. A year and a half ago, 2019 was drawing to a close with something like a promise. It had been the year of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes, and the momentum was with climate activism. And 2020 promised to be the year of change.

Helped by Thunberg’s yacht journey across the Atlantic, the spotlight was on aviation’s role in the climate crisis. An airline ticket is about the most carbon-heavy thing consumers can buy, and for those of us fortunate enough to be able to access air travel, our flights can quickly put us among the top polluters in the world.

Climate crisis: Boris Johnson ‘too cosy’ with vested interests to take serious action

Read more

Personalities including John Humphrys drew attention for declaring they’d given up flying, but beyond the headlines a growing number of ordinary people were also quietly ditching plane trips. Enlightened countries, such as Sweden, saw a drop in air bookings, and rail provision rose across Europe. Much Better Adventures led the charge with Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, a collective of outdoor and travel outfits taking action on the crisis. The travel pages of this paper drastically reduced the number of flights it took and wrote about.

Continue reading
  34 Hits
34 Hits

‘A poor man’s rainforest’: why we need to stop treating soil like dirt

Hidden under our feet is a miniature landscape made up of tunnels, caves and decaying matter. Soil is where a quarter of the species on our planet are believed to live and in this dark, quiet, damp world, death feeds life. Rotting leaves, fruits, plants and organisms are folded into the soil and burped out as something new.

Good soil structure provides many nooks and crannies that house organisms, which, in turn, create an environment that suits them, directly altering – and improving – the structure of soil. Like a collective of tiny chemists, they keep soils healthy and productive by passing nutrients between them, either by collaborating or killing each other.

Complex food webs move nutrients around the system, generating healthy soils that provide goods and services for humanity. Goods include food, fibre and clean water. Services include regulation of the carbon and nitrogen cycles, nutrient recycling, water storage, regulation of disease and detoxification of pollutants.

Despite all this and the fact that soil is at the heart of our existence, we know very little about it. We do know, however, that this fertile skin has been damaged by intensive farming, pollution, deforestation and global heating. A third of the planet’s land is severely degraded and 24bn tons of fertile soil are lost every year through intensive farming alone, according to a UN-backed study, the Global Land Outlook.

The future of our soil hangs in the balance as the UN prepares for the first Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity, with scientists warning that soil degradation is as important as the climate crisis and destruction of the natural world above ground.

Continue reading
  40 Hits
40 Hits

Country diary: let’s hear it for the unappreciated earthworm

I’m digging, and it’s a bad day for it. Moving soil from one place to another in a fog of breath, and after the dip in temperature, it’s hard. As the shovel goes into the soil in one place and the edge breaks into sections, I spy something. Something completely unusual. And entirely expected.

I peer at it, a glistening vein in the soil, like some kind of organic cable, or weird, flinching root. A pulsation runs down it, the sharp, low sun of the morning lighting it up amid the matt of unthawed soil. I know nothing about it – other than that without it, we’d be doomed.

Could there be a creature with an image more damned than the earthworm? It is for ever destined to be caught by the early bird, speared on a cartoon fish hook, or at the very least disturbed in its work by a shovel. Get buried, and you’re “worm food”. A food chain of crippling weight presses upon this squishy, hydrostatic organism. Moles behead them and collect bodies as sustenance, like inverse battle scalps. Children are fascinated by one cleaved in half, because it’s all right when it’s a worm: it will survive and make two.

It won’t. That’s one of many myths about the worm. And they’re not all the same – far from it. We have 27 species, of thousands worldwide. Some burrow vertically. Some borrow horizontally. The fat ring towards one end is called a saddle, and is the core of the reproductive system. They can clone themselves, or reproduce sexually. They’re bristled, which is how they move. They are hermaphrodites. And in cold snaps like the one we’ve had, they die, or dig deep – or lay egg cocoons that look like unpopped corn kernels to carry on their work. They are interesting.

Moreover, the earthworm absolutely – and literally – underpins our everything. Waste managers and ecosystem engineers par excellence, they masterfully work, fertilise and irrigate our soil. Critical, but unpleasant – and therefore doomed to be unappreciated.

Continue reading
  34 Hits
34 Hits

Shale Should Withstand Private Equity Pullback

Pump jacks operate at dusk near Loco Hills on April 23, 2020 in Eddy County, New Mexico. (Photo by ... [+] Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

The demand for shale producers to become self-sufficient with less reliance on outside capital is intensifying. 

The withdrawal of private equity, long a crucial investor in the shale sector, will take a significant toll on many shale companies, particularly smaller producers that lack strong balance sheets.

Private money is behind as many as 500 oil and gas companies in the United States. These investors have little appetite for new outlays in the sector, and many are looking for ways to profitably exit the sector, perhaps for good. 

The increase in the price West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to $60 a barrel has helped the sector, improving cash flow and reopening debt markets for many companies. And while it has boosted share prices – energy is the top-performing sector in the S&P 500 so far this year – equity markets remain selective, and the path to going public remains challenged

Continue reading
  33 Hits
33 Hits

Whitest-ever paint could help cool heating Earth, study shows

The whitest-ever paint has been produced by academic researchers, with the aim of boosting the cooling of buildings and tackling the climate crisis.

The new paint reflects 98% of sunlight as well as radiating infrared heat through the atmosphere into space. In tests, it cooled surfaces by 4.5C below the ambient temperature, even in strong sunlight. The researchers said the paint could be on the market in one or two years.

White-painted roofs have been used to cool buildings for centuries. As global heating pushes temperatures up, the technique is also being used on modern city buildings, such as in Ahmedabad in India and New York City in the US.

Currently available reflective white paints are far better than dark roofing materials, but only reflect 80-90% of sunlight and absorb UV light. This means they cannot cool surfaces below ambient temperatures. The new paint does this, leading to less need for air conditioning and the carbon emissions they produce, which are rising rapidly.

“Our paint can help fight against global warming by helping to cool the Earth – that’s the cool point,” said Prof Xiulin Ruan at Purdue University in the US. “Producing the whitest white means the paint can reflect the maximum amount of sunlight back to space.”

Continue reading
  28 Hits
28 Hits

Whitest-ever paint could help cool heating Earth, study shows

The whitest-ever paint has been produced by academic researchers, with the aim of boosting the cooling of buildings and tackling the climate crisis.

The new paint reflects 98% of sunlight as well as radiating infrared heat through the atmosphere into space. In tests, it cooled surfaces by 4.5C below the ambient temperature, even in strong sunlight. The researchers said the paint could be on the market in one or two years.

White-painted roofs have been used to cool buildings for centuries. As global heating pushes temperatures up, the technique is also being used on modern city buildings, such as in Ahmedabad in India and New York City in the US.

Currently available reflective white paints are far better than dark roofing materials, but only reflect 80-90% of sunlight and absorb UV light. This means they cannot cool surfaces below ambient temperatures. The new paint does this, leading to less need for air conditioning and the carbon emissions they produce, which are rising rapidly.

“Our paint can help fight against global warming by helping to cool the Earth – that’s the cool point,” said Prof Xiulin Ruan at Purdue University in the US. “Producing the whitest white means the paint can reflect the maximum amount of sunlight back to space.”

Continue reading
  29 Hits
29 Hits

Another April Day, Another ERCOT Warning About Inadequate Supply

High-capacity power lines in Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

With roughly 25% of the Texas power grid’s generating units offline for maintenance, grid managers at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) once again expressed concerns about tight electricity supply on Wednesday. But ERCOT officials stopped short of issuing another emergency warning and asking Texans to conserve power as they did on Tuesday, an act that shocked electricity users who are not used to seeing such warnings on mild spring days in April.

"We may see tight grid conditions due to the large number of generators out of service for planned and forced maintenance combined with low wind and solar output forecasted for today," said ERCOT Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson in a release. "Additionally, we’re seeing some risk in the Rio Grande Valley due to the forced outage of a generating unit in the area."

An email from Rob Allerman, Senior Director Power Analytics at Enverus, provided more details into what was taking place: “Enverus is seeing another day (similar to yesterday) in Texas where the risk for blackouts are possible due to power supply issues. This is being caused by a weather pattern that is unseasonably warm in south Texas resulting in strong load, on-peak wind generation that is 6.5 GW when average April wind generation is 11 GW, solar generation that is only 38% during peak load today but the average is 72%. However, what is also driving this shortage is the amount of units that are off-line due to units winterizing. The reported telemetered outages today is 21.1 GW where normally we would be measuring around 14.5 GW of outages in ERCOT for April.”

Put simply, here’s what we had:

Continue reading
  32 Hits
32 Hits

Can Robots Transform Offshore Energy? Standardization, Regulations And Workforce Are The Keys

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Chief Energy Officer and Emily Pickrell, UH Energy Scholar

Oil and gas Jackup drilling rig at sunset in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo by: Education ... [+] Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and caught fire on the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 workers, it vividly illustrated the dangers of offshore work.

Since that time, breakthroughs in sensor technologies, data analytics and computer processing capabilities have ushered in a new era for robotics in car manufacturing, aviation and other sectors.

A similar adoption of robotics and automation in the energy sector is compelling to make energy infrastructure—including offshore energy — safer. As our colleague Aaron Becker, an expert in robotics, noted at a recent UH Energy symposium, if robots had been deployed on the BP Deepwater Horizon platform instead of humans, 11 lives would have been saved.

Continue reading
  29 Hits
29 Hits

Shell calls on investors to vote for its new climate strategy

Royal Dutch Shell has urged investors to vote for its strategy to shift the business towards cleaner energy sources, despite warnings that the plan does not go far enough to meet the Paris climate agreement goals.

The oil company set out its energy transition plan before its annual shareholder meeting in May, when investors will be able to take part in an advisory vote on Shell’s climate plans for the first time. The vote will not be binding.

Shell’s strategy includes plans to reduce the carbon intensity of the energy it produces by 20% before the end of the decade, by producing less oil and more renewable energy, and further steps to become a carbon neutral company by 2050.

Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, said the company was asking shareholders to vote for an energy transition strategy “designed to bring our energy products, our services, and our investments in line with the temperature goal of the Paris agreement and the global drive to combat the climate crisis.

“It is a strategy that we believe creates value for our shareholders, our customers and wider society,” he said.

Continue reading
  29 Hits
29 Hits

Growing EV Adoption: The Solution Already On The Road

Close up of a charging electric car.

getty

Despite realizing widespread awareness in a short period of time, electric vehicles (EVs) haven’t yet achieved mainstream adoption at scale. We have, however, seen the makings of a strong foundation. In the last year, California and Massachusetts committed to phasing out the sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035, President Biden pledged to convert the entire federal government fleet to EVs, and key players built more reliable charging infrastructure across the country. Even with this progress, an important question remains: how do we get more consumers on board? 

Early adopters have responded well to the many benefits of EVs, including lifetime cost savings, superior performance, and a smaller carbon footprint. And with nearly every major automaker announcing their commitment to vehicle electrification, there’s no shortage of new EV options on the market. Yet in order to move beyond early adopters, we need to appeal to a wider range of consumers. Enter: the used EV market. 

Attracting more customers with used EVs

One of the biggest challenges to widespread EV adoption is cost. According to CarGurus 2019 Electric Vehicles Survey Findings, 67 percent of consumers cite purchase cost as their top concern about EVs. And these concerns aren’t unwarranted – an EV can cost anywhere from 10 to over 40 percent more than a similar gasoline-only model. 

Continue reading
  30 Hits
30 Hits

How Texas’s zombie oil wells are creating an environmental disaster zone

When Laura Briggs and her husband finally found their dream home in west Texas, they knew they’d be sharing space with the oil industry. The Pecos county ranch’s previous owner, local attorney Windel “Hoot” Gibson, died there when a rickety old pumpjack teetered over and fell on top of him.

But sharing 900 acres with a handful of old oil wells seemed like a fair trade for a spacious ranch where the Briggs family could raise four kids and a mess of farm animals. The property is smack dab in the middle of the Permian Basin, an ancient, dried-up sea that streaks across Texas and New Mexico and is the most productive oil field in the United States. Approximately 3m barrels of the Permian’s monthly crude production happens in Pecos county; there is an oil or gas well for roughly every two people here.

The climate emergency is here. The media needs to act like it

Read more

After closing on the property a decade ago, it didn’t take the Briggs family long to make the place their own. They built a roomy, two-story metal house and constructed livestock pens for hogs, goats, donkeys and cattle. For a few years, the Briggs ranch delivered the rural splendor they’d hoped for. “When you come out here, it is dry. There is no Starbucks. But there is a peace to that,” Laura said. “This takes some stress off your shoulders and you’re like, all you really need in life is a pair of blue jeans and a good book.”

Continue reading
  32 Hits
32 Hits

Queenslanders will be hardest hit if Australia fails to act on climate change, Labor warns

The opposition climate change minister, Chris Bowen, has warned almost one million Australians will lose their jobs if runaway climate change decimates the environment and the economy – with Queensland bearing the brunt of any failure to act.

Bowen used a speech in Brisbane on Thursday night to warn Queenslanders they would pay the price for the federal Coalition’s failure to act in accordance with climate science, with half a million jobs lost in the state and a forecast economic contraction of 8% by 2050 and 14% by 2070.

Since taking the portfolio in late January, Labor’s new climate spokesman has been concentrating his advocacy in Queensland and other regional areas that swung to the Coalition in the 2019 election, in part because of successful scaremongering by Liberal and National MPs about the costs of climate action.

Bowen has reconfigured Labor’s messaging on climate policy to emphasise both the economic risks of failing to act and the upsides of new jobs created during the transition to a low emissions economy.

Morrison government can’t conceal inaction on climate from US with ‘smoke and mirrors’

Continue reading
  26 Hits
26 Hits

UK support for Mozambique gas plant fuelling conflict – Friends of the Earth

The UK government is facing fresh calls to abandon its £750m plan to support a gas export terminal in Mozambique over fears the fossil fuel project is stoking the insurgency in the north of the country, which has left thousands of people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands.

In a letter to the government, seen by the Guardian, lawyers for the environmental group Friends of the Earth have warned that the huge natural gas project has worsened the conflict in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, and called on the UK government to withdraw its financial support.

Mozambique’s poverty-stricken northern province has suffered increasingly violent attacks by Islamic State-affiliated insurgents since 2017, many targeting towns and communities near the $20bn (£15bn) gas project, which is backed by major international investors and companies.

A natural gas plant on Mozambique’s Afungi peninsula. Total withdrew workers from the site after dozens of people were killed in an attack by Islamic State fighters in the nearby town of Palma. Photograph: WFP/Reuters

Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FoE), said: “The violence started as far back as 2017, because of social inequalities, deprivation and acute issues like displacement of local communities from their land by the gas projects. This has continued and worsened recently.

“So, while the gas companies are a target of the violence, they are also a significant causal factor to the violence, exacerbating the conditions that meant this insurgency could take hold. They are an integral part of the problem.”

Continue reading
  26 Hits
26 Hits

Just 3% of world’s ecosystems remain intact, study suggests

Just 3% of the world’s land remains ecologically intact with healthy populations of all its original animals and undisturbed habitat, a study suggests.

These fragments of wilderness undamaged by human activities are mainly in parts of the Amazon and Congo tropical forests, east Siberian and northern Canadian forests and tundra, and the Sahara. Invasive alien species including cats, foxes, rabbits, goats and camels have had a major impact on native species in Australia, with the study finding no intact areas left.

The researchers suggest reintroducing a small number of important species to some damaged areas, such as elephants or wolves – a move that could restore up to 20% of the world’s land to ecological intactness.

Q&A

What are the five biggest threats to biodiversity?

Show

According to the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity there are five main threats to biodiversity. In descending order these are; changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution and invasive species. 

Converting wild spaces into agricultural land and the intensification of farming practices is causing the greatest destruction. Between 2010 and 2015, 3.3m hectares (8.1m acres) of forest disappeared, with no sign of rates slowing down. Predictions suggest agricultural land could increase by 18% by 2050, further removing the land available to nature. As agriculture intensifies, things like wetlands, scrubland and woodlands – which wildlife relies on – are ironed out from the landscape.

Continue reading
  36 Hits
36 Hits

Oil firm bosses’ pay ‘incentivises them to undermine climate action’

Lucrative pay and share options have created an incentive for oil company executives to resist climate action, according to a study that casts doubt on recent net-zero commitments by BP and Shell.

Compensation packages for CEOs, often in excess of $10m (£7.2m), are linked to continued extraction of fossil fuels, exploration of new fields and the promotion of strong market demand through advertising, lobbying and government subsidies, the report says.

The setup with executives runs counter to efforts around the world to keep global heating to 1.5-2C (2.7-3.6F) above pre-industrial levels.

Boardroom rewards also underpin a skewed corporate logic that is slowing the world’s path to decarbonisation, according to the study, which was exclusively shared with the Guardian before publication in the Energy Research and Social Science journal.

Richard Heede, of the Climate Accountability Institute in the US, a co-author of the paper, said the discovery showed that the need for changes in corporate structures was more urgent than consumer behaviour changes.

Continue reading
  32 Hits
32 Hits

Failure is not an option. Australia must radically scale up its climate targets now | Will Steffen for the Conversation

In May 2011, almost precisely a decade ago, the government-appointed Climate Commission released its inaugural report. Titled The Critical Decade, the report’s final section warned that to keep global temperature rises to 2C this century, “the decade between now and 2020 is critical”.

As the report noted, if greenhouse gas emissions peaked around 2011, the world’s emissions-reduction trajectory would have been easily manageable: net zero by around 2060, and a maximum emissions reduction rate of 3.7% each year. Delaying the emissions peak by only a decade would require a trebling of this task – a maximum 9% reduction each year.

But of course the decade to 2020 did not mark the beginning of the world’s emissions-reduction journey. Global emissions accelerated before dropping marginally under Covid-19 restrictions, then quickly rebounded.

The Climate Council’s new report, released today, shows the immense cost of this inaction. It is now virtually certain Earth will pass the critical 1.5℃ temperature rise this century – most likely in the 2030s. Now, without delay, humanity must focus on holding warming to well below 2℃. For Australia, that means tripling its emissions reduction goal this decade to 75%.

Aim high, go fast

The Climate Council report is titled Aim High, Go Fast: Why Emissions Need To Plummet This Decade. It acknowledges the multiple lines of evidence showing it will be virtually impossible to keep the average global temperature rise to 1.5C or below this century, without a period of significant overshoot and “drawdown”. (This refers to a hypothetical period in which warming exceeds 1.5C, then cools back down due to the removal of carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere.)

Continue reading
  30 Hits
30 Hits

China ‘must shut 600 coal-fired plants’ to hit climate target

China must shut down nearly 600 of its coal-fired power plants in the next 10 years, replacing them with renewable electricity generation, to meet its goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, a report has said.

But replacing the 364GW of coal generation with renewable power would achieve a net saving of $1.6tn (£1.2tn) over the period, since wind and solar power are now much cheaper than coal, according to the analysis company TransitionZero.

The coal consumption of China, the world’s biggest emitter, is of global concern. The country has ramped up plans for new coal-fired power stations in an effort to spur economic growth after the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last September the country’s president, Xi Jinping, surprised the world by pledging that China would achieve net zero emissions by 2060, and that its emissions would peak before 2030.

Urgent policies needed to steer countries to net zero, says IEA chief

Continue reading
  32 Hits
32 Hits

Nikola Forms Hydrogen Pipeline Alliance In Europe To Fuel Clean Trucks

Nikola Tre trucks, developed with IVECO, will offer range of up to 500 miles per hydrogen fueling.

Nikola

Electric semi-truck developer Nikola Corp. has formed a partnership with commercial vehicle maker IVECO and natural gas distributor OGE to set up a hydrogen pipeline and fuel station system in Europe that’s needed to power fuel cell big rigs. 

The companies said the goal of their collaboration is to improve hydrogen availability and hold down the cost of distributing and storing the carbon-free fuel. Nikola will install fueling stations for customers that are tied into the distribution network. The companies didn’t provide a timeline for their infrastructure plans or financial details.

Thomas Hüwener, OGE’s chief technical officer, said the company is “committed to establishing a pipeline infrastructure to transport hydrogen from production sources to critical exit points of distribution.” 

The European development comes as Nikola prepares to create a U.S. fueling infrastructure for electric semis that will be powered by both batteries and hydrogen, and emit no tailpipe pollution. The Phoenix-based company has an agreement to buy cheap surplus solar power in Arizona that it will use to make hydrogen from water, though hasn’t yet announced the locations of its first fuel stations. Meanwhile, Germany and other EU countries are moving aggressively to increase use of hydrogen for heavy-duty vehicles as part of a strategy to curb carbon emissions. 

Continue reading
  27 Hits
27 Hits

Biden’s Necessary Infrastructure Plan - Winners In Three Scenarios

“War is the great auditor of institutions” 

Correlli Barnett

Leadership concept. Red wooden figurine standing in front of other figurines with lines connected.

getty

The Biden Infrastructure Plan is starting to resemble the 2500 year-old parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant - all of us blind, gathered around a giant beast, one touching a tusk (green energy, lead free water), another a trunk (high speed rail, better regulatory process), coming together to describe the animal in our midst. We all think we know what it is, but like the blind men, everyone’s conception is starkly different, open to interpretation, to mistrust but also to optimism.  

Milling around this beast, the Congress that the Founders created doesn’t have a straightforward job. There are 535 members, listening to 330 million Americans, all of whom have touched some part of the elephant. I think we are getting there, we are certainly getting somewhere - there will be an infrastructure bill, even if just a starting point launching us toward new kinds of investment and innovation.

Continue reading
  29 Hits
29 Hits

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://energy-grants.co.uk/