Heat pumps: have a cosy home without warming the planet

When Graham Davidson and his wife, Pauline, retired to a bungalow in Norfolk three years ago they ripped out the old boiler and replaced it with an air source heat pump at a cost of £10,000. But this pricey replacement has turned into a moneyspinner for the Davidsons – and millions of British households are likely to follow suit in what is expected to be a revolution in home heating.

Davidson, 68, who used to work in the car electronics business, says it was financial gain rather than saving the planet that was at the forefront of his decision. But dumping the gas boiler has probably cut his household carbon emissions by more than half.

The couple took advantage of the government’s renewable heat incentive scheme, which will be worth a total of £7,000 to the Davidsons in quarterly payments over seven years. On top of that, they say their total home energy bills have fallen by up to £1,000 a year. Given that a new gas boiler would have cost about £3,000, the Davidsons reckon they will eventually save thousands of pounds.

Last week the government set a target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year in the UK by 2028 as it launched its “green industrial revolution”. It told housebuilders that in only three years’ time they will be forbidden from installing gas boilers in new homes and will have to put in a heat pump instead.

This is an extraordinarily fast-paced change; last year of the 1.6m boilers installed in the UK, only about 25,000 were heat pumps and the rest were traditional gas units.

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The Cerrado: how Brazil’s vital ‘water tank’ went from forest to soy fields

It took just a few decades for Brazilian agriculture to transform its tropical savannah hinterlands – the Cerrado – into an agricultural powerhouse.

Farmers and the growing agribusiness sector celebrated rising sales of soya and beef, and the roads and towns that grew up with them. But environmentalists and Cerrado communities say the advances came at the price of roaring deforestation, land grabbing, violence and the loss of traditional lands.

Nearly half (44%) of the Cerrado’s native vegetation, which includes scrubland, grasslands and forests, is already used for agriculture, the MapBiomas monitoring project calculates. And under Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is supported by powerful farming lobbies, the rest of its 2m sq km is disappearing fast. Last year alone, 6,500 sq km was cleared – adding to the 283,000 sq km of forest, grassland and scrub cut down since 2001.

This year so far the Cerrado has seen more than 61,000 fire alerts – up from 39,000 in the whole of 2018, before Bolsonaro took power – raising fears for its future. It is an immense, important carbon sink, storing hundreds of tons a hectare in its soil and deep root systems.

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Brazil’s Cerrado biome is a vast, tropical savannah stretching diagonally up through the middle of Brazil that covers 2 million sq km, around 22% of the country, as well as parts of Bolivia and Paraguay.

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How can we stop using soya linked to deforestation?

Who uses soya and why?

Nearly all soya is used by the farming sector as a livestock feed for chickens, pigs and other animals. The biggest users are chicken producers; soya makes up around a quarter of the diet of birds. It has been the cheapest source of protein poultry available to farmers since the ban on meat and bonemeal after BSE. Soya remains key to producing fast-growing, low-priced chickens.

Can’t they use alternatives to soya?

Alternatives such as lentils or legumes are more expensive and less available to farmers. Some poultry farmers have been experimenting with adding black soldier fly larvae to the diets of their birds, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimating that insects could replace between 25 and 100% of soymeal for chickens. However, at present insects are seen as a supplement, rather than a replacement, for soya.

“[Soya is] our achilles heel. It’s the best pound for pound source of protein so it’s hard to convince farmers to move away from it,” chicken farmer Charles Mears told the Guardian last month.

Soya is a smaller part of the diet of other farmed animals and appears to be easier to replace. For example, dairy farmers supplying M&S recently eliminated their use of soya, replacing it with rapeseed oil and sugar beet.

Is it possible to buy soya that isn’t linked to deforestation?

The vast majority of soya is grown in Argentina, Brazil and the US, which between them account for 80% of global production. Two of those countries – Argentina and Brazil – have serious risks of deforestation in soya production, and also provide most of the soya used by UK farmers. There is a small but growing supply of soya produced in Europe, but it is not yet competitive with producers in the Americas. It is currently more profitable for European farmers to grow alternative crops to soya. The main sources of organic soya are China, India, the US and Russia.

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Revealed: UK supermarket and fast food chicken linked to deforestation in Brazil

Supermarkets and fast food outlets are selling chicken fed on imported soya linked to thousands of forest fires and at least 300 sq miles (800 sq km) of tree clearance in the Brazilian Cerrado, a joint cross-border investigation has revealed.

Tesco, Lidl, Asda, McDonald’s, Nando’s and other high street retailers all source chicken fed on soya supplied by trading behemoth Cargill, the US’s second largest private company. The combination of minimal protection for the Cerrado – a globally important carbon sink and wildlife habitat – with an opaque supply chain and confusing labelling systems, means that shoppers may be inadvertently contributing to its destruction.

The broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham said the revelations showed that consumers needed to be given more information about their food. “Most people would be incredulous when they think they’re buying a piece of chicken in Tesco’s which has been fed on a crop responsible for one of the largest wholesale tropical forest destructions in recent times,” he said.

map

“We’ve got to wake up to the fact that what we buy in UK supermarkets, the implications of that purchase can be far and wide and enormously damaging, and this is a prime example of that.”

The UK slaughters at least a billion chickens a year, equivalent to 15 birds for every person in the country. Many are fattened up on soya beans imported into the UK by Cargill, which buys from farmers in the Cerrado, a woody tropical savanna that covers an area equal in size to Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined.

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Two polar bears come sniffing in the Arctic night: Esther Horvath's best photograph

In the autumn of 2019, I joined an expedition to the Arctic. We set sail from Tromsø, Norway, on 20 September, on the Polarstern icebreaker. There were 100 people on board – 60 scientists and 40 crew – but the ship was big enough that it never felt crowded. There were people you didn’t see for days.

The plan was to find the perfect ice floe to anchor to, then drift for one year through the central Arctic Ocean and the six-month long night of the Arctic winter – about which we have almost no scientific data. The study was the first time that this oceanographic, sea ice, atmospheric, ecosystem and biogeochemistry research had ever been done at this scale. On 4 October, the ship turned off its engine in order to become frozen into the sea ice. That was the last day of daylight. The days got shorter very quickly, and the darkness was intense. Mostly it was overcast. You couldn’t see the stars. You couldn’t hear anyone speak, either, because of the constant wind.

Scientific research in extreme locations is always dictated by nature – the weather and the wildlife. We are only guests in the land. Since 2015, I’ve dedicated my work to raising awareness of the climate crisis in the polar regions. When we think about the moon landing, for example, we don’t think about the science it took to get there. We think about the photo of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon. This is what I’m striving for: an image for our imagination to latch on to when we think about the Arctic – the disappearing land of the polar bears.

In the Arctic, the ice is like soil: there is life above and beyond. If we take out the ice, an entire ecosystem can collapse and become extinct.

Six days after we switched our engines off I stepped out on to the deck in the evening. I had both of my cameras with me when I spotted these two polar bears. Because you could only see what was in the ship’s spotlight or your headlamp, them appearing like this felt like a gift. If we’d been out on the sea ice as opposed to on the ship, I would never have been able to get my camera out.

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Two polar bears come sniffing in the Arctic night: Esther Horvath's best photograph

In the autumn of 2019, I joined an expedition to the Arctic. We set sail from Tromsø, Norway, on 20 September, on the Polarstern icebreaker. There were 100 people on board – 60 scientists and 40 crew – but the ship was big enough that it never felt crowded. There were people you didn’t see for days.

The plan was to find the perfect ice floe to anchor to, then drift for one year through the central Arctic Ocean and the six-month long night of the Arctic winter – about which we have almost no scientific data. The study was the first time that this oceanographic, sea ice, atmospheric, ecosystem and biogeochemistry research had ever been done at this scale. On 4 October, the ship turned off its engine in order to become frozen into the sea ice. That was the last day of daylight. The days got shorter very quickly, and the darkness was intense. Mostly it was overcast. You couldn’t see the stars. You couldn’t hear anyone speak, either, because of the constant wind.

Scientific research in extreme locations is always dictated by nature – the weather and the wildlife. We are only guests in the land. Since 2015, I’ve dedicated my work to raising awareness of the climate crisis in the polar regions. When we think about the moon landing, for example, we don’t think about the science it took to get there. We think about the photo of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon. This is what I’m striving for: an image for our imagination to latch on to when we think about the Arctic – the disappearing land of the polar bears.

In the Arctic, the ice is like soil: there is life above and beyond. If we take out the ice, an entire ecosystem can collapse and become extinct.

Six days after we switched our engines off I stepped out on to the deck in the evening. I had both of my cameras with me when I spotted these two polar bears. Because you could only see what was in the ship’s spotlight or your headlamp, them appearing like this felt like a gift. If we’d been out on the sea ice as opposed to on the ship, I would never have been able to get my camera out.

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Does The News From UAE Imply Trouble For OPEC?

UAE's Minister of Energy and Industry Suhail al-Mazrouei speaks during the Future Sustainability ... [+] Summit at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) on January 14, 2020. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP) (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

News out of Abu Dhabi has made some think that cracks might be showing in the OPEC+ edifice, including rumors that the Emirate was planning to leave OPEC, but also announcement of discovery of 22 billion barrels of added oil reserves. That new oil would, by itself, place twelfth on the list of global oil reserves and represents more oil than has been added to global reserves in a given year for decades.

Except: most of the oil (20 billion barrels) was unconventional, specifically shale oil, and while a significant amount, it would presumably require more effort than the existing conventional oil production. The rest, which ADNOC described as “an increase in conventional oil reserves” presumably represents an upward revision of existing reserves rather than an actual discovery of new fields, as many media reports imply. 

AdnocH.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Commends ADNOC's Agility and Resilience at SPC Meeting

Upward revisions of reserves is common in the industry reflecting a variety of effects from enhanced recovery like gas or water injection to additional infill drilling or simply new analysis of existing data. It was much scoffed at by peak oil theorists like Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere, who long argued that reserve growth was only a U.S. phenomenon and reflected SEC reporting requirements. (Which argument was complicated by their insistence that reserve revisions should be backdated to year of the field’s initial discovery, something necessitated by an occurrence they insisted was not real.)

And 20 billion barrels of shale oil is nice to have (it’s more than the Lynch family holdings by a factor of, well, let’s just say 100 million or so), but exploitation of it is probably very distant. Conventional wells in Abu Dhabi produce an average of about 2,000 barrels a day, more than the initial production levels of most shale wells, and conventional wells decline at 5-10% per year, versus 30-60% for shale oil wells. So, in the first ten years of operation, a conventional well will easily produce 2.5 times as much oil as even the best shale well, and generally cost ¼ or less as much as shale well.

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Coal Country Can Retool Itself To The New Energy Future

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute came out with a really interesting study on how Coal Country can, and must, redefine itself in the energy future that is emerging.

Coal mining is a way of life in historically coal-producing communities, but that must change if ... [+] those communities have a chance for a strong economy in the new energy future.

NREL

While decarbonizing the economy is a driving force for decreasing the use of fossil fuels, the steadily decreasing use of coal in America has occurred because of the favorable economics and unanticipated abundance of natural gas through fracking, and will continue regardless of climate policies or environmental regulations, which have played only a small role.

The world is a different matter. Coal is still increasing in developing countries because if you are a poor country with little infrastructure, all you can do is emplace coal. It is a major factor in China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project, their 21st century version of the Silk Road, that plans to build almost $2 trillion of infrastructure in developing countries, making those countries major commercial partners with, and majorly dependent on, China. Coal is at the center of that project’s energy strategy.

But as coal decreases in America, those communities that developed hand-in-hand with coal over a hundred years are hurting and how they transition to another economy is difficult but doable.

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Coal Country Can Retool Itself To The New Energy Future

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute came out with a really interesting study on how Coal Country can, and must, redefine itself in the energy future that is emerging.

Coal mining is a way of life in historically coal-producing communities, but that must change if ... [+] those communities have a chance for a strong economy in the new energy future.

NREL

While decarbonizing the economy is a driving force for decreasing the use of fossil fuels, the steadily decreasing use of coal in America has occurred because of the favorable economics and unanticipated abundance of natural gas through fracking, and will continue regardless of climate policies or environmental regulations, which have played only a small role.

The world is a different matter. Coal is still increasing in developing countries because if you are a poor country with little infrastructure, all you can do is emplace coal. It is a major factor in China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project, their 21st century version of the Silk Road, that plans to build almost $2 trillion of infrastructure in developing countries, making those countries major commercial partners with, and majorly dependent on, China. Coal is at the center of that project’s energy strategy.

But as coal decreases in America, those communities that developed hand-in-hand with coal over a hundred years are hurting and how they transition to another economy is difficult but doable.

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RCEP: The World’s Largest Trade Deal May Be Bad News For US Energy Exporters

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh (R) ... [+] attend the signing ceremony for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact at the ASEAN summit that is being held online in Hanoi on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP) (Photo by NHAC NGUYEN/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

On November 15th the world’s largest trade agreement was signed in a virtual meeting room, bringing an end to eight years of negotiations. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) links 15 Asia-Pacific economies, including the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. This is a historic step – and a major trade blow to the United States.

Trade between the signatories was worth $2.3 trillion in 2019, making the RCEP the world’s largest trading bloc, eclipsing USFTR and the European Union. The member countries account for nearly one third of the world’s population and 29% of global GDP. Commodities – in particular fossil fuels likes oil, coal, and natural gas – will play a central role in this unprecedented trade organization. But this may not be good news for US energy players, who have been hit hard by President Trump’s trade war with China.

Indeed, the agreement will lift tariffs and duties on 90% of commodities traded within the bloc and shore up imports of energy goods. Duties will be lifted among members gradually over the next ten years, with some exceptions remaining in effect until 2040.

Thaiger

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Boris Johnson’s 'jet zero' green flight goal dismissed as a gimmick

Boris Johnson’s “jet zero” goal of a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025 is a “gimmick”, according to experts, who say technology alone cannot solve the impact of global aviation on the climate crisis.

Such a flight would not be impossible, the experts said, but could only be a one-off and would encourage the view that other measures such as taxing jet fuel and frequent fliers were not needed to tackle aviation’s carbon problem.

The jet zero technology idea was part of Johnson’s 10-point “green industrial revolution” plan launched last week. But experts called jet zero “severely underfunded”, and pointed out that the government would not begin consulting on a strategy to decarbonise aviation until next year.

The UK has also not demanded green action from airlines in return for coronavirus bailouts, unlike France. The pandemic has halved passenger numbers but the industry expects them to recover by 2024. However, the experts also praised the UK for taking some action, given that only a few countries are even beginning to tackle an issue seen as one of the most difficult climate challenges.

The aviation industry says more efficient planes and buying millions of tonnes of carbon offsets can compensate for big future increases in passenger numbers. Independent experts say new taxes to deter flying are vital, and agree with the aviation industry that green jet fuels are needed too. These exist and could power long-haul flights, but are currently expensive. Long-haul electric or hydrogen planes are unlikely before the middle of the century, if ever, by which time emissions should already have been cut to zero.

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Boris Johnson’s 'jet zero' green flight goal dismissed as a gimmick

Boris Johnson’s “jet zero” goal of a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025 is a “gimmick”, according to experts, who say technology alone cannot solve the impact of global aviation on the climate crisis.

Such a flight would not be impossible, the experts said, but could only be a one-off and would encourage the view that other measures such as taxing jet fuel and frequent fliers were not needed to tackle aviation’s carbon problem.

The jet zero technology idea was part of Johnson’s 10-point “green industrial revolution” plan launched last week. But experts called jet zero “severely underfunded”, and pointed out that the government would not begin consulting on a strategy to decarbonise aviation until next year.

The UK has also not demanded green action from airlines in return for coronavirus bailouts, unlike France. The pandemic has halved passenger numbers but the industry expects them to recover by 2024. However, the experts also praised the UK for taking some action, given that only a few countries are even beginning to tackle an issue seen as one of the most difficult climate challenges.

The aviation industry says more efficient planes and buying millions of tonnes of carbon offsets can compensate for big future increases in passenger numbers. Independent experts say new taxes to deter flying are vital, and agree with the aviation industry that green jet fuels are needed too. These exist and could power long-haul flights, but are currently expensive. Long-haul electric or hydrogen planes are unlikely before the middle of the century, if ever, by which time emissions should already have been cut to zero.

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Meet the South Poll cow: the healthier, naturally raised cattle of the future?

Missouri rancher Greg Judy spots a six-month-old South Poll heifer calf in his herd that is a prime example of what he calls a “good doing cow”. A cow that will “do good” on grass alone.

She’s got a “big butt”, Judy says, meaning wide hips that will help her easily bear calves when grown. She sports a shiny, slick red hide that flies avoid landing on; cows stressed from fly bites – Judy has seen hundreds on a single cow – don’t grow well. She has a large “barrel” or gut, meaning enough stomach capacity to store large amounts of grass, which she will convert to energy and will keep her in good health, even during the winter with no extra feed. “This is the kind of heifer you want,” Judy says. “You can build a herd out of those.”

Judy raises cattle in a highly–managed, grass-only system that he believes is better for his cows and the environment. His 300-plus herd is kept together in a dense group, and moved often – Judy moves his cattle twice a day to fresh paddocks – creating a symbiotic relationship between cows and grasslands that soil scientists are finding encourages soil health and rapid grass growth.

But Judy has learned not all cows thrive on grass alone, especially the type of cattle favored by a US ranching industry that has grown largely dependent on feeding cattle grain rations.

In Judy’s system, those “common cows”, as he calls them, looked like they had been starved six months after he put them on a grass-only diet. Instead, Judy found success – after nearly going bankrupt in 1999 trying to raise cattle the conventional way – utilizing intensive, grass-based management with cows that had the “grass genetics” to thrive.

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Mathias Cormann continues to talk up 'green recovery' in 'vision statement' for top OECD job

Australia’s former finance minister Mathias Cormann is continuing to talk up the importance of a “collective green recovery” on the campaign trail to be the next secretary general of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In a “vision statement” for the position obtained by Guardian Australia, Cormann says undertaking “effective global action on climate change is a must and we must get to zero net emissions as soon as possible”.

“Climate policy responses will increasingly need to factor into long-term planning,” Cormann says.

While arguing that different countries and regions across the world will have “different opportunities to make the strongest possible contribution to our collective emissions reduction outcomes”, Cormann says, through the OECD under his leadership, “we can come together to share ideas about our collective green recovery effort on our journey towards a low-emissions future”.

“As secretary general I will strive to make the OECD a place that inspires collaboration and action in support of a sustainable future”.

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The Morrison government has abrogated responsibility for acting on the climate crisis to the states | John Hewson

A colleague commented to me recently: “Where would we be without the states leading and driving the response to Covid-19?”

It made me think. To cut through all the spin, point-scoring and blame-shifting. Sure, there was the national cabinet and Scott Morrison’s attempt to forge a national, collaborative response, but so much of the heavy lifting was actually done by the states.

Even in areas where our national government has traditionally had clear, overarching responsibility, such as quarantine and aged care, Morrison stepped back, finding it easier to concede, criticise and blame, rather than act.

Of course mistakes are made, and finger-pointing is easy, but none of this “argie- bargie” is in the national interest.

So it is too with the response to a far more significant challenge: climate. Again it has fallen to the states to lead with more realistic targets, strategies and attempted policy responses.

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For Nuclear Energy To Flourish, We Need A ‘Mindset Reversal’ About Radiation

Cherenkov radiation in the research reactor IVV-2M at the Institute of Reactor Materials of the the ... [+] Russian Federation State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom).(Photo by Donat Sorokin)

TASS via Getty Images

Nuclear energy must grow – and grow rapidly – if the countries of the world are to have any hope of limiting the growth of carbon dioxide emissions. 

But the growth of nuclear is being hobbled by several factors including cost and the long licensing and construction schedules for new reactors. Those high costs and long schedules can largely be traced back to a single issue: the public’s excessive fear of radiation. That excessive fear of radiation is preventing nuclear energy from being deployed at scale here in the U.S. and around the world and in doing so, it is hindering low-income and wealthy countries alike from benefiting from the single best source of low-cost, zero-carbon, high-power-density electricity known to science. 

Despite this fear — and the mistaken belief that any radiation is dangerous — the truth is that we are constantly being hit with radiation from our surroundings. In fact, the radiation we get from flying in jetliners or having a CT scan is as great, or greater, than the radiation that is absorbed by the people who live close to Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Don’t take my word for it. Those are points that Dr. Geraldine Thomas, the director of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank, has been making for years. Gerry, as she prefers to be called, has a PhD. in pathology and is a faculty member at Imperial College London. Since the early 1990s, she has been overseeing the collection and banking of tissue samples from people who've had surgery after being exposed to radiation in the fallout area near the Chernobyl nuclear plant in northern Ukraine. Her work at Chernobyl and Fukushima makes her uniquely qualified to assess the risks from radiation. 

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Virtual Power Plants And The Future Ubiquity Of Energy Creation

Globally, the use of renewable energy grew in 2020, representing about 90% of the total power capacity added for the year according to the International Energy Agency. In addition, renewables are positioned to overtake coal this decade as the most popular way to generate electricity.

The Sanders Institute shows that solar is now cheaper than natural gas and coal across most of the US. Those cheaper costs along with government efforts to slash climate-damaging emissions will increasingly push coal off the grid and give renewables 80% of the market for new power generation by 2030, the IEA says.

This accelerating trend is paving the way for the virtual power plant or VPP.  

Defining the Virtual Power Plant

“Virtual power plants are a network of grid-connected assets that you could control to provide support to the grid,” said Xin Jin, who serves as a senior research engineer at the National Renewable Energy Lab REGI , a federally funded energy research lab. “It’s an alternative to the actual power plants and can shed or shift loads that is usually at a megawatt scale.” 

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Biden’s Plans For Carbon Capture Buildout Could Make Headway In Congress

Although the presidential election drew some sharp distinctions between the two candidates on issues involving energy and climate change, there is one issue on which their positions converged, the need for the U.S. to accelerate the development of carbon capture, usage and storage technologies.

President-elect Biden in his Plan For A Clean Energy Revolution, calls for the nation to “accelerate the development and deployment of carbon capture sequestration (CCS) technology.” The plan goes further, to advocate for technology that not only captures the carbon but puts it to beneficial use, such as in enhanced oil recovery. Citing the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental organizations, the plan states that “carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) is a rapidly growing technology that has the potential to create economic benefits for multiple industries while significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”

While support for CCS and CCUS marks a rare point of agreement for Biden and Trump, the two political rivals arrived at the policy position along completely different pathways. Biden’s clean energy plan calls for the U.S. to reduce the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in accordance with the Paris Climate accord.

President Trump, on the other hand, a well-known climate change skeptic, sees CCS and CCUS largely in terms of the creation of “clean coal,” an environmentally acceptable way to prolong the use of that fossil fuel. And although some of the early applications of carbon capture technology were to retrofit coal-burning power plants, today it’s more common for the technology to be applied to capture CO₂ from ethanol production, gas processing or the production of ammonia for fertilizer, processes whose emissions streams hold a higher percentage of CO₂, making the projects much more economical.

Earlier this year, NRG, the developer of the Petra Nova plant, the world’s largest facility to capture carbon from a coal-fired power plant, said it was shuttering the facility near Houston, because economic conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic made it unprofitable to operate it. Petra Nova had been shipping the captured CO₂ via pipeline to an oilfield, where it was used to coax the production of crude from the ground.

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'No one I trust more': Joe Biden names John Kerry as first ever US climate envoy – video

President-elect Joe Biden seeks to blunt criticism from leftwingers as he formally introduces his first round of cabinet nominations, by emphasising the fight against the climate crisis.

Biden says that in John Kerry, a former secretary of state and presidential nominee, America will have a full-time climate leader for the first time, someone with 'a seat at every table around the world'

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This Is How Black Friday Hurts The Planet—But Attitudes Are Changing

Black Friday 2020 could be a more subdued affair than in previous years, owing to the ongoing ... [+] coronavirus crisis. But the annual circus of consumerism could see far more purchases made online.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s that time of year again: gearing up for Christmas, stores and brands drop prices to stir up the shopping frenzy known as Black Friday. This year, with many countries in complete or partial lockdown thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, much of that shopping will take place online. But what does this annual festival of rampant consumerism mean for the environment?

In the U.K., which imported the U.S. tradition of Black Friday as recently as 2013, the event has caught on in a big way. But a report released this month by U.K. price comparison website Money.co.uk was a reminder that Black Friday is a climate menace. 

According to the company, British Black Friday home deliveries this year will churn out 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of 435 return flights from London to New York (or, apparently, the same weight as 61,308 elephants). Despite the economic turmoil caused by coronavirus, online transactions over the Black Friday period are expected to increase by 14% over last year’s, making the 2020 occasion potentially more polluting than ever.

While media outlets reported these figures widely, Money.co.uk did not offer a direct comparison with previous years: 429,000 tons of CO2e certainly sounds bad, but it’s not clear how that measures up historically. The company used its own methodology for arriving at the figures, compiling data from a range of consumer sources and surveys and extrapolating them across the U.K.’s main delivery services using an average CO2 equivalent emissions of 3.68kg (8.1lbs) per parcel. As such, the figures presented are a yardstick for projected emissions from deliveries, but they don’t describe a pattern.

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