Saturday, 21 May 2011

France To Ban Fracking

The French Parliament has voted 287-146 to ban hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a crucial part of the shale gas extraction process that activists say is harmful to the environment, according to France24. The bill will be voted on by the Senate on June 1 before it becomes a law.

The bill to ban to fracking, but not shale gas exploration itself, was drafted by France's ruling UMP party and the vote comes after months of protests by environmentalists who are concerned that the process contaminates the water table. Earlier this year, the government granted energy giants exploration permits for work without public consultation, but announced a temporary freeze on shale gas exploration in February.

France could become the first country to ban the controversial practice that involves using 'slick' water a combination of water, chemicals and mud, to fracture the rock with hairline cracks and prop open underground fissures.
Fracking fluids can be fatal. In Louisiana fracking fluid made it to a pasture killing 17 cows at the farm.

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Friday, 20 May 2011

Neville out to make game greener

Gary Neville yesterday placed himself at the head of a campaign to make football more environmentally sustainable, declaring that he wants to drive change in fan behaviour in the same way that the Kick it Out campaign has driven out the scourge of racism.

Neville, who will devote a large slice of the revenue from his testimonial game against Juventus next Tuesday to the environmental cause, told The Independent that he would engage football's governing bodies to reduce carbon emissions and drive home an environmental message.
"Sport is such a powerful [vehicle for change]," Neville said. "If Manchester United want to get a message across in something, they will do, they have that power, and so do the Premier League. It is worldwide – watched by 1.15 billion people every week. While United have 75,000 people coming every week, there is an audience there that means sport can be at the forefront of this. We have a team of people behind this to make sure we can become as powerful as possible in the next few years."

full article

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Is Britain really getting greener?

The Government yesterday signed up to cutting Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half – but with no clear agreement on how to achieve the target.

The Green Investment Bank

Unveiled in the budget, the Green Bank is the centre-piece of the Coalition's promise to be the "greenest government ever". It will invest exclusively in low-carbon infrastructure, renewable energy and financially support the development of new clean technologies. Current Government proposals stipulate it will not have powers to borrow or raise money (such as issuing ISAS and bonds) until 2015. Until then it has £3 billion of public money to invest. Not allowing it to borrow earlier, green groups say, is disastrous as investment decisions on replacing Britain's power generation plants need to be taken long before 2015.

The Green Deal

The Green Deal will allow 14 million UK households to apply for up to £10,000 to pay for energy efficiency improvements on their homes such as insulation, double glazing and energy-efficient boilers. The money will be provided upfront by the private sector and paid back in energy savings by homes over a 20-year period. The first Green Deals are expected to appear in Autumn 2012 after consultation and review, so for now it isn't working at all.

Investing in renewable energy

Greening our electricity is key to reducing emissions. The need for a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy has long been accepted by everyone but the harshest climate sceptics, and in response the Coalition Government is pursuing multiple options including on- and off-shore wind farms and nuclear power subsidies. The CCC's report last week recommended developing multiple new technologies. Initially there would likely be a focus on cost-effective nuclear power plants and wind farms across the UK. The Coalition claims this could feasibly result in renewable sources providing up to 40 per cent of all our energy by 2030.

However, while Britain is locked in an ongoing battle between communities and environmentalists trying to protect the countryside, Germany has forged ahead with plans for a huge wind farm in the Baltic, and Denmark and Finland are aggressively pursuing alternative energy.

Green Transportation

The Coalition has put transportation policy at the heart of its pledge for energy and climate change. Fossil fuels would be restricted in the air by opposing a third runway at Heathrow; by the prevention of additional runways at Stansted and Gatwick; and by replacing air-passenger duty with per-plane duty. They would also be restricted on the ground by the Barclays' bike campaign in central London; by more emphasis on public transport; and by encouraging widespread use of electric cars.

Is it working? Aviation policies have had some success. The third runway at Heathrow has been scrapped. However, the per-plane duty promised in the Coalition agreement was not introduced, instead the Chancellor promised a "consultation on the reform of air-passenger duty", which had already risen by 55 per cent in the previous year.

Take-up of electric cars is still small – but the technology is rapidly developing and they are likely to be a familiar sight in the Britain of 2015.

However, rail fares rocketed and there is no sign that gas-guzzlers are on the way out just yet.

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Sunday, 15 May 2011

The electric scooter that costs only 1p per mile to run

Similar in classification to 50cc scooters, they can be driven by anyone with a pre-2001 driver's licence or who's taken the compulsory basic training (CBT) course.

The Scoot is very cheap to insure and exempt from road tax and the congestion charge, making it ideal for dodging commuting hell.

You'll have to supply your own helmet, but that could be the only thing about it which isn't impressively stylish.

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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Blackpool uneasy at prospect of 'fracking' boom on its coastline

The allure of Blackpool rock and the rejuvenating effects of its sand and water once made it a magnet for the toiling classes as they took a break from the drudgery of the Lancashire cotton mills.
Cuadrilla Resources, a British company specialising in the development of shale gas wells, has been hard at work in the resort's rural hinterland since August last year after being given permission by the Government.
But following claims over the safety of the process in the United States, some locals are concerned, with councillors petitioned to object. Blackpool's Green Party chairman Philip Mitchell said an industry was being introduced without adequate investigation by the authorities.

"The potential is catastrophic," he said. "We don't know the science of this or how it will affect people. We are introducing something that we do not know the full dangers of."

Greens claim that there is the risk of explosive well blow-outs, fire, traffic disruption and noise. They fear that, so significant are the deposits and so huge the rewards, the industry could be on the verge of major expansion not just across Lancashire but the whole of the UK.

How Hydraulic Fracturing Works

Fracking, or chemical fracturing, is the process by which water, sand and chemicals are used to increase the quantity of gas that can be extracted from the ground.

The mixture is pumped at high pressure into natural gas or methane gas fields, cracking open the rock deep beneath the surface to release trapped reserves.

Gas then flows out of the fissures, which are kept open by the sand and chemicals, and into pipes that lead to the surface.

Drilling companies claim that chemical additives make up less than one per cent of the liquid poured into the gas field. However, the quantities involved are so large that a typical well is likely to pump about 34,000 gallons of chemicals into the ground.

One of the chemicals used is diesel, which contains toxic substances. Other chemicals used can include hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and arsenic.

full article

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

£10,000 payout for a green home revamp

Households will be given up to £10,000 to spend on home improvements under plans to be unveiled today.

The money can be used to install energy-saving measures such as roof insulation, double glazing and cavity walls.

But homeowners will also be able to benefit from desirable mod- cons such as under-floor heating and new efficient boilers. They could also get public cash to install water-efficient taps and showers, light fittings and draught proofing.

The Government says 14million homes will benefit. Homeowners will qualify if their houses can be made more energy efficient and energy costs can be cut, though not all will qualify for the full £10,000.

This will leave them with cheaper bills, warmer homes and potentially higher house prices.
Consumers will have no up-front costs. The scheme will see utility companies, High Street retailers and charities send advisers to houses to identify potential savings.
They can then re-fit the homes, bearing the initial cost.

The customer will repay the fee in small instalments levied on their electricity and heating bills over 25 years.

full article

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Cube World’s Smallest Eco-friendly Home

Conceived, designed and managed by Dr Mike Page, engineer and Reader in Cognitive Psychology at the University’s School of Psychology, the Cube is said to be the world’s smallest eco-home, featuring an internal space of 3x3x3 metres. Built from sustainable materials with the predominance of wood, the Cube is designed to be comfortable and includes a host of advanced products with low energy use.

The Cube includes a lounge with a table and two custom-made chairs; a small 120cm wide double bed; a full-size shower; a kitchen with energy-efficient fridge, induction hob, re-circulating cooker hood, sink/drainer, combination microwave oven and storage cupboards; a washing machine; and a composting toilet.

The Cube is illuminated with ultra-efficient LED lights and heated using an Ecodan air-source heat pump with heat recovered from extracted air. It features cork flooring with two-metre head height throughout.

The Cube is insulated with a timber-frame shell, interior surfaces of birch plywood, and sweet-chestnut cladding on the exterior. It features a south-facing monopitch roof covered with solar panels. The south wall is also covered with solar panels. This generating capacity is expected to make the Cube carbon-neutral over the year.

If registered for the UK Government’s feed-in tariff, the Cube would have no utility bills and would raise around £1,000 ($1, 625.3) per year in income.

full article

Shortfall in electric car charging points

Just over a tenth of electric car charging points needed in the UK have been built so far, the BBC has learned.

Only 700 of the 5,000 required by the end of the year are in place and two-thirds of towns with a population of over 150,000 do not have any public charging infrastructure.

David Martell, of charging supplier Chargemaster, said the lack of points can be very stressful for drivers.

The Department of Transport said it plans to install 9,000 points by 2013.

It said it has also provided up to £30m to kick-start installation in 'test-bed' areas.

There are about 30 million vehicles on British roads - 3,000 of which are electric vehicles.

Mr Martell said many electric vehicle drivers suffer from "range anxiety", which concerns their fear that they run the risk of running out of power due to a lack of charging points.

"It's a concern. It's a barrier to some people," he said.

Experts say that nearly two million of the cars on Britain's roads will be electric powered by 2020.

full article