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Tag Archives: environment

New RSPB 2050 energy scenarios

By Dave Elliott

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has produced a study of ecologically sound energy resources for the UK, looking at the spatial aspects and local impacts. In total, the spatial analysis indicates that between 5,558 and 6,277 TWh/year could be generated with low ecological risk by renewable energy technologies in the UK. The UK’s annual energy consumption in 2014 was 1661 TWh, so that, if appropriately sited, approximately four times this level could be generated from renewables with low impact risk.

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Environmental impact of renewables

By Dave Elliott

Renewable energy technologies are usually considered to have low environmental impacts compared with conventional energy systems. That seems obvious in terms of direct emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – for most renewables (biomass apart) there are none. Similarly for emissions of radioactive materials – none. However, the use of renewable sources does lead to some impacts, most of them being small and local. How can they be assessed and compared?

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Beyond Technical Fixes

By Dave Elliott

In their powerful 2011 book ‘Techno fix’, radical North American ‘greens’ Michael and Joyce Huesemann challenged what they saw as ‘a pervasive belief that technological innovation will enable us to continue our current lifestyle indefinitely and will prevent social, economic and environmental collapse’. They said that techno-optimism was completely unjustified. If driven by continued economic growth, technology did not promote sustainability but hastened collapse. Instead we needed radical social change: ‘as long as technology is used for control and exploitation, negative social and environmental effects are inherently unavoidable.’ So they looked to a future of less invasive, decentralized communities, based on ‘the values of social and environmental harmony, cooperation and mutual enhancement’, with participatory design to ensure greater democratic control of technology and harmony with nature. technofix.org

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Euro Commission off target

By Dave Elliott

The European Commission (EC) has been negotiating new EU energy and climate targets for post-2020. There was a lot of lobbying. The UK, along with the Czech Republic, was strongly opposed to the EU setting a new renewable energy target for 2030, favouring an overall 50% by 2030 reduction target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions instead. That it said would leave it up to each country to decide on how to achieve it optimally.

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Burning the midnight gas

Satellite image showing dots of light from flared natural gas in North Dakota

The light from natural gas flares burning in North Dakota’s Bakken oil field can be seen from space. (Courtesy: NASA Earth Observatory)

By Margaret Harris in Chicago

The environmental risks of shale-gas production are real, but the things people worry about most aren’t necessarily the ones that cause the most damage. That was the message of this morning’s AAAS symposium on “Hydraulic Fracturing: Science, Technology, Myths and Challenges”, which featured talks on the social implications of hydraulic fracturing as well as the risks of water and air contamination.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, involves drilling a well and filling it with a high-pressure mixture of water and other chemicals. These high pressures cause nearby rock formations to fracture, releasing trapped oil and gas. According to the first speaker, energy consultant David Alleman, fracking and horizontal drilling have “revolutionized the energy picture in the US”: a few years ago, the country imported 60% of the oil it consumed, but today the figure is just 30%.

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