Saturday, November 29, 2014

U S needs to change its lethargic energy policy to win clean energy race

China currently leads the way in clean energy race by being the worlds largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines, and accounting for more than one million renewable energy jobs. 

The United States has a lot of catching up to do, and this is something relatively unknown to U.S., something that America hasnt done too often. From the current perspective it looks like China could remain global clean energy leader for some time, mostly because of several major deficiencies in U.S. clean energy politics.

For starters, U.S. still doesnt have nationwide renewable energy standard. The standard on federal level would create excellent foundation for future renewable energy development because it would give investors long-term certainty by forcing electric utilities to gradually increase the percentage of renewable energy sources in their power supply. 

U.S. president Obama used to spoke heavily about the nations clean energy future, but this talk has somewhat cooled down in the last year or so, likely because fossil fuel lobbies are still too powerful so there is still not enough interest in Congress to come up with the federal renewable energy policy.

Without federal renewable energy standard U.S. will fail to give China (and even EU) decent challenge in clean energy race. This could in long run jeopardize U.S. position as the worlds strongest economy.

U.S. needs to show that it means business, and it needs to show it fast, otherwise the gap will soon become too big. This means proper renewable energy policy, more research and funding, and also more focusing on creating strong renewable manufacturing base.

Strong renewable manufacturing sector is something that U.S. renewable energy industry is desperately in need of. Thanks to strong manufacturing base China now has over one million renewable energy jobs, and this is certainly an example from which U.S. can learn (together with more aggressive clean energy policy applied by China).

Renewable energy means both environmental and economic benefits. U.S. has abundance of renewable energy resources at its disposal, and this alone should be enough for U.S. to become more competitive on global clean energy market.

The U.S. energy policy will however require a total makeover, by taking an initiative instead of sitting behind and waiting for better times. The lethargic energy policy is the last thing U.S. needs right now. Unless youre a China, of course.
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Friday, November 28, 2014

UBS Utilities face “perfect storm” from renewables storage

ReNew Economy has an article on a recent report from UBS on the outlook for power utilities - UBS: Utilities face “perfect storm” from renewables, storage.
A new report from leading utilities analysts at investment bank UBS suggests that energy utilities in Europe, north America and Australia are facing a “perfect storm” from the falling costs of renewables, energy efficiency and falling demand, and may not be able to sustain their business models.

The report – entitled “Can utilities survive in their current form?” – is the latest in a series of assessments, reviews and analysis that point to the severe disruption to the centralized generation model, and the demand and supply dynamics that have governed the industry for the past few decades. To briefly summarise the UBS response to its own question, the answer is No.

UBS says the biggest impact on the current utility model will occur in developed markets, where renewables in general and distributed solar in particular will take more of an already depleted “demand pie.”

This, says UBS, will cause profits to fall and could force utilities, particularly generators, to look at greater exposure to renewables and distributed generation, and to other downstream services. It comes to a similar conclusion on this as the CSIRO Future Grid forum, and echoes some of the strategic decisions currently being mooted German energy giants RWE and E.ON.

“We expect the renewables onslaught to continue and that the going will only get tougher for conventional generators,” the UBS analysts write. “We believe the will need to examine and change their traditional business models to survive the renewables era.”

These new business models could include a greater focus on rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and consumer offerings that combined solar, storage, and electric vehicle infrastructure, as well as energy-efficient appliances.

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Radical plots The politics of gardening

The Independent has an article on "radical gardening" (as opposed to "guerilla gardening) - Radical plots: The politics of gardening. Watch out for those old folk pottering around their back yards...
Notions of utopia, of community, of activism for progressive social change, of peace, of environmentalism, of identity politics, are practically worked through in the garden, in floriculture and through what art historian Paul Gough has called "planting as a form of protest". But not all – some are sobering, or frightening, for within the territory of the politically "radical" there have been, and continue to be, social experiments that invert our positive expectations of the human exchange that occurs in the green open space of a garden. There are fascist gardens (for the Nazis the land and its planting were pivotal to their ideology): the notorious herb garden at Dachau concentration camp (run on the biodynamic principles of Rudolf Steiner which were favoured by many senior Nazis); the SS "village" at Auschwitz, as recalled by Primo Levi, with its domestic normality of houses, gardens, children and pets – and the garden paths paved with human bones.

There are also contemporary troubles: the British National Party, for example, has a campaign website entitled Land and People (not such a distant echo in its title of the Nazi Blood and Soil doctrine): "Land and People say the choice between allocating land for locals – utilise as allotments – or for development – building to house migrants – as they say, a no brainer... only British Nationalists will put the engine of immigration into reverse and, in so doing, save our countryside."

The BNP has also argued for the planting of old English varieties of apple trees as part of its campaign to preserve a pure and rustic national culture. In spite of being neither English nor a nationalist, I have planted a "lost" local heritage apple tree in my Lancashire garden (it doesnt fruit as much as the Bramley bought end-of-season from B&Q for a fiver, thus probably explaining why it was lost). But nonetheless, can we say that the discourse of horticultural purity and nativism – and even more so of native vs invasive species – maps uncomfortably on the politics of extreme nationalism and xenophobia?

Any notions of a horti-countercultural politics (I agree that they probably dont called them horti-countercultural politics) that gardeners may have imagined were in their earthy practice and pleasure have a rich and challenging tradition, a significance and a trajectory of energy and import that makes them matter for our future. "Why," asks writer-gardener Jamaica Kincaid, "must people insist that the garden is a place of rest and repose, a place to forget the cares of the world, a place in which to distance yourself from the painful responsibility with being a human being?"

Kincaid and other writers – like Gough, Martin Hoyles and Kenneth Helphand – have helped shape my own understanding of the garden as a place that actually confronts and addresses the cares of the world. Helphands Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime in particular, a study of gardens in the most unlikely of wartime settings (such as planted by troops in First World War trenches or in Jewish ghettos), with a stunning set of archive images from military and holocaust museums, made me completely rethink what might be definable as a garden.

This isnt a forced juxtaposition of plant and ideology. Think only of the English radical writer William Cobbett, who declared in 1819 that "if I sowed, planted or dealt in seeds, whatever I did had first in view the destruction of infamous tyrants". Or the early 20th-century revolutionary playwright Bertolt Brecht, who observed, with startling accusatory power, that "famines do not occur, they are organised by the grain trade". Or the Peace Pledge Unions white anti-war poppy, or the 1960s hippie placing a flower down the barrel of the National Guardsmans rifle. Or the female Colombian activist speaking recently to Western buyers on behalf of the 40,000 women working in the pesticidal Colombian flower industry: "Behind every beautiful flower is a death. Flowers grow beautiful while women wither away." Or street artist Banksy, whose most famous images include the masked rioter throwing not a petrol bomb, but a bunch of flowers. These horticultural snapshots illustrate a compelling and enduring connection between plant and politic, a radical gardening.

In his recent book, Nowtopia, Chris Carlsson writes of a politics inscribed in the very act of "slowing down the gardener, making her pay attention to natural cycles that only make sense in the full unfolding of seasons and years. In a shared garden [especially], time opens up for conversation, debate and a wider view than that provided by the univocal, self-referential spectacle promoted by the mass media".

Climate change, peak oil transition, community cohesion, the environment, genetic modification and food policy, diet, health and disability – the garden is the local patch which touches and is touched by all of these kinds of major global concerns, whether it wants that kind of attention or not. In a sparkling collection of autonomous essays from a decade ago called Avant Gardening, Peter Lamborn Wilson comments wryly that "cultivate your own garden sounds today like hot radical rhetoric. Growing a garden has become – at least potentially – an act of resistance. But its not simply a gesture of refusal. Its a positive act".

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Is 3D printing an environmental win

Jeremy Faludi at has a look at the environmental impact of 3d printing - Is 3D printing an environmental win ?.
Technophilic environmentalists, including myself, tout the 3D printing revolution as a boon that could eliminate waste in manufacturing. But is that really true? Even if it is true, does it matter compared to the extra energy used? And what about toxins — does it release more, or less? No one has done this comparison before in a comprehensive, quantitative way, so some colleagues and I in the UC Berkeley mechanical engineering department set out to find the answers. The results were tricky and surprising.

First, lets bust a myth: 3D printing does not mean zero waste. There are many kinds of 3D printers, making things in very different ways; we measured two kinds. An "FDM" machine (such as a RepRap or Makerbot, sort of a hot glue gun with XYZ controls), actually can have a negligible percent waste, if your model doesnt need any support material to shore it up while printing. (Thats a big "if.") But we found that an inkjet 3D printer (which lays down polymeric ink and UV-cures it layer by layer) wastes 40 to 45 percent of its ink, not even counting support material, and it cant be recycled. Other researchers studying other kinds of 3D printers have found significant waste in some of them as well.

To see whether 3D printing will be a sustainability win, we compared it to machining by a computer-controlled mill (starting with a block of stuff and cutting away everything you dont want). We only looked at machining things out of plastic, because thats what these FDM and inkjet 3D printers do. Lets be clear: most plastic consumer products are not machined; theyre injection-molded. But 3D printing is not going to replace injection-molding for mass-manufactured products (plastic parts made in the millions). It is replacing machining for smaller runs (1 unit, 10 units, maybe 1,000 units).

We compared them by doing a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of the two 3D printers and the CNC mill, including the materials and manufacturing of the machines themselves, transportation, energy use, material in the final parts, material wasted, and the end-of-life disposal of the machines. ...

The 3D printers impacts mostly came from electricity use, which is simply a function of time, so anything that reduces the time spent running also reduces eco-impacts. The mills impacts were mostly from material use and waste, but energy use was significant too. The resources and manufacturing to make the machines themselves was a small portion of impacts when they run at high utilization, as shown above; but if you only make one part per week, those embodied impacts can be significant for the FDM and the mill.

The final verdict, then, is that 3D printing can be greener, if its the right kind (FDM); but again, the biggest environmental win comes from sharing the fewest tools so each has the most utilization. If you want to know more, the full study (with far more detail in methodology and results, including breakdowns of impacts by source for all 22 scenarios studied) has been submitted to the Journal of Rapid Prototyping. Be patient, though; peer-reviewed academic publications take a year or more to get published.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Concentrating on Solar PV

The Climate Spectator reports that Silexs long delayed CPV plant for Mildura in Victoria may at last be moving ahead - All Systems go.
Silex Systems has finally secured formal agreement from the federal government to continue the $75 million of fund granted to a proposed 152MW concentrated solar project in Mildura. The fate of the grant had been in some doubt, because the company that originally received the grant, Solar Systems, went bankrupt in late 2009 before being bought by Silex early in 2010. Silex says the grant – combined with $50 million in funds from the Victorian government – will enable the company to progress to a 2MW pilot plant, then a 100MW demonstration project that could be expanded by a further 50MW at a later date.

Silex says it has refined and solved many of the technical difficulties that had plagued the original project, and which had forced the company into receivership because its shareholders, which include TRUenergy and several private, either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide more funds. The unique dense array concentrating PV technology is said to be deal for large commercial and utility-scale solar projects, and Silex says the Mildura facility has the potential to be of the one of the largest and most efficient solar power stations in the world.

Silex says it continues to investigate opportunities to construct utility-scale solar plants in Australia and US, as well as growth opportunities worldwide. The $75 million of Commonwealth funding was announced in 2006 as part of the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund. The Federal Government has further assisted the project with a $4.5 million grant under the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, of which approximately $1.9 million was transferred to Solar Systems.

Renewable Energy World has a report on a CPV project in New Mexico - San Diegos New CPV Solar Giant.
With a 150 MW project planned in San Diego and a 25-year PPA in place, CPV has at last entered the commercial arena. Standing in the New Mexico desert, a 1 MW Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) power plant is establishing a route for the emergence of this utility-scale technology. Installation of this first pilot commercial deployment began in the summer of 2010 and the plant was commissioned early in 2011, with official inauguration in April.

Located on the tailings site of Chevron Mining Incs (CMI) molybdenum mine in Questa, New Mexico, some 2000 metres above sea level in an area of the US noted for its high levels of Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI), its developers say the project will demonstrate the technology as well as a practical use of previously impacted land. Electricity produced from the installation will be sold to the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, through a power purchase agreement.

Covering some 20 acres (8 ha) the site has 173 CPV modules, each of which has an area of about 18 by 21 feet (35 m²) and is pole mounted on dual axis trackers supplied by a major manufacturer. The Concentrix technology uses Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight almost 500 times onto high efficiency multi-junction PV cells. With this technology, Soitec claims to achieve AC system efficiencies of 25% and more, significantly higher than currently available conventional solar PV technology, and as a result, cost reductions of 10%-20% could be reached, depending on the location of the installation, it says. ...

CPV systems are typically more efficient than conventional solar systems at locations with both high ambient temperatures and dry weather conditions. Because of the very low temperature coefficient of its solar cells, a CPV systems performance is much less affected by temperature than other photovoltaic technologies. Another key advantage of CPV technology is the very low levels of water required for operations, essentially used in cleaning only, a crucial consideration for the water-constrained regions to which it is suited, such as the Imperial Valley, which is some 150 miles (230 km) from the coast.

Indeed, such technology is expected to work best in areas with higher DNI like northern New Mexico and southern California, as well as in north and southern Africa, the Middle East, and much of China and India. Certainly, in 2010 Soitec announced that it had joined the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii) as Associated Partner and Medgrid as a founding member, in the expectation that the decision will pave the way to utility-scale CPV projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

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Could hemp nanosheets topple graphene for making the ideal supercapacitor

The American Chemical Society has a post on the possible use of hemp in creating supercapacitors - Could hemp nanosheets topple graphene for making the ideal supercapacitor?
David Mitlin, Ph.D., explains that supercapacitors are energy storage devices that have huge potential to transform the way future electronics are powered. Unlike today’s rechargeable batteries, which sip up energy over several hours, supercapacitors can charge and discharge within seconds. But they normally can’t store nearly as much energy as batteries, an important property known as energy density. One approach researchers are taking to boost supercapacitors’ energy density is to design better electrodes. Mitlin’s team has figured out how to make them from certain hemp fibers — and they can hold as much energy as the current top contender: graphene.

“Our device’s electrochemical performance is on par with or better than graphene-based devices,” Mitlin says. “The key advantage is that our electrodes are made from biowaste using a simple process, and therefore, are much cheaper than graphene.”

The race toward the ideal supercapacitor has largely focused on graphene — a strong, light material made of atom-thick layers of carbon, which when stacked, can be made into electrodes. Scientists are investigating how they can take advantage of graphene’s unique properties to build better solar cells, water filtration systems, touch-screen technology, as well as batteries and supercapacitors. The problem is it’s expensive.

Mitlin’s group decided to see if they could make graphene-like carbons from hemp bast fibers. The fibers come from the inner bark of the plant and often are discarded from Canada’s fast-growing industries that use hemp for clothing, construction materials and other products. The U.S. could soon become another supplier of bast. It now allows limited cultivation of hemp, which unlike its close cousin, does not induce highs.

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Is time up for Australias uranium industry

Following the latest spill of radioactive material at ERAs Ranger uranium mine he ABC has an opinion piece wondering if it is time to decommission the industry - Is time up for Australias uranium industry ?.
IN THE EARLY HOURS of December 7, a crack appeared in a large leach tank in the processing area of the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park. The area was evacuated, the tank completely failed, the containment system was inadequate and one million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry went sliding downhill — taking Energy Resources of Australias credibility with it.

The spill has left traditional owners who live and rely on creeks only kilometres downstream angry and "sick with worry" and raised profound concerns about the management culture and integrity of infrastructure at the mine.

Operations at Ranger are now halted. The mine operates inside Kakadu National Park — Australias largest park and a dual World Heritage listed region. It, and its people, deserve the highest standards of protection, but sadly Ranger is a long way short of this.

The Australian uranium industry has long been a source of trouble. Now it is increasingly in trouble. The commodity price has collapsed, projects across the country have been stalled, deferred or scrapped and the recent Kakadu spill has again raised community attention and concern.

At least the absence of a nuclear power industry in Australia means we dont have stories emerging like this one from the US - U.S. Dumped Tens of Thousands of Steel Drums Containing Atomic Waste Off Coastlines .

More than four decades after the U.S. halted a controversial ocean dumping program, the country is facing a mostly forgotten Cold War legacy in its waters: tens of thousands of steel drums of atomic waste.

From 1946 to 1970, federal records show, 55-gallon drums and other containers of nuclear waste were pitched into the Atlantic and Pacific at dozens of sites off California, Massachusetts and a handful of other states. Much of the trash came from government-related work, ranging from mildly contaminated lab coats to waste from the country’s effort to build nuclear weapons.

Federal officials have long maintained that, despite some leakage from containers, there isn’t evidence of damage to the wider ocean environment or threats to public health through contamination of seafood. But a Wall Street Journal review of decades of federal and other records found unanswered questions about a dumping program once labeled “seriously substandard” by a senior Environmental Protection Agency official…

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Big nuclear power company decides renewables are a better bet in the U S

Grist reports that french nuclear power company EDF has decided that it is better to pursue renewable energy in the US rather than bating a dead horse - Big nuke company decides renewables are a better bet in the U.S..
The world’s largest operator of nuclear power plants is dumping its stake in American reactors, turning its focus instead to wind and solar power. French utility company EDF announced this week that it will sell its stake in Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG), which operates five nuclear reactors in New York and Maryland.

EDF cited cheap power produced by fracked natural gas as the big reason why it’s abandoning its American nuclear facilities. But the company said it will now focus its American business strategy not on fossil fuels but on renewable energy.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ecology and Commerce Revisited

Paul Hawken has an interview in Metropolis magazine which is partly interesting and partly annoying (he seems to be confusing regular solar PV with thin film solar, which does use various poisonous minerals, however if the manufacturing process is sound they would hopefully all end up in the actual panels - though perhaps he is talking about improper disposal of silicon tetrachloride and the need to properly recycle used panels) - Ecology and Commerce, Revisited.
One of the trends that wasn’t apparent in 1993 was the emergence of China as the world’s next industrial power. Is China the key to the world’s ecological salvation or its destruction?

China is so complex that you almost need ten words for it instead of one. We are Asia-illiterate in America. You constantly hear catchphrases about China as if it were one thing. There is politburo China, entrepreneurial China, cultural China, peasant China, Western China, Hong Kong China, not to mention Mongol, Uighur, Tibetan, and Manchu China. I see America 50 years ago: on steroids, a country able to raise abundant capital, move quickly, expand its infrastructure, support research and science, study hard, work hard, take the world by economic storm, concentrate capital. In renewables they’re a juggernaut, but their goal is to be the leader in virtually every industry in the world, and anyone who doubts their capacity to do so might want to rethink that.

China is industrializing at warp speed, and in the process, it reveals how our governance system is broken. In America, we’re nearing the threshold of a failed state. We don’t fund our schools, don’t have an ethic of learning. We’re shockingly in debt. We’re a divided nation breathing its own exhaust. Although China’s form of governance is unacceptable and will bite it in the end, it can adapt faster to ecological exigencies than we can. They may be building coal-fired power plants at a blistering pace, but they do not have political leaders who are skeptical of science, deny climatology, or doubt evolution. I might add that it is not just China that is burgeoning. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are all growing phenomenally.

The American era is over, which is fine, but it behooves us to do some soul-searching and seek a future that is not a Ronald Reagan parody of our putative past glory.

Does industry still hold the key to environmental progress?

Business is the hand of destruction and must become the guardian. It is one world, indisputably. What business does and doesn’t do determines the fate of the earth.

Do you think we have enough time to make the changes outlined in the book?
I do. Humanity is not stupid, but we’re some-times slow to evolve. There comes a time when we must change what it means to be humanity, and this is such a time. Regardless of our profession, predilections, or biases, when confronted with the real problem of what it means to live together here on earth—and I do mean together as one people, dependent on each other’s knowledge and goodwill for our own survival—we know what to do. That wisdom is innate. It has never gone away.

You’ve started a solar-power company called OneSun. How is it different from other companies?

I founded it with Janine Benyus, the biologist who coined the term biomimicry and wrote the book of the same name; and John Warner, the man who coined the term green chemistry and coauthored a book of the same name. We don’t talk about it in public or in the press for a couple of reasons. One, in the solar business there is a fair bit of exaggeration, with science projects masquerading as viable technologies. We will have a lot to say when and if we succeed, which we think we will. But if we fail, then at least we didn’t make fools of ourselves.

Is solar power the answer to our energy problems?

There needs to be more thought about the physics of renewables. Right now, we give solar PV a hall pass, as if it was the clean and green answer. I believe the denial seen on the right about climate change is matched by denial on the progressive side as to technical solutions. Solar PV is nearly the most toxic source of energy per kilowatt hour there is, save for the tar sands, including nuclear and coal. The concept of solar is certainly correct—harvesting streaming photons—but current execution involves a witch’s brew of toxins and greenhouse gases. Even if that were not true—were the world to ratchet up its solar production as proposed—it would require a very significant increase of fossil-fuel consumption because solar requires high inputs of intense energy for sintering, tempered glass, metals, etc. The energy return on energy invested for solar PV—the actual net energy, subtracting inputs—is between 3:1 and 10:1, with most silicon PV coming in at the lower end. This is abysmally low. If we became a solar world, it would mean 20 percent of our GDP would be spent on energy to make energy. With PV, we’re making low-intensity energy generators out of high-intensity energy sources (i.e., coal in China and Germany) and calling that renewable. It’s not remotely renewable. Until there is a solar-PV technology that can be made with minimal, nontoxic, abundantly available inputs and be made entirely with solar energy, incumbent solar does not move the ball down the field but diverts us from achieving the critical energy transformation required. ...

Can we innovate our way around the problem, or do we have to fundamentally change the ways we live?

I think that changing the ways we live is the heart of innovation. One of the keys to under-standing our current situation is to understand how 150 years of cheap energy has created the unsustainable dilemma we’re in. We occupy James Kunstler’s “geography of nowhere,” spending inordinate amounts of time and re-sources on roads and badly designed remote buildings in order to create lifestyles that are deeply dissatisfying. So when we think of innovation, the way we live and the technology we use are handmaidens to a better life with a radically reduced footprint. If we don’t do that, we are truly putting lipstick on a piggy lifestyle, and it won’t work. Nature favors those creatures that direct available energy most efficiently to channels that favor the species. That is not a description of our freeways, suburbs, or food system. We’re taking the rich inheritance of resources, the 100-million-year gift of biomass and living systems, and spending it on annihilation. Not a good strategy. For me, there is only one guiding principle for business, economics, design, community, education, government, and urban planning, and that is captured in Janine Benyus’s brilliant maxim: life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. Being conducive to life means to work toward the benefit of all beings. The one true creative response when every living system is in decline is to plan, design, and make every-thing on behalf of all living beings. This is not sentiment but biology, the famous John Muir statement about everything in the universe being hitched together, and that means we have to be hitched together.

Being conducive to life is what every religion has tried to teach us: the Golden Rule, the 99 Attributes of Allah, the Six Paramitas of Buddhism, the Sermon on the Mount. These teachings are religious, but they’re also pure biology. Nature is not about competition in the mistaken Darwinian sense. What holds the living world together are mutualisms, the innate altruism of life itself. In other words, altruism is lifestyle. It’s truly in our self-interest.
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A Nice bit of gas powered churnalism

BG and QGC have had to suspend construction of the coal seam gas pipeline to their planned LNG plant due to some of their environmental management plans not being approved. The story has highlighted the sorry practice in some media outlets of simply reprinting company press releases - Nice bit of gas-powered churnalism.
There’s a new service over in the UK set up by the Media Standards Trust which allows the public to check for cases of “Churnalism”.

Churnalism, says the trust, is “a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added”.

Using the free Churnalism website, you can paste text from a press release into a box. The service then goes off and finds any news articles that resemble the text of the press release – articles suspected of being “churn”.

The site lets you see the press release placed side-by-side against the original and gives a percentage of how much of the release was cut-and-pasted and how many characters overlap.

In the last few days, they’ve added a service where you can do this exercise in reverse and search news outlets against press releases from some companies and government agencies.

For example, the site suspects that in the last three years 495 articles in The Guardian online may be churn. The Daily Mail online scores more than 700.

Now obviously, there are lots of occasions when there’s nothing at all wrong with a press release being churned. The trust points out that
“Some press releases are clearly in the public interest (medical breakthroughs, government announcements, school closures and so on). But even in these cases, it is better that people should know what press release the article is based on than for the source of the article to remain hidden.”

Unfortunately,the site is only available in the UK but you can rest assured there’s plenty of churnalism that goes on in Australia too (If in any doubt, go check out Crikey’s Spinning the Media series from last year, which found over half of the news in Australia came from public relations). Some of it is harmless, but some of it is clearly not.

Which brings me to a recent article which appeared online in the Gladstone Observer and an almost identical story which appeared online in the Toowoomba Chronicle – both news sites owned by APN News & Media.

The story reported how the Queensland Gas Company had stopped work on clearing land for a coal seam gas pipeline because “environmental plans for soil and species management have not been approved”, the report said. A serious issue no doubt and well worth the time of an APN journalist in reporting it. After all, QGC has reported it is spending $15 billion on the project which the delay was part of.

There were quotes from “QGC senior vice president Jim Knudsen” who explained the company didn’t believe their work so far had caused any ”adverse impact on protected plants and animals”.

I asked QGC if they had issued a press release into the incident. They said they had and they sent me a copy. It’s now here online. Well, you’ve guessed the rest.

The story on the Towoomba site was almost identical to the press release, with only 5 words of the original 251-word press release changed. They didn’t even bother to write their own headline. “QGC stops work on pipeline”.

The Gladstone Observer story was identical, except for the addition of a 13 word intro popped on the top of the text. The rest of the story was a complete and unchanged cut-and-paste from the QGC release.

Why am I worried about this? Because a news outlet should not be just a distribution service for a major corporation, especially one which is drilling 6000 wells and laying more than 700 kilometres of pipeline in the areas being served by the news outlet.

I know regional newspapers have resources issues but surely its online readers should have been made aware that the story printed on its website was just a cut-and-pasted press release?

Good on QGC for admitting the breach, but you can only hope that the print versions of the Gladstone Observer and the Toowoomba Chronicle do better.
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Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq

The Independent has a report on discussions between the British government and BP in the lead up to the Iraq war - Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq. Hands up if you are surprised by this. More at Empty Wheel and Patrick Cockburn at The Independent - They denied it was about Iraqs resources. But it never rang true, along with another article at The Indy on Iraqs "untapped potential" - Black gold rush was fuelled by enormous untapped potential.
Plans to exploit Iraqs oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the worlds largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britains involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blairs cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time.

The documents were not offered as evidence in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry into the UKs involvement in the Iraq war. In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as "highly inaccurate". BP denied that it had any "strategic interest" in Iraq, while Tony Blair described "the oil conspiracy theory" as "the most absurd".

But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture.

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraqs enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blairs military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BPs behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

The minister then promised to "report back to the companies before Christmas" on her lobbying efforts.

The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity."

After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Offices Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: "Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq."

Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had "no strategic interest" in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was "more important than anything weve seen for a long time".

BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElfs existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the worlds leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take "big risks" to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.

Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraqs reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day – seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output. Many opponents of the war suspected that one of Washingtons main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Can Australia become the worlds leading LNG exporter

The ABCs "Fact Check" has a look at claims from the new energy minister that Australia could be the worlds leading exporter of LNG from natural gas and coal seam gas - Can Australia become the worlds leading LNG exporter ?.
The LNG industry claims to be Australias fastest growing export sector.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane shares the rosy outlook. "Australia will shortly become the second largest - or optimistically, the largest - exporter of LNG and that is nothing short of amazing," Mr Macfarlane said during the Australian National Conference on Resource and Energy on October 3.

Is that a reasonable prediction?

Mr Macfarlanes office told ABC Fact Check he based his comments on advice from the Department of Industry and research by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, the national energy forecaster. The bureau says Australia will produce 83.0 million tonnes of LNG by 2017. How does this compare with the rest of the world?

According to statistics from the International Energy Agency, whose 28 member countries from the developed world are large users of energy, Australia is currently the third largest LNG producer in the world, behind Qatar and Malaysia.

The agency says Australia has the capacity to produce 33 billion cubic metres of LNG a year. In tonnes, the measurement used commonly in Australia, that converts to 24.4 million tonnes.

While Australia is in third place, the agency says Australia has more new LNG plants under construction than any other country.

On completion, the new projects will add a further 61.4 million tonnes of LNG capacity, bringing Australias total to 85.8 million tonnes. These are due to be completed by June 2018.

Not many other LNG exporting countries have new projects underway, according to the agency. The closest is the United States, constructing plants capable of producing 17.8 million tonnes.

When plants under construction are added to current capacity, Australia will lead the way with 85.8 million tonnes. Qatar, the current leader in LNG exports, will be next at 77.7 million tonnes and Indonesia third at 36.3 million tonnes.

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The Clock In The Mountain

Kevin Kelly has an article on the Long Now Foundation’s clock project - The Clock In The Mountain.
There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years. Most times the Clock rings when a visitor has wound it, but the Clock hoards energy form a different source and occasionally it will ring itself when no one is around to hear it. It’s anyone’s guess how many beautiful songs will never be heard over the Clock’s 10 millennial lifespan.

The Clock is real. It is now being built inside a mountain in western Texas. This Clock is the first of many millennial Clocks the designers hope will be built around the world and throughout time. There is a second site for another Clock already purchased at the top of a mountain in eastern Nevada, a site surrounded by a very large grove of 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines.

Appropriately, bristlecone pines are among the longest-lived organisms on the planet. The designers of the Clock in Texas expect its chimes will keep ringing twice as long as the oldest 5 millennia-old bristlecone pine. Ten thousand years is about the age of civilization, so a 10K-year Clock would measure out a future of civilization equal to its past. That assumes we are in the middle of whatever journey we are on – an implicit statement of optimism.

The Clock is now being machined and assembled in California and Seattle. Meantime the mountain in Texas is being readied. Why would anyone build a Clock inside a mountain with the hope that it will ring for 10,000 years? Part of the answer: just so people will ask this question, and having asked it, prompt themselves to conjure with notions of generations and millennia. If you have a Clock ticking for 10,000 years what kinds of generational-scale questions and projects will it suggest? If a Clock can keep going for ten millennia, shouldn’t we make sure our civilization does as well? If the Clock keeps going after we are personally long dead, why not attempt other projects that require future generations to finish? The larger question is, as virologist Jonas Salk once asked, “Are we being good ancestors?"

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UN sounds alarm on record Arctic ice melt

The SMH has a report on last years arctic ice melt - UN sounds alarm on record Arctic ice melt.
The Arctics sea ice melted at a record pace in 2012, the ninth-hottest year on record, compounding concerns about climate change underscored by extreme weather such as Hurricane Sandy, the UN weather agency says. In a report on the situation in 2012, the World Meteorological Organisation said on Thursday that during the August to September melting season, the Arctics sea ice cover was just 3.4 million square kilometres. That was a full 18 per cent less than the previous record low set in 2007.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud dubbed it a "disturbing sign of climate change." "The year 2012 saw many other extremes as well, such as droughts and tropical cyclones. Natural climate variability has always resulted in such extremes, but the physical characteristics of extreme weather and climate events are being increasingly shaped by climate change," he said. "For example, because global sea levels are now about 20 centimetres higher than they were in 1880, storms such as Hurricane Sandy are bringing more coastal flooding than they would have otherwise," he added.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Origins hot Chile play

The Climate Spectator reports that Origin are expanding their geothermal interets further throughout the southern hemisphere - Origin Energy Chasing Geothermal Power In Chile.
Origin Energy has further expanded its overseas geothermal portfolio and followed the path of smaller Australian companies by taking a significant interest in the South American geothermal industry. Origin said on Monday it had bought a 40 per cent take in Energía Andina (EASE), which it described as Chiles leading geothermal exploration company, and is 60 per cent owned Antofagasta Minerals.

Origins head of finance and strategy, Karen Moses, said preliminary assessments indicated that geothermal could provide 16,000MW of power in Chile. "It is our view that geothermal can provide large-scale renewable baseload energy and Chile has significant potential from a resource and growing local demand perspective," she said in a statement. EASA, which was founded in 2008, has a portfolio of eight geothermal exploration projects in the Northern and Central regions of Chile. The stake was bought from Empresa Nacional del Petróleo following a competitive bidding process.

Origin has exposure to 290MW of geothermal generation through its majority stake in New Zealand’s Contact Energy, and is also involved in a consortium with India’s Tata Power PT Supraco Indonesia for a potential 300MW project on the island of Sumatra. It has an interest in the Geodynamics’ Innaminckka Deeps projects, and also recently began drilling as operator of the Innamincka Shallows project that is seeking to target more conventional geothermal resources in the Cooper Basin of South Australia.
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Worldwide Trends for Going Green

It takes time for any new product or action to develop and spread throughout the globe. "Going green" began many years ago but has only recently come to the very forefront of our minds and our surroundings.

The "plastic bag movement" is a prime example of this gradual change. has tracked the development since 2002 in Canada, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, India, Ireland, and further. Did you know Switzerland is a leader not only in the reusable bag movement but in recycled PET (PolyEthylene Terephtalate) as well? Over 82% of PET sold in Switzerland is recycled. Learn more about going green from below:

Trends From Around the World
We first started tracking the plastic bag issue in 2002, reporting on Ireland’s PlasTax and various other bag bans and taxes worldwide. While most of the efforts we covered were government-led, there were also significant grassroots movements building to control the bag beast weve created over the past 25 years. Here’s a look back at our coverage of this issue over the years, a snapshot of the formation of the early years of the movement from 2003-2007.
For more on bag laws in recent years, check out and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s detailed Retail Bags Maps.  Read additional coverage in our Newsroom.

Africa 2003
In South Africa, plastic bags have been dubbed the "national flower" because so many can be seen flapping from fences and caught in bushes. In response to the government threat of a ban on single-use plastic bags, the plastics industry lobbied for a bag tax instead. Negotiations led to a bag tax set for introduction in May 2003, to be paid by manufacturers and passed on to consumers. Similar to the Irish PlasTax, the charge per bag will appear on shoppers sales receipts as a reminder that they can save money if they use reusable bags. South Africa is also improving recovery and recycling systems.

Africa 2005
The Kenyan government, in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, issued a report on Feb. 23, 2005 suggesting that Kenya ban the common plastic bag that one gets at the checkout counter of grocery stores, and place a levy on other plastic bags, all to combat the countrys environmental problems stemming from the bags popularity. Money raised from the levies might be used to create more effective recycling programs. Kenyas President Mwai Kibaki recently said: "In our major cities, plastic bags are used in large quantities at the household level. However, these bags are not disposed of in ways that ensure a clean environment. My country welcomes initiatives to address this problem." Read more about the report here.

Africa 2007
In 2006 Vice-President Ali Mohamed Shein declared a total ban on plastic bags. Kenya and Uganda are implementing less severe restrictions, prohibiting thinner plastic bags and imposing levies on thicker ones. According to the BBC, Kenyas partial ban went into effect on June 14, 2007, and Uganda followed on July 1. Meanwhile, South Africas 2003 initiative has curbed the number of bags floating around the country, but some environmentally-focused constituents are complaining that the funds from the tax have not been funneled into recycling programs or other green initiatives. Others worry that retailers are even profiting from the levies because they upcharge customers for the bags. More on this here. Kenya faces a tougher battle: With 48 million plastic bags produced locally each year, plastics manufacturers are not caving in, and people are slow to adopt reusable bags. Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai is urging shoppers to carry kiondos (baskets).

Australia 2003
Australia is in the process of deciding how to control plastic bag waste, and is considering a tax on single-use HDPE bags.

Australia 2005
The retailers Code of Practice for the Management of Plastic Carry Bags was accepted by Ministers in October 2003. There are many commitments, including reaching a 25% reduction in plastic bag use by the end of 2004 and a 50% reduction in plastic bag use by 2005. The Code includes a commitment by retailers to report twice a year. Initial reports show that Australian supermarket shoppers slashed their use of plastic bags by 29% by June 2004! Furthermore, Coles Bay in Tasmania successfully banned plastic check-out bags in all their retail stores. In the first twelve months, Coles Bay stopped the use of 350,000 plastic check-out bags.

Australia 2007
Planet Ark, an Australian organization that runs public campaigns to educate consumers on environmental issues, estimates retailers Coles, Woolworths, and Safeway stores have sold over 10 million reusable bags – a sound alternative to "giveaway" plastic bags. Most efforts by retailers have been voluntary, and major retailers cut their plastic usage by 45% between 2003 and 2005. Retailers hope that the success of voluntary efforts will preclude any levies on plastic bag consumption. In 2006, the state of Victoria began charging consumers for each plastic bag they use. Smaller businesses are exempt, but the government hopes that the initiative will reduce the 1.1 billion bags per year consumed in Victoria alone. This measure might push the rest of Australia to adopt similar measures. For example, a spokesperson for NSW Environment ministry stated, "If Victoria comes up with a workable model then we would certainly be interested in considering it." More on this here.

Bangladesh 2003
In March 2002, Bangladesh put a ban on all polyethylene bags in the capital, Dhaka, after they were found to have been the main culprit during the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged two-thirds of the country. Discarded bags were choking the drainage system. Plans are to extend the ban nationwide.

Bangladesh 2005
The polythene ban is leading to a revival of the jute bag industry and other sustainable and biodegradable alternatives. It is widely acknowledged that jute may be one of the solutions to the polythene menace. Jute grows abundantly in Bangladesh and requires a lot less energy for processing than polythene.

Bangladesh 2007
The revival of the jute bag industry in Bangladesh continues to provide sustainable living for Bangladeshis. In 2006 Australias organization "Keep Australia Beautiful" awarded a "Plastic Bag Reduction Award" to a business that provides sustainable-trade, Bangladesh-made jute bags to mainstream Australian retailers.

Belgium 2007
In June 2007, the Belgium government starts phasing in a tax on single-use plastic bags to change retailers habits. "If the only way people will understand is through their pocketbooks," a Belgian store owner states, "so be it." Watch a BBC video report on the new ecotax for retailers, the cost of which will be passed onto consumers. More on this here.

Canada 2007
The Ontario government has committed to reduce plastic bag consumption 50% in the next five years. The initiative also includes monitoring and reporting to ensure progress is indeed made. "Ontarians use almost 80 plastic bags per second - thats close to seven million bags every day," said Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten. "Reducing the volume of plastic bags that end up in landfills is a top priority for us," she added. For more information, visit our Newsroom.
The Canadian Plastics Industry is launching defensive strategies, including websites such as, arguing that plastic bags are useful, convenient, and inexpensive. They urge customers to use them but to use them wisely by reusing and recycling. "It is hard to think of a world without them," the website proclaims.

China 2003
The term "white pollution" has been coined in China for the tumbleweed of polythene blowing on the streets. According to UKs The Guardian, 2 billion bags are used each day.

China 2005
To combat the growing problem of plastic bags in China, Guo Geng, a political adviser in Beijing, has proposed the introduction of a "bag tax" to decrease demand for plastic bags and to raise more money to tackle pollution caused by the bags. Media reports claim that the Ministry of Finance is conducting a feasibility study for introducing such a tax.

China 2008
China prohibits stores from giving away free plastic bags. Their strategy, removed from the increasingly-common bans and taxes of other countries, states that a clearly marked price must be placed beside bags previously given away. Additionally, ultrathin plastic bags of less than 0.025 millimeters were banned, with further talk of bag taxes in the future.

Denmark 2003
As part of a larger packaging tax introduced in 1994, Denmark taxes plastic bags. The stated aim is to promote reusable bags. However, the tax is paid by retailers when they purchase bags, rather than by shoppers, yielding less dramatic results than the Irish PlasTax, which charges consumers directly for each bag used. Still, consumption of paper and plastic bags has declined 66%.

Denmark 2005
Denmark employs a general waste tax that has proven to be very successful. The waste tax is differentiated so that it is most expensive to landfill waste, cheaper to incinerate it and tax exempt to recycle it. Also, they have so-called "green" taxes on packaging, plastic bags, disposable tableware and nickel-cadmium batteries.

Hong Kong 2003
In 2001, it was estimated that 27 million plastic shopping bags were disposed of each day in Hong Kong. This is four times the individual consumption level in Australia. Hong Kong has implemented a campaign of "No plastic bag, please," and prohibits larger retailers from providing free bags. The program has been designed to educate the public on alternatives to plastic bags and to encourage customers to make environmentally-friendly decisions and purchases. In addition, there is a tax for products for which there is an environmentally-friendly alternative readily available.

Hong Kong 2007
In a paper tabled to lawmakers May 21, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department urged legislators to agree to impose a levy to cut plastic bag use, stating that a 50-cent levy could cut plastic bag use in Hong Kong -- currently estimated at 8 billion bags annually -- by one billion. Some leaders in Hong Kong are worried that charging customers for plastic bags will increase the use of paper bags. They also worry it will hurt small businesses, and advocate for increased public education efforts rather than additional levies. A member of the Green Student Council in Hong Kong states that levies do make a significant impact. "On no-plastic bag days, which is held one day a month, an average of 50 percent of shoppers bring along their own bags, so it helps."

India 2003
In India, a law introduced recently prohibits plastic bags thinner than 20 microns in the cities of Bombay and Delhi, along with the entire states of Maharashtra and Kerala. The restriction is meant to discourage production and use due to the thicker bags being more expensive and has demonstrated marginal success.

India 2005
In the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, a new law states that anyone found even using a polythene bag could face prison or a stiff fine. The new law bans the production, storage, use, sale and distribution of polythene bags. The law is based on legislation passed by the national parliament, but Himachal Pradesh is the first state to have implemented it. In addition, the government of the western Indian state of Maharashtra banned the manufacture, sale and use of all plastic bags, saying they choked drainage systems during recent monsoon rains. Manufacturers and stores selling plastic bags will be fined 5,000 rupees while individuals using bags face penalties of 100,000 rupees (approximately $2,000). Read more in our Newsroom.

India 2007
Other parts of India are focusing on public information campaigns. According to The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in Panaji, Goa, a community has launched a system in which individuals donate old newspapers and magazines, which are cut into paper-bags and sold to shops to reduce plastic bag usage.

Ireland 2003
Republic of Ireland was consuming 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags per year before introducing the PlasTax. Since the tax of about $.15 per bag was introduced in March 2002, consumption has plummeted 90%. To complete the win-win cycle, the $9.6 million raised from the tax in the first year is put into a "green fund" to further benefit the environment.

Ireland 2005
The extremely effective PlasTax continues to produce amazing results, the latest figures estimating 95% reduction in consumption. This levy has been viewed as a major success by the government and environmental groups alike. It also has been enthusiastically embraced by Irish consumers, thanks to an intensive environmental awareness campaign launched in conjunction with the levy. Irish retailers, although initially skeptical, also have recognized the huge benefits of this levy. The amount of plastic being sent to Irish landfills has been reduced dramatically. The result: a clear, visual improvement in cities, on coastlines and in the countryside.

Ireland 2007
Ireland continues to be the paragon of countries in the fight against plastic bags. Efforts from California to Somali look to the success of the PlasTax. Customers have adopted reusable bags and retailers no longer incur much cost. In February 2007, the BBC reported that plastic bag usage per individual increased in 2006, and Ireland is raising the tax to 22 cents per bag. "We need to ensure that the success story continues into the future," stated Irish Environment Minister Dick Roche. "There has been no increase in the levy since its inception and I am anxious to ensure that its impact is not diminished." More on this here.

New Zealand 2003
According to Stuff (New Zealands leading news website with 430,000 unique users per month), it is estimated that New Zealanders use more than 2.2 million plastic bags each week. Several of New Zealands leading retailers are taking the initiative to tackle the plastic bag beast by introducing reusable shopping bags for sale. Foodstuffs New Zealand, owner of PakN Save and New World, is stocking shelves with 20,000 cotton reusable bags while competitor Progressive Enterprises scrambles to follow suit. The Warehouse is also doing its own line in reusable bags. Initial results have been positive.

New Zealand 2005
Government sponsored programs are promoting environmental awareness, urging consumers to Reduce Your Rubbish and consider eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags. Grassroots efforts are also popping up around the country to help in the fight to eliminate plastic bags.

New Zealand 2007
A study for the New Zealand Retailers Association (NZRA) found 8 out of 10 New Zealanders used free plastic shopping bags per week. Starting in July, retailers New World, Foodtown, Woolworths, Pakn Save, and Countdown will have their employees ask customers at checkout to think twice before using the plastic bags. More on this here.

Scotland 2003
Scotland may put a "plastax" on plastic bags - recent legislation proposed in Scotland would put a 15-pence tax on each disposable plastic bag handed out to shoppers. The levy is based on Irelands "PlasTax," which only a few months after it was implemented, succeeded in lowering plastic bag consumption 90% while raising 3.5 million euro for environmental projects.

Scotland 2005
Scotlands threatened levy on plastic carrier bags has moved closer to approval. A new bill outlining the proposal is now almost ready to be put before the Scottish Parliament. In addition, many regions are joining the fight against plastic bags. Reusable cotton shopping bags are to be distributed free to shoppers on a trial basis to encourage people to reduce the number of plastic bags they use, under the the "Fantastic its not plastic!" initiative. Furthermore, Amy Gray, Aberdeen City Councils Business Waste Minimisation Officer says, "Aberdeen City Council is encouraging residents to become more waste aware. Refusing plastic bags at checkouts is a simple step anyone can take to reduce the amount of waste they produce. Aberdeen City Council is also lobbying for the introduction of a tax on plastic bags in line with other forms of packaging."

Scotland 2007
In late 2006 the bill to tax plastic bags was withdrawn, but its initial conception succeeded in raising awareness for voluntary efforts to protect the environment by curbing plastic bag usage. An Edinburgh supermarket is piloting a program of "green tills," allowing shoppers who are not using plastic carrier bags to get through the checkouts faster. For more information, visit our Newsroom.

Switzerland 2003
Switzerland requires supermarkets to charge $.15 to $.20 per paper bag. The majority of shoppers bring their own reusable shopping bags.

Switzerland 2007
The Swiss are leaders not only in the reusable bag movement but in recycled PET. Over 82% of PET sold in Switzerland is recycled. Read more about the benefits of Recycled PET here.

Taiwan 2003
In October 2001, Taiwan introduced a ban on distribution of free single-use plastic bags by government agencies, schools and the military. The ban has been expanded to include supermarkets, fast food outlets and department stores, and will eventually apply to street vendors and food dealers. Disposable cutlery and dishes are also prohibited. The head of Taiwans EPA felt so strongly about the issue that he made an ultimatum that he would quit if the ban wasnt implemented. Even though the plastic bag industry lobbied hard, it was drowned out by the majority and the ban was implemented.

Taiwan 2007
In 2006 Taiwans EPA lifted the ban and now free plastic bags can be offered by food service operators. The EPA was concerned that plastic bags reused for food could create health problems. Even though it was short-lived, its effect lingers simply because consumers became more aware of the plastic bag menace. In a survey conducted by the administration, 77% of respondents claimed to have cut back on the use of plastic bags since the ban, and 45% of respondents had continued not to consume plastic bags after the ban was lifted. "This is indeed an improvement," a statement issued by the EPA said, "given that only 18 percent reported carrying their own plastic bags before the policy was officially implemented five years ago." More on this here.

United Kingdom 2003
Inspired by Ireland, the United Kingdom is considering a PlasTax. The current Minister of the Environment, Michael Meacher, is in favor of it. But the British Plastics Federation, the "Carrier Bag Consortium," and other plastics industry groups are strongly opposing such a tax.

United Kingdom 2005
While the government has yet to adopt a plastic bag tax , it fully supports reusable carrier bags and some retailers have taken up the cause. "Bag for life" and "penny back" schemes have been introduced by some of the large supermarket chains, encouraging consumers to consider the benefits of reusable bags as an alternative to plastic bags.

United Kingdom 2007
As of 2007 it is estimated that the average UK consumer uses 167 plastic bags per year, and only 1 bag in 200 is recycled. The government shows no signs of introducing a ban or a tax. It prefers encouraging retailers to commit to recycling. The recent popularity of UK-based fashion designer Anya Hindmarchs "Im Not A Plastic Bag" tote has raised popular interest in the anti-plastic bag campaign, but many environmentalists arent convinced that making environmentalism trendy will influence usage in the long-term. Rebecca Hosking, a Devon-based activist, has succeeded in freeing her small town of plastic bags. She urges individual and grassroots efforts in the fight against plastic bags. "My best advice to anyone who wants their town to be free of plastic bags is that they are going to have to fight the fight themselves."

United States 2003
While this is a relatively new area of concern in the United States it is ripe to take-off. The federal system in the US means that cities, states, and local townships can initiate their own actions aimed at significantly curbing single-use plastic bags.

United States 2006
As many of you already know, San Francisco is thinking about imposing a 17 cent surcharge on plastic and paper grocery bags. They would be the first US city to do so, if the proposal gets the go-ahead. One study has shown that stores are handing San Franciscans around 50 million bags year!

United States 2007
San Francisco is banning plastic bags! Visit our Newsroom for more information. The city hopes its legislation will be a model for other US cities. New Haven, CT is also considering an ordinance that would ban plastic bags, while Marin County, CA has launched an educational campaign and encourages businesses to promote reusable bags. For more information on these efforts visit our Newsroom: New Haven story and Marin County story.
Large retailers, such as IKEA, are also forging the way for plastic bag-free shopping experiences simply by not offering free bags. In March U.S. stores started charging 5 cents per plastic bag, and the proceeds from the bag campaign will go to a conservation organization. In addition, they lowered the cost of their strong and roomy "Big Blue Bag" to encourage reuse – one sturdy, roomy bag can replace hundreds of single-use bags.
If we let our voices be heard, we will soon see cities and states around the US start to implement smart measures such as Irelands PlasTax.
Visit our Take Action section to see what you can do to change the status quo.

Recycled PET - A Sustainable Path for Plastic
Approximately 31% of plastic bottles produced in the United States are made from a material called PolyEthylene Terephtalate, "PET" or "PETE." Usually clear or green, the plastic is mostly used for consumer goods such as soda bottles and food jars. According to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), in 2005 United States manufacturers produced 5.075 billion pounds of PET products. Such a high production rate makes finding uses for post-consumer plastics imperative. If the current rate of manufacturing and consumer recycling remains, 40 billion pounds of PET waste will be added to our landfills within only a decade. While recycling is not the end-all, be-all solution for ridding the world of the plastic bag beast, its a sustainable path for plastic products. 

In the late 1970s, only a few years after PET entered the United States marketplace, forward-thinking companies found the means to transform recycled PET into many useful products - the most common being packaging (such as new bottles) and fiber (carpet and other textile) applications. Other companies followed suit, and by the late 1990s were finding uses for over 1/2 billion pounds of recycled PET per year. Products made of Recycled PET include blankets, belts, shoes, insulation, and even car parts
In 1987 the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) labeled PET with resin code "#1" and created the easily recognizable "chasing arrows" symbol so that consumers would know that products made from this material were recyclable. 

Recycled PET Lifecycle
PET is recycled after consumption. After consumer recyclables have been collected and sorted by type at recycling centers, PET products are crushed, pressed into bales, shredded, and refined into PET flakes. These flakes are transformed into the raw materials that innovative companies transform into new products.  The difference between virgin PET and Recycled PET is indistinguishable. A study by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) determined that consumers could not tell the difference between products made of recycled material, and the environmental benefits of Recycled PET are phenomenal. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2/3 less energy is required to manufacture products made out of recyclable plastic. Other studies show that the production of recycled plastic requires 2/3 less of sulphur dioxide, 50% less of nitrous oxide, and almost 90% less water usage. More here

Whats Next
  Most Recycled PET has been used for non-food and non-beverage related products, but some companies are pushing for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to more readily approve the use of post-consumer PET for food packaging.  WRAP has received support from prominent companies such as Coca-Cola, Marks & Spencer, and Boots (a UK cosmetics company), to research more uses for Recycled PET. The study met with positive results, with the material meeting safety standards for use in beverage and cosmetic packaging. These companies have promised to incorporate Recycled PET into future manufacturing. Consumers are impressed - according to Marks & Spencer, 85% of its surveyed customers claimed that the companys initiatives made them happier to shop at the store.  Even if other manufacturers arent socially and environmentally motivated to reduce their own impact on the environment, consumer sentiment may sway them in the right direction. As demand increases, and as new applications for Recycled PET are discovered, the marketplace will foster more incentives for consumers to recycle PET. As of 2005, 23.1% of the 5.075 billion tons of PET produced in the U.S. were collected for recycling. This percentage will likely grow as consumers become more educated and more countries adopt legislation to use the SPIs easily recognizable "chasing arrows" symbol for PET bottles so that consumers find it easier to know how to recycle them.  Some U.S. states have already implemented financial incentives for consumers to bring in plastic bottles for recycling, and others have encouraged "curbside" collection to make recycling easier for the average citizen. In addition, progressive consumers and companies will encourage efforts for the plastics industry to design products in ways that make them more efficient and cheaper to recycle. The European Union has been more aggressive in PET recycling legislation. In 2001, all EU countries were required to meet a 15% plastic packaging recycling target, and in 2008 it will increase to 22.5%. 

Next Generation PET & More
Part of our ongoing mission is to incorporate truly sustainable fabrics into our innovative line of reusable shopping bags. From Next Generation PET to Recycled Cotton, stay tuned for exciting new products made from the most eco-friendly fabrics on the market. 

Click here to see our growing line of products made from recycled content, including recycled PET.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about renewable energy! Knowledge Is Power If there is something else youd like to know write to us at and well do our best to address it for you!
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