Sunday, 28 August 2011

Snippets from the Interwebs 8

Windpower marches on

Coal, if you discount the negative externalities it produces, generates the cheapest power around. Natural gas is probably second (and a helluva lot cleaner, pollution-wise and greenhouse gas-wise).

The Brazilian authorities have this week (August 24th) confirmed that wind power in the country currently costs less than natural gas, after a series of energy auctions saw wind farm operators undercut other forms of energy generation.

By the end of last year, wind power in the U.S. was cost-competitive with natural gas, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported in January.


Ocean Acidification, global warming’s probably more evil twin, may be one of the root causes of the devastation of oyster farms in the Pacific NorthWest


The seas off Canada’s Newfoundland coast have been one of the world’s richest fisheries for nearly 500 years. Click here for a CBC archive about the rise and fall of the Atlantic cod fishery. In the 1950s modern trawlers arrived in the area and by 1992 the fishery was closed for lack of fish. Cod stocks in the area remained at less than 5% of their former levels for decades in spite of the closure.  Since then the Grand Banks have been a case study for fisheries mismanagement and total ecosystem collapse brought on by over-fishing, a problem that is a severe threat to fish-stocks in the rest of the world.

This new study therefore brings some hope to the area. Canadian researchers from Queen’s University have found that cod are now at 34% of their pre-collapse peak, and biomass of all predatory fish is at more than 50% of pre-collapse levels. The collapse of cod has led to subsequent increase of haddock and pollock as well as herring which is what the cod used to eat. This imbalance of the food chain will take a longer time to recover.


For 1 in 6 people, access to water requires hard work: hours of walking, waiting in line and heavy lifting.

The time spent fulfilling this basic need keeps many children out of school and prevents women from carrying out all the domestic and income generating work for which they are responsible. In much of the developing world, it is often necessary to walk five miles (8km) or more every day to fetch water. In the dry season, it is not uncommon to walk twice this distance. Collecting water can be dangerous too. The traditional method of carrying water – carrying a 5 gallon (20 litre) water bucket on the head – can severely damage the spine, causing severe pain. Step forward the Wello – click this link for their website - a cheap plastic roller tank that takes a lot of the effort out of fetching water



Taken from Greenpeace’s website:

The world's #1 sportswear brand, Nike, has accepted our Detox challenge: today (August 17th - NP) it has officially committed to eliminating all hazardous chemicals across its entire supply chain, and the entire life-cycle of its products by 2020. This is a major win for our campaign to protect the planet’s precious water, and create a toxic-free future.

Nike's announcement comes just five weeks into our Detox campaign, which began when we launched the "Dirty Laundry" report, revealing commercial links between major clothing brands - including Nike, Puma and Adidas - and suppliers responsible for releasing hazardous chemicals into Chinese rivers.

Puma was first to break away from the pack, opening up an impressive lead by announcing that it would go toxic-free. Puma's commitment to remove all hazardous chemicals from its entire product-portfolio must have left their competition wondering how they were going to raise their game. Now, Nike and Puma are the front-runners, and Adidas is far behind.


Here’s an interesting piece of research from “Environmental Health Perspectives” headlined:

“Lower Prevalence of Antibiotic-resistant Enterococci On U.S. Conventional Poultry Farms That Transitioned to Organic Practices”

It basically says that farms that transition to organic methods of rearing poultry quickly find a much lower prevalence of antibiotic resistant enterococcus (nasty) bacteria in their flocks. Not so much from the well known organic practises but more from the removal of the routine use of antibiotics that are in conventional food stuff, put there to “promote” growth etc. In cattle production, the routine use of antibiotics, described as ionophores because of their growth enhancing characteristics, rather than their bug killing abilities, can cause confusion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a letter to Tyson Foods in 2007 to remove labels from chickens that said "raised without antibiotics" because of the use of ionophores in their feed.

The conclusion of the paper?:

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the voluntary removal of antibiotics from large-scale U.S. poultry farms that transition to organic practices is associated with a lower prevalence of antibiotic-resistant and MDR Enterococcus.”

(NP) MDR= multi drug resistant


Plastic2oil recently announced that they would be “mining” the waste plastic landfill sites of  a large paper processor using their own technology that converts waste plastic (usually mixed polymers that have limited reusability) into a diesel oil substitute.


Renewable energy continues to make large strides, which is a conclusion you probably won’t have reached if you follow the mainstream media. Renewables 2011 goes into detail about the fast progress that has been made. Click for full report – Renewables 2011

“Renewable resources wound up supplying 16% of global final energy consumption and showed strong growth in all three sectors tracked – power, heat and transport. When it comes to electricity, renewable resources supplied an estimated 20% of global annual demand. Renewable power accounted for approximately 50% of new electric capacity globally and delivered nearly 20% of the global electricity supply. By early 2011, fully 25% of global power capacity from all sources came from renewables”

Renewables accounted for about 26% of China’s total installed electric capacity, 18% of generation, and more than 9% of final energy consumption in 2010.”

“Germany met 11% of its total final energy consumption with renewable sources, which accounted for 16.8% of electricity consumption, 9.8% of heat production (mostly from biomass), and 5.8% of transport fuel consumption. Wind power accounted for nearly 36% of renewable generation, followed by biomass, hydropower, and solar photovoltaics ”


source of quotes:


This article explains how India could utilise portions of the “desert” state of Rajasthan for large concentrated solar power plants that could supply much of the energy they need in just a few years. CSP is where the sun is concentrated by mirrors onto a central point to generate steam.



According to Shelton Group (a PR investor relations company), “a tipping point in American consumer interest in green products has occurred with 70% of consumers in our surveys saying they are searching for green products where green is defined as more energy efficient, natural, sustainable, etc.” Specifically, a few of Shelton Group’s market research findings in support of this green tipping point are:

Recycling: Growing in popularity with 64% of Americans saying they regularly recycle aluminum cans, plastic bottles  and newspapers

Energy Efficient Lighting: 55% said they’ve replaced most of their incandescent light bulbs with compact  fluorescent or LED bulbs

Energy Efficient Appliances:54% said they’ve purchased an Energy Star qualified appliance


Biofuels deservedly have a dodgy reputation due to the Americans’ efforts at turning corn (maize) into ethanol which led to a jacking up of world food prices and wasn’t even of  any real benefit because the process took more or less the same amount of energy to create the biofuel as was available when using it. See EROEI… (or even the Elmer Fudd version of the article - someone obviously has too much time on their hands…).

Corn-into-ethanol is not the end of the biofuel story because the principle is still sound even though the previous practice was dumb.

Taken from The Green Economy Post:

12 Synthetic Biology Biofuel & Biochemical Companies to Watch

A detailed review of 12 U.S. based synthetic biology, biofuel & biochemical companies that are developing third and fourth generation biofuels, bioindustrial & household chemical, and food additive products


Spin merchants continue to ply their morality free trade.

click for original article

“Over the last six months, some of the largest virgin fine-paper manufacturers in North America have launched major marketing initiatives holding themselves up as environmental leaders.  They support these claims by postulating that virgin paper manufacturing generates the same or less greenhouse gas emissions than recycled fine paper”

The Paper Task Force Final Report differs:

making fine paper from waste paper is a more efficient process than making paper from trees, it uses less energy, less water, creating less effluent, and generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions.  These facts are supported by the most comprehensive, independent, scientific lifecycle analysis of the impacts of paper manufacturing”


Taken from

Bank of America announced an agreement in June, with ProLogis, and NRG Energy and the US DOE’s Loan Program Office, to finance the deployment of up to $2.6 billion of commercial and industrial rooftop solar installations, all across the USA.

This will be the largest distributed solar deal in history, which will create the equivalent of over 10,000 job-years, while providing 733MW of distributed solar energy, which is enough to power 100,000 homes across 28 states.


Taken from

In York, the Nestlé plant, that churns out over a billion Kit Kats and 183 million Aero bars annually has achieved a zero waste milestone four years early.  For a company and brand that received sharp criticism last year for procuring controversial sources of  palm oil last year, Nestlé and Kit Kat’s waste diversion efforts are more steps in the right direction.


Conventional agricultural practices have a large impact on greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, also soil erosion etc.

Organic produce and pasture based meat and dairy have less of an environmental impact than their conventionally produced counterparts, a recently released report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found. Titled A Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health, the report includes lifecycle assessments of 20 popular types of meat, dairy and vegetable proteins.

A couple of quotes:

Meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed are generally the least environmentally damaging (although a few studies of the impact on climate show mixed results for grass-fed versus confined-feedlot meat,” according to the report. “Overall, these products are the least harmful, most ethical choices.”

“Well-managed grazing and grass-fed operations are better for the environment…Organic feed production and grazing practices are also better for the environment.”


A lot of recycling is of the type that collects a raw material and recycles it into something else. This is described as “repurposing”. The type of recycling whereby a plastic bottle is used to make another plastic bottle is somewhat rarer.

Pepsico have announced the 7up recycled PET bottle click here for press release

ecogreen bottle


A ubiquitous component of the global supply chain is the pallet. Annually, 500 million new pallets are manufactured. They become part of the roughly 2 billion pallets that are in circulation in the U.S. at any given time. 93% of all goods move on a pallet.

Observation from one of my day jobs means I can vouch for the fact that the waste involved in the use of pallets is large.

Step forward the Ecoaluminum pallet made from recycled aluminium. It’s lighter than wood, doesn’t absorb chemicals mould etc



Sarah said...

Brilliant post! Would love to repost it on my blog with due credit to you. Thanks - Sarah

Nick Palmer said...

Sure, go ahead. The purpose of the series of "snippets" posts is to boil down what is a very wide and rambling area of knowledge into a "digest" form.

Of course, any validity it has is dependent upon my judgement of what I find interesting or relevant to "sustainability" being worthwhile.

Thanks for the feedback!