THE GREEN PLANET BLOG - Our World and Environment...

All about conservation, ecology, the environment, climate change, global warming, earth- watch, and new technologies etc.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Research team granted $122 million to develop liquid fuel from sunlight...

Seal of the United States Department of Energy.Image via Wikipedia

Research team awarded $122 million to develop liquid fuel from sunlight...

The Department of Energy has awarded a $122 million grant to a team of researchers based out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to develop an efficient process for creating liquid fuel from sunlight. The process would essentially create artificial photosynthesis, but instead of converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar like plants do, researchers will create oxygen and hydrocarbons-the essential component of fuel used in combustion engines.

The potential applications of sunlight-to-fuel technology include carbon capture techniques that could allow factories and power plants to convert their carbon emissions into combustible fuel and oxygen on-site. Of course, implementation of any such method is anything but certain and years-if not decades-down the road.

Artificial photosynthesis is not a new idea, though issues of cost, scaling and efficiency have plagued the technology and prevented any serious attempts to move it out of the laboratory. The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis hopes to tackle these problems by using cobalt oxide nanocrystals as a catalyst in the photooxidation process. The nanocrystals are smaller and faster than other materials that have been used in artificial photosynthesis research, allowing for a much more efficient absorption of photons. Cobalt oxide is also cheap and abundant, whereas some of the other catalysts that have been experimented on are among the rarest and most expensive metals on earth.

Another challenge the team hopes to overcome is eliminating the intermediary processes that drive up costs and prevent viability. The JCAP will attempt to directly create a liquid fuel that doesn't need to be refined any further. In the past, researchers have been able to use solar energy to produce methane and other other gases that would then need to be liquified and refined in order to be used as fuel. Those processes greatly multiply the cost of production.

The JCAP will be led by researchers from Cal Tech, and is one of three Energy Innovation Hubs that DOE secretary Steven Chu will create for advanced energy research. A nuclear research hub was announced in May, and the department plans to announce one more in the coming months

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Russians criticised for its coming olympic construction program...

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...Image via WikipediaRussians criticised for coming Olympic construction program...

Environmental activists say that construction has irreversibly damaged the ecosystems.

Relations between environmental organisations and the authorities responsible for the massive Olympics building programme have deteriorated sharply in recent months.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently withdrew all co-operation.

It is warning that irreversible damage has already been done to the environment, including the pollution of important rivers and the felling of rare species of trees.

Now the United Nations Environment Programme has added its voice.

The U.N. group recommended a broader review of the impact of other projects. The government said it was aware of the concerns and that the activists were trying to sabotage the Games as a public relations stunt.   WATCH IT NOW!
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

A new use for scotch whisky - one for the road and biofuel...

Scottish scientists develop whisky biofuelBy-products from distilling process could be used to power cars and even aviation, according to researchers in Edinburgh

(1138)Tweet this (566)Comments (27) Kirsty Scott, Tuesday 17 August 2010 17.01 BST Article history

Whisky is being used to develop a biofuel which gives 30% more power output than ethanol and could be available at petrol pumps within a few years

It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "one for the road". Whisky, the spirit that powers the Scottish economy, is being used to develop a new biofuel which could be available at petrol pumps in a few years.

Using samples from the Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian, researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have developed a method of producing biofuel from two main by-products of the whisky distilling process – "pot ale", the liquid from the copper stills, and "draff", the spent grains.

Copious quantities of both waste products are produced by the £4bn whisky industry each year, and the scientists say there is real potential for the biofuel, to be available at local garage forecourts alongside traditional fuels. It can be used in conventional cars without adapting their engines. The team also said it could be used to fuel planes and as the basis for chemicals such as acetone, an important solvent.

More here:

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Ethical and green living - going green could make you mean...

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...Image via Wikipedia
Ethical and green living - going green could make you green...

How going green may make you mean  - Ethical consumers less likely to be kind and more likely to steal, study finds

• You ask, they answer: Ethical Consumer magazine

A consumer of 'ethical' products such as organic food might be more inclined to cheat and steal, the study found. Photograph: David Sillitoe/Guardian

When Al Gore was caught running up huge energy bills at home at the same time as lecturing on the need to save electricity, it turns out that he was only reverting to "green" type.

According to a study, when people feel they have been morally virtuous by saving the planet through their purchases of organic baby food, for example, it leads to the "licensing [of] selfish and morally questionable behaviour", otherwise known as "moral balancing" or "compensatory ethics".

Do Green Products Make Us Better People is published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science. Its authors, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, argue that people who wear what they call the "halo of green consumerism" are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. "Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours," they write. [See footnote

And more...
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Environmental Issues Newsletter...

 Environmental Issues Newsletter!   Watch Video here

Oil spills always harm wildlife, ecosystems and fragile coastal environments

Acknowledgements:  Larry West, Guide

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Oil spills often result in both immediate and long-term environmental damage. Some of the environmental damage caused by an oil spill can last for decades after the spill occurs.

Here are some of the most notable environmental damages typically caused by oil spills:

Oil Spills Damage Beaches, Marshlands and Fragile Marine Ecosystems

Oil spilled by damaged tankers, pipelines or offshore oil rigs coats everything it touches and becomes an unwelcome but long-term part of every ecosystem it enters.

When an oil slick from a large oil spill reaches the beach, the oil coats and clings to every rock and grain of sand. If the oil washes into coastal marshes, mangrove forests or other wetlands, fibrous plants and grasses absorb the oil, which can damage the plants and make the whole area unsuitable as wildlife habitat.

When some of the oil eventually stops floating on the surface of the water and begins to sink into the marine environment, it can have the same kind of damaging effects on fragile underwater ecosystems, killing or contaminating many fish and smaller organisms that are essential links in the global food chain.

Despite massive clean-up efforts following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, for example, a 2007 study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that 26, 000 gallons of oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill was still trapped in the sand along the Alaska shoreline.

Scientists involved in the study determined that this residual oil was declining at a rate of less than 4 percent annually.

Oil Spills Kill Birds

Oil-covered birds are practically a universal symbol of the environmental damage wreaked by oil spills. Any oil spill in the ocean is a death sentence for sea birds. Some species of shore birds may escape by relocating if they sense the danger in time, but sea birds that swim and dive for their food are sure to be covered in oil. Oil spills also damage nesting grounds, which can have serious long-term effects on entire species. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, occurred during prime mating and nesting season for many bird and marine species, and the long-term environmental consequences of that spill won't be known for many years. Oil spills can even disrupt migratory patterns by contaminating areas where migrating birds normally stop.

Even a small amount of oil can be deadly to a bird. By coating the feathers, oil not only makes it impossible for birds to fly but also destroys their natural waterproofing and insulation, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia or overheating. As the birds frantically try to preen their feathers to restore their natural protections they often swallow some of the oil, which can severely damage their internal organs and lead to death. The Exxon Valdez oil spill killed somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 seabirds, plus a number of shore birds and bald eagles.

Oil Spills Kill Marine Mammals

Oil spills frequently kill marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea otters. The deadly damage can take several forms. The oil sometimes clogs the blow holes of whales and dolphins, making it impossible for the animals to breathe properly and disrupting their ability to communicate. Oil coats the fur of otters and seals, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia.

Even when marine mammals escape the immediate effects, an oil spill can cause damage by contaminating their food supply. Marine mammals that eat fish or other food that has been exposed to an oil spill may be poisoned by the oil and die or can experience other problems.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill killed thousands of sea otters, hundreds of harbor seals, roughly two dozen killer whales and a dozen or more river otters. Even more troubling in some ways, in the years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill scientists noted higher death rates among sea otters and some other species affected by the oil spill, and stunted growth or other damage among other species.

Oil Spills Kill Fish

Oil spills often take a deadly toll on fish, shellfish and other marine life, particularly if large numbers of fish eggs or larvae are exposed to the oil. The shrimp and oyster fisheries along the Louisiana coast were among the first casualties of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill. Similarly, the Exxon Valdez oil spill destroyed billions of salmon and herring eggs. Those fisheries still have not recovered.

Oil Spills Destroy Wildlife Habitat and Breeding Grounds

The long-term damage to various species, and to the habitat and nesting or breeding grounds those species depend upon for their survival, is one of the most far-reaching environmental effects caused by oil spills. Even many species that spend most of their lives at sea—such as various species of sea turtles—must come ashore to nest. Sea turtles can be harmed by oil they encounter in the water or on the beach where they lay their eggs, the eggs can be damaged by the oil and fail to develop properly, and newly hatched young turtles may be oiled as they scurry toward the ocean across an oily beach.

Ultimately, the severity of environmental damages caused by a particular oil spill depends on many factors, including the amount of the oil spilled, the type and weight of the oil, the location of the spill, the species of wildlife in the area, the timing or breeding cycles and seasonal migrations, and even the weather at sea during and immediately after the oil spill. But one thing never varies: oil spills are always bad news for the environment.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

The WTO finds in favour of NZ in its 89 year apple dispute with Australia...

apple, pears and Mr RuddImage by Leonard John Matthews via Flickr
New Zealand has finally won a historic victory over Australia - and its not on a sports field either. The WTO -  the World Trade organisation,  has come out in favour of NZ in the 89 year old apple  dispute. An overnight decision by the WTO was heavily in New Zealand's favour. the NZ Trade Minister,Tim Groser said to the media.

Australia could, and may use the dispute for political reasons during the last couple of weeks of their election campaign, and appeal against the WTO decision. They could battle it out in marginal Queensland seats, where the apple lobby is the strongest.

The WTO ruling found in favour of NZ on all 16 measures it raised before the international trade disputes body.

While it opened the door for a potential $30 million market for NZ apples, it was by no means the biggest market for NZ - representing only 5% of its market. Actually the dispute was of more significance internationally for NZ - a loss at the WTO could have seen other export market doors closed as well.. But that wasn't the case and any Australian appeal won't have too much  future effect.

The whole opposition to NZ exports into Australia was built on rather rather dubious premise that NZ apples would be the carriers of two diseases not found in Australia - fireblight and European canker - and a pest, the leaf curling midge.

Despite the fact that these diseases are not present in NZ either, the WTO panel found that apples washed, polished,wrapped and packed could not be carriers.

It has been obvious that Australian opposition over the years was based on economics - they just didn't want to compete wih NZ exports. New Zealand would actually be able to provide a couple of types of apples - Kiwi Breaburn and Pacific  Rose for instance. NZ has never been in favour of a price war with Australian growers, but just wanted to work with them to develop and expand  the market.

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