Archive for the ‘Express 104’ Category

Addicted to change or business as usual?

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Addicted to change or business as usual?

There’s a business focus this week along with giving added attention to some startling innovations from home and abroad. Always interested in seeing what good uses carbon can be put to, we find it could have a role, in the form of graphene, to make solar cells cheaper and more effective. Then there’s big battery research for the electricity grid and electrifying plants that matter. Could there really be a clean and environmentally friendly nuclear fusion power over the horizon? And what’s the role of black carbon – or soot – in dirtying up the atmosphere and contributing to climate change? CleanTech business comes into its own and is growing in importance globally, but what is holding it back in Australia? Glacier melting is not something we can ignore any longer. Bad news from Peru and the US. Business has definitely decided not to wait for Government to act (or not) and is going it alone – and collectively – to deal with climate change, emissions and clean energy. Dr Tony Haymet, in profile, is a setting a fine example by bringing business and research institutions closer together, while the University of Queensland gives global change and the environment a strong focus for its centenary. Time Magazine gives European energy innovations the space they deserve, while Greenpeace gets stuck into Koch Industries for secretly funding the climate denial machine. Lucky Last we have some wise words on the fossil fuel addicts. Who’s hooked?  Ken Hickson

Profile: Dr Tony Haymet

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Profile: Dr Tony Haymet

Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and best known for robotic exploration on the surface of Mars, Australian-born and educated Dr Tony Haymet told his Brisbane audience this week of his work on climate change and ocean acidification, as well as highlighted the opportunities for Queensland and Australian laboratories to expand their research collaboration in these areas. He is also a key champion for the clean-tech industry and is co-founder of CleanTECH San Diego.

As this issue of Express goes to press (Wednesday 14 April), Tony Haymet is due to speak at the University of Queensland, in a lecture given in association with The Global Change Institute.

In his address, Dr Tony Haymet, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is expected to introduce and describe all kinds of robots, in air as well as sea.

He will draw an analogy with the robotic exploration of the surface of mars and other planets. Throughout his presentation Dr Haymet will reference some of his Institute’s work on climate change and ocean acidification.

He will also highlight the opportunities for Queensland and Australian laboratories to expand their research collaboration in these areas and will present a picture of some exciting career opportunities for students considering research or practical careers in this relatively unexplored world.

Tony Haymet has been Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, and Dean of the Graduate School of Marine Sciences at University of California, San Diego, since September 2006. He is co-founder of CleanTECH San Diego, a business organization devoted to the solution of the climate change problem, and currently serves as Vice-Chair.

He is elected to the board of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL), Partnership for the Observation of the Global Ocean POGO, and appointed to many boards and advisory committees, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology. Dr. Haymet is a highly distinguished researcher who has published more than 165 peer-reviewed articles and numerous Op-Ed pieces in leading newspapers around the world.

He was formerly Chief of Marine and Atmospheric Science and then the Science and Policy Director at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia. Dr. Haymet is a tenured Professor of Oceanography at Scripps, and of Chemistry & Biochemistry at UCSD. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and a Doctor and Bachelor of Science (Honours) from the University of Sydney.

To gain further insight into the interests and views of Tony Haymet, we searched through relevant material on the Scripps website. Here’s what we came up with:

Quote from Tony Haymet on desalination and water conservation:

When someone in the audience asked about current prospects for desalination technology, Australian-born Tony Haymet, who is director of Scripps Oceanography, stepped to the microphone to explain that desalination remains very expensive. Haymet said desalination is more than four times the cost of conventional water treatment. In Australia, where much of the population lives in a coastal climate similar to San Diego, Haymet said a prolonged dry spell led to a concerted effort to reduce excessive water use. The results are dramatic. Haymet said urban Australia has reduced its daily water consumption by 77 percent, from 130 gallons per person to 30 gallons per person. In contrast, the Scripps director says average daily water use in California today exceeds 300 gallons per person. So there’s room for improvement. Haymet noted, however, that Australia calculates its urban water use separately from agricultural use, but California includes both agricultural and urban water use in calculating 300 gallons per capita. So it would be useful to distinguish how much water goes to California’s cities and how much goes to the “Cadillac Desert.”

Quote from the San Diego Business Journal:
In just a little more than two years a local business organization called CleanTECH San Diego has, and is working to mirror the region’s high-tech and science success. CleanTECH San Diego has not only delivered, but has attached itself to some key players from industry, government, and academia, such as Tony Haymet, vice chairman of the organization and director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

Tony Haymet, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography:California’s continued leadership in business-oriented solutions to global warming, and the international perception of our leadership, will be great for our San Diego clean-tech businesses.

Here’s a report on Tony Haymet’s participation at the World Economic Forum:

Scripps Director Provides Key Scientific Perspective at Davos World Economic Forum

Fisheries, ocean acidification, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch among issues presented by Tony Haymet at global gathering

Scripps Institution of Oceanography/ University of California, San Diego

With the world’s fragile economies beginning to recover from the global economic crisis, all eyes were fixed on the Swiss city of Davos in late January for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.  

The five-day meeting gathered more than 2,500 of the world’s experts in banking and finance, as well as global political leaders and a select number of scientists and educators.  

Among them was Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, who provided scientific insights in areas where Scripps’ cutting-edge research contributes knowledge to topics around the planet.  

“The World Economic Forum at Davos is a focal point for the greatest minds in business and government, and I was pleased to have been invited to share information about Scripps’ scientific contributions that are imperative for understanding many global issues,” said Haymet. “I’m also very grateful to a great donor family friend of Scripps, who wishes to remain anonymous, for funding my participation at the meeting.”

Formal sessions in which Haymet discussed recent Scripps research:

The state of the world’s fisheries. Based on the work of Scripps scientists Tony Koslow, David Checkley, George Sugihara, and NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center researchers, Haymet offered important perspectives about Scripps research on the health of the world’s fisheries, which supply a significant percentage of the planet’s human food supply.

He also relayed information about overfishing and fish species that have been overexploited and a few others that are rebounding. In addition to Haymet, the panel at this session included Abdoulaye Wade, the president of Senegal; Brian Baird, U.S. Congressman from the State of Washington’s 3rd District; Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization; Lucy Neville-Rolfe, executive director, corporate and legal affairs, of the UK supermarket chain Tesco; and Philippe Sands, a Queen’s Counsel and distinguished professor of law from University College London.

Ocean acidification. As society loads carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the oceans are taking up a certain portion of it. Building on the research of Scripps scientists Andrew Dickson, Victoria Fabry, Uwe Send, Jennifer Smith, Stuart Sandin, and others, Haymet described how the extra carbon absorbed by oceans at their surface converts to an acid form. The change in chemistry robs organisms such as corals and sea creatures that form shells of calcium carbonate, one of the main ingredients they need to develop. This could inhibit the proper growth of marine invertebrates and disrupt the ecosystems in which they reside.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. During a key multimedia “studio” session at the World Economic Forum, Haymet described and illustrated Scripps students’ recent voyage to the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, a location where plastic and other human-produced debris is accumulating. The findings from the expedition, led by student Miriam Goldstein, will help inform communities and world leaders about the scope and impacts of the problem, as well as policy responses.

Global viruses. In addition to their role in global pandemics, viruses also play fundamental parts in the functioning of the ocean environment. Haymet described research by Scripps marine microbiologist Farooq Azam and others that has revealed how marine microbes—at the micrometer scale—help structure the ocean’s ecosystems and response to global change.

Geoengineering. Haymet discussed prospects for a variety of mitigation strategies that involve manipulating the environment. Numerous Scripps scientists and Haymet have warned about the unknown consequences of such ideas, which range from seeding the oceans with iron to inducing greater carbon dioxide uptake to sequestering carbon in seafloor chambers.

Equally valuable were informal meetings with members of Congress, international leaders, and conservationists, especially on the fallout from the recent climate meetings in Copenhagen.  Haymet also renewed Scripps’ friendship with director James Cameron, a member of the Scripps Advisory Council, who packed the local Davos theatre near midnight for advertised 3-D clips of his smash hit movie “Avatar,” followed by much longer—and more interesting—new 3-D undersea footage from his expeditions.  

Haymet also spent a day with the German Wissenschaftsrat (Council of Science and Humanities) chaired by Hilbert von Löhneysen  who invited large vessel operators to discuss the future of the German, European, and global blue water fleets, and the need for large multipurpose vessels, some ice capable. 


Is Australia Missing CleanTech Revolution?

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Is Australia Missing CleanTech Revolution?

Australian CleanTech Index performed so poorly over the second half of 2009 when global clean-tech indices were outperforming the general market. With only a few large clean-tech companies and without this depth to the sector, it is difficult for momentum to be built at a policy or investment level. Meanwhile the “Climate Champions” program, designed to improve communication between farmers and the research community to deal with increased climatic variability, is underway in Australia.

Australia missing out on clean-tech revolution

GREENCHIP: Giles Parkinson in The Australian (12 April 2010):

ONE swallow does not make a summer unless, perhaps, you are in the Australian clean-tech sector. For the first time in longer than most will care to remember, the Australian CleanTech Index managed to outperform its mainstream rivals in March, posting a 7.3 per cent gain, compared with a 7 per cent rise for the S&P/ASX200.

But this heroic effort could not disguise the sector’s chronic underperformance against the broad index over the course of this fiscal year (down 9.5 per cent compared with a 25.6 per cent gain) and the year before.

Part of the problem, says John O’Brien, managing director of Australian CleanTech, is that the index is dominated by just a few companies. The lack of depth is a weakness, not just for the index, but for the local industry.

Unless the company is in water, waste or wind, it is probably not generating serious revenue. There are many reasons, including the poor performance of the listed sector, to fear that the clean-tech revolution is passing Australia by.

Arkx, a fund that specialises in international clean-tech stocks, has recorded an 8.03 per cent gain for March, taking its 12-month cumulative gains to 81.3 per cent, with the NEX, an international benchmark, rising 37 per cent over the same period.

The strength in the international clean-tech sector markets simply reflects global trends in clean tech and clean energy, and Arkx has many seriously big companies to invest in.

US-based Pew Charitable Trusts last month predicted that global clean energy investment was expected to jump 25 per cent this year to $US200 billion ($214bn), led by China, Britain, Germany and Spain, and said that last year the amount of installed renewable energy capacity reached 250GW, enough to power 6 per cent of the globe’s households.

Other data highlights the gap between what is happening here and overseas. The Australian Venture Capital Association estimates just $25 million was invested in Australia in clean-tech venture companies last year. Data released this month by Deloitte and the US-based Cleantech Group showed a record $US1.9bn in technology venture investments in North America, Europe, China and India in the March quarter alone, a rise of 29 per cent from the previous quarter and 83 per cent from the same period a year ago.

The most attractive sectors are “smart mobility” (electric cars and grids) and resource efficiency. Also notable was the sharp increase in new investment from utilities and corporations. The established industrial giants are starting to make that transition.

The Australian Cleantech Review, launched last week, highlighted the low level of investment in the Australian clean-tech sector, which is still regarded as a niche or speculative investment opportunity, in comparison to the enormous growth driven by regulatory measures in Europe, a voracious appetite from the US venture capital industry, and massive green stimulus packages in China and Korea.

“Australia appears to be lagging on all of these fronts,” the report says. “The government stimulus is fragmented and small, the regulatory measures are providing some assistance and the venture capital industry is under-funded. This might explain why the Australian CleanTech Index performed so poorly over the second half of 2009 when global clean-tech indices were outperforming the general market. There are only a few large clean-tech companies in Australia and without this depth to the sector, it is difficult for momentum to be built at a policy or investment level.”


Choosing our climate champions

Matthew Cawood in Stock and Land (10 April 2010):

HUMAN-induced climate change or not, climate variability is a reality of Australian agriculture and one of the biggest risk factors for agricultural businesses.

The “Climate Champions” program, which kicked off last week, is designed to improve communication between farmers and the research community about the knowledge needed to deal with increased climatic variability.

Thirty farmers from around Australia have been selected as the program’s “champions”, and will act as the interface between the research and farming communities.

Chair of the Managing Climate Variability program, Ian McClelland, says the strategy reflects the fact that most farmers gain new knowledge and adopt new practices through interaction with their peers.

“The knowledge and lessons learnt from experimenting with various climate adaptation practices is trusted much more when it comes from another farmer,” Mr McClelland said.

“We expect that Climate Champions will help raise awareness and discussion within farming communities about new innovations for managing variable climatic conditions such as frost, extreme heat and low rainfall.”

The program is supported by the Managing Climate Variability program, the Grains Research & Development Corporation, and Meat and Livestock Australia.

Yass Valley superfine woolgrower John Ive, pictured, who has developed his own soil moisture predictive tools for his farm, is one of the program’s champions.

Mr Ive and wife Robyn have won a shelf-full of awards for land management.

Managing climate risk means protecting the health of the natural resource base on which future profitability depends, Mr Ive said, while at the same time ensuring ongoing economic survival.


Talks & Research Focus on Global Change & the Environment

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Talks & Research Focus on Global Change & the Environment

The need for new thinking in almost every aspect of our lives becomes ever more important as global populations expand and resources dwindle.   So a day of talks by high profile speakers on Sunday 18 April has been organised to coincide with the centenary of the University of Queensland, while UQ’s newly established Global Change Institute has received A$1.4 million in ARC funding to attract the best young minds to tackle climate change.

Climate science goes super at UQ

UQ’s newly established Global Change Institute has received $1.4 million in ARC funding to attract the best young minds to tackle climate change.

The funding is part of the Australian Government’s $27.2 million Super Science Fellowships scheme aimed at attracting and retaining outstanding early-career researchers in three key areas: space science and astronomy; marine and climate sciences; and future industries research—biotechnology and nanotechnology.

GCI Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said the Fellowships would be part of two GCI multidisciplinary projects with researchers from business, economics and science looking at the impacts of rising sea levels due to climate change

“This funding will allow us to employ five new post-doctoral researchers who are in the early stages of their research careers and have them work on large projects with international significance,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

The two projects are:

Treading water in a changing climate: The vulnerability of Australia’s tropical islands to sea level rise, led by Professor Hoegh-Guldberg in collaboration with colleagues at UQ and the University of Wollongong. This project will directly benefit the people and businesses associated with 1174 tropical islands found in Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait waters. By bringing together a multi-disciplinary team and training young Australian researchers, this project will establish an integrated research program that will outline the challenges, and develop the solutions, that will be needed for Australians to cope with rising sea levels; and

Adapting to the impacts of sea level rise as a result of rapid climate change, led by Professor Hugh Possingham. Rapid sea level rise has been identified as a major threat to coastal Australia, where most of the Australian population lives. By building capacity and answering many urgent and difficult questions related to the legal, environmental and planning ramifications of sea level rise, this project will prepare communities and policymakers for the difficult times ahead.

Each Super Science Fellowship will be held by an early-career researcher from Australia or overseas, for three-years tenure with funding of more than $90,000 a year. One hundred Super Science Fellowships have been awarded to 20 eligible institutions around Australia, with 50 to commence in 2010 and 50 in 2011.

The GCI fosters discovery and targeted problem solving by creating, applying and transferring knowledge for innovative integrated solutions to the challenges facing our changing planet. It provides for collaborative research, learning, engagement and advocacy in major global change issues of climate, population and technology across key areas in environment, water, energy, health, food and business change.

Global Change and the Environment Program

UQ is leading the way with research in all areas of Global Change, and as we celebrate the past 100 years, find out what is making a positive difference and how you can influence the next 100 years.

Location: Abel Smith Lecture Theatre (Building 23) on Sunday 18 April at University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane

The need for new thinking in almost every aspect of our lives becomes ever more important as global populations expand and resources dwindle.   Water supply to our cities, ecological sustainability, and Australia’s export future are just some of the issues which loom large within our rapidly changing world.  How we solve these problems will ultimately come down to our technological base and our willingness to face up to the scientific and economic realities of our changing world.  The question is, Is Australia ready to meet these challenges?

Here’s the free programme for the day:

Moreton Bay: Beautiful one day, rubbish bin the next

Dr Kathy Townsend 09.30 – 10.00
Biofuels – hype or hope? Professor Lars K Nielsen 10.15 – 10.45
Reducing your plastic footprint Professor Peter Halley 11.00 – 11.30
Renewable energy Professor Max Lu 11.45 – 12.15
Health-e-Waterways: Online report cards Professor Jane Hunter 12.30 – 13.00
Green business makes good business Professor Andrew Griffiths 13.15 – 13.45
Meeting the changes of our rapidly changing world Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg 14:00 – 14:30


Dealing With Climate Change Is Up To Companies, Not Just Governments

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Dealing With Climate Change Is Up To Companies, Not Just Governments

If we lament that some governments are reluctant to take on binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, an impressive group of business leaders is already fully engaged,  many of them in them in countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Meanwhile in the US, 3000 businesses are not waiting around any longer to see if climate and clean energy legislation will move along in Congress. They are pushing for it with full force.

Ethisphere in Forbes Magazine by Scott McAusland and Teresa Fogelberg, 

 And some of the companies leading the way are in the emerging world.

Four months after the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, bitter disappointment has settled in among many around the world. Governments have spent months and years getting almost nowhere on climate negotiations. But it is companies that are the elephant in the room. They have become a silent force toward progress, and a significant one, too. Of the hundred largest economies in the world, 52 are multinational enterprises; only 47 are nation states.

You can’t grasp what has been accomplished in addressing climate change without looking at what companies have done, and are doing, to measure and reduce their carbon use. In recent years several systems have been developed to enable businesses to establish their baseline greenhouse gas emissions, develop reduction targets and track their emissions and potential for reduction. Obviously such accounting has to be performed in a transparent way, meaning that information needs to be shared among all stakeholders, including all the nations that are party to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and any future agreements.

The Global Reporting Initiative provides the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework, with a core set of greenhouse gas yardsticks among its many wider environmental, social and governance disclosure principles and indicators. The Global Reporting Initiative was begun by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit, in 1997 and has grown into a network of thousands of experts in dozens of countries. More than a thousand companies worldwide now issue annual sustainability reports based on its standards, and many include the information in their annual reports. Those companies aren’t just in Europe and North America; Brazil ranks third in the number of countries involved, behind only the U.S. and Spain.

Some emerging economies appear to be leading the way in sustainability disclosure. A recent report by the Global Reporting Initiative and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants contains both bad and good news. The bad news is that fewer than half of the companies studied worldwide are producing and sharing specific information based on GRI indicators. The good news is that large businesses in South Africa, China, India and Brazil, most of them in metals and mining or oil and gas, are doing full reporting. They are disclosing their climate change strategies and governance policies, and also their perceived physical and regulatory risks. They have all set targets and are measuring them, though few seek out external confirmation of their findings. The study looked at 32 big companies in those four countries and Russia; the Russian companies lagged behind but still had some impressive accomplishments.

So even as we lament that some governments are reluctant to take on binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, an impressive group of business leaders is already fully engaged, a significant number of them in the so-called “BRICSA” nations–Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. They send an important message to government-level negotiators, to the business community and to the world at large.

Scott McAusland is the media communications manager, and Teresa Fogelberg is the deputy chief executive officer, of the Global Reporting Initiative


3,000 Businesses Create New Ad for Climate Change Action

Written by Zachary Shahan in (12 April 2010):

3,000 US businesses are not waiting around any longer to see if climate and clean energy legislation will move along in Congress. They are pushing for it with full force.

American Businesses for Clean Energy (ABCE), the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) andother businesses outside of these organizations have created a new national advertising campaign to push for swift action on this important legislation.

The 3,000 businesses working together on this include global leaders like Google, Nike, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, Gap, Johnson & Johnson, Michelin, Shell, Whirlpool and Timberland as well as smaller mom-&-pop businesses.

ABCE reports:

Appearing in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina and Florida, the print ad, titled “A Question of American Leadership,” calls on Congress to enact bipartisan climate and energy legislation that “…increases our security and limits emissions, as it preserves and creates jobs.”

The ad unites a broad spectrum of American businesses, faith-based groups, national security organizations, labor unions and environmental NGOs who believe that strong action on climate and energy legislation can lead to an improved economy, job creation and energy security.

If 3,000 businesses doesn’t sound like a lot to you. Think of it this way: these businesses represent 11 million American jobs and the companies’ revenues combined equal $2.5 trillion.

Of course, a few oil and coal companies can boast a decent combined revenue stream themselves and have plenty of lobbyists in DC pushing the other way, but should the US Congress be listening to companies that are only looking out for their bottom line or this much wider assortment of US companies that seem to be looking out for the Earth’s bottom line (as well as their own)?

“This ad push brings together the best of American businesses large and small to send a clear message to our leaders in Washington: We need action on climate and clean energy starting today. The businesses that are part of ABCE represent a range of views and regions, and we stand united behind the need for comprehensive clean energy legislation that will create jobs, unleash innovation and make our nation more secure, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” Christopher Van Atten, a spokesperson for American Businesses for Clean Energy says.

The full ad and a list of some of the major companies involved in this national ad campaign are available at

It is something to see businesses come together like this to push for clean energy and climate change legislation — not something you see everyday. It seems that it is time for Congress to give them more attention.


Cause for Alarm: Glacier Loss & Damage in Peru & the US

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Cause for Alarm: Glacier Loss & Damage in Peru & the US

Around 50 people have suffered injuries in Peru after part of a glacier broke off and burst the Hualcan River banks in a disaster the local governor attributed to climate change, destroying 20 nearby homes. While in the US, warmer temperatures have reduced the number of named glaciers from 37 to 25 in Glacier National Park. P. Elizabeth Anderson in the Examiner says “we are dangerously complacent about what climate change is doing. Tsunami-level warnings should be going off each time a change of the magnitude of losing a glacier is registered.”

AFP reports (12 April 2010):

Around 50 people have suffered injuries in Peru after part of a glacier broke off and burst the Hualcan River banks in a disaster the local governor attributed to climate change.

The mass of glacial ice and rock fell into the so-called “513 lake” in the northern Ancash region, causing a ripple effect down the Hualcan, destroying 20 nearby homes.

“Because of global warming the glaciers are going to detach and fall on these overflowing lakes. This is what happened today,” Ancash Governor Cesar Alvarez told reporters, linking climate change to the disappearance of a third of the glaciers in the Peruvian Andes over the past three decades.

A 2009 World Bank-published report warned Andean glaciers and the region’s permanently snow-covered peaks could disappear in 20 years if no measures are taken to tackle climate change.

According to the report, in the last 35 years Peru’s glaciers have shrunk by 22 per cent, leading to a 12 per cent loss in the amount of fresh water reaching the coast – home to most of the country’s citizens.


Animal Advocacy Examiner P. Elizabeth Anderson in the Denver, Colorado (9 April 2010):

Two days ago, Matthew Brown of The Associated Press filed a story about the loss of two more glaciers from Glacier National Park in Billings, Montana, but it was not picked up by many papers. The Washington Post ran the news as a brief of about three paragraphs. The New York Times devoted more space, but not much more prominence.

We are dangerously complacent about what climate change is doing. We stopped calling the phenomena global warming to make it more political correct, but still we ignore what is happening.

Tsunami-level warnings should be going off each time a change of the magnitude of losing a glacier is registered. Just like the imminent extinction of the polar bear, we will look up one day and the inevitable will have happened. We will have suffered irrecoverable losses of land and animals.

Warmer temperatures have reduced the number of named glaciers from 37 to 25 in Glacier National Park.

Dan Fagre, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey warns that the remaining glaciers may be gone by the end of the decade. Can you pause for a moment and consider that all of the ice may have melted in less than 10 years. You probably hope to live that long. If not you, your children or grandchildren, perhaps. If you are over the age of 16, you know that 10 years go by in a flash.

Our legacy to future generations is destruction and annihilation. Glaciers have been part of the landscape for 7,000 years and could be gone in 10 years. That boggles my mind.

Many people do not believe in climate change. I was aghast to read that Don Blankenship—chief executive of Massey Energy, the parent company of the West Virginia coal mine where 25 miners died this week—spent millions of dollars on media campaigns to defeat politicians who agreed with environmentalists that he is a “symbol of damage caused by greenhouse gases and the destruction of mountaintops to reach buried coal.” I do not understand how people can ignore the science behind the truth of what is happening to the planet for their own gains. When more people are dead, more ice is melted, and more species are gone, it will be too late.

Most scientists associate the warming caused by climate change directly to higher concentrations of those greenhouse gases which Blankenship and others ignore. When are we going to see that everything is connected? Yes, the glaciers have been melting since the year 1850, but the melting has accelerated in recent decades as temperatures increased.

Fagre was quoted in the New York Times as saying that by the time they get home from measuring glacier margins, the glacier “is already smaller than what [was] measured.”

The latest two glaciers to fall below the 25-acre threshold for being named had shrunk by approximately 55 percent since the mid-1960s.

Locally, fewer glaciers means less water in streams for fish and a higher risk for forest fires. More death, more destruction. On a larger scale, the melting glaciers are a dramatic example of irrecoverable ecosystem changes. We cannot make more glaciers. We care more about who gets tossed from “Dancing with the Stars” or the latest texts from Tiger’s mistresses than we do about the environment.

“More than 90 percent of glaciers worldwide are in retreat, with major losses already seen across much of Alaska, the Alps, the Andes and numerous other ranges,” according to the AP report. When are we going to comprehend the reality of the effects of climate change.


Radical Green is the New Black for Business in Europe

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Radical Green is the New Black for Business in Europe

Under CEO Anders Eldrup, Dong – Denmark’s biggest utility –  has embarked on an ambitious project that it calls the 85/15 plan: to slash 85% of its carbon emissions within one generation by drastically moving away from fossil-fuel production and investing more in renewable energy. Time Magazine has the story on this and other innovative CleanTech projects in Europe.

By Stacy Perman in Copenhagen for Time Magazine (12 April 2010):

Towering 88 m above frigid waters, scarcely 5 m from the seawall south of the industrial area of Avedore Holme, near Copenhagen, stand two prototypes of the largest and latest generation of offshore wind turbines.

With blades stretching 59 m, nearly 10% longer than those of some of the biggest turbines now running, these two white giants have the capacity to generate 7.2 MW of electricity — equal to the annual power consumption of about 4,900 Danish homes.

Constructed and operated by Dong Energy A/S, Denmark’s biggest utility, the turbines are being tested for use in an offshore wind farm that the company plans to build in the Irish Sea.

Back on terra firma in Kalundborg, northwest of Copenhagen, stands Dong’s gleaming Inbicon demonstration plant. Built for the large-scale production and commercialization of second-generation bioethanol, Inbicon is Dong’s bid to prove that cleaner, renewable energy made from agricultural waste is viable for investors and consumers. Among the spate of fossil-fuel alternatives the plant produces: straw-based ethanol, biopellets (a coal substitute) and feed booster for biogas production made from C5 molasses.

More than just demonstration plants, these sites represent a dramatic shift in business strategy at Dong, which was founded in 1972 as a North Sea oil and gas concern and later expanded to include Denmark’s electric utilities. Under CEO Anders Eldrup, Dong has embarked on an ambitious project that it calls the 85/15 plan: to slash 85% of its carbon emissions within one generation by drastically moving away from fossil-fuel production and investing more in renewable energy. Oh, and to be profitable. Says Eldrup: “We are not doing this from a feel-good perspective. We see it as sensible business.”

So do a number of other European companies — many involved in some of the dirtiest industries — that are taking radical steps to develop and deploy green energy solutions. It hasn’t been completely voluntary. European governments and strong public sentiment have pressed industry to improve environmental standards through a combination of regulations, subsidies, incentives and publicly financed research. Rather than resist, some companies used the enviro-prodding to become more innovative and energy efficient, and they now find themselves with a global competitive advantage in the green tech so coveted by the U.S.

There’s no better example than Aurubis AG, the largest copper producer and processor in Europe, which as far back as the 1980s was facing some stringent environmental-protection laws. The company is headquartered in Hamburg, the industrial port city once ruefully nicknamed “the black hole of Europe,” which had put into effect some of the most severe climate-protection targets on the continent.

Aurubis, founded in 1866, had long contributed to that blackness and figured it had few options beyond outsourcing or shutting down — both of which were roundly rejected. According to Bernd Drouven, Aurubis’ CEO, the company took a different tack. It decided to go radical green and invested in and developed state-of-the-art energy-efficient plants and environmental technologies to drastically curb emissions. Says Drouven: “The pressure from regulations and society forced us to be creative in finding technological solutions and ideas in order to cope.” (See pictures of the world’s most polluted places.)

Today Aurubis considers sustainability a cornerstone of its strategy. Over the past 30 years, Aurubis has invested some $410 million in reducing emissions — a third of its total capital expenditure. Aurubis’ investment has led to technological solutions such as building thermal-power plants, using filters to reduce fugitive emissions and eliminating up to 95% of the copper, sulfur, arsenic and lead in the air and metal loads of wastewater at its production sites. Aurubis has seven production sites across Europe that manufacture some 1 million tons of copper cathodes and more than 1.2 million tons of other copper products annually. Incidentally, the European Commission designated Hamburg, “the black hole,” as its Green Capital for 2011.

Green innovation has made Aurubis a world leader in copper-recycling technology. The company recycles and processes more than 400,000 tons of raw materials in its proprietary facilities, which reduces energy consumption, saves natural resources and prevents the loss of valuable materials. Roughly 40% of Aurubis’ copper products come from the processing of copper scrap and other copper-bearing recycling materials.

It was the shock of the Middle East oil crisis in 1973 that compelled Denmark, dependent on imports for 90% of its oil supply, to become a pioneer in alternative energy. The government imposed a spate of regulations and taxes that transformed the nation’s energy production and consumption, launching an energy industry that generates billions of dollars and provides tens of thousands of jobs. Currently, wind power supplies 20% of the country’s electricity. Denmark’s energy technologies account for about 11% of its exports.

Lost in the raging debate over the implications of global warming is the fact that one way or another, all companies are going to have to get greener, but companies like Dong and Aurubis are quickly positioning themselves as market leaders. Under the plan Dong announced in September, it expects to increase its proportion of energy production from renewable sources from 15% now to 85% by 2040. At the time of the announcement, the company inaugurated Horns Rev 2, the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Some 30 km off the coast of mainland Denmark in the North Sea, 91 turbines generate 209 MW — enough electricity to power 200,000 Danish households.

Within 10 years, Dong plans to triple its production of renewable energy. In 2009 it invested $3.32 billion in development — nearly half of which was marked for renewables. Underscoring its commitment to a green transformation, Dong is in the process of shutting down 25% of its coal-fired power plants and switching to straw-based and other renewable fuels. “We’re taking the big steps now,” says Eldrup. “This is different from politicians who make big promises to do something in the future. We want to show that you must have a big vision and be ready to deliver.”

In February, Dong signed a licensing agreement with Japan’s Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding for Inbicon’s biomass-refinery technology to convert waste products from palm oil into ethanol. “In our view, being on the edge of new green technologies is a great opportunity,” says Eldrup. “It gives us an advantage in reducing CO[subscript 2], but it also gives us technological advantages as well as business opportunities. The U.S. has very high ambitions to increase its ethanol production, and we think this might be a great opportunity in years to come.”

Dong is leveraging its position as the front runner in wind power to put it ahead in another potentially lucrative market: electric cars. Partnering with Shai Agassi’s A Better Place, Dong is involved in a plan to store volatile wind power from turbines for electric-car batteries. Today the consumption and production of electricity from wind occur concurrently. Dong is working on a system in which batteries can be charged when cars are used least and when turbine generation is at its highest — at night.

Eldrup says Denmark makes a good test case for the large-scale production of electric cars. For starters, the country does not have an auto industry. Second, Danes pay a 180% tax for new-car registration, while there is no such fee imposed on electric autos, an attractive incentive for consumers. “If we are successful, that gives us a lot of learning and new development in new technology and businesses in Denmark,” says Eldrup. He adds, “It also gives us value in exporting.”

That’s a perspective shared by Aurubis. According to Drouven, his company’s recycling technology provides potentially lucrative opportunities, particularly in a market like the U.S. that has no such facility. But he notes the company has its eye on a bigger picture. “The climate issue is not only a question of CO[subscript 2] emissions but is one of resources, whether it is oil or energy or raw materials,” he says. “It is independent of the current status of the U.S. or Europe or China. I’m convinced that in the long run, society will not accept waste.” Drouven says people’s awareness about environmental protection will continue to increase as the energy crisis deepens. He adds, “When that happens, we are a company that has already invested in conservation of energy. We have a head start.”

The big-picture, long-term-payoff approach is what helps companies weather short-term vagaries. Dong recently reported a tumble in revenue from $11 billion in 2008 to $9.1 billion in 2009 — in large measure because of the global financial crisis and drop in energy prices. While the company said it expects higher sales in 2010, Eldrup looks beyond the quarterly reports. “This is the way the energy business is,” he says. “We are working on a long-term horizon.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Aurubis’ Drouven. His company also took a hit last year but reported first-quarter operating earnings were $64.6 million, up 50% from the whole previous fiscal year and 2½ times those of the first quarter of 2009. “Our investors want to receive good dividends,” he explains. “But our investors are more interested in long-term, stable, reliable returns than in the fast buck.”

This long-term approach to business and global warming will ultimately effect profits and climate change. Companies that act now will likely be the market leaders in the future. As Denmark’s Minister of Climate and Energy, Lykke Friis, explains, “Business, like climate change, is a global challenge and an opportunity. We are in an energy race that will determine international relations. On the one hand, there will be energy exporters, and on the other, those that rely on them.”


Greenpeace Says Koch is Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Greenpeace Says Koch  is Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine

A little-known, privately-owned US oil and manufacturing giant that has made its owners the 19th richest men in the world, has outspent even ExxonMobil in funding the denial of the science of climate change in recent years, according to a Greenpeace recently report released. Koch Industries says the  report “mischaracterises these efforts and distorts the environmental record” of its companies,  saying they have “long supported science-based inquiry and dialogue about climate change and proposed responses to it”.

Greenpeace (30 March 2010):

WASHINGTON — A little-known, privately-owned US oil and manufacturing giant that has made its owners the 19th richest men in the world has outspent even ExxonMobil in funding the denial of the science of climate change in recent years, according to a Greenpeace report released today.

Entitled “Koch Industries: Secretly funding the climate denial machine” (1), the report details how Kansas-based Koch Industries, a multinational company with little public profile, is playing a quiet but dominant role in the US policy debate on climate change. It shows how Koch has become the financial kingpin in efforts to undermine confidence in climate science and to oppose clean energy in the US and internationally. Between 2005 and 2008, Koch foundations contributed $24.8 million to climate denial organizations – nearly 3 times as much as ExxonMobil in the same period.

“It is time Koch Industries came clean and dropped its dirty, behind-the-scenes campaign against action on climate change,” said Kert Davies, Research Director at Greenpeace US

Here’s the executive summary of the Greenpeace report:

Most Americans have never heard of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the country, because it has no Koch-branded consumer products, sells no shares on the stock market and has few of the disclosure requirements of a public company.

Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming. Koch Industries has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition.

This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy. In fact, Koch has out-spent ExxonMobil in funding these groups in recent years.

From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the ‘climate denial machine’.

The company’s tight knit network of lobbyists, former executives and organizations has created a forceful stream of misinformation that Koch-funded entities produce and disseminate. This campaign propaganda is then replicated, repackaged and echoed many times throughout the Koch-funded web of political front groups and think tanks.

On repeated occasions documented below, organizations funded by Koch foundations have led the assault on climate science and scientists, “green jobs,” renewable energy and climate policy progress.

This report focuses on activities by Koch Industries and its affiliates, as well as the family—and company—controlled foundations which fund organizations that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. Included is research on the company and the Koch brothers, two of the top ten richest people in the United States. The Koch brothers own the corporation and control its political spending. Also included are newly compiled funding connections from Koch foundations to a vast array of conservative and libertarian organizations and front groups.

The report documents the Koch-funded funded groups’ actions and the Koch legacy of climate denial and obstruction of environmental policy. Case studies contained in this report include:

• ClimateGate Echo Chamber—At least twenty Koch-funded organizations have repeatedly rebroadcast, referenced and appeared as media spokespeople in the story, dubbed “ClimateGate,” of supposed malfeasance by climate scientists gleaned from a cache of stolen emails from the University of East Anglia in November 2009. These organizations claim the emails prove a “conspiracy” of scientists and casts doubt on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.

• Polar Bear Junk Science—In a 2007 published ‘junk science’ article on polar bears and Arctic climate impacts, the author acknowledged receiving research funding from ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute and the Charles G. Koch foundation. The paper, which appeared in the journal Ecological Complexity, was published as a “Viewpoint” piece, rather than new scientific research. It was not peer reviewed and was criticized by leading polar bear and Arctic ice scientists for containing “no new research” and drawing unfounded conclusions. Regardless, multiple Koch and Exxon-funded groups rebroadcast the article’s conclusions that polar bears were not endangered by climate change, through their websites and other media outlets. Additional Koch-funded groups and industry groups threatened to sue the Federal government for listing the polar bear.

For years, both openly and behind the scenes, ExxonMobil dominated the voice of climate science denial in the national global warming dialogue. However, after a decade of reputation-damaging public disclosures, as well as pressure from scientific organizations, shareholders and senators, ExxonMobil implemented a new public relations strategy under a new CEO, and has begun to moderate its public statements on climate change. ExxonMobil’s website declares:

1 “We have discontinued contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change diverted attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”

In spite of publishing this statement and reducing funding to a number of prominent climate denial organizations over the past few years, ExxonMobil continues to support dozens of organizations who are part of the climate denial movement with millions of dollars in annual funding.

2 ExxonMobil has responded to public scrutiny by slightly reducing their support of climate denial, and Koch Industries is outpacing ExxonMobil’s funding activities while drawing very little public attention.

As ExxonMobil’s silent partner in funding the climate-denial machine, Koch Industries often uses similar and sometimes more aggressive tactics. Kansas-based Koch Industries is a conglomerate dominated by petroleum and chemical interests with approximately $100 billion in annual sales, operations in nearly 60 countries and 70,000 employees.

Most of Koch’s operations are invisible to the public, with the exception of a handful of retail brands such as Brawny® paper towels and Dixie® cups, produced by its subsidiary Georgia-Pacific Corporation. Koch Industries has been ranked as the first- or second-largest privately-held company in the United States in recent years, currently ranked second behind Cargill corporation.

Two brothers, Charles and David Koch, each own 42 percent of the company. Part of Koch Industries’ influence is channelled through three foundations, also controlled by the two brothers. This report documents roughly 40 climate denial and opposition organizations receiving Koch foundation grants in recent years, including:

• More than $5 million to Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) for its nationwide “Hot Air Tour”3 campaign to spreading misinformation about climate science and opposing clean energy and climate legislation.

• More than $1 million to the Heritage Foundation, a mainstay of misinformation on climate and environmental policy issues.

• Over $1 million to the Cato Institute, which disputes the scientific evidence behind global warming, questions the rationale for taking climate action, and has been heavily involved in spinning the recent ClimateGate story.

• $800,000 to the Manhattan Institute, which has hosted Bjorn Lomborg twice in the last two years. Lomborg is a prominent media spokesperson who challenges and attacks policy measures to address climate change.

• $365,000 to Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) which advocates against taking action on climate change because warming is “inevitable” and expensive to address.

• $360,000 to Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRIPP) which supported and funded An Inconvenient Truth…or Convenient Fiction,4 a film attacking the science of global warming and intended as a rebuttal to former Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary. PRIPP also threatened to sue the US Government for listing the polar bear as an endangered species.

• $325,000 to the Tax Foundation, which issued a misleading study on the costs of proposed climate legislation.

This is only part of the picture, because the full scope of direct contributions to organizations is not disclosed by individual Koch family members, executives, or from the company itself.

Contributions through Koch’s political action committee (PAC) are a matter of public record. Since the beginning of the 2006 election cycle, Koch’s PAC spent more on contributions to federal candidates5 than any other oil-and-gas sector PAC. For that period, Koch Industries and its executives spent $2.51 million compared to next three biggest contributors: Exxon ($1.71 million), Valero ($1.68 million), and Chevron ($1.22 million).

Koch executives and their families wield political influence in other ways too, including direct federal lobbying and campaign contributions. Over the last few years, Koch Industries, Koch employees, and Koch family members:

• Spent $37.9 million from 2006 to 2009 for direct lobbying on oil and energy issues, outspent only by ExxonMobil ($87.8 million) and Chevron Corporation ($50 million).

• Spent $5.74 million in PAC money for candidates, committees, and campaign expenditures since the 2006 election cycle.

• Contributed at least $270,800 to federal political party committees since the 2006 election cycle.

The combination of foundation-funded front-groups, big lobbying budgets, PAC donations, and direct campaign contributions makes Koch Industries and the Koch brothers among the most formidable obstacles to advancing clean energy and climate policy in the US.

For the full report go to Greenpeace.


Statement from Koch regarding Greenpeace Report, March 2010:


In a consistent, principled effort for more than 50 years – long before climate change was a key policy issue – Koch companies and Koch foundations have worked to advance economic freedom and market-based policy solutions to challenges faced by society. These efforts are about creating more opportunity and prosperity for all, as it’s a historical fact that economic freedom best fosters innovation, environmental protection and improved quality of life in a society.

The Greenpeace report mischaracterizes these efforts and distorts the environmental record of our companies. Koch companies have long supported science-based inquiry and dialogue about climate change and proposed responses to it. Koch companies have put tremendous effort into discovering and adopting innovative practices that reduce energy use and emissions in the manufacture and distribution of our products.

We believe the political response to climate issues should be based on sound science. Both a free society and the scientific method require an open and honest airing of all sides, not demonizing and silencing those with whom you disagree. We’ve strived to encourage an intellectually honest debate on the scientific basis for claims of harm from greenhouse gases. We have tried to help bring out the facts of the potential effectiveness and costs of policies proposed to deal with climate, as it’s crucial to understand whether proposed initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases will achieve desired environmental goals and what effects they would likely have on the global economy.


Springtime Snow Melt & Warming Faster in Eurasia than North America

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

Springtime Snow Melt & Warming Faster in Eurasia than North America

Generated by human activity, dust storms, and forest fires, Asia produces high levels of both types of aerosols, which blow across the Eurasian land mass and affect the surface and nearby atmosphere in a variety of ways, some reflect incoming solar energy, potentially cooling underlying surfaces, but black carbon tends to warm surfaces by absorbing incoming solar energy.

By Rachel Hauser, National Center for Atmospheric Research (9 April 2010):

Aerosols are tiny particles, such as soot or dust, suspended in Earth’s atmosphere. In addition to their air-quality impacts, aerosols can interfere with sunlight reaching the planet’s surface.

Scientists often talk about aerosols in terms of their optical depth, which indicates how much incoming sunlight aerosols prevent from reaching the Earth’s surface.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites can detect aerosols, and this image shows the annual mean aerosol optical depth for 2006, based on daily measurements made by MODIS.

White represents little or no aerosol interference with sunlight, and dark orange indicates considerable interference. Areas where data could not be collected appear in gray.

This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Over the past 30 years, springtime snow melt and warming appear to be proceeding at a faster rate in Eurasia than in North America.

Climate scientist Mark Flanner, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan and a recent Advanced Study Program graduate at the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Atmospheric Research, led a study that investigated these changes, ultimately finding that warming rates and snow cover decline in Eurasia may be twice what they are in North America.

In the same study, Flanner and his colleagues also pointed out that only one of the climate scenarios generated by general circulation models in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report reflected this trend.

In fact, most IPCC model scenarios show the regions having similar spring-time temperatures and snow-melt rates. Flanner and his collaborators suspect aerosols — particularly black carbon and organic matter such as dust — might be responsible for the difference in modeled versus observed climate.

Generated by human activity, dust storms, and forest fires, Asia produces high levels of both types of aerosols, which blow across the Eurasian land mass and affect the surface and nearby atmosphere in a variety of ways.

Some aerosols reflect incoming solar energy, potentially cooling underlying surfaces, but black carbon tends to warm surfaces by absorbing incoming solar energy. Particulates that fall to the surface also reduce snow’s reflective qualities, causing even more radiation to be absorbed.

In the Northern Hemisphere, spring-time snow cover is unique because of its widespread distribution, and because intense incoming solar radiation during that season amplifies atmospheric aerosols’ effects.

Because higher concentrations of organic matter and black carbon are typical in the atmosphere and on the snow-covered surfaces in Eurasia, Flanner and his colleagues hypothesize that those aerosols might account for regional snow-cover differences. By including black carbon and organic matter aerosols in climate models, the researchers hypothesized that the models might more effectively match spring-time observations.

To test their hypothesis, the team first ran a number of modeling scenarios to see if the inconsistency might relate to ocean-based effects. If oceans proved to have a leading role, the aerosol hypothesis would likely be incorrect. However, after constraining the oceans’ effects, the models continued under-predicting land-surface temperature trends. The findings indicated that a land effect had to account for the discrepancy between observations and models showing warming and melting trends.

Having eliminated ocean effects, the researchers enhanced the models with snow-darkening characteristics, mimicking the impact of dark materials deposited on top of pristine snow. With this adjustment, the models correctly indicated increased springtime warming in Eurasia.

Next, the researchers incorporated human-produced carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the models.  The scientists found that over North America, CO2 had more of an impact on springtime snow cover than black carbon and organic materials, but in Eurasia, as hypothesized, the particulates were far more influential, having as much of an effect as CO2.

“While this research does not fully explain why springtime land temperatures and snow cover are changing so much faster over Eurasia than North America, it does suggest that snow darkening from black carbon, a process lacking in most climate models, is playing a role,” Flanner said.

Ultimately, Flanner continues, the magnitude of Earth’s climate response to CO2 and other human-generated products depends on feedbacks. Changes in snow cover amplify initial climate changes and constitute one of the most powerful feedbacks. Because snow covers much of the Northern Hemisphere during spring, Flanner and his colleagues expect to see some of the strongest climate change signals in northerly regions during local spring.

Editor’s Note: This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency charged with funding basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


New Hope For Ultimate Clean Energy: Fusion Power

Posted by admin on April 14, 2010
Posted under Express 104

New Hope For Ultimate Clean Energy: Fusion Power

Imagine if you could generate electricity using nuclear power that emitted no radioactivity: it would be the answer to the world’s dream of finding a clean, sustainable energy source. That is the great hope raised by researchers, led by Heinrich Hora, who believe they have found a radical new path to the ultimate goal of solving the world’s energy crisis through nuclear fusion power, as detailed in a paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

By Bob Beale at UNSW (9 April 2010):

Imagine if you could generate electricity using nuclear power that emitted no radioactivity: it would be the answer to the world’s dream of finding a clean, sustainable energy source.

That is the great hope raised by researchers who believe they have found a radical new path to the ultimate goal of solving the world’s energy crisis through nuclear fusion power, as detailed in a paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

The international team of researchers – led by Emeritus Professor Heinrich Hora, of the UNSW Department of Theoretical Physics -has shown through computational studies that a special fuel ignited by brief but powerful pulses of energy from new high-energy lasers may be the key to a success that has long eluded physicists.

The intense laser beam would be used to ignite a fuel made of light hydrogen and boron-11. The resulting ignition would be largely free of radioactive emissions and would release more than enough energy to generate electricity.

The amount of radiation released would be even less than that emitted by current power stations that burn coal, which contains trace amounts of uranium. In another plus, the fuel source is plentiful and readily accessible and the waste product of ignition would be clean helium gas.

“This has the potential to be the best route to fusion energy,” says Steve Haan, an expert in nuclear fusion at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, in a news report in the Royal Chemical Society’s Highlights in Chemical Technology.

Both Haan and Hora caution that the study only demonstrates the potential of the new process and that much work would need to be done to demonstrate it in practice.

The conventional fusion process uses highly compressed spheres of deuterium and tritium as fuel. Hora says the proposed new process overcomes previous objections to hydrogen-boron11 fuel because it would not have to be compressed and therefore need much less energy than previously thought to start the ignition.

“It was a surprise when we used hydrogen-boron instead of deuterium-tritium,” says Hora. “It was not 100,000 times more difficult to ignite, as it would be under the usual compression process. It would be only 10 times more difficult, using the latest generation of lasers.”

As it happens, a unique new laser capable of producing the required amount of ignition energy is in its early stages of testing in the US at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Another extraordinarily powerful US laser known as the National Ignition Facility has been built at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “It is the largest laser on earth and has cost about US$ 4 billion,” he says. “The laser pulse of about few billionths of a second duration produces 500 times more power than all US power stations.”

Professor Hora, who founded the UNSW Department of Theoretical Physics in 1975 and has been an Emeritus Professor since 1992, is known for his work on the theory of  fusion energy with lasers.