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Green campaigners have hailed the move to limit food-based biofuels to 5% as a major victory for the environment


The EU policy changes will limit food-based biofuels to 5%, just above the current output of 4.5%. (Photograph: Diego Giudice/Getty Images)

Europe’s multibillion-euro biodiesel industry has been dealt a blow by major policy changes outlined by the EU climate commissioner on Friday.

The changes proposed by Connie Hedegaard will limit food-based biofuels to 5%, just above the current output of 4.5%.

Green campaigners, who see biodiesel as doing more harm than good, hailed the move as a major victory for the environment. But the biodiesel industry condemned what it sees as a catastrophic U-turn that will cost thousands of jobs.

The EU has a target of 10% for renewable transport fuels by 2020. But biofuels have become increasingly controversial because those derived from oil crops such as rape and palm can result in greater carbon emissions than the diesel they replace, as well as higher food prices and deforestation.

Hedegaard told the Guardian: “We cannot morally afford to build a very big industry on something that is not good for the environment or for food prices. One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is ensuring affordable food prices.

“We are not closing down the existing [biodiesel] industry,” she said. “What they produce they can continue to produce.”

Much greater incentives will be given the so-called second and third-generation fuels, produced from agricultural or urban waste or by growing algae, with all existing support for food-based biofuels ending in 2020. These technologies are at a much earlier stage of development, but Hedegaard said the changes would give the market a “very, very strong” signal.

“These proposals prevent a further spread of today’s unsustainable biofuels,” said Nusa Urbancic, at campaign group Transport & Environment. “After having dragged its feet for so long, it’s encouraging that the commission finally seems to take all the accumulated science seriously and is about to take meaningful action.”

But the European Biodiesel Board, an industry body, said the changes could lead to the “catastrophic” end of an industry worth €10bn a year.

Alain Brinon, president of Fediol, another trade group, said: “The represents a U-turn in EU policy-making and a blow to investors in the renewable energy supply chain.”

“It is important to get biofuels but it would be absurd to get to the 10% target using something not very good for the environment,” said Hedegaard. “We must get our priorities right.”

Another key change in the proposals is to include the impact of deforestation, peatland drainage or other land clearance caused by biofuels in their carbon footprint. Environmental and development campaigners argue this factor – called indirect land-use change (ILUC) – has been a missing from calculations of the green credentials of biofuels.

A new peer-reviewed scientific study by Chris Malins at the International Council on Clean Transportation found that without ILUC factors, the EU’s biofuel policy “could be expected to deliver only a 4% carbon saving compared to fossil fuel, with a 30% chance that it would actually cause a net emissions increase.” Malins added: “Biodiesel from non-waste vegetable oil is likely to have a worse carbon footprint than fossil diesel.”

Transport & Environment said that not including ILUC factors would result in carbon emissions equivalent to putting between 14 and 29m additional cars on the road across Europe in 2020.

The industry has attacked the scientific work upon which the ILUC factors will be based and said more data is needed. “They always say we need more knowledge, but we have several studies,” said Hedegaard. “We have to base political decision making on the available knowledge. Everyone knew from 2007 that ILUC factors were a probability.”

Author: Damian Carrington
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/FmbnB


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A Rússia confirmou nesta quinta-feira (13) que não fará cortes nas emissões de gases do efeito estufa a partir de 2013 sob o Protocolo de Quioto da ONU, se juntando ao Canadá e ao Japão na rejeição de uma extensão do plano para combater as mudanças climáticas.

O Ministério das Relações Exterior disse que o país não se uniria às nações industrializadas lideradas pela União Europeia para assinar cortes para além da primeira rodada de compromissos, que termina em 31 de dezembro de 2012.

No começo deste mês, o vice-primeiro-ministro Arkady Dvorkovich disse no Twitter que uma decisão sobre as novas obrigações “não foi tomada”, sugerindo que o governo ainda estava ponderando a participação.

A Rússia afirmou que agora focaria no plano da ONU, firmado no último ano, de chegar a um novo acordo internacional até 2015, obrigando tanto países desenvolvidos quanto em desenvolvimento a limitar as emissões de gases do efeito estufa, e que entraria em vigor a partir de 2020.

“A Federação Russa acredita que a extensão do Protocolo de Quioto, em seu atual estado, é ineficaz, e não pretende assumir a obrigação de reduzir as emissões de gases do efeito estufa como parte da chamada segunda rodada de responsabilidades”, declarou o porta-voz do Ministério das Relações Exteriores, Alexander Lukashevich.

“As obrigações e ações climáticas podem ser diferentes para países desenvolvidos e em desenvolvimento, mas devem estar refletidas em um único documento. Sem isso, será inútil”, acrescentou ele.

Todas as nações industrializadas, exceto pelos Estados Unidos, assinaram o Protocolo de Quioto de 1997, que procurava cortar suas emissões de gases do efeito estufa em pelo menos 5,2% abaixo dos níveis de 1990 até 2008-12.

Os EUA disseram que Quioto prejudicaria a economia norte-americana e que o pacto omitia injustamente as metas de 2012 para nações em desenvolvimento, lideradas pela China e Índia. As nações em desenvolvimento afirmaram que precisam queimar mais combustíveis fósseis para acabar com a pobreza.

Queda nas emissões

A Rússia já havia indicado anteriormente à ONU que não estenderia as metas internacionalmente obrigatórias de Quioto para além do primeiro período de 2008-2012.

O país se comprometeu apenas com uma promessa voluntária de cortar emissões, que pode vir principalmente do corte na queima de combustíveis fósseis, de 15-25% até 2020.

As emissões da Rússia caíram desde o colapso das indústrias poluentes da era Soviética. Em 2010, elas estavam 34% abaixo dos níveis de 1990, muito abaixo das metas do país sob Quioto de não exceder o nível de 1990 nos anos 2008-12.

A provável lista de participantes de “Quioto 2” é responsável por apenas 15-17% das emissões de gases do efeito estufa, Lukashevick afirmou, enquanto os países que participaram da primeira rodada de cortes são responsáveis por 30% das emissões globais.

Isso faz da meta de limitar o aumento da temperatura global a não mais do que dois graus Celsius acima dos níveis pré-industriais impossível de ser atingida, declarou ele.

O limite de dois graus Celsius é visto como um limiar para os perigos das mudanças climáticas, como enchentes, secas e o aumento do nível do mar. As temperaturas já subiram cerca de 0,8 graus Celsius.

Um grupo de companhias russas industriais e de energia, incluindo a Rusal, a maior empresa de alumínio do mundo, e a TNK, uma das maiores produtoras de petróleo e gás da Rússia, tem feito lobby para o governo assumir uma meta em Quioto pós-2012.

Isso permitiria que eles continuassem a ganhar créditos de carbono por projetos de redução de emissões sob o mecanismo da ONU de Implementação Conjunta.

No último mês, o rascunho de um decreto governamental revelou que a Rússia estava trabalhando para transformar sua promessa de redução de emissões nacional para 2020 em uma meta absoluta de redução de 20% nas emissões com relação aos níveis de 1990.

Essa meta pode abrir caminho para um esquema regional de cap-and-trade, comparado em tamanho ao mercado de carbono da UE.

Traduzido por Jéssica Lipinski

Autor: Nastassia Astrasheuskaya
Fonte: Reuters
Original: http://goo.gl/VnRI7


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Carbon capture has not yet been proven on a commercial scale (stock.xchng: Nikita Golovanov)

Researchers have created a new material that could solve some of the problems currently plaguing carbon capture and storage.

The material, made from aluminium nitrate salt, cheap organic materials and water, is non-toxic and requires less energy to strip out the carbon when it becomes saturated, according to the scientists who author a paper appearing today in Nature Chemistry.

Carbon capture has not yet been proven on a commercial scale and pilot projects have been hindered by concerns that the ammonia-based materials, or amines, used to absorb carbon can themselves produce toxic emissions.

They are also expensive and need large amounts of heat to boil out the carbon so it can be taken away and stored.

The researchers say their new absorber, dubbed NOTT-300, could overcome all these problems.

“I feel this can been viewed as a revolution to a certain degree,” says Sihai Yang from the University of Nottingham , who worked on the project.

“It is non-toxic, and zero heating input is required for the regeneration. There is promising potential to overcome the traditional amine material on both environmental and economic grounds.”

Dr Timmy Ramirez-Cuesta, who worked on the project at the ISIS research centre at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, says the new material could simplify carbon capture by using interchangeable filters.

“When the material is saturated, the exhaust gases are diverted to the second container where the process continues,” he says.”The full container is disconnected from the system and the CO2 is removed using a vacuum and collected. The regenerated container can then be reconnected and used repeatedly.”

The team, which also included scientists from the University of Oxford and Peking University in China, say the new material captured close to 100 per cent of the carbon dioxide in experiments using a cocktail of gases.

Although the rate could be lower in the “dynamic conditions” of a real power station, it should still be over 90 per cent, which is a key test for the viability of an absorber.

The material can pick up harmful gases, including sulphur dioxide, in a mixture, allowing others like hydrogen, methane, nitrogen and oxygen to pass through.

It does, however, absorb water vapour and the researchers are doing further work to overcome the problem, which could reduce its performance with CO2.

Professor Martin Schroeder at the University of Nottingham, who led the research, says NOTT-300 could also be put to use in gas purification. Natural gas often contains 10 per cent of carbon dioxide impurity which needs to be removed before it can be used.

The scientists say they are working with companies in the carbon capture business on commercialising the new material.

Author: Chris Wickham – Reuters
Source: ABC Science
Original: http://goo.gl/qfhWt


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The researchers believe this increases the prospect of recovering high-temperature waste and turning it into useful energy (Mercouri Kanatzidis)

Scientists in the United States have developed a material that beats the record for converting waste heat into power – something they hope will be incorporated into clean energy investment.

Described by an independent commentator as “a giant leap”, the material achieves the highest efficiency ever for scavenging heat from a source and transforming it into power, its inventors say.

According to the team, as much as 15 to 20 per cent of the heat that disappears out of car tailpipes and the chimneys of power stations and factories could be recovered as electricity.

The compound is a doped-up derivative of lead telluride, a semiconductor first used in the Apollo moon landings to provide astronauts with a renewable, thermoelectric power source.

For years, the efficiency rating in thermoelectrics, known by the unit of ZT, stagnated at 1.

The new material has a ZT rating of 2.2, outstripping the previous record reached earlier this year of 1.7.

“At this level there are realistic prospects for recovering high-temperature waste and turning it into useful energy,” says Professor Mercouri Kanatzidis, a chemist at Northwestern University in Chicago, who led the study appearing in the journal Nature.

Kanatzidis says it is hard to estimate the cost of the new material, but that if manufactured on a large scale, “it should be nearly the same as bulk lead and tellurium combined.”

He also discounts fears of toxicity, saying that the lead-tellurium bond was “very stable environmentally” – the compound occurs naturally as a mineral called altaite.

The breakthrough, says the study, comes from combining several techniques to doctor the material, including the use of sodium and nano-particles of strontium telluride, to dampen scattering of electrons and make energy conversion more efficient.

In a commentary appearing in Nature, Tom Nilgesa of the Munich Technical University in Germany, says it is “a feat that is not only a tremendous step for one group, but also a giant leap for thermoelectrics.”

Source: ABC Science / AFP
Original: http://goo.gl/Q9G5p


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