Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Quantum Factor" – Apr 10, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Galaxies, Universe, Intelligent design, Benevolent design, Aliens, Nikola Tesla (Quantum energy), Inter-Planetary Travel, DNA, Genes, Stem Cells, Cells, Rejuvenation, Shift of Human Consciousness, Spontaneous Remission, Religion, Dictators, Africa, China, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Development, Animals, Global Unity.. etc.) - (Text Version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

(Live Kryon Channelings was given 7 times within the United Nations building.)

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)

“… 4 - Energy (again)

The natural resources of the planet are finite and will not support the continuation of what you've been doing. We've been saying this for a decade. Watch for increased science and increased funding for alternate ways of creating electricity (finally). Watch for the very companies who have the most to lose being the ones who fund it. It is the beginning of a full realization that a change of thinking is at hand. You can take things from Gaia that are energy, instead of physical resources. We speak yet again about geothermal, about tidal, about wind. Again, we plead with you not to over-engineer this. For one of the things that Human Beings do in a technological age is to over-engineer simple things. Look at nuclear - the most over-engineered and expensive steam engine in existence!

Your current ideas of capturing energy from tidal and wave motion don't have to be technical marvels. Think paddle wheel on a pier with waves, which will create energy in both directions [waves coming and going] tied to a generator that can power dozens of neighborhoods, not full cities. Think simple and decentralize the idea of utilities. The same goes for wind and geothermal. Think of utilities for groups of homes in a cluster. You won't have a grid failure if there is no grid. This is the way of the future, and you'll be more inclined to have it sooner than later if you do this, and it won't cost as much….”

"Fast-Tracking" - Feb 8, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Reference to Fukushima / H-bomb nuclear pollution and a warning about nuclear > 20 Min)

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change
In a bid to combat climate change, US President Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan on Monday, marking the first time power plants have been targeted by mandatory regulations on carbon dioxide emissions in the US.
Google: Earthday 2013

Saturday, December 31, 2011

World pays Ecuador not to extract oil from rainforest

Governments and film stars join alliance that raises £75m to compensate Ecuador for lost revenue from 900m barrels Vidal, environment editor, Friday 30 December 2011

Supporters of the Yasuní 'crowdfunding' initiative say it could change the
way  important places are protected. Photograph: Prisma Bildagentur AG
/ Alamy/Alamy

An alliance of European local authorities, national governments, US film stars, Japanese shops, soft drink companies and Russian foundations have stepped in to prevent oil companies exploiting 900m barrels of crude oil from one of the world's most biologically rich tracts of land.

According to the UN, the "crowdfunding" initiative had last night raised $116m (£75m), enough to temporarily halt the exploitation of the 722 square miles of "core" Amazonian rainforest known as Yasuní national park in Ecuador.

The park, which is home to two tribes of uncontacted Indians, is thought to have more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on earth. Development of the oilfield, which was planned to take place immediately if the money had not been raised, would have inevitably led to ecological devastation and the eventual release of over 400m tonnes of CO2.

Ecuador agreed to halt plans to mine the oilfield if it could raise 50% of the $7.6bn revenue being lost by not mining the oil. While the world's leading conservation groups pledged nothing, regional governments in France and Belgium offered millions of dollars – with $2m alone from the Belgian region of Wallonia. A New York investment banker donated her annual salary and Bo Derek, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Al Gore all contributed.

The idea of asking people to pay for something not to take place was widely dismissed by national treasuries as holding the world to ransom. The German development minister, Dirk Niebel, said that the principle of paying for the oil not to be exploited "would be setting a precedent with unforeseeable referrals". However, Germany has now contributed $48m in "technical assistance". The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was widely criticised after he wrote off $51m of Ecuador's $10bn external debt as Italy's contribution.

Other governments pledging support were Chile, Colombia, Georgia and Turkey ($100,000 each), Peru ($300,000), Australia ($500,000) and Spain ($1.4m).

Supporters of the scheme argued that it could be a model for change in the way the world pays to protect important places. The money raised is guaranteed to be used only for nature protection and renewable energy projects. Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and other countries with oil reserves, have investigated the possibility of setting up similar schemes as an alternative to traditional aid.

The biological richness of Yasuní has astonished scientists. One 6sq km patch of the park was found to have 47 amphibian and reptile species, 550 bird, 200 mammal and more species of bats and insects than anywhere in the western hemisphere. According to Ecuadorean scientists, it would take in the region of 400 years to record Yasuní's 100,000 or more insect and 2,000 fish species.

Of the 63.4% of Ecuadoreans polled last month who knew of the Yasuní initiative, 83.4% supported it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Global hunger for plastic packaging leaves waste solution a long way off

Despite measures to increase recycling, discarded plastic packaging continues to blight Earth, Juliette Jowit, Thursday 29 December 2011

Indian children carry drinking water as they pass through a pond polluted
 with plastic bags and other discarded items. Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

Five hundred tonnes of Christmas tree lights and at least 25m bags of plastic sweet wrappers, turkey coverings, drinks bottles and broken toys will be thrown away by UK homes this Christmas and New Year. But only a tiny proportion of this festive plastic waste will be recycled.

Even at more typical times of year, only a little under one quarter of the UK's plastic waste is recycled, but over the festive period still less escapes the tip, according to survey by home drinks makers SodaStream. Globally, recycling of plastics is even smaller.

The outcome is a belief that planet Earth is being slowly strangled by a gaudy coat of impermeable plastic waste that collects in great floating islands in the world's oceans; clogs up canals and rivers; and is swallowed by animals, birds and sea creatures. In many parts of the developing world it acts as a near ubiquitous outdoor decoration, along roads in India, around villages in Africa, and fluttering off fences across Latin America. And when it is not piling up, it is often burned in the open, releasing noxious smoke into the surrounding area.

From the central parks of Moscow after the spring thaw, strewn with plastic uncovered by the melting snows, to some of the the most remote places on Earth - the summit of Mount Everest or the Tibetan Plateau - nowhere, it seems, is free of discarded bags, bottles, unwanted toys, used toothbrushes and lost beach shoes.

There are no global figures on the true scale of the problem, but according to the European Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) 265m tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year. In the UK at least, about two thirds of this is for packaging: which globally would translate to 170m tonnes of plastic largely created to be disposed after one use. Even at the almost unmatched European Union recycling rate averaging 33%, two thirds of that, or more than 113m tonnes, would end up in landfill, being burned, or cluttering up the environment that people and wildlife live in. Such a figure – almost certainly a huge underestimate, and excluding more "permanent" items from car parts to Barbie dolls – would be more than enough to cover the 48 contiguous states of the US in plastic food wrapping. If the world recycled packaging at the rate the US does, 15%, it would generate more than enough plastic to cover China in plastic wrap. Every year.

A few years ago the UK was seized by worry about plastic bags: communities went "plastic-bag free", and the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced he would talk to major retailers about phasing out their use. In the absence of much change, his successor as PM, David Cameron, recently re-raised the idea of a national levy.

In response, the plastics industry argues that the alternatives would be even more wasteful in terms of extra greenhouse gas emissions.

What would this world without plastic look like? Earlier this year Austrian-based environmental consultancy Denkstatt imagined such a world, where farmers, retailers and consumers use wood, metal tins, glass bottles and jars, and cardboard to cover their goods. It found the mass of packaging would increase by 3.6 times, it would take more than double the energy to make, and the greenhouse gases generated would be 2.7 times higher.

To understand this, consider the properties of plastic that make it so attractive to use: it is durable, it is flexible and does not shatter, it can breathe - or not, and it is extremely lightweight. As a result, food and drink are protected from damage and kept for lengths of time previously unimaginable. The PAFA says average spoilage of food between harvest and table is 3% in the developed world, compared with 50% in developing countries where plastic palates, crates, trays, film and bags are not so prolific. Once the food reaches people's homes its lifespan is also increased - in the case of a shrink-wrapped cucumber from two to 14 days. A less obvious benefit of plastic packaging is that by being much lighter than alternatives it greatly reduces the fuel needed to transport the goods. Because of the huge carbon content of our diets, it is estimated that for every tonne of carbon produced by making plastic, five tonnes is saved, says Barry Turner from the PAFA .A more surprising point is made by Friends of the Earth's waste campaigner Julian Kirby, who points out that because it is inert in landfill, plastic waste buried in the ground is a counterintuitive way of "sequestering" carbon and so avoiding it adding to global warming and climate change.

This focus on carbon and climate change, however, ignores the very reasons plastic bags, and plastic packaging generally, first gripped the public imagination – namely that it is such a highly visible result of our throw-away society.

Wales, Ireland and other countries have opted to levy a tax on plastic bags to deter their use but making deeper cuts to plastic waste will need other options too.

Many "ethical" products from sandwiches to nappy bags have switched to biodegradable plastics, made either from natural products such as cornstarch or by using a special additive which helps breakdown the plastic. However, Turner suggests this will remain a niche, because the process is expensive and – in his words – is "destroying" a resource that could be recycled.

Recycling plastic is particularly hard, because there are so many types, and because plastic melts below the boiling point of water, making it hard to remove contamination. Increasing recycling is, though, one of the two key areas focused on by the plastics industry, which estimates if every council in the UK operated at the rates achieved by the best local authority for each type of plastic – PET bottles, cartons, trays, bags and so on – the country could raise total plastic recycling from 23% to 45%. "On the go recycling" – currently almost non-existent – also needs to be dramatically improved by things like separated waste bins, or simply more bins in public places, said Turner.

To meet the industry's self-imposed target of zero plastic waste to landfill by 2020, however, it is largely looking to incineration, which is highly controversial with environment groups and local communities who worry about how waste ash is disposed of and breathing in emissions from the plants – despite the Health Protection Agency giving modern plants the go ahead as not damaging to health. Greenhouse gas emissions from such plants are also high: equivalent to 540g of carbon dioxide (CO²e) per kilowatt hour, more than gas power and more than 100 times that for nuclear.

Instead, environment and wildlife campaigners want far more attention to the "waste hierarchy" – reduce, reuse, recycle. To drive this change, the government this month proposed increasing all recycling targets, raising plastics to 50%. If enforced, that should encourage innovations, such as more food recycling (which research suggests reduces over-purchasing and so the need for packaging), and the recent development of a new dye for black plastic bags which, unlike the traditional compound, can be detected by the automatic sorting machines.

Further afield, 47 industry groups from around the world have joined forces to fund research and schemes to stop plastic from getting into the seas and oceans. While on land, countries without plastic recovery regulations could adopt a system used in several European countries like Belgium, where manufacturers are responsible for recovering a percentage of the plastic they produce. "The idea of producer responsibility is one of the ones people are most agreed on, but no-one's sure how," said Kirby.

Related Article:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Analysis: Green groups find success fighting shale oil boom

Reuters, by Ayesha Rascoe, Washington,  Tue Dec 27, 2011

(Reuters) - A resurgent green movement is launching a multi-pronged counter-attack against the shale oil and gas boom in the United States that could slow, though ultimately not stop, development.

Building upon their unexpected success in the battle against the Keystone XL pipeline, a renewed onslaught from environmentalists is putting the shale industry on the defensive while adding to costs, limiting expansion and potentially scuttling major projects.

"I think it's the totality of what's going on all at once, that's the biggest concern," said Barclay Nicholson, a lawyer for the Washington-based Fulbright & Jaworski law firm, which has represented companies involved in shale development.

With new oversight pending from federal and state authorities and lawsuits, Nicholson said critics of shale development have a plethora of avenues to fight back.

Environmentalists, alarmed at what they see as unchecked industrialization of rural areas, say they are working to secure more regulation of the rapidly growing shale industry to protect fragile areas from damaging practices.


After legislation aimed at addressing climate change failed to make it into law last year, green groups have been forced to take a more piece meal approach to energy policy.

That strategy worked well against TransCanada's proposed Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline, which environmentalists successfully turned into a potent symbol of the threat of carbon-intensive oil sands crude.

In November the Obama administration delayed the project, once described as a "no brainer" by Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after a wave of protests erupted in Washington and on the campaign trail.

The decision was like a shot of adrenalin for the green movement and groups are planning more creative and high profile efforts to fight a range of energy projects.

Republicans in Congress maneuvered to keep Keystone alive by including a provision in tax legislation that would force the White House to make decision on the project within 60 days.

But green groups have vowed to fight on and the administration has already said it cannot approve the project because of the time needed to study new routes.

"For the moment we're stuck fighting one pipeline, one gas well at a time," said Bill McKibben, who rose to prominence with his staging of huge protests against Keystone and is now using his influence to attack the fracking bonanza.


Oil and gas companies are using advanced drilling techniques to unlock vast stores of shale fuel across the country, which is bringing legions of rigs, trucks and workers to areas unused to such activity.

The companies employ the controversial "fracking" drilling process, that involves fracturing rock formations by shooting vast and often secret cocktails of water and chemicals deep underground to free a trove of hydrocarbons.

The oil and gas industry argues that the fracking technique has been used safely for years and advances in the practice have set off a revolution that is creating jobs and boosting U.S. energy security.

But, environmentalists warn against downplaying their concerns about fracking.

"I'm not sure that they really want a Keystone XL fight on their hands, because the public is strong and they're not going to back down on this issue," said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club's natural gas reform campaign, which formally launched this year.

Worries about shale output have already prompted the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department to begin crafting new regulations that address issues such as wastewater disposal and disclosure of chemicals.

Green Groups have made headway with their appeals in New York, where authorities have imposed a temporary moratorium on shale drilling. Environmentalists also cheered a decision by regulators to delay a vote on lifting a ban on shale drilling in the Delaware River basin that affects the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

John Sachs, a director at energy investment bank Taylor-DeJongh, said the economic and domestic energy benefits of access to cleaner burning natural gas will ultimately win out, but green groups may be able to make inroads in some areas.

"It may slow down some of the development in some states," Sachs said. He said such delays would not necessarily be negative for development, because it would allow industry and regulators to address some of the public concerns.


American Gas Association president Dave McCurdy recently told reporters that while there were some legitimate concerns about development, the problems were manageable.

"None of those are going to halt the production of shale gas in this country," McCurdy told reporters earlier this month. "It is changing the political and economic map."

Still, the expansion of shale production has spawned dozens of local groups and activists focused on combating development.

Scott Ely, a resident of the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania, very much at the epicenter of the fight over shale production, said he is trying to spread his story.

Green groups have rallied in support of Ely and 10 other families in Dimock that say their water was contaminated after Cabot Oil and Gas began drilling in their area. Cabot has denied responsibility.

"As far as the oil industry goes, this is a machine you're probably not going to be able to stop because the world needs its gas," Ely said in Dimock in December where supporters in a publicity event delivered fresh water to the families. "But because of what we did three years ago, when we started coming out, they've already started making changes in the way they operate."

(Reporting By Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

Related Articles:

Jessica Ernst, whose village in Alberta, Canada, is surrounded
by natural gas wells, told a Calgary publication in 2008 that due
to methane contamination, she could set her tap water on fire.
Below, an apparatus the Duke University researchers used to test
methane levels. (Photograph by Wil Andruschak.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Queen Beatrix: Green is good

RNW, 25 December 2011

In her annual Christmas message, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands drew attention to environmental issues, expressing her concern for the future of planet Earth and the unequal distribution of the planet's riches.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
Queen Beatrix said "selfishness and extravagance blind people to the damage that is done to our natural surroundings and undermine community spirit... we have lost sight of the fact that the Earth's resources are finite and of behaviour that is acceptable in a civilised society."

According to the queen, people should be concerned with more than their own comfort and welfare because "avarice distorts the aims of our economy," and she called on politicians to carefully weigh "the quality of the future when making decisions about today."

Green is good

The Dutch monarch said she was encouraged by the many different programmes and private initiatives calling on people to adopt environmentally-friendly ways of living, including wind and water energy and sustainable, responsible methods of production.

However, she lamented the fact that so many of these programmes are overwhelmed by the need for economic growth, adding "all these hopeful moves toward change that come from so many different segments of society generate far less media attention than the drive to make and hold on to money, profits and material goods."

She called on people to work to improve the natural world and their immediate surroundings, "everywhere, people are coming up with new ideas and ways to live in more sustainable, aware life. This is a source of hope in the future and for the future as it is young people who are behind these new ideas."

The queen quoted Mahatma Gandhi, "there is enough on the planet to satisfy everybody's needs but not everybody's desires," and added "we are beings gifted with intelligence and morals and therefore we should use these gifts to take care of the planet and work toward creating a just society."

Related Article:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mind the sleigh! Airlines given permission to fly over North Pole for the first time slashing the hours to exotic destinations

Daily Mail, by Ray Massey, Transport Editor, 24 Dec 2011

  • Long-haul flight times reduced by up to 50%
  • 'Whole new world opened up,' says Branson

Air passengers will be able to cut the times of long-haul flights by as much as half and fly faster to exotic destinations under a new relaxation of aviation rules.

It could also mean cheaper and cleaner flights for British holidaymakers.

The new rules will allow carriers operating in the South Pacific, to take a 'short cut' over the North Pole for the first time.

Shorter flights: A British Airways Boeing 777 which will be able to
take a 'short cut' over the North pole

While passenger jets from Australia to South America will be able to fly the most direct routes.

  • Fiji (10,000 miles) - current time via Los Angles or Seoul: 24 hours. New time: 18 hours non-stop using 'polar express' short cut.
  • Tahiti (9,600 miles) via Los Angeles: 23 hours. New time: 17 hours.
  • Honolulu (7,300 miles) via Los Angeles: 18 hours. New time: 13 hours.
  • Anchorage (4,500 miles) via Seattle: 16 hours. New time: 8 hours

Until now, Boeing’s 777 and the new 787 ‘Dreamliner’ jets had for safety reasons to stay within a  three hour range (180 minutes) of the nearest diversion airport.

Under the new rules, that has been nearly doubled to five and a half hours, (330 minutes) taking account of improvements in aircraft and engine  technology.

It means, for example, that planes from the UK  will be able to take a non-stop flight - dubbed 'Santa's short cut' - over  the North Pole to destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska or French Polynesia.

It also means shorter journeys, cheaper flights, less fuel, and lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) - the so-called greenhouse gas’ blamed for global warming.

The ‘extended operations’ rules define the time that an aircraft is permitted to be from an emergency landing site in case of an engine failure and is applied to two-engine jets.

It follows a decision  by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to allow up  to 330-minutes ‘extended operations’ for Boeings'  777 fleet.

Frozen: An aerial view of the North Pole which passenger carriers
will now be able to fly over to exotic destinations

It allows airlines operating Boeing  777-300ER (extended range), 777-200LR (longer range), 777 Freighter and 777-200ER models equipped with General Electric engines to fly up to 330 minutes from a potential ‘diversion’ airport.

Approval for the Boeing 777-200ER equipped with British Rolls-Royce and American Pratt & Whitney engines is expected to follow over the next few months.

The first airline to take advantage of the new longer ‘extended operations’ option is Air New Zealand which earlier this month flew from Los Angeles to Auckland.

Capt. David Morgan, chief pilot for Air New Zealand said: ‘What this means is that the aeroplane  is able to fly a straighter route between pairs of cities and that's good for the environment.

‘Less fuel is burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. It's also good for customers because flights are potentially shorter and passengers could arrive sooner at their destinations.’

Virgin Atlantic airline president Sir Richard Branson said: 'This new development really does open up a whole new world.

'Our new fleet of 787s could well be flying to Honolulu or even Fiji one day.'

Last October The European Aviation Safety Agency granted a 207-minute rating after receiving an application from Air France to fly a 777-300ER from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti. The European agency is also  expected to adopt the 330-minute rule.

Planes once flew over the North Pole during the Cold War in the 1950s to avoid Communist Bloc airspace.

Related Article:

Richard Branson said the airline industry should aim for 50% sustainable
fuels by 2020. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dike to house ‘blue energy’ plant

RNW, 23 December 2011

Afsluitdijk, The Netherlands

The cabinet has approved funding totalling 20 million euros for sustainable energy projects on the Afsluitdijk, the 32-kilometre barrier that closed off the Zuiderzee from the open sea to create what is now the freshwater IJsselmeer lake.

The dike will house an innovative osmotic power plant, or ‘blue energy’ plant, which exploits pressure created when salt water passes through a membrane to mix with fresh water. Solar panels will also be mounted on the dike.

The sustainable energy funding comes as part of a renovation package to increase the safety of the Afsluitdijk, which was completed in 1932. In its present state the barrier can no longer guarantee protection against high water, the Infrastructure Ministry says.

The surface of the dike is to be reinforced along its entire length, and the sluices that drain excess water from the IJsselmeer into the sea will be given a 200-million euro overhaul.

The regional authorities have also investigated opportunities to use the dike for recreational purposes. The renovation project may also include the construction of a marina. At present the dike serves as a road link between the west and north of the country.

Related Articles:
  (Photo: RNW)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Judge rules plan to cut solar power subsidies 'legally flawed'

High court ruling opens door for review that could force government to delay cutting incentives to solar households, John Vidal, Wednesday 21 December 2011

The government had wanted to cut the feed-in tarriff - paid to households
with solar panels installed - with only weeks' notice. Photograph: Simon Burt/PA

Government plans to slash incentive payments for householders who install solar panels were ruled "legally flawed" by a high court judge on Wednesday. The ruling opens the door for a judicial review that could force the government to delay its plans, and let thousands more people claim the higher subsidy.

Friends of the Earth and two solar panel companies argued that the government's decision to cut the feed-in tariff – the amount paid to those with solar panels installed – with only a few weeks' notice was premature and unlawful, and had led to unfinished or planned projects being abandoned. The tariff was cut from 43.3p to 21p per kWh of energy generated.

Thousands of individuals, farmers, councils and community groups had applied to install photovoltaic panels. The subsidy was set high to encourage people to invest when the scheme was launched in April 2010. But the government announced in October that it would cut the subsidy from 12 December, arguing that the cost of solar equipment had fallen sharply. This was 11 days before the consultation ended.

The judgment, by Mr Justice Mitting after a two-day court hearing, was hailed as a victory by green campaigners and the solar industry, after firms warned that the scale and pace of the proposed cuts could cripple the sector and cost thousands of jobs.

Mitting said the minister was "proposing to make an unlawful decision".

Friends of the Earth's executive director, Andy Atkins, said: "These botched and illegal plans have cast a huge shadow over the solar industry, jeopardising thousands of jobs. We hope this ruling will prevent ministers rushing through damaging changes to clean energy subsidies – giving solar firms a much-needed confidence boost."

Lawyers for the Department of Energy and Climate Change are seeking permission to appeal against the judge's ruling.

It came as a report by MPs on two select committees said the cuts were clumsily handled and may have fatally damaged a growing industry which could provide tens of thousands of jobs.

By giving consumers and companies just a few weeks' notice that it intended to halve the payments, the government has created uncertainty among investors and undermined public confidence in energy policy, said the MPs. "There is no question that solar subsidies needed to be urgently reduced, but the government has handled this clumsily. Ministers should have spotted the solar gold rush much earlier. That way subsidy levels could have been reduced in a more orderly way without delivering such a shock to the industry," said Tim Yeo, chair of the energy and climate change committee.

In addition, plans to require homes to meet a C-rated energy efficiency standard before they can receive subsidies will limit access to wealthier households and could have a "fatal impact" on the industry, the MPs warn. Eighty six per cent of homes would need to be better insulated to qualify for the scheme – increasing up-front costs for homeowners by between £5,600 and £14,000, even before the panels are purchased, they said.

Joan Walley, chair of the environmental audit committee said: "It doesn't make economic sense to let the sun go down on the solar industry in the UK. As well as helping to cut carbon emissions, every panel that is installed brings in VAT for the government and every company that benefits from the support is keeping people in work. The Government is right to encourage people to focus on saving energy before fitting solar panels, but these proposals will stop nine out of ten installations from going ahead, which will have a devastating effect on hundreds of solar companies and small building firms installing these panels across the country."

Rising energy bills and the falling cost of solar panels made the original subsidy rates so attractive that tens of thousands of households, companies and community groups have rushed to install photovoltaic (PV) systems since the scheme was introduced last year.

The government had evidence that solar panel prices were falling significantly as early as March 2011, but ministers did not act to stem rocketing levels of small solar installations until the end of October.

The MPs say the consultation then announced by the government was based on an inadequate impact assessment and unfairly set a 12 December deadline for changes to come into effect before the consultation closed on 23 December.

The scale and pace of the changes proposed was a shock for the solar industry and the suddenness of their introduction has damaged investor confidence across the whole energy sector, the MPs said. The government has proposed an even lower tariff (80% of the new rate) for generators who have more than one solar system registered for FiTs, in recognition of the economics of scale such aggregated schemes can achieve. This, said the MPs, will have an adverse impact on community solar projects.

"This could have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and poorer communities for whom such schemes are a good way of accessing the benefits of renewable energy and reducing electricity costs. The social housing sector and community owned schemes are going to be particularly hard hit by the reduced tariffs being brought in by the Government retrospectively," said the MPs.

The MPs' report and court ruling follows the decision by BP to close its solar division, blaming the "commoditisation" of the sector. It emerged this week that Mike Petrucci, chief executive of BP Solar, wrote to his remaining 100 staff last week to say that "the continuing global economic challenges have significantly impacted the solar industry, making it difficult to sustain long-term returns for the company."

Related Articles:
  (Photo: RNW)

German village generates 321 percent more renewable energy than it needs, earns millions selling it back to national power grid

Natural News, Monday, December 19, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

German village of Wildpoldsried generates 321 percent more renewable
energy than it needs

(NaturalNews) Developing a renewable energy system that creates energy independence and even a considerable new source of revenue is not some sort of sci-fi pipe dream. BioCycle reports that the German village of Wildpoldsried, population 2,600, has had such incredible success in building its renewable energy system. Wildpoldsried generates 321 percent more renewable energy than it uses, and it now sells the excess back to the national power grid for roughly $5.7 million in additional revenue every single year.

By utilizing a unique combination of solar panels, "biogas" generators, natural wastewater treatment plants, and wind turbines, Wildpoldsried has effectively eliminated its need to be attached to a centralized power grid, and created a thriving renewable energy sector in the town that is self-sustaining and abundantly beneficial for the local economy, the environment, and the public.

You can view some amazing pictures of the Wildpoldsried village at: (

Possessing admirable vision for the town and strong motivation to see the project as a whole succeed, Mayor Arno Zengerie has led the way for many years in making Wildpoldsried's energy independence efforts a success. As far back as 1997, the village has been investing in building and promoting new industries, maintaining a strong local economy, generating new forms of revenue, and ultimately staying out of debt. And the best way it saw fit to accomplish much of this was through the implementation of self-sustaining, renewable energy technologies.

Not only did Wildpoldsried successfully reduce the amount of time expected to generate the necessary funds to build local treasures like a sports hall, theater stage, pub, and retirement home with the revenue generated by its thriving renewable energy sector -- the village has already successfully built nine community buildings, with more on the way -- but it also achieved all this and more without going into debt.

"We often spend a lot of time talking to our visitors about how to motivate the village council (and Mayor) to start thinking differently," said Mayor Zengerle, who now gives talks around the world about the successes of his award-winning village. "We show them a best practices model in motion and many see the benefits immediately. From the tour we give, our guests understand how well things can operate when you have the enthusiasm and conviction of the people.

Be sure to read the full, inspiring account of Wildpoldsried's history of, and successes in, renewable energy at: (

  (Photo: RNW)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sony's bio battery turns waste paper into electricity

BBC News, 21 December 2011

Related Stories 

Sony's paper-powered battery offers the prospect of
waste paper being used to top up mobile phones
Sony has unveiled a paper-powered battery prototype in Japan. 

The technology generates electricity by turning shredded paper into sugar which in turn is used as fuel.

If brought to market, the innovation could allow the public to top up the power of their mobile devices using waste material.

The team behind the project said such bio-batteries are environmentally friendly as they did not use harmful chemicals or metals.

The Japanese electronics giant showed off its invention at the Eco-Products exhibition in Tokyo last week.

Employees invited children to drop piece of paper and cardboard into a liquid made up of water and enzymes, and then to shake it. The equipment was connected to a small fan which began spinning a few minutes later.

Learning from nature

The process works by using the enzyme cellulase to decompose the materials into glucose sugar. These were then combined with oxygen and further enzymes which turned the material into electrons and hydrogen ions.

The electrons were used by the battery to generate electricity. Water and the acid gluconolactone, which is commonly used in cosmetics, were created as by-products.

Researchers involved in the project liken the mechanism to the one used by white ants and termites to digest wood and turn it into energy.

"In the future using this technology, we will be able to generate electricity using glucose derived from unused wood, cardboard and old papers," a presentation given by the team said.


While the battery is already powerful enough to run basic music players, it is still falls far short of commercially sold batteries.

The environmental campaign group Greenpeace welcomed the development.

"The issue that we always have with battery technology is the toxic chemicals that go into making them and recycling batteries is also complicated," John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK told the BBC.

"Any way to provide a greener technology could be a potential magic bullet. So from that point of view this is interesting, and I think it's fantastic that companies like Sony are looking to make the generation of energy more environmentally friendly."

Sony's engineers are not the only ones exploring the concept of paper-based batteries.

In 2009 a team of Stanford University scientists revealed they were working on a battery created by coating sheets of paper with ink made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires. They said their work might ultimately lead to a device capable of lasting through 40,000 charge-discharge cycles.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Carrots in the car park. Radishes on the roundabout. The deliciously eccentric story of the town growing ALL its own veg

Daily Mail, by Vincent Graff, 10th December 2011

Admittedly, it sounds like the most foolhardy of criminal capers, and one of the cheekiest, too.

Outside the police station in the small Victorian mill town of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, there are three large raised flower beds.

If you’d visited a few months ago, you’d have found them overflowing with curly kale, carrot plants, lettuces, spring onions — all manner of vegetables and salad leaves.

Today the beds are bare. Why? Because people have been wandering up to the police station forecourt in broad daylight and digging up the vegetables. And what are the cops doing about this brazen theft from right under their noses? Nothing.

Food for thought: Todmorden resident Estelle Brown, a former interior
designer, with a basket of home-grown veg

Well, that’s not quite correct.

‘I watch ’em on camera as they come up and pick them,’ says desk officer Janet Scott, with a huge grin. It’s the smile that explains everything.

For the vegetable-swipers are not thieves. The police station carrots — and thousands of vegetables in 70 large beds around the town — are there for the taking. Locals are encouraged to help themselves. A few tomatoes here, a handful of broccoli there. If they’re in season, they’re yours. Free.

So there are (or were) raspberries, apricots and apples on the canal towpath; blackcurrants, redcurrants and strawberries beside the doctor’s surgery; beans and peas outside the college; cherries in the supermarket car park; and mint, rosemary, thyme and fennel by the health centre.

The vegetable plots are the most visible sign of an amazing plan: to make Todmorden the first town in the country that is self-sufficient in food.

‘And we want to do it by 2018,’ says Mary Clear, 56, a grandmother of ten and co-founder of Incredible Edible, as the scheme is called.

‘It’s a very ambitious aim. But if you don’t aim high, you might as well stay in bed, mightn’t you?’


So what’s to stop me turning up with a huge carrier bag and grabbing all the rosemary in the town?

‘Nothing,’ says Mary.

What’s to stop me nabbing all the apples?


All your raspberries?


It just doesn’t happen like that, she says. ‘We trust people. We truly believe — we are witness to it — that people are decent.’

When she sees the Big Issue seller gathering fruit for his lunch, she feels only pleasure. What does it matter, argues Mary, if once in a while she turns up with her margarine tub to find that all the strawberries are gone?

‘This is a revolution,’ she says. ‘But we are gentle revolutionaries. Everything we do is underpinned by kindness.’

The idea came about after she and co-founder Pam Warhurst, the former owner of the town’s Bear Cafe, began fretting about the state of the world and wondered what they could do.

They reasoned that all they could do is start locally, so they got a group of people, mostly women, together in the cafe.

Incredible Edible is about more than plots of veg. It's about educating people
about food, and stimulating the local economy (pictured Vincent Graff and Estelle)

‘Wars come about by men having drinks in bars, good things come about when women drink coffee together,’ says Mary.

‘Our thinking was: there’s so much blame in the world — blame local government, blame politicians, blame bankers, blame technology — we thought, let’s just do something positive instead.’

We’re standing by a car park in the town centre. Mary points to a housing estate up the hill. Her face lights up.

‘The children walk past here on the way to school. We’ve filled the flower beds with fennel and they’ve all been taught that if you bite fennel, it tastes like a liquorice gobstopper. When I see the children popping little bits of herb into their mouths, I just think it’s brilliant.’

She takes me over to the front garden of her own house, a few yards away.

Three years ago, when Incredible Edible was launched, she did a very unusual thing: she lowered her front wall, in order to encourage passers-by to walk into her garden and help themselves to whatever vegetables took their fancy.

There were signs asking people to take something but it took six months for folk to ‘get it’, she says.

They get it now. Obviously a few town-centre vegetable plants — even thousands of them — are not going to feed a community of 15,000 by themselves.

But the police station potatoes act as a recruiting sergeant — to encourage residents to grow their own food at home.

Today, hundreds of townspeople who began by helping themselves to the communal veg are now well on the way to self-sufficiency.

But out on the street, what gets planted where? There’s kindness even in that.

‘The ticket man at the railway station, who was very much loved, was unwell. Before he died, we asked him: “What’s your favourite vegetable, Reg?” It was broccoli. So we planted memorial beds with broccoli at the station. One stop up the line, at Hebden Bridge, they loved Reg, too — and they’ve also planted broccoli in his memory.’

Not that all the plots are — how does one put this delicately? — ‘official’.

Take the herb bushes by the canal. Owners British Waterways had no idea locals had been sowing plants there until an official inspected the area ahead of a visit by the Prince of Wales last year (Charles is a huge Incredible Edible fan).

Estelle Brown, a 67-year-old former interior designer who tended the plot, received an email from British Waterways.

‘I was a bit worried to open it,’ she says. ‘But it said: “How do you build a raised bed? Because my boss wants one outside his office window.”’

Incredible Edible is also about much more than plots of veg. It’s about educating people about food, and stimulating the local economy.

There are lessons in pickling and preserving fruits, courses on bread-making, and the local college is to offer a BTEC in horticulture. The thinking is that young people who have grown up among the street veg may make a career in food.

Crucially, the scheme is also about helping local businesses. The Bear, a wonderful shop and cafe with a magnificent original Victorian frontage, sources all its ingredients from farmers within a 30-mile radius.

There’s a brilliant daily market. People here can eat well on local produce, and thousands now do.

Meanwhile, the local school was recently awarded a £500,000 Lottery grant to set up a fish farm in order to provide food for the locals and to teach useful skills to young people.

Jenny Coleman, 62, who retired here from London, explains: ‘We need something for our young people to do. If you’re an 18-year-old, there’s got to be a good answer to the question: why would I want to stay in Todmorden?’

The day I visit, the town is battered by a bitterly-cold rain storm.  Yet the place radiates warmth. People speak to each other in the street, wave as neighbours drive past, smile.

If the phrase hadn’t been hijacked, the words ‘we’re all in this together’ would spring to mind.

So what sort of place is Todmorden (known locally, without exception, as ‘Tod’)? If you’re assuming it’s largely peopled by middle-class grandmothers, think again. Nor is this place a mecca for the gin-and-Jag golf club set.

Set in a Pennine valley — once, the road through the town served as the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire — it is a vibrant mix of age, class and ethnicity.

A third of households do not own a car; a fifth do not have central heating.

You can snap up a terrace house for £50,000 — or spend close to £1 million on a handsome stone villa with seven bedrooms.

And the scheme has brought this varied community closer together, according to Pam Warhurst.

Take one example. ‘The police have told us that, year on year, there has been a reduction in vandalism since we started,’ she says. ‘We weren’t expecting this.’

So why has it happened?

Pam says: ‘If you take a grass verge that was used as a litter bin and a dog toilet and turn it into a place full of herbs and fruit trees, people won’t vandalise it. I think we are hard-wired not to damage food.’

Pam reckons a project like Incredible Edible could thrive in all sorts of places. ‘If the population is very transient, it’s difficult. But if you’ve got schools, shops, back gardens and verges, you can do it.’

Similar schemes are being piloted in 21 other towns in the UK, and there’s been interest shown from as far afield as Spain, Germany, Hong Kong and Canada. And, this week, Mary Clear gave a talk to an all-party group of MPs at Westminster.

Todmorden was visited by a planner from New Zealand, working on the rebuilding of his country after February’s earthquake.

Mary says: ‘He went back saying: “Why wouldn’t we rebuild the railway station with pick-your-own herbs? Why wouldn’t we rebuild the health centre with apple trees?”

‘What we’ve done is not clever. It just wasn’t being done.’

The final word goes to an outsider. Joe Strachan is a wealthy U.S. former sales director who decided to settle in Tod with his Scottish wife, after many years in California.

He is 61 but looks 41. He became active with Incredible Edible six months ago, and couldn’t be happier digging, sowing and juicing fruit.

I find myself next to him, sheltering from the driving rain. Why, I ask, would someone forsake the sunshine of California for all this?

His answer sums up what the people around here have achieved.

‘There’s a nobility to growing food and allowing people to share it. There’s a feeling we’re doing something significant rather than just moaning that the state can’t take care of us.

‘Maybe we all need to learn to take care of ourselves.’

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