06 September 2010

Nuclear energy in Germany, wheat prices in Mozambique and Britain, lower-carbon transit and other green news

Top Stories

Germany agrees to extend life of nuclear power stations.reliability high.
A story in The Guardian says that "Angela Merkel's coalition government has agreed to a two-tier extension of the lifespans of German nuclear power plants after marathon talks laid the groundwork for the country's future energy policy." Newer plants will have their operations extended 14 years beyond the previously planned shutdown date, into the '30s. See The Guardian. [Additional fees levied on nuclear power will be used to stimulate the development of renewable energy sources. Longer operation of the nuclear plants may also reduce the need to build new coal-fired plants, or enable the retirement of some old coal plants.]

Vulnerable Miami Hard at Work on Climate Change Planning.reliability high.
"Climate expert, Dr. Heidi Cullen, of the non-profit media organization Climate Central, reports" on Miami's preparations in a video. Long a leader in emergency planning for hurricanes, Miami-Dade County is developing plans to adapt to climate change impacts. Tax increases will be required. See video at Solveclimate blog.

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Mozambique's food riots – the true face of global warming.reliability medium.
In a comment piece Raj Patel writes that we should look at "the deaths and burning tyres in Mozambique's "food riots" to see what happens when extreme natural phenomena interact with our unjust economic systems." Opinion in The Guardian. [The piece doesn't go into the details of politics in Mozambique which might have contributed to the tension, for instance the low prices the government maintained through the recent elections. And the prices of water and other commodities also rose in Mozambique which contributed to the unrest but can't be blamed on Russian weather. But the author makes an impassioned argument. See also British wheat item below.]

Scientists Criticize System of Certifying Fisheries.reliability medium.
David Jolly posts that some marine scientists have written that the Marine Stewardship Council's seafood certification system is not protecting fish stocks as well as it should. He quotes the opinion piece in Nature: "Objections to MSC certifications are growing. Scores of scientists (including ourselves) and many conservation groups, including Greenpeace, the Pew Environment Group and some national branches of the WWF, have protested over various MSC procedures or certifications. We believe that, as the MSC increasingly risks its credibility, the planet risks losing more wild fish and healthy marine ecosystems." See New York Times Green blog. The Nature opinion piece is behind a $32 pay wall. [All certification systems are compromises between industry and green points of view, and will be periodically subject to criticism.]

Rising wheat prices raise fears over UK commitment to biofuels.reliability high.
The UK has one plant to make bioethanol from wheat, and several more under development. "According to the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture  and Horticulture Development Board, the three UK biofuel refineries that are expected to be fully operating by 2014 will require 3m tonnes, one-fifth of the wheat produced in the UK," the article says. But the runup of wheat prices associated with Russia's disastrous summer weather calls the strategy into question. "The 'dash for wheat' could see large amounts of land converted to arable use both in the UK and abroad. Green groups are concerned about what this will mean for developing countries," according to the article in The Guardian. [What will consumers in the UK say if ethanol demand drives up the price of wheat, as it has done to the price of maize in the U.S.? Of course wheat makes up only a few percent of the price of bread in the UK, and bread only a few percent of household budgets, quite different from Mozambique. Don't expect riots.]

New York City Inks Contract for Up to 475 Compressed Natural Gas Buses.reliability medium.
Michael Graham Richard posts: "The Board of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (the "MTA") has awarded New Flyer of America a contract for up to 475 buses. The contract is for 135 40-foot compressed natural gas ("CNG") heavy-duty transit buses with options for up to an additional 340 CNG buses." See TreeHugger. Press release here.

Foothill Transit Adds All-Electric Buses to Fleet.reliability high.
In the first deployment of Proterra's EcoRide BE35 all-electric buses by a major transit agency, "Foothill Transit, a public transport provider that operates bus services in Southern San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, in California," will launch service with the vehicles and a network of charging stations. It has the goal of establishing a full fleet of "clean-fueled vehicles" by 2011. California transit agencies have to purchase 15% of their annual bus orders as zero emission buses starting in 2012. Story at Environmental Leader.

Government and Regulation

Manufacturers to Pay for E-Waste under New Wisconsin Law.reliability high.
"The new law also requires manufacturers to document that at least 80 percent of the electronic items they sell are being recycled, reports Wisconsintrapidstribune.com. Currently, many manufacturers are providing rebates to companies that accept electronics in order to meet state electronic recycling requirements." More on the law's requirements. See Environmental Leader.