Wednesday, January 03, 2007


A leading German utility has abandoned plans to convert a British power station to run on palm oil, in a blow to the promotion of biofuels in Europe. The decision by RWE npower to scrap the project at its Littlebrook plant in Dartford, Kent, which was seen as a test case for palm oil as an alternative energy source, comes after it was unable to secure sufficient supplies without risking damage to tropical rainforest. The move highlights the mounting alarm over the scramble in South-East Asia to bring more land into palm oil cultivation.

Widely used in processed foods, such as margarine, and in cosmetics, palm oil is burning bright on commodity exchanges. The price in Rotterdam soared to an eight-year high last week of $620 per tonne, buoyed by fears that floods in Malaysia would damage production. It has risen by more than 50 per cent over the past year in expectation that the burgeoning market for biodiesel will transform a previously dull commodity into the fuel of the future.

The Indonesian Government has signalled that 40 per cent of its palm oil crop will be designated for biofuel production in an attempt to reduce the country's reliance on crude oil.

RWE npower had hoped that palm oil would produce electricity in a carbon-neutral process that would not add to greenhouse gas emissions. According to a spokesman for RWE npower, the process works but the company was unable to guarantee that enough palm oil could be bought from sustainable plantations. "There wasn't enough palm oil that we could demonstrate was sustainable," the spokesman said. "The bottom line is: are you contributing to global warming by chopping down rainforest?" The company hired independent auditors to establish whether palm plantations in Malaysia could be accredited to standards set by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, an organisation committed to promoting a sustainable palm oil industry.

Close attention paid to the RWE project by environmental groups, such as Friends of the Earth, did help to tip the balance against palm oil, RWE's spokesman admitted. The environmental group claims that 87 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia between 1985 and 2000 was caused by palm oil plantations. Other groups, such as World Wide Fund for Nature, have mounted vigorous campaigns to save the orang-utan, which is threatened by deforestation in Indonesia.

Further opposition is brewing in the European Parliament, which is considering a ban on imports of non-sustainable palm oil. This stance brings it into conflict with the European Commission, which is anxious to promote biofuels in its drive to reduce European carbon emissions. Public concern about rainforest wildlife is ringing alarm bells among UK supermarket groups. Several groups have joined the Round Table, hoping to develop an effective scheme that will guarantee sustainable palm oil.


Australia: Greenie dam-hatred now hits washing machines

Will we be told how often we can take a shower soon?

Victoria will lead a national push to have the sale of water-guzzling washing machines and shower heads banned. The crackdown comes as Melbourne had its first day of stage 3 restrictions and the state struggled to get on top of the water crisis, which has seen water storages drop to record lows. Acting Premier and Water Minister John Thwaites said the Government would turn its focus from outdoor water restrictions to indoor water savings, with 80 per cent of household water used indoors. "We can't do it alone, they're (the appliances) manufactured all over the country," Mr Thwaites said. He would approach all of Australia's state and federal water ministers to have all inefficient washing machine models and shower heads phased out.

And the Government hasn't ruled out expanding its rebate program to help Victorians cover the cost of replacing old washing machines with more efficient machines. "We are encouraging people to use low-water-use dishwashers and washing machines but we're not forcing it at this point because most people are choosing to use low-water devices," Mr Thwaites said. "But we will have to move to more severe regulation if that doesn't work."

Mr Thwaites was spruiking the Government's $1000 rebate for large water tanks yesterday, and reminded the public about rebates for people who replaced their old shower heads with low-flow heads. Melbourne has been on stage 3 restrictions for just a day, but it appears likely the city will go to unprecedented stage 4 restrictions, which ban all water use outside the home, by mid-April.

South East Water's 140 inspectors have the power to hand out on-the-spot fines for repeat offenders who breach water restrictions - and even to cut water supplies to a trickle to punish the worst offenders. The powers came into effect yesterday but South East Water refused to say how many people, if any, had been fined or had their supplies restricted. Until December 31, the government-owned water authority had warned 2000 people, but issued no fines against those who breached water restrictions, despite the Government's tough talk. South East Water managing director Dennis Cavagna said the authority believed education was the best way to address water restrictions. "We are keen to make sure people do comply and if they do flout them we will come down hard on them," he said. Mr Cavagna said the restrictions were equivalent to severe restrictions that were implemented in Melbourne in 1982 and 1983.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu maintained the need for a dam on the Maribyrnong, and said restrictions such as those in Melbourne didn't work. "We have barely been saving at all," he said. He said Melbourne should have been on stage 4 restrictions already. "The Government has left it all too late. They have done stuff-all," he said.


Oh dear! 2006 only 11th hottest year for Australia

How pesky for the Greenies. All that extra CO2 in the atmosphere and nothing to show for it! Hot one year and cold the next despite steadily rising CO2. Much fast-talking needed

Melbourne has had its driest year in almost 40 years and Australia had its 11th hottest year since reliable records began in 1910. Temperatures around Australia were almost half a degree above average last year and October was the warmest it had ever been. The Bureau of Meteorology's climate statement tomorrow is expected to say the nation's mean day and night temperature for the past 12 months was about 0.42C above average. While 2005 was the hottest ever (1.09C above average), the result for 2006 is still in line with trends towards higher temperatures.

Parliamentary secretary for the environment Greg Hunt said the pattern of warming was linked to the drought with higher rainfall in the north of the country and lower in the south. [That sounds pretty pesky too] "What this shows is that there is an overwhelming need for water recycling to end the massive waste of water occurring not just in Melbourne but in east coast cities of Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast," Mr Hunt said. "It is almost unthinkable that we are wasting hundreds of billions of litres a year of recyclable water at a time both of drought and a longer-term trend to drying in the south."

Tomorrow's weather bureau statement will say Australian temperatures have risen, on average, about 1C since the middle of last century. Rainfall patterns have also changed with more rain in the northwest over the past 50 years and less in the east and southeast. Melbourne had its eighth driest year since records began in 1855. Just 437mm of rain fell in 2006, well below the annual average of 637mm. Regional centres were also well down with many registering their lowest rainfall. Shepparton, Albury-Wodonga, Sale and Ballarat all recorded record lows. A sprinkling of just 0.6mm in Melbourne on New Year's Eve brought the annual total to the lowest since 1967, when just 332mm of rain fell.

Weather bureau senior forecaster Scott Williams said Melbourne had not received above-average rainfall since 1996, when 777mm was recorded. "That was also the last time our water storages were above 80 per cent," he said. Melbourne's water levels stand at 38.9 per cent. Regional centres were even drier last year. Shepparton recorded a record low of just 183mm -- about a third of the 563mm annual average. In Albury-Wodonga, 290mm of rain fell in 2006 -- not even half the 737mm average. Ballarat, too, registered its lowest total with a mere 302mm, Bendigo had just 326mm. Other towns to have record lows include Nhill, Nathalia, Dookie, Benalla, Dargo, Drouin and Bonnie Doon. But yesterday brought fresh hope with scattered storms across the state. Maryborough had 11mm and Lake Eildon 4mm in the six hours to 3pm. And Licola, the tiny alpine town in the line of bushfires last month, enjoyed a New Year's Eve downpour of 28mm.


REALLY light cars could help with any energy crunch

According to the Peak Oil theorists, we are rapidly approaching the halfway point of world oil consumption. Since the second half of the world's oil supply is harder to get to than the first half, we can expect production to taper off long before the oil runs out. If the Peak Oil folks are right, the tapering off could begin any day now. And this is where things get silly. Many in the Peak Oil community are saying that the drop in oil production will cause civilization to collapse, that we not only won't be able to drive, but we won't have plastics, medicines, or even coal (since oil burning machines are used to mine coal).

On the other hand, the fear mongers are correct in noting that many of the proposed alternatives to fossil based oil are inadequate. The "hydrogen economy" is very impractical, dangerous, and expensive. Running our massive auto fleet on ethanol from corn would be devastating to the environment. Upgrading our public transportation system to European standards would be a gigantic capital expense for a bankrupt government, and would make this country more vulnerable to terrorists to boot.

There are easier solutions. Consider the typical American car. It is three to four thousand pounds of steel with a power plant capable of accelerating all that steel to interstate highway speeds in less than ten seconds. This is incredible overkill for propelling one or two people down a city street. Under city conditions, the giant power plant is barely running above idle; most of the energy burned is just for keeping the engine running. For someone living inside a city, the performance characteristics of a modern automobile are unnecessary 90+ percent of the time. A vehicle with Model T capabilities would be quite adequate. There is no need to surpass 30 mph on a city street.

Now, imagine building a car with Model T performance using modern materials - say, a tubular aluminum frame with a fabric covering - and a modern, efficient small engine. Such a vehicle could be propelled with ethanol or vegetable oil without over-farming the planet. But who would buy such a vehicle today? You would still need another vehicle for highway driving, or carrying more passengers and/or cargo. Shared ownership or rent-as-needed would work, but they are hardly worth the inconvenience when gasoline is under $3 per gallon.

This brings me back to the subject of New Year's Eve. It is rather dangerous putting a drunk behind the wheel of a 3000 pound car powered by 200 horses. But what about putting that drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle that is 1/5 the weight, and capable of going no faster than half interstate speed? This is a twenty fold reduction in kinetic energy! We could even equip our city cars with crushable foam bumpers or exterior air bags. To make such vehicles popular now, we need a separate licensing class. Make the vehicles illegal for highway use, but legal in the hands of those we don't trust with a full featured automobile: the drunk, the reckless and the aged.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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