Wednesday, August 14, 2019

British University chief bans all beef from campus in fight against 'climate change emergency'

Prof. Corner is an expert in fashion

They were once regarded as staples of the students’ canteen. But now burgers, lasagne, chilli and tacos have been taken off the menu at a London university which has banned beef as part of its efforts to fight climate change.

From next month, Goldsmiths, University of London has said it will remove all beef product from its campus shops and cafes. Students will also face a 10p levy on bottles of water and single-use plastic cups when the academic year starts to discourage use of the products.

It is part of a new drive by the university to become carbon neutral by 2025, which involves building more solar panels and switching to a “clean” energy supplier.

Academic courses will also be reviewed to give students more opportunities to study climate change as part of their degree.

Professor Frances Corner, the new Warden of Goldsmiths said that "declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words".

The beef ban is the first announcement she has made since taking over as the head of the university earlier this month.

Prof Corner, who used to be head of the London College of Fashion, has championed ethical designs and describes herself as a “fashion activist”.

She has previously warned of the dangers of wearing fake fur, arguing that it makes wearing real fur “culturally acceptable”. 

Prof Corner said: “The growing global call for organisations to take seriously their responsibilities for halting climate change is impossible to ignore. 

“Though I have only just arrived at Goldsmiths, it is immediately obvious that our staff and students care passionately about the future of our environment and that they are determined to help deliver the step change we need to cut our carbon footprint drastically and as quickly as possible.”

The beef ban was praised by climate change activists but elsewhere it was criticised as an "an overly simplistic approach".

Stuart Roberts, vice president of the National Farmers' Union, said there was a "lack of understanding or recognition between British beef and beef produced elsewhere". He said that the union has been encouraging public institutions such as schools and universities to back British farming and source locally-produced food.

"Tackling climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time but singling out one food product is clearly an overly simplistic approach," he said. "Our standards of beef production in the UK are among the most efficient in the world, with British livestock grazing in extensive, grass-based systems - meaning a greenhouse gas footprint 2.5 times smaller than the global average.

"Anyone wanting to play their part in helping our planet amid the current climate change challenge we're all facing should buy British, locally produced beef reared to some of the highest and environmentally sustainable standards in the world.”

Goldsmiths is the latest university to alter its menu in an attempt to cut its carbon footprint. Cambridge University’s catering services has not served any beef or lamb since 2016 is instead “promoting the consumption of more vegetarian and vegan foods”.

Meanwhile, Ulster University, the University of East Anglia and a number of colleges at Oxford and Cambridge have introduced “meat free Mondays”. 

Dave Gorman, director of sustainability at Edinburgh University, said that currently 40 per cent of the menu options in campus cafes are vegetarian or vegan and they aim  to increase this to 50 per cent.

Westminster University has a “part time carnivore loyalty card”, whereby students who have purchased four vegetarian meals in the canteen get a free vegetarian meal.

Earlier this year, an Oxford college president demanded that octopus is removed from the menu as part of a drive to make disadvantaged students feel more “comfortable”.

Baroness Jan Royall, head of Somerville, said she wants to “change the culture” of the college to make sure it is “welcoming for all”.


UK National Grid experienced three blackout 'near-misses' in past few months

They've closed so many coal-fired power stations that they have very little reserve capacity

National Grid had experienced three blackout “near-misses” in the last few months before Friday's outage left almost a million homes in the dark and forced trains to a standstill around the UK, it has emerged.

The system operator, which is already under investigation by the energy watchdog, has been accused of not doing enough to protect against the risk of blackouts.

Industry sources have now claimed that National Grid has been aware of the growing risk of a wide-scale blackout 'for years', and has suffered a spate of near-misses in recent times, according to The Guardian.

The grid's frequency - a measure of energy intensity- normally sits around 50Hz. However, the paper said that in recent months the grid’s frequency has fallen below 49.6Hz on three different occasions, the deepest falls seen on the UK grid since 2015. On Friday the blackout was triggered when the frequency slumped to 48.88Hz.

In June, the frequency of the grid plummeted to within a whisker of National Grid’s legal limit of 49.5Hz after all three units of EDF Energy’s West Burton gas-fired power plant in Nottinghamshire tripped offline without warning.

In addition, the grid’s frequency fell to 49.55Hz on 9 May, and 49.58Hz of 11 July.

A spokesman for National Grid said these events were “independent”. He added that there was “no trend or prediction of more frequency excursions”.

“Over the past four years frequency has regularly fluctuated between the agreed limits, as part of the normal day-to-day operation of the electricity system,” he added.

They will now face an investigation into its handling of the energy system after the first blackout in more than a decade following the shutdown of a gas-fired power plant in Bedfordshire and the Hornsea windfarm in the North Sea at about 5pm of Friday.

Steve Shine, chairman of Anesco, a battery company, said: “It would be easy for National Grid to write this incident off as a fluke event, but they have actually been aware of this potential issue for many years.”


Enforce rules against false and misleading organic claims

FDA must no longer let organic food growers, manufacturers and sellers get away with lies

Paul Driessen

A couple years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration sent a “Warning Letter” to Nashoba Brook Bakery, advising its owners that listing “love” as an ingredient in their granola violated the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The product was “misbranded,” because “love” is “not a common or usual name of an ingredient,” FDA said. Such deceptive labeling practices could mislead consumers and are not allowed.

FDA has also warned and cited companies that make “unfounded,” “unproven” or “unsubstantiated” claims about their products. FDA is committed to “protecting the public health by taking action as needed against companies that deceive consumers.” It will not let companies say cannabidiol “has been linked to the effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” if they don’t have solid evidence to back the claim up.

Claiming your product is better or more effective than a competitor’s is also “misleading” if there is “no evidence” to support the claim. Labels and advertising must be “truthful and not misleading” – or else.

FDA policies are equally clear in the arena of organic, conventional and biotech (genetically modified or engineered, GMO or GE) seeds, ingredients, products, manufacturing, distribution and sales. The agency’s published guidance states that “false or misleading” food labeling includes “the statement ‘none of the ingredients in this food is genetically engineered’ on a food where some of the ingredients are incapable of being produced through genetic engineering (e.g., salt).”

“GMO-free” claims, FDA says, can also be “false and misleading” if they imply that a certain food “is safer, more nutritious, or otherwise has different attributes than other comparable foods because the food was not genetically engineered.” Claiming a food is healthier or better tasting, because it’s organic, would fall under this guideline of “different attributes ... because it was not genetically engineered.”

However, in stark contrast to the way it polices other food, drug, cosmetic and medical device industries, the FDA has let the $52.5-billion organic food industry and pro-organic, anti-conventional farming, anti-biotechnology interests routinely and flagrantly ignore agency rules. Their ads, websites and campaigns deliberately mislead consumers and denigrate competitors with multiple falsehoods.

1. No dangerous chemicals. The Whole Foods website falsely claims: “All organic foods begin as crops grown without toxic persistent pesticides which can end up in soil and water, as well as in your food.”

Copper sulfate has multiple pesticide and fungicide applications in organic farming; it persists in soil, is the most common chemical residue in organic foods, and can damage human brains, livers, kidneys and stomach linings. The EU found it can cause cancer but didn’t ban it because organic farmers have “no viable alternatives.” Natural and synthetic pyrethrin pesticides are powerful neurotoxins, highly toxic to bees, cats and fish, and linked to leukemia and other health problems in humans. Rotenone is a highly toxic pesticide that can enhance the onset of Parkinson’s disease. There are many more examples.

Moreover, GMO crops use 37% fewer chemical insecticides and herbicides than conventional versions of the same crops (because biotech crops have systemic or internal biological protections against insects). Indian farmers who plant GMO cotton have doubled their cotton production, dramatically reduced insecticide use and prevented over two million pesticide poisoning cases a year.

2. Biotech foods threaten human health. Organic interests consistently claim that GE foods cause higher incidences of everything from cancer and autism to diabetes and obesity.

Scientific and regulatory bodies worldwide have found that biotech foods are as safe and healthy as foods produced by conventional breeding, including: the World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority, British Royal Society, American Medical Association, and US National Academy of Sciences, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.

More than 100 Nobel Laureates in chemistry, medicine and biotechnology have likewise said crops and foods improved through biotechnology are “as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production.” Worldwide and with over four trillion US servings of foods containing at least one biotech ingredient, “there has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption.”

3. Organic is more sustainable. Organic interests claim their methods increase soil health and organic matter, enhance natural fertility and ensure long-term sustainability.

In reality, organic crops require more land, water, hand weeding, chemicals and expense to generate the same amount of food. Expanding organic farming would cause further wildlife habitat loss and reduced biodiversity, when we are trying to protect natural habitats and feed Earth’s seven billion people.

Biotech crops allow farmers to produce more food, from less land, using less water and fewer pesticides, and with greater resistance to droughts, floods and climate change, than is case with conventional crops – and certainly with organic crops. GE crops achieve much higher food yields per acre – whereas organic farms require 40% more land to as much as 70% more land to produce the same amount of food as their conventional or biotech counterparts.

Biotechnology also enables farmers to grow Golden Rice, which prevents malnutrition, blindness and death in African and Asian children. Greenpeace commits eco-manslaughter by battling this crop.

4. Organic foods are tastier and more nutritious. This assertion is likewise unsupportable.

Stanford University and other studies have repeatedly found that organic foods are no healthier or more nutritious than conventional or GE alternatives, while taste tests in Germany discovered that “discerning” foodies could not tell the difference between organic food and McDonald’s chicken nuggets!

But despite these facts, the endless campaigns of false, misleading, unsubstantiated claims, full-frontal attacks on biotech and conventional farming, and outright lies are clearly working. Thousands of companies pay the Non-GMO Project big bucks to get “GMO-Free” butterfly emblems on over 55,000 products – including salt, orange juice, tomatoes and other items that have no biotech counterparts.

US and EU consumers actually think organic food is better, tastier and more nutritious than conventional or biotech food – and are willing to pay up to 50% more for “organic” milk, bread, fruits and vegetables. Less than 40% of American adults believe genetically modified foods are safe to eat.

Many of the most outrageous activist campaigns are funded directly or indirectly by organic and natural food companies and allied foundations. They’re often conducted along or in coordination with lawsuits against glyphosate (Roundup) and campaigns against neonicotinoid pesticides and biotechnology, to expand organic industry market share and profits, and drive entire companies and industries out of business. Non-GMO Project director Megan Westgate proudly proclaims her goal is “to shrink the market for existing GMO ingredients and prevent new commercial biotech crops” from ever being introduced.

The FDA says trying to enforce its rules would force it to go after every container and company that make false, misleading, deceptive, pejorative organic claims. That’s nonsense. It would only have to go after a few of the biggest, worst, most prominent violators. Others would fall in line pretty quickly.

A few Warning Letters could tell organic farmers, manufacturers and retailers to cease making these claims or marketing their products until they provide replicable, convincing, peer-reviewed evidence that organic foods are chemical-free, safer, more nutritious, more eco-friendly than conventional or GMO varieties – and that GE crops have harmed people or the environment in demonstrable ways.

Organic producers and retailers could also be required to test their foods for residues of toxic organic chemicals. Give them six months to comply – and follow up with legal actions, major fines, and requirements that every miscreant issue front-page and top-of-their-website admissions and apologies.

The FDA, EPA, Agriculture Department and Federal Trade Commission have shown little tolerance for other industry violations. Big Organic should no longer be exempt from truth in advertising rules.

Via email

Net Zero Natural Gas Plant -- The Game Changer

An actual game changing technology is being demonstrated as we sit in our air-conditioned abodes reading this. And it is being demonstrated by North Carolina–based Net Power at a new plant in La Porte, Texas.

The process involves burning fossil fuel with oxygen instead of air to generate electricity without emitting any carbon dioxide (CO2). Not using air also avoids generating NOx, the main atmospheric and health contaminant emitted from gas plants.

Included in a group of technologies known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), zero-emission fossil fuel plants have been a dream never realized in practice, as it always seems to cost a lot, adding between 5¢ and 10¢ per kWh. This is probably because most attempts just add on another step after the traditional electricity generation steps, almost as an afterthought.

Some fossil fuel plants have tried, and failed, the most famous one recently being the $7.5 billion coal power plant in Kemper, Mississippi.

But this new technology completely changes the steps and the approach from the ground up. It is based on the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, Allam Cycle for short. This is a new, high-pressure, oxy-fuel, supercritical CO2 cycle that generates low-cost electricity from fossil fuels while producing near-zero air emissions.

All CO2 that is generated by the cycle is produced as a high-pressure, pipeline-ready by-product for use in enhanced oil recovery and industrial processes, or that can be sequestered underground in tight geologic formations where it will not get out to the atmosphere for millions of years.

The Allam Cycle also means the power plant is a lot smaller and can be sited in more areas than older plants can.

This 50 MW Texas plant is demonstrating that the technology works, especially to investors. So the project has some heavy hitters as partners - Exelon Generation will operate the plant, the infrastructure firm McDermott International (formerly CB&I) will provide engineering and construction, 8 Rivers Capital, the inventor of the NET Power technology, will provide continuing technology development, and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, joined NET Power as an investor late last year.

Toshiba developed the combustor and the CO2-turbine and continues additional development.

Most power plants rely on thermal power cycles for energy production. These systems create heat by burning fossil fuel using the oxygen in air. In coal plants, this takes place in a large boiler, where coal is burned and water is boiled to create high pressure steam.  This high-pressure steam then expands through a steam turbine, creating power.

In combined cycle gas turbine power plants, natural gas or coal syngas is burned in a combustor with compressed air. The heated gases then expand and drive a gas turbine. The turbine exhaust is extremely hot, so it is subsequently used to boil water to create high pressure steam and drive a steam turbine, thereby combining cycles. In both systems, aqueous steam is essential to the process as a working fluid.

Not so in an Allam Cycle plant like NET Power’s. At their Texas demonstration plant, the natural gas is burned with a mixture of hot CO2 and oxygen, known as oxy-combustion. The plant uses a standard cryogenic air separation unit to generate oxygen, integrating the heat of that unit.

The parasitic load of oxygen production is included in their efficiency numbers, and because of the Allam Cycle’s high inherent efficiency, it doesn’t change the economics much.

The resulting working fluid is a mix of high-pressure CO2 and water, which is subsequently expanded through a turbine and then cooled in a heat exchanger (a recuperator).

This is key. The turbine is not turned with steam, but with CO2.

The water then condenses and is separated out, leaving a pure vapor-phase CO2 stream. That stream is compressed and pumped back up to high pressure for re-use, but the excess CO2 is sent to a pipeline, ready for export.

The remaining fluid stream is reheated in the recuperator and makes its way back to the combustor, where the hot, high-pressure CO2 helps the combustor achieve a final inlet temperature of about 1,150°C as it combusts with fresh natural gas and oxygen, the high temperature raising the efficiency significantly.

The plant can also be air-cooled, at the cost of a little efficiency, to avoid water use in arid regions and to actually produce water from the methane and oxygen.

By using a CO2 working fluid at very high pressures as opposed to steam, NET Power avoids the phase changes that cause steam cycles to be so inefficient. Instead of driving a steam cycle and losing heat energy up a stack, NET Power keeps heat within the system, meaning less fuel is needed for the turbine to reach the required operating temperature.

And they don’t even have a stack.

Federal tax credits for carbon-capture projects are helping get this demonstration off the ground, providing a $50 tax credit for every ton of carbon sequestered. The NET Power plant captures all of its CO2 as part of its process, recycles some and diverts some for sale.

Adam Goff, Policy Director for NET Power, discussed how this technology will really make a difference to global warming – in developing countries. These countries desperately need energy and are planning to install thousands of traditional coal plants, representing the largest potential increase in carbon emissions over the next several decades.

Said Goff, "…most projects aren’t going to be in the U.S. They’re going to be in your developing countries in Asia and in Africa, so you’re going to see China, India, Indonesia. To do that you have to be really cheap. You have to be at cost parity if not better than cost parity with conventional generation."

The CO2 angle is very unique. NET Power’s plant produces a high-pressure, high-quality CO2 byproduct that is pipeline-ready. This CO2 can be sequestered or used in industrial processes, such as enhanced oil recovery. EOR is a decades-old process that uses CO2 to extract significantly more oil from old oilfields while permanently storing CO2 underground. In the United States alone, 85 billion barrels of oil are recoverable using EOR.

Most industrial CO2 capture technologies cannot produce cost-effective, EOR-ready CO2, despite the fact that the industry is tremendously CO2-starved. NET Power will have both the capacity and economics to enable the EOR industry to unlock this vast resource while simultaneously sequestering CO2 from thousands of power plants below ground.

And it is the geologic sequestering of CO2 that may be tough. Yes, we can use CO2 now, but if we go to these net zero plants in a big way, we don't have enough industrial need for all the CO2 from generating trillions of kWhs every year.

So it will have to be injected underground, and sometimes there are side-effects, like earthquakes. But that is a geoengineering need we can address. Norway has stored over 20 million tons of CO2 with little problem, and Archer Daniels Midland is sequestering CO2 in Illinois with no big issues.

The cost of electricity generated by Net Power is even more interesting. The plant doesn’t just sell power like most plants, it also sells the CO2 and other cycle by-products including nitrogen and argon.

These sales bring the cost of electricity from NET Power's plant down to 1.9¢ per kilowatt hour, Goff said, compared to 4.2¢ for a traditional combined cycle natural gas plant, making this the cheapest source of electricity, and with no carbon emissions.

If the plant in La Porte performs as expected, and as it has so far, this is a real game changer for natural gas. Since the United States is sitting on more natural gas than any country in the world, and it’s getting cheaper to get it out of the ground, this is no small game to change.


Australia: You can bin the assumptions — recycling is expensive

I am old enough to remember milk being delivered each morning in glass bottles. We would eagerly­ drink it and mum would wash the bottles, ready to be collected the next day and replaced­ with full ones.

On the rare occasions we had soft drink, my sister and I would race down to the local milk bar to receive the small deposit (was it threepence?) that was attached to the purchase of that bottle of Tarax lemonade.

I recount those days to make the contrast with today’s debate­ about recycling and the mess in which we find ourselves. Then we were talking about re-use — not recycling. It was small-scale and it was local.

Bottles weren’t smashed to be recycled. They were thoroughly washed and re-used. For various reasons, the re-use option has largely disappeared. What we are debating today is quite different.

The critical issues in the recycling debate are its high cost (collection, sorting, energy) and the absence of profitable markets for most recycled products. The combination of these factors, plus the effective refusal of China and other Asian countries to take waste, means there are no easy solutions­ to what is fast becoming a disaster.

For example, in 2016-17, almost 13 million tonnes of waste was generated in Victoria. At least one-third went to landfill. The rest was recovered or collected for recycling. No one can be sure what happened to this portion because the government agency, Sustainability Victoria, has dropped the ball on reliable data collection.

In a recent report by the Victorian Auditor-General, Recovering and Reprocessing Resources from Waste, a damning picture emerges­ of government agencies failing to meet their core object­ives while ignoring the implic­ations of the creeping ban around Asia on the import of waste since 2013.

It is increasingly common for waste to be sent to landfill or stockpiled. These stockpiles pose serious safety and environmental risks. There was a fire at a recycling plant in Coolaroo operated by recycling firm SKM, which is now in liquidation.

There are more than 700 shipping containers of recycled mater­ial hanging around the Port of Melbourne that can no longer be shipped overseas. The company that ordered the transportation of the material was none other than SKM. Needless to say, the transport company has not been paid.

Scott Morrison’s achieved agreement at last week’s Council of Australian Governments meeting that the nation would no longer export its waste was essentially for show. The receiving countries had made it clear that previous practices will no longer apply, effectively forcing this outcome on every state and territory.

The dilemma is how state and territory governments deal with this without imposing undue costs and burdens on their citizens. There is a tremendous amount of fuzzy thinking and sloganeering, including the development of a so-called circular economy.

In Victoria, there are self-interested calls for the introduction of a container deposit scheme along the lines of other states. Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio made the first sensible decision of her ministerial career by declaring that such a scheme was not the “answer to kerbside recycling”.

Not only has the Productivity Commission assessed the costs of these schemes to outweigh their benefits, but the experience of NSW points to very significant implementation problems that are costly to rectify.

Moreover, the diversion of used aluminium cans, the only recycled­ product that produces a serious economic return, away from kerbside recycling will further­ undermine the latter.

Mind you, D’Ambrosio has been sitting on a Sustainability Fund of more than $500 million amassed through landfill levies. It would seem the Victorian Treas­urer would rather retain this fund on the asset side of the state’s balance­ sheet than see it used for the purposes it was collected. These include “fostering environmentally sustainable use of resourc­es and best practices in waste management”.

Scepticism should be applied when assessing the contributions of many in this industry. They will always make big environmental claims while seeking the assistance of taxpayers and ratepayers.

Consider this quote from one consultant: “Industry is very supporti­ve of a positive procurement policy where government and businesses preferentially purchase recycled content. Part of the solution is positive procurement and part of the solution is infrastructure, but industry can’t and won’t invest in new technologies unless there’s an economic return. At the moment, they are outcompeted by cheap landfill.” What he is really saying is that the industry requires regulatory assistance along with government subsidies.

Another suggestion is to force households to further sort and wash their recycled material, includin­g separating soft and hard plastic. This will involve extra containers, despite many people living in very small premises that would rule out this option. More waste management education is on the cards, including exhortations to minimise waste creation.

One sensible policy option in Victoria that was raised only briefly, then reject­ed, was the burning of waste material in purpose-built incinerators with scrubbers installed. This option would also generate electricity that could provide valuable back-up power to renewable energy sources.

This is common in Sweden and Japan. Indeed, Sweden imports waste for this purpose. Burning waste generates carbon dioxide but then landfills generate methane, a more toxic greenhouse gas. That said, best-practice landfills will also be part of the solution.

The bottom line is that recycling is imposed people-­management, with the message being that we are all contributing to saving the planet by diligently sorting our rubbish. The reality has always been markedly different from this message and it is getting­ worse.

Waste for recycling must be collected, sorted and sent on for recovery or reprocessing. The entir­e cycle is itself costly and energy­-intensive, something that must be taken into account when considering policy options. With the rising price of electricity and the withdrawal of those previously helpful receiving countries, there are no easy solutions to this serious public policy problem.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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