Thursday, 31 January 2013

Energy from Waste

We must find alternatives to fossil fuels for our energy.

We must also tackle the huge amount of waste we send to landfill. Waste that is packed with energy.

An obvious solution would be to extract energy from the waste but it is never that simple.  Energy can be extracted using different technologies such as anaerobic digestion used in some material recovery facilities or direct combustion (incineration) of the waste.

EcoWarriorMe has previously commented on anaerobic digestion which produces methane gas that can be burned to produce heat, generate electricity or, in the case of CHP, both. The main criticism of this technology is that it generates demand for waste, particularly organic waste such as food.

Incineration is probably the most controversial of the technologies due to the toxins which can be emitted from the plant.  In the 1980s, controversy surrounded the waste incineration plant at Bonnybridge near Falkirk which was blamed for illness in livestock which grazed locally. This was blamed on dioxins and furans emitted by the plant however the long running court case concluded that emissions were too low to cause ill health in animals or humans. Our understanding of the harm these chemicals can cause has progressed in the twenty years since this case and the conclusions may differ if the studies were repeated.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Hunt

You know how it ends. The bloody and torn carcass, ripped apart by dogs and barely recognisable as the fox it so recently was, fresh blood on the snout of the most successful hounds and riders pleased with a successful hunt.

It is illegal of course, and has been since 2005 when The Hunting Act, 2004 came into effect. But that hasn't stopped it and the reaction of many associated with the hunt do not appear to accept that the law applies to them. Between 2005 and 2010 there have been only eight convictions of employees of registered hunts. Why is the number so low? Is it because the Act is effective and hunts are no longer killing foxes or is it because the authorities are turning a blind eye?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

I'm Back...

The Eco Warrior Me is back after a short period of hibernation, fully recharged and reinvigourated. I hope you all had a good Christmas.

A lot has happened during the hiatus: more extreme weather, publication of the draft energy bill, developments in planned new nuclear power stations and shale gas extraction.and continued persecution of wildlife near and far.

The last year has been nothing if not eventful. We have seen extreme weather at home and abroad which has seen many people question whether it is simply unusual weather or whether it is part of greater changes in climate systems. We are starting to feel the effects in terms of quality and cost of food, which begs the question: can we afford to be complacent on climate change?

We are making slow, if any, progress on reducing our reliance on the fossil fuels that are driving climate change. The twentieth anniversary of the Rio's 1992 Earth Summit was billed as a great opportunity to reach international consensus on action required to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Alas, Rio+20, like so many of these big summits, failed to deliver. The continuing high global demand for fossil fuels is reflected in high prices, for example, the recent large rises in domestic gas prices charged by all of the UK's main suppliers. Rather than driving energy saving measures to reduce consumption, this has increased pressure to explore and exploit shale gas reserves regardless of the risks both from the extraction process and from locking in climate changing emissions to our energy mix for the next thirty to forty years.

Nature has also suffered over the last year, with a horrendous number of rhino and elephants slaughtered for their horns and tusks, many more than in recent years. Closer to home, wildlife crimes continue to be a problem and now the specialist police unit that deals with wildlife is itself endangered and to top it it off, proposed planning reforms for England also pose a threat to our remaining countryside.

That leaves plenty to do in 2013, to raise awareness of the effects of our own actions and to pressure decision makers in the public sector and in business to improve their practices and make the decisions that are better for us all. We can't do it all ourselves yet we can't sit back and expect others to take the hard decisions for us, we need both grassroots action from the bottom up as well as top down leadership from government. Over the coming months I will post on a wide range of environmental topics with emphasis on what we as individuals can do in our daily lives to make a difference.

For now, I'll finish by wishing you a happy and healthy 2013. SlĂ inte mhath!

All the best,
Chris.