Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Progress on the environment

Prince Charles makes a fool of himself (and not just about the climate):
But the Prince of Wales takes the oatcake.
Here is the Prince on last Sunday's CBS show, 60 Minutes, interviewed by Steve Kroft: "If you look at the latest figures on climate change and global warming, it's terrifying."
And here is the Prince's and Camilla's 'American Odyssey': a chartered Boeing 757 flying from London to New York, then to Washington, New Orleans, Marin County, San Francisco [The Guardian please note, not 'San Fransisco'], and back to London = at least 440 tonnes of CO2. And the circus troupe? Two private secretaries; a communications secretary; an Equerry ("No, you can't invest in one!"); a butler; a doctor; two valets; and for the Duchess, a make-up artist, an hairdresser, and a personal dresser; then, three luggage assistants... His Royal Motto should be: "Ad Infinitum". "Ich Dien", my...
Meanwhile Tony Blair gets real on climate and energy:
Tony Blair's opinion editorial in the 31 October Observer represents a well reasoned and stark departure from much of what is heard being advocated by politicians these days on the subject of global warming. Blair's major points are:
  1. Quit blaming Bush. The U.S. Senate voted 95-0 against Kyoto during the Clinton Administration, and the U.S. participation would have had little effect on future emissions anyway.
  2. Huge growth in energy consumption in China and India must be addressed as part of any future solution (Kyoto gives those countries a pass). The emerging and established economies of the world will have to work together.
  3. Since even the (relatively modest) Kyoto emission reduction targets are proving difficult to meet, how are we going to achieve the much larger reductions necessary to make an measurable impact on global warming after Kyoto ends?
  4. The wealthy countries of the world can afford the investments in technological progress to make alternative fuels -- solar, wind, biofuels, even more nuclear -- more cost competitive. Those countries must share those new technologies with developing nations.
Mr. Blair also emphasizes the importance of the November 1 meeting in London with the G8 countries along with India, China, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa. This meeting follows the Gleneagles G8 summit in July where Blair had emphasized, like the Bush administration, the importance of technological advancements to reducing carbon emissions. The London meeting precedes by one month the next major UN Conference of the Parties (COP-11) meeting in Montreal where debate will rage over post-Kyoto strategies for addressing global warming.
See here (scroll down to 31 October) for an excellent analysis of Blair's incredible political skill in selling his vision to a skeptical public:
First, as I have pointed out many times on 'EnviroSpin', never, never underestimate Mr. Blair's political skill; he is, above all, a consummate politician, and I should remind you that, a year ago, I was noting his brilliant use of 'global warming' to try to make the re-introduction of nuclear power more palatable to the British public. Blair knows this has to happen, but he is faced with a hangover 1960's political generation and the legacy of a badly run nuclear industry.
Do read the whole thing. At any rate, technology is where the solutions lie, and here is an interesting tidbit from the Financial Times:
Now Engineuity, an Israeli company, have developed a zero-emission hydrogen-powered system that resolves both these issues by allowing a car to make its own fuel.
The system would see a conventional vehicle's petrol tank replaced by a metal-steam combustor which separates hydrogen from heated water using a long coil made from metals such as magnesium or aluminium.
The tip of the coil is inserted into the cumbustor together with water heated to very high temperatures. The metal atoms bond to the oxygen in the water, creating a metal oxide - freeing the hydrogen molecules, alongside steam, to be sent into the engine.
The metal oxide - which constitutes a solid waste product - will later be collected in the fuel station by vacuum suction and recycled.
Engineuity claim the system is more efficient than other hydrogen-based solutions because of an improved usage of heat helping to bring overall performance in line with a conventional car - travelling about the same distance as a petrol-fuelled car between refuelling.
The developers also say that the overall running costs of the system should also be comparable to today's cars.
They say that with approporiate funding there will be a workable prototype in three years. That would be exciting.

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