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Report Shows Underground Coal Gasification a Hazardous Experiment

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Museum of Silesia by Kris Dud via Flickr

Friends of the Earth Scotland have today published a report setting out the serious dangers that Underground Coal Gasification poses in terms of climate change, local environmental impacts, and public health.

The report comes in the weeks before Professor Campbell Gemmell is due to submit his review of UCG to Scottish Ministers, under the current moratorium. FoES are urging the Scottish Government to act swiftly to ban UCG, and end uncertainty for threatened communities around the Forth and Solway Firths.

The report includes case studies from Australia, China, South Africa, the UK and the US and finds that:
• If Cluff Natural Resources’ Kincardine UCG project went ahead, around 120 million tonnes of CO2 could be released into the atmosphere, more than twice Scotland’s annual carbon emissions. There are a total of 6 licenses in the Forth and Solway Firths.

• Globally, Underground Coal Gasification would fuel climate change by potentially creating an extra 1650 billion tonnes of CO2 which alone is four times the amount that can be emitted if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change.

• Irreversible environmental damage has been done by Linc Energy’s recent Underground Coal Gasification experiment in Queensland, Australia, prompting the Queensland government to ban the technology.
• The US has historically been the testing ground for several UCG experiments that have resulted in long-lasting contamination of groundwater.

• In South Africa, Eskom’s recent UCG trial ended with a US$70 million financial impairment of the site, reflecting its complete lack of commercial viability. Currently there are no commercial UCG projects operating in the US and Australia despite decades of research and development.

The author of the report, Friends of the Earth Scotland campaigner Flick Monk, said:

“The history of UCG is littered with contamination incidents, ground subsidence and industrial accidents. Given what we know about this technology’s chequered history around the world, plans to burn coal seams under the Firth of Forth are completely reckless.

The climate change consequences of UCG are enormous and allowing the industry to take root would be completely out of step with Scotland’s world-leading ambition on tackling climate change.

“We call on the Scottish Government to urgently ban UCG on climate change grounds. Scotland should be investing in clean, community-owned renewables instead of trying ever-more outlandish schemes to get more fossil fuels out of the ground.”

In 2014 local residents from around the Firth of Forth, concerned about underground coal gasification and its potential effects, set up the campaign group ‘Our Forth’. Callum McLeod, current chair of Our Forth and resident of Portobello said, “Communities have made it clear from the start that any technology that poses risks to our environment, coastlines and health is unwelcome in Scotland. We cannot let Cluff’s coal experiments go ahead in the Firth of Forth because the risks are simply too big.”

Cluff Natural Resources planned to set fire to coal seams under the Firth of Forth but put the project on hold due to the huge public opposition across Scotland and the subsequent moratorium in October 2015. Five Quarter, who also hold licences in the Firth of Forth and Solway Firth and planned to use the controversial technology, collapsed in March 2016.

Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth Australia Energy Campaigner commented, “Underground Coal Gasification technology has left a trail of destruction in its wake wherever it’s been tried. All three UCG experiments in Australia have been environmental disasters. This experimental technology is linked to contamination from dangerous gases escaping into nearby soils and groundwater, surface subsidence, and produces toxic waste.

“The contamination from the Queensland UCG trial was so serious that farmers nearby aren’t even allowed to dig down more than two metres without permission. As a result of this project, the state government concluded it wasn’t worth the risk and has committed to completely banning the technology. We urge other countries and states to learn from these disastrous trials and stop the industry before it can do any more harm.”

After the catastrophic failure of a UCG test project in Queensland, Australia, the operator is being sued by the Government for ‘irreversible environmental damage’. The company has recently gone into liquidation and so is unlikely to pay the clean-up costs estimated to be around A$30 million. The Queensland state Government has introduced a ban on the technology and there are now calls for a ban across the whole of Australia.

Yesterday, the Sunday Herald reported that Professor Campbell Gemmell shares many of FoES concerns around UCG and that his review is likely to go against the technology.

Environment

How To Make The Shipping Industry Greener

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green shipping industry

Each and every year more damage is done to our planet. When businesses are arranging pallet delivery or any other kind of shipping, the environment usually isn’t their number one concern. However, there’s an increasing pressure for the shipping industry to go greener, particularly as our oceans are filling with plastic and climate change is occurring. Fortunately, there’s plenty of technology out there to help with this. Here’s how the freight industry is going greener.

Make Ship Scrapping Cleaner

There are approximately 51,400 merchant ships trading around the world at the moment. Although the act of transporting tonnes of cargo across the ocean every year is very damaging to the environment, the scrapping of container ships is also very harmful. Large container ships contain asbestos, heavy metals and oils which are toxic to both people and the environment during demolition. The EU has regulations in place which ensure that all European ships are disposed of in an appropriate manner at licenced yards and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) introduced guidelines to make recycling of ships safe and environmentally friendly back in 2009, but since then only Norway, Congo and France have agreed to the policy. The IMO needs to ensure that more countries are on board with the scheme, especially India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which are some of the worst culprits for scrapping, which may mean enforcing the regulations in the near future.

Reduce Emissions

A single large container ship can produce the same amount of emissions as 50 million cars, making international shipping one of the major contributors towards global warming. Stricter emissions regulations are needed to reduce the amount of emissions entering our atmosphere. The sulphur content within ship fuel is largely responsible for the amount of emissions being produced; studies have shown that a reduction in the sulphur content in fuel oil from 35,000 p.p.m to 1,000 p.p.m could reduce the SOx emissions by as much as 97%! The IMO has already begun to ensure that ships with the Emission Control Areas of the globe, such as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel, are using this lower sulphur content fuel, but it needs to be enforced around the world to make a significant difference.

As it’s not currently practical or possible to completely phase-out heavy, conventional fuels around the world, a sulphur scrubber system can be added to the exhaust system of ships to help reduce the amount of sulphur being emitted.

Better Port Management

As more and more ships are travelling around the world, congestion and large volumes of cargo can leave ports in developing countries overwhelmed. Rapidly expanding ports can be very damaging to the surrounding environment, take Shenzhen for example, it’s a collection of some of the busiest ports in China and there has been a 75% reduction in the number of mangroves along the coastline. Destroying valuable ecosystems has a knock-on effect on the rest of the country’s wildlife. Port authorities need to take responsibility for the environmental impact of construction and ensure that further expansion is carried out sustainably.

Some have suggested that instead of expansion, improved port management is needed. If port authorities can work with transport-planning bureaus, they will be able to establish more efficient ways of unloading cargo to reduce the impact on the environment caused by shipping congestion.

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Environment

Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage

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water conserving

While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.

If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.

Repair and Maintain Appliances

Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.

Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.

When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.

Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full

It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.

The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.

Recycle Water in Your Yard

Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.

You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.

Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants

Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.

Install Water-Saving Features

The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.

There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.

Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City

Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.

If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.

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