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Greenpeace highlights ‘disastrous’ risks involved in Arctic exploitation

Instead of recognising the vulnerability of the increasingly threatened Arctic, oil companies see the region as “the new frontier” of oil development. Greenpeace’s Ben Ayliffe told Alex Blackburne why this is so incredibly dangerous.

We’re losing one of the last great wildernesses on the planet: the Arctic. Global climate change means the region is warming almost twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet, and because of this, oil giants are preparing their machinery to ring it dry of oil.

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Instead of recognising the vulnerability of the increasingly threatened Arctic, oil companies see the region as “the new frontier” of oil development. Greenpeace’s Ben Ayliffe told Alex Blackburne why this is so incredibly dangerous.

We’re losing one of the last great wildernesses on the planet: the Arctic. Global climate change means the region is warming almost twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet, and because of this, oil giants are preparing their machinery to ring it dry of oil.

Backed by governments from all over the world, they see the melting ice caps as an opportunity for new shipping lanes and rigs, and not for what it should be seen as: a potential catastrophe.

The UK Government is just one of many in favour of such exploitation. Why? Because of the lucrative rewards in striking oil there.

But the risks involved are enormous. Think the 2010 BP rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, but bigger.

“The Arctic is incredibly remote”, said Ben Ayliffe, climate campaigner at Greenpeace. “It is thousands of miles from anywhere and it is very difficult to get the technology needed to cap a spill there in the first place.

“There is also lot of ice, huge waves, and darkness. This means that if an oil spill happened towards the end of the drilling season and the ice comes in in the winter, the spill could be left just to leak out for months.

“The oil industry itself admits that it would be nigh on impossible to deal with a spill in the frozen north, and we think given these very clear risks, it’s madness that they are being allowed into the Arctic to drill for more of the fossil fuels that caused the climate to warm up in the first place.”

But sadly, they are being allowed to do just that. It has even been dubbed the Artic oil race.

In a bid to convert the currently pro-Arctic oil extraction stance taken by the UK Government, the Environmental Audit Committee has launched an enquiry to protect the region.

Accelerating Arctic economic development similarly accelerates industrialisation and pollution, so the enquiry is a “welcome first step” in attempting to sway the Government’s agenda, according to Ayliffe.

“[The Environmental Audit Committee] can send a very strong message to the Government that its policy on the Arctic needs to match its very impressive rhetoric on protecting the environment.

“If we don’t act soon, the Arctic as we know it will disappear.

“It’s up to the government to basically put the blocks on the oil companies, and do all it can to protect this pristine and unique environment.”

Last year, Guggenheim Partners announced it was to set up an Arctic Investment Fund – which is sure to add more pressure on the already deteriorating region.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that the people that got us into the worst economic crisis in nearly a hundred years, also see exploiting the last pristine wilderness of the Arctic as a good idea”, commented Ayliffe.

“Given the extraordinary economic and technical risks of operating in that region, as we’ve seen from the UK company Cairn Energy, who spent the best part of $1 billion drilling ten dry wells off Greenland, this shows that the risks are very high and there is no guarantee that companies are going to strike black gold up there.

“The best bet, we would say, is to look for alternative sources of energy efficiency – those that don’t entail exploiting the pristine frozen north.” 

Wind power, solar power, wave power, and geothermal power – just four examples from a long list of clean energy generation methods.

These forms will never run out. What happens when there is no oil to extract from the Arctic? The effects of climate change will be so severe and widespread by then, that it’ll be too late to think about it.

Investment in alternative, renewable, clean energy will help propel the sector forwards and make it even more of a threat to the fossil fuel industry.

Ask your financial adviser about how your money can go into these companies, or fill in our form and we’ll connect you to a specialist adviser.

It remains to be seen whether the UK Government will take on a more positive role in the Arctic oil race – but the potential to be a world leader in the guarding of the region should be an appetising thought for any country.

“This is an incredibly vulnerable part of the world”, concludes Ayliffe. “It needs to be protected as opposed to opened up”.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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