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British Airways announces waste-to-sustainable fuel plant in Essex



British Airways has announced that it is moving forward with plans to build the world’s first plant that will convert landfill waste into sustainable jet fuel on an industrial estate in Essex.

Located on the site of the former Coryton oil refinery in Thurrock, the pioneering GreenSky facility will be developed in partnership with alternative fuel specialists Solena Fuels.

Its designers say 575,000 tonnes of waste that would otherwise be destined for landfill or incineration will be converted into synthetic gas and then into 120,000 tonnes of clean liquid fuel.

British Airways has signed off on a long-term deal to purchase all 50,000 tonnes per annum of the fuel “at market competitive rates”.

Construction should begin next year, and the plant is expected to begin operating in 2017 – though the longstanding plans have been pushed back before.

British Airways also says 1,000 construction workers will be hired to build the facility which is due to be completed in 2017, creating up to 150 permanent jobs. 

Barclays will be acting as financial adviser to the GreenSky project. Gabriel Buck, head of CAPEX financing solutions, said, “This is undoubtedly a unique and ground-breaking project.  The economic and environmental fundamentals will, we believe, be attractive to investors from both a debt and equity perspective.”  

Many environmentalists and aviation officials are hopeful that sustainable jet fuel – which can be mixed with traditional fuel – can help aviation clean up its act. 

The industry is a big contributor to climate change, and its greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise with demand for flights, driven by a rapidly expanding global middle-class.

The European commission says that by 2020, global international aviation emissions will increase by around 70% from 2005 levels, even accounting for the anticipated improvements in energy efficiency. 

The UK government’s climate watchdog, the Committee on Climate Change, estimates that, if left unchecked, aviation could account for 15-20% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said the plans are evidence that the aviation industry is striving to change.

“The sustainable jet fuel produced each year will be enough to power our flights from London City airport twice over with carbon savings the equivalent of taking 150,000 cars off the road”, he added.

Many leading airlines, including Virgin Atlantic Airways and Qatar Airways, have already pledged to buy eco-friendly fuel. The announcement also comes two weeks ahead of the 2014 Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva. 

Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow in March, Terry Mutter, director of enterprise strategy for Boeing Environment, Health and Safety, said the aviation industry was working hard to reduce its environmental impact.

“If we can make sure those parts of the system more efficient, the industry has a much better chance of being able to grow whilst reducing its overall footprint”, he said. 

However, not everyone is convinced that clean jet fuel is a viable solution, at least in the short-term. A 2012 WWF report, produced in collaboration with the Aviation Environment Trust and based on figures from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), suggested that emission reductions made by alternative fuels will not keep pace with the growth of air traffic.

Critics have also stressed that biofuels used by planes must not be grown from crops that can have an extremely damaging environmental impact themselves.

Photo: BriYYZ via flickr

Further reading:

Boeing: sustainability is ‘the right thing to do for business’

Sustainable transport: to fly, or not to fly?

Airport expansion: cost of flights might need to rise to meet climate goals

Air travel more fuel efficient than driving

Guide to Sustainable Transport 2014


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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New Climate Change Report Emphasizes Urgent Need for Airline Emission Regulations




In less than two months, the United States has grappled with some of the worst natural disasters in its history. Hurricanes battered the south central United States. Fires destroyed homes throughout Northern California. Puerto Rico experienced some of the worst storms ever. A massive windstorm caused more damage to the northeastern United States then any other storm on record before winter even struck.

These recent incidents have spurred discussion on the dangers of climate change. A recent report from the University of London has shed some light on the discussion. The new report suggests that new regulations are needed, including stricter EPA regulations on Airlines.

Review of the new report

The new report was published in the British medical Journal, Lancet. The report concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for a variety of social problems, including diseases and natural disasters. While numerous studies have processed the risk that climate change plays with creating natural disasters, University of London report is among the first to explore the relationship between climate change and disease.

The authors warned that the problems are becoming irreversible. They will continue to get worse if risk factors are not adequately addressed.

The most concerning part of the report is that these problems are having the most serious impact on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Countries that depend on agriculture and other issues will suffer the most if climate change escalates.

“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,”said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, one of the lead researchers of the paper. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk. … The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”

Airline industry discovers climate change is a two-way Street

The airline industry is coping with the problems of climate change, while also coming to terms with the fact that it has helped accelerate the problem. Earlier this year, American Airlines was forced to cancel four dozen flights near Phoenix. Cancellations were called due to excessive temperatures. The air was over 120 degrees, which is too hot for some smaller jet planes to get off the ground.

One anonymous airline executive privately admitted that their business model has facilitated climate change. They warned that the problem may become twice as bad in the next few years if proper safeguards aren’t implemented. Representatives from Goindigo have echoed these concerns.

The EPA has stated that airplanes account for 11% of all emissions. They are expected to increase over 50% within the next 30 years. This could have serious repurcussions if newer, greener airplane models don’t become the new standard in the very near future.

This is driving discussion about the need for new policies.The EPA has been discussing the need for new airline regulations for nearly two years. An EPA ruling made in July 2016 set the tone for new regulations, which could be introduced in the next year.

The new policies may be delayed, due to the new president’s position on climate change. He hired an EPA chief that has sued the organization about a dozen times. However, the Trump Administration may not be able to oppose climate change indefinitely, because a growing number of people are pressing for reforms. Even younger conservatives primarily believe climate change is a threat and are demanding answers. This may force the EPA to follow through on its plans to introduce new solutions.

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