A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Agent Orange is one of the most devastating weapons of modern warfare, a chemical which killed or injured an estimated 400,000 people during the Vietnam War — and now it’s being used against the Amazon rainforest. According to officials, ranchers in Brazil have begun spraying the highly toxic herbicide over patches of forest as a covert method to illegally clear foliage, more difficult to detect that chainsaws and tractors. In recent weeks, an aerial survey detected some 440 acres of rainforest that had been sprayed with the compound — poisoning thousands of trees and an untold number of animals, potentially for generations.
Officials from Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA were first tipped to the illegal clearing by satellite images of the forest in Amazonia; a helicopter flyover in the region later revealed thousands of trees left ash-colored and defoliated by toxic chemicals. IBAMA says that Agent Orange was likely dispersed by aircraft by a yet unidentified rancher to clear the land for pasture because it is more difficult to detect than traditional operations that require chainsaws and tractors.
Last week, in another part of the Amazon, an investigation conducted by the agency uncovered approximately four tons of the highly toxic herbal pesticides hidden in the forest awaiting dispension. If released, the chemicals could have potentially decimated some 7,500 acres of rainforest, killing all the wildlife that resides there and contaminating groundwater. In this case, the individual responsible was identified and now faces fines nearing $1.3 million.
European Green MEPs’ carbon emissions ambitions downgraded as Conservatives dilute proposals.
The European parliament on Tuesday rejected a key report that would have toughened the EU stance on greenhouse gas emissions, after political wrangling that wrecked hopes of a compromise.
A rebellion by the UK’s Tory MEPs helped to swing the vote against a tougher target on how much carbon emissions should be cut by 2020, but was not decisive, according to insiders.
The vote does not put an end to green campaigners’ hopes of a more ambitious emissions reduction target – a higher cut of 30% by 2020 on 1990 levels rather than 20% – as the issue will continue to be debated, but is a setback.
The political wrangling involved a series of amendments, proposed by Conservative groupings of MEPs, that would have weakened the resulting resolution to an extent that was not acceptable to the Green MEP grouping.
Two weeks ago, a Gulfstream G-450 loaded with journalists and executives from Honeywell’s energy division, UOP, departed from Morristown, N.J. and touched down at Le Bourget Airport after an “utterly unremarkable” flight.
The purpose of the flight, which retraced Charles Lindbergh’s historic 1927 pond crossing, was to prove for the Paris Air Show the viability of the fuel that held them aloft: 50-50 blend of jet fuel and a biofuel derived from camelina, a seed plant. The blend saved 5.5 metric tons of carbon emissions for the flight compared to straight jet fuel, according to the company. (A 747 crossed the Atlantic several days later on a similar biofuel blend.)
Jim Rekoske, vice president and general manager of Renewable Energy and Chemicals for UOP, said that recent events had brought biofuels “one step closer to commercial use that will help the aviation community reduce its carbon footprint and dependence on crude.”
Not everyone was impressed.
The World Trade Organization found Tuesday that China’s export constraints on raw materials violate international trade rules, handing a win to the U.S. and other nations that challenged the restrictions.
The WTO panel concluded that China’s defense of the limits on the grounds of resource conservation and pollution reduction weren’t convincing.
The Hill’s On The Money blog explores the WTO ruling here; here are two key paragraphs from the WTO findings:
If the Government is keen on reducing the carbon emissions from the domestic sector, it should ideally target efforts at the community level rather than individual households, according to a study of British Gas’ Green Streets programme by the IPPR.
Not only are there efficiencies in scale at this level, there is also the knock-on benefit of households working together and inspiring each other, spreading the word to encourage their neighbours to participate, in a way that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
British Gas has been running the Green Streets project for two years. It has involved 14 communities receiving grants and expertise to install micro-generation and energy efficiency measures in households and community buildings.
A competition to receive a further £100,000 to spend on additional greening measures has also been won by Llangattock, a village in the Brecon Beacons.