Saturday, December 31, 2005

Save energy, save money

You can save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money. Here's how:

Take the five lightbulb challenge
In the US, we use one-quarter of our electricity for lighting. Most of that powers incandescent lightbulbs, which are notoriously inefficient. In contrast, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) conserve energy by yielding three to four times the amount of light as incandescents for every watt they consume. Since they're so long-lasting, you'll only replace one CFL for every 13 incandescent bulbs you use, saving resources and landfill space. Plus, for every five CFLs you install, you'll keep 900 pounds of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere. Challenge yourself to replace at least five incandescent bulbs in your home with CFLs. You won't just be doing the environment a service—you'll save $25–$45 in energy costs for each CFL you use.

In many areas, the local power company subsidizes CFLs. Before you buy, call your local power company and ask if it offers subsidies.

Turn off your appliances
According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Environment (ACEEE), home electronics and small household appliances that require direct current—such as televisions, VCRs, answering machines, cordless telephones, stereos, and others—can actually leak electricity when they're turned off. The average US household leaks 50 watts of power constantly, which adds up to around 400 kWh per year, says ACEEE. That means the entire U.S. pays about $3 billion in leaked energy costs annually. To plug at least part of this energy drain, unplug home entertainment systems when they're not in use. You can make this easy by plugging several items into one surge protector. You'll also want to pay special attention to small electronics and appliances that have square, “wall pack” boxes that plug into outlets. Examples include electric toothbrushes and cordless phones.

Turn down your refrigerator
The refrigerator is the biggest energy consumer in most households—adding up to a quarter of an average home's energy use. You can save energy here by ensuring that you don't keep your refrigerator too cold. The recommended temperature setting for refrigerators is between 37 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and 5 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer section. To test the temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water inside your refrigerator and take a reading after 24 hours. In the freezer, place the thermometer between frozen food packages and read after 24 hours. Also, remember to clean your coils, unless you have a no-clean condenser model, so your fridge will run more efficiently. And, make sure your seals are airtight, otherwise they'll let cool air, and energy, escape.

Optimize heating and air conditioning
About 44 percent of the typical US household's energy bill goes toward temperature control, according to the US Department of Energy.
• Shave 25 percent off your energy bill just by plugging air leaks. Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows, cover your air conditioner, shrink-wrap window glass, and install insulating shades to keep icy drafts out of your home in winter.
• Turn the thermostat or air conditioner down when you're away from the house. Programmable thermostats can store as many as six temperature settings per day, returning to pre-set schedules automatically.
• Open south-facing shades during the day, and close the curtains at night to make the most out of the sun's energy during winter. During the summer, close these shades during the day.

Use rechargeable batteries
Americans toss over three billion small consumer batteries into the landfill every year, according to Real Goods' Solar Living Sourcebook, the majority of which are one-time-use alkaline batteries. You can save energy—and money—and reduce toxic waste by using rechargeable batteries. According to Real Goods, throwaway batteries cost $0.10 per hour to operate, if you figure in energy and replacement costs. In contrast, rechargeable batteries cost only $0.001 per hour. Real Goods recommends nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeables, which contain no toxic metals, unlike rechargeable alkalines, and offer almost twice the capacity per cell compared to nicad rechargeables. Go one step further to encourage the green energy future and buy a solar battery charger.

Look for the Energy Star® appliances
When you do buy new items, look for those labeled with the Energy Star®. Energy Star® is a voluntary program run by the US EPA designed to identify energy-efficient products. You can find the Energy Star® logo on appliances, electronics, windows, heating and cooling systems, and even homes and office buildings. If all consumers, businesses, and organizations in the US made their product choices and building improvement decisions with Energy Star® over the next decade, the national annual energy bill would be reduced by about $200 billion, says the EPA.

Keep in mind that not all Energy Star® products are created equal. Use resources like Consumer Reports magazine to find the most efficient Energy Star® products in their categories.

Dry clothes with less energy
The second largest electricity-using appliance is your clothes dryer. Energy Star® does not rate clothes dryers because the amount of energy used from model to model varies little. The average dryer consumes about 88 kilowatt hours per month, with an average annual cost of $89 per year to operate (for a family of four). But you can set up more efficient ways to dry clothes, such as using an outdoor clothes line or an indoor drying rack. If you're an average user, and you can cut your dryer use by half that's a savings of 528 kilowatt hours per year, or $45.

Use cold water instead of hot water to clean clothes
Despite popular misconception, your clothes will still be clean, but so will the environment. You can reduce your carbon emissions by 600 pounds by switching to cold water for every load.

Concentrating Solar Power

Many power plants today use fossil fuels as a heat source to boil water. The steam from the boiling water rotates a large turbine, which activates a generator that produces electricity. However, a new generation of power plants, with concentrating solar power systems, uses the sun as a heat source. There are three main types of concentrating solar power systems: parabolic-trough, dish/engine, and power tower.

Parabolic-trough systems concentrate the sun's energy through long rectangular, curved (U-shaped) mirrors. The mirrors are tilted toward the sun, focusing sunlight on a pipe that runs down the center of the trough. This heats the oil flowing through the pipe. The hot oil then is used to boil water in a conventional steam generator to produce electricity.

A dish/engine system uses a mirrored dish (similar to a very large satellite dish). The dish-shaped surface collects and concentrates the sun's heat onto a receiver, which absorbs the heat and transfers it to fluid within the engine. The heat causes the fluid to expand against a piston or turbine to produce mechanical power. The mechanical power is then used to run a generator or alternator to produce electricity.

A power tower system uses a large field of mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto the top of a tower, where a receiver sits. This heats molten salt flowing through the receiver. Then, the salt's heat is used to generate electricity through a conventional steam generator. Molten salt retains heat efficiently, so it can be stored for days before being converted into electricity. That means electricity can be produced on cloudy days or even several hours after sunset.

Swiss adopt five-year GMO farming ban

Switzerland voted in favour of a five-year ban on the farming of genetically modified plants and animals on Sunday, putting in place some of the toughest restrictions in Europe.

The move, supported by farmers, ecologists and consumer groups, will force the government to impose a blanket ban on the cultivation of GMO crops and the import of animals whose genes have been modified in the laboratory.

The moratorium does not apply to research into GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) nor does it stop the import of genetically modified food.

But its supporters say the victory is a clear signal that Swiss consumers and farmers are in favour of GM-free food and produce, at a time when traditional Swiss farms are under threat from cuts in agricultural subsidies.

"All the farmers' organisations were behind this proposal, which they see as a chance for Swiss agriculture," Daniel Ammann, a spokesman for the winning coalition of GMO crop opponents, told Reuters.

"Swiss farming was already very ecologically sound and animal-friendly, and farmers are convinced now that with the added label of 'GMO-free', they will be able to emphasise the quality of Swiss produce," he said.

While the vote has a symbolic meaning, the moratorium will result in very little change from current practice.

However, the ban could isolate Switzerland within Europe and lead to a brain drain of researchers, its opponents said.

"This clear yes to a moratorium is a bad sign for Switzerland's image as a research centre," the youth wing of the centrist Free Democrat Party said in a statement.


Official results showed that 55.7 percent of voters accepted the proposal to impose a five-year moratorium.

All 26 cantons also accepted the ban, which will give Switzerland a tougher regime on GMOs than its neighbours in the 25-nation European Union.

In the EU, restrictions apply only to specific crops and are temporary in nature, rather than the blanket ban proposed by the Swiss.

While Switzerland is home to many pharmaceutical firms as well as agro-chemicals group Syngenta, only around 1 percent of the research performed in the alpine nation involves GMOs, Ammann noted.

Under the country's legislative system, the Swiss electorate is regularly asked to vote on major decisions.

Voters also narrowly agreed to legalise Sunday trading at shops in railways and airports, ignoring calls from workers' unions and church groups to ban Sunday shopping.

The transnational companies that produce genetically engineered (GE) food crops include several of the worst polluters of the 20th century

These "agbiotech" companies evolved from long-time chemical polluters that have reinvented themselves as "life sciences" companies. These companies see huge profits in controlling life patents, in denying consumers their right to know when food is genetically altered and in creating crops that require farmers to use the company's brand of pesticides.

But the agbiotech industry's vision of life sciences has hit hard times. Originally, these companies promoted their agrochemical, pharmaceutical and nutrition divisions, while they jettisoned their failing chemical businesses. However, with worldwide rejection of GE food, many of the top life sciences firms have now dropped their GE crop divisions, forcing them to make their way as independent companies.

Oxfam: WTO agreement a betrayal of development promises

International agency Oxfam today condemned an agreement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Hong Kong as failing to deliver on development promises. The agreement reflected rich countries interests far more than those of developing countries and would not deliver the reforms poor countries needed, Oxfam said.

“This is a profoundly disappointing text. Rich countries’ interests have prevailed yet again. The EU and US have betrayed their promises to reform trade rules to promote development and poor countries have had to fight a rearguard action simply to keep some of their issues on the table. Small progress on some aspects of agriculture is more than cancelled out by extremely damaging proposals on services and industry,” said Phil Bloomer, Head of Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair campaign.

“Developing countries were put in an impossible position. Either to accept a text which is seriously flawed, or face blame for failure. They remained assertive and united during this meeting and clawed back ground from some even worse proposals. However, it is clear that many of them have accepted this text reluctantly,” he added.

Ministers and commentators are assuming that another WTO meeting will take place early next year to finish off the deal but Bloomer warned that “unless rich countries fundamentally change their attitudes to these negotiations no amount of extra time will make a difference.”

In agriculture, the agreement includes a welcome commitment to ensure developing countries have the right to protect products of vital importance to poor farmers. There is also a pledge to eliminate export subsidies and equivalent payments by 2013. But this is three years later than originally hoped and EU export subsidies account for only 3.5% of its overall agricultural support.

Agriculture is the area of the greatest importance to developing countries but the bulk of negotiation remains to be done. The ministerial text does not offer to cut rich countries’ domestic subsidies that cause dumping, nor does it propose tightening the disciplines on allowable payments. There is no guarantee that developing countries will gain significantly greater access to northern markets.

On cotton, the US is offering to eliminate all forms of export subsidies, which is welcome, but this is already required by a WTO ruling and these payments only represent 10% of overall spending. The proposal does not address the core issue of domestic payments that have been proven to distort trade and facilitate dumping.

In the other areas of the negotiations – services and non-agricultural market access – the proposals have gone from bad to worse. The right for poor countries to protect basic services and emerging industries has been comprehensively undermined, with grave prospects for development.

The much vaunted ‘development package’ for the poorest countries has dwindled to include nearly empty offers on aid for trade, with very little new money, and a watered down duty free quota free package that will still allow rich countries to exclude key products vital to the livelihoods of millions of poor people.

Bloomer: “There is nothing free about this offer of duty and quota free access. Rich countries will still be able to protect key products like textiles. It is pathetic that this meeting couldn’t even deliver agreement on a package for the poorest countries”.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tulikivi soapstone fireplace from Scandinavia

Healthy Radiant Heat

Tulikivi Fireplaces Radiate a Pleasant Warmth

When you sit near a Tulikivi fireplace, you experience a pleasant feeling of warmth. This penetrating yet comfortable radiant heat is the same heat that travels to us from the sun as infra red light (infra red radiation). This sunshine from a Tulikivi is not dependant on the air temperature to make its effects felt. On a bright sunny day one can feel quite warm from the radiant heat of the sun even though the air temperatures are quite cold. Likewise one will feel comfortable at relatively cooler room air temperatures in a radiantly heated home.
Radiant Heat is Healthy Heat

Cooler room temperatures of 18-20 C (66-71 F) allow for calmer more relaxed breathing because the body does not have to work as hard to eliminate its excess heat. This factor can help alleviate suffering of people with respiratory problems.

Radiant Heat is Clean Heat

Forced air heating system and traditional wood stoves depend on the movement of air to circulate their heat. The room air is constantly in motion, stirring up dust and other impurities, which then travel into the lungs with every inhalation. In a radiantly heated room air movement, while not eliminated, is much calmer. Drafty conditions are reduced insuring a healthier and more comfortable living area.

Radiant Heat is Not Dry Heat

In a room with forced air system or traditional wood stove, heated air comes in contact with relatively cold walls through the natural convection of the hot air generated by these heating systems. When this happens moisture from the home condenses inside the walls and passes out of the home. The radiant heat from a Tulikivi heats the walls directly, which in turn stabilize the air temperature in the room. Walls and air temperature are the same. There is no condensation in the walls, consequently no loss of humidity and no dry air. Humidity trapped in the walls can serve as a breeding ground for microorganisms such a dust mites and microbes, which cause irritation to the respiratory system.

Energy Efficiency

How Does a Heat-Retaining Fireplace Work?

The principle is easy. Wood is burnt quickly, cleanly and efficiently at high temperatures in a heat-retaining Tulikivi fireplace. Most of the thermal energy is retained in the soapstone mass, which continues to radiate heat evenly and steadily over a period of time long after the fire has gone out. This reduces wood consumption as well as emissions.

The Contra Flow System

To achieve superior energy efficiency, Tulikivi fireplaces use our contra-flow system to collect thermal energy from hot flue gases.

(1) When wood burns in the firebox high temperatures are reached quickly, forcing the burning flue gases into the upper combustion chamber below the top lid.

(2) The hot gases are then guided down and out into the side channels, where the heat is released into the exterior stones. At the same time, room air outside the fireplace walls warms and moves up the stone surface in a path opposite to the interior down flow.

These two opposing air flows are known as contra-flow. Most of the generated heat is transferred evenly into the room in the form of comfortable radiant heat.

The Dual Combustion System

All Tulikivi bakeovens, except the dual purpose fireplace/bakeoven combinations, operate on the dual combustion principle.

Unburned gases from wood burning in the firebox rise to the upper combustion chamber. Thanks to the secondary air supply flowing into the bakeoven via the ash pan and grate, these gases are also burnt to produce more heat.

Tulikivi bakeovens bake evenly over a long period of time. Baked breads, pizzas and other goods retain the fine aroma associated only with a genuine wood-burning bakeoven.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sustainability : A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management

While many disciplines contribute to environmental conservation, there is little successful integration of science and social values. Arguing that the central problem in conservation is a lack of effective communication, Bryan Norton shows in Sustainability how current linguistic resources discourage any shared, multidisciplinary public deliberation over environmental goals and policy. In response, Norton develops a new, interdisciplinary approach to defining sustainability—the cornerstone of environmental policy—using philosophical and linguistic analyses to create a nonideological vocabulary that can accommodate scientific and evaluative environmental discourse.

Emphasizing cooperation and adaptation through social learning, Norton provides a practical framework that encourages an experimental approach to language clarification and problem formulation, as well as an interdisciplinary approach to creating solutions. By moving beyond the scientific arena to acknowledge the importance of public discourse, Sustainability offers an entirely novel approach to environmentalism.

About the Author
Bryan G. Norton is professor of philosophy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of Linguistic Frameworks and Ontology, Why Preserve Natural Variety? and Toward Unity among Environmentalists, and the editor of The Preservation of Species.

Buy the book

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Washington, D.C. -- In an against-all-odds victory for wildlife, wild places and all Americans, the Senate today rebuffed attempts to attach controversial provisions to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Defense spending bill.

"Drilling proponents have pulled out all the stops, and tried every trick in their playbook to open up the Arctic Refuge to no avail," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "This is a tremendous victory for all Americans and proof positive that the fate of the Arctic Refuge must be debated on its merits, not as part of a sneak attack."

Drilling proponents have now failed to include Arctic drilling on energy, budget and defense bills. The deplorable effort to link Arctic drilling to funding for America’s troops and Hurricane Katrina relief, led by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and bolstered by intense lobbying from the Bush administration, failed in a cloture vote 44-56 (cloture requires 60 votes).

"We applaud those Senators who refused to let drilling proponents manipulate them and the democratic process," said Pope. "Today’s vote reaffirmed the Senate’s role as a deliberative body, not a place where unrelated and controversial issues are tacked on to any bill without debate and at the whim of special interests."

Senator Stevens -- the man who brought us the $450 million "bridges to nowhere" -- tried to bully the Senate into passing a bill that benefits his state and the oil industry at the expense of all Americans.

"This year the oil industry squeezed Americans at the gas pump to the tune of billions in record profits, carved out billions more in government subsidies, and then lied to Congress. Senator Stevens held defense spending and hurricane relief hostage to help Big Oil out," said Pope. "Today the Senate gave the oil industry and Stevens the lump of coal they deserved. We will remain vigilant as those who would plunder the Arctic Refuge for short-term gain are clearly willing to try anything regardless of cost."

"Americans want real energy solutions that protect special places like the Arctic Refuge. Today that message was heard loud and clear," said Pope. "Drilling proponents tried every excuse, but Americans know that Arctic drilling would not put a dent in our dependence on foreign oil, would do nothing to strengthen our national security, and would not save consumers money at the pump."

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that even 20 years down the road, when Arctic Refuge oil would be at or near peak production, gas prices would only be affected by about a penny per gallon. The United States sits on just 3 % of the world's known petroleum reserves. Government estimates indicate that there is less than a year’s supply of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and even the oil industry admits it would take 10 years to make it to US markets.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

European research tackles Arctic climate change

The North Pole is warming up faster than the rest of the world, with potentially devastating consequences for humanity. Sea-ice cover across the region has already decreased 10% during the past 30 years, lowering the salinity of Arctic waters and risking a change in the Gulf Stream's ability to convect warm water to Northern Europe whose mild winters are a direct result of this massive transatlantic 'conveyor belt'. Two new projects funded by the EU's Sixth Framework Research Programme (FP6) are tackling these issues in a big way. Observing climate change in the Arctic region is a double challenge. Not only is the environment a harsh one for scientific inquiry, but its extreme weather and unique geography demand unconventional equipment and methods for gathering data. Indeed, climate change in this part of the world is best approached collectively, which is the goal of the two projects known as DAMOCLES and IPY-CARE.

As the world has only recently woken up to the dangers of polar climate change, funding for polar research projects has been meagre and split into separate national prerogatives. By virtue of its size and scope, DAMOCLES – Developing Arctic Modelling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies – aims to reverse this.

"DAMOCLES is the first large international project in polar research with a multi-million-euro budget, which is a lot in this field," said Riccardo Casale, principal scientific officer at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research. "We're hoping this big multination effort will set an example and trigger a similar unleashing of R&D money for polar research in the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan."

Still in the preparatory stage, DAMOCLES gets under way in early 2006 as a five-year Integrated Project with a budget of 16.1 million € and a consortium of 45 organisations, including ten small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), from 12 European countries. Coordinated by Prof Jean-Claude Gascard of the Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris, the project's first polar mission is still in the definition phase and will be launched in mid-2006. The mission aims to deliver an initial set of preliminary data the following year to coincide with the 2007-2008 International Polar Year, a collaborative international research effort supported by the EU and other players.

Before then, however, DAMOCLES will see its explanatory 'debut' later this year when scientists gather in Copenhagen in mid-November for the ICARP II conference where the project's organisers will lay out their objectives and expected deliverables to the scientific community, Casale explained.

Conveyor-belt blues?

If the Arctic continues to warm up – some observers expect it to become a 'blue-water' or warm-water region by the end of this century, if not sooner – there would be both positive and negative consequences. Europe's cold-water fishing industry would obviously suffer, but sea-drilling and sea-floor exploration would become easier. Warmer northern waters would also open up new shipping routes across the polar region, significantly cutting the cost and time of maritime traffic between Europe and Asia, for instance.

But most scientists agree that the negative effects would outweigh the beneficial ones. And no negative effect looms larger in the public imagination than a slowing or change in direction of the Gulf Stream, technically known as thermohaline circulation. As ice cover recedes, melt water changes the Arctic Ocean's salinity and flux, or the way currents with different temperatures mix and disperse.

"The thickness of Arctic ice cover is a major factor in the stability of thermohaline circulation," observed Casale. "If there were a sizeable change in flux from north to south, thermohaline circulation could be seriously affected."

That prospect is one of the more acute motivations for setting up DAMOCLES, whose primary objective is to install and test multi-technology systems for the near real-time observation and collection of climate change variables. These range from atmospheric conditions over the Arctic to changes in ice-cap thickness and fluctuations in sea temperature and salinity. The idea is to tie these technical sub-systems together to form a prototype for a future permanent Arctic Ocean Observing System (AOOS).

Not your normal buoy

As the Arctic is an exotic place, so, too, will be the equipment DAMOCLES intends to deploy for its prototype AOOS. Devices for taking daily profiles or samples of marine conductivity, temperature and depth will be tethered to ice structures. Satellite radar and passive microwave radiometers will scan and transmit meteorological data. Autonomous self-guiding sea-gliders will sail under the ice caps to collect temperature and salinity information, while upward-looking sonar attached to weighted buoys will float at constant depths to measure sea-ice from below.

"One of the critical things DAMOCLES must do is test these technologies against one another for reliability," said Casale. "Then, we'll have the building blocks for a dependable AOOS prototype."

What would an AOOS system do? As intended by DAMOCLES participants, it would operate as an integrated system for gathering geophysical Arctic data, transferring this to a common databank and disseminating the information to modelling centres to produce so-called climate change 'nowcasts' and forecasts about the Arctic region's evolution. Such modelling will help Europe's scientific community pinpoint the often-subtle sources of climate change in the Arctic region, while forecasting the speed, direction and impact of those changes. But how should DAMOCLES future data streams be tied to all the other groups studying the Arctic?

Holding the threads together

That's where FP6's other new polar research project comes into play. Known as 'Climate of the Arctic and its Role for Europe (CARE) – a European component of the International Polar Year', IPY-CARE is an 18-month Specific Support Action.

Although it has a modest budget of 395 000 € the project will play a key coordinating role by organising groups of experts drawn from regional, national and international polar research projects across Europe. The experts' goal is to create and prepare a pan-European science and implementation plan for Arctic climate change as a contribution to the International Polar Year. A consortium of 19 scientific institutions from 13 countries, including Russia, will organise the conferences and meetings to prepare and coordinate the research projects.

"Polar research is spread out all over the map – national, international – and needs a more coherent approach," said Ole Johannessen, IPY-CARE's coordinator, who added that he is working very closely with DAMOCLES participants. "By planning now we will be in good shape in 2007 to show national research institutes involved in polar research that we have a coherent blueprint for disseminating the results of their research."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

GMO: Marketing of Bt Cotton in India is aggressive, unscrupulous and false

The biotech industry and its supporters like to present it as a science-based industry whose reputation has suffered only because its scientifically validated claims have been undermined by emotional appeals and disinformation campaigns. In fact, the reverse is the case. And nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in India, where Monsanto has been using every trick in the book to promote its GM cotton seeds.

The biotech industry and proponents of transgenics in general and Bt Cotton companies in particular are very often heard to argue that the rapid spread of Bt Cotton in India is an indication of its success on the ground. The expansion in Bt Cotton areas is an acceptance of the technology by farmers, they say.

We have a different story to tell
This is the story of how Bt Cotton is marketed in this country – aggressive and even unethical practices are adopted to lure farmers into the Bt Cotton trap. This has been the case right from the beginning and regulators have chosen to ignore this aggressive marketing despite reports of failure in many locations.

Many promises are made that are not fulfilled on the ground as evidenced by both official and independent reports. However, there is no mechanism to fix liability and accountability when the companies and their product fail to keep the promises. Farmers who feel dejected and disillusioned with Bt cotton are often seen doing nothing about the problem and living in despair while a large network of the companies' farmer-agents and other associates are busy spreading their false promises…..

In Punjab….
The Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt. Amarinder Singh saved the companies some expenditure on advertising by using public funds to put out large, prominent advertisements on Bt Cotton for several days in several papers. These advertisements promise several benefits to farmers with the purchase and use of Bt Cotton.

It is not clear however who is to be held accountable when Bt Cotton fails, as it is appearing to in many parts of the state.

Mr Sakattar Singh Barar, Sarpanch of Gumti Khurd village in Kotkapura block of Faridkot district has a story to narrate. On 12th March 2005, soon after the GEAC cleared some Bt Cotton varieties for the north zone, a Monsanto Mahyco van came into his village to publicise about Bt Cotton. They said that they wanted to give information about the new seeds to farmers. They chose to do this by bringing along some dancer girls with them, who danced to the tunes played on the public address system!

In Andhra Pradesh….
The company launched its product in 2002 by giving a big daawat to farmers in many villages. Chinnapu Reddy of Fatimapur village in Kothur mandal in Mahbubnagar had this story to narrate: "The company guys and the dealers came right up to our doorstep to deliver the seeds. We should have known right then that something was wrong. One day, I came back to the village from the town to find a large gathering and much activity. There were also reporters from the local papers present. When I went closer, I discovered that this
was about Bollgard seed. In this 'function', the discussions on the seed were held for one and half hours and more time was spent on a big feast. There was 95 kilos of non-vegetarian food cooked that day and there was biryani and chicken fry. On that very day, 'bookings' for the season's seed supply were made by the dealers and the company representatives. When parties like that are thrown, farmers like me tend to think that there must be something to what they are saying and agreed to buy the seed. The seeds have now brought farmers nearer to the gates of suicide deaths again".

Other farmers like Akki Ramulu of Mallapuram village in Kothur mandal also endorse these views. One farmer in Mallapuram said that after having eaten the food of the company, a farmer cannot refuse the seed ("vaallu pettina buvva thinnaaka, vaari vithanam vaddantaama?" – after having eaten from their hand, can we refuse their seed?).

In states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech is also known to have distributed free pesticides with Bt Cotton seed! Advertisements of this "Scheme" had a title screaming: "In addition to two kinds of benefits, two kinds of savings also!". The advertisement promises the following: "Now, in addition to the heavy savings you are making on the sprays that you would use for bollworm prevention, you can also save on expenses on pesticides used for sucking pests. The advantage of the booking: Please pay only Rs 200/- for booking two boxes of Bollgard MECH 12 and MECH 162 varieties. At the time of purchase of seeds, get one TATA MIDA (100 ml) completely Free. Get your booking done with your nearest seed dealer today. Make good use of the offer of 'two kinds of savings'".

In the 2005 sales season, free bags were distributed to people who had participated in village level publicity meetings in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.

The companies are also known to put out advertisements in local newspapers which have an uncanny resemblance to regular media reports (probably to lend them as much credibility as a regular news story?!).
Interestingly enough, in many of these advertisements, relatives of seed dealers are showcased as successful farmers who have benefited greatly by the use of Bt Cotton!

Further, there are also many instances of farmers from one district being portrayed in advertisements that appear in other districts. Is this a way to prevent farmers from verifying the veracity of the advertisement since they cannot be bothered to travel long distances to check out the information put out by the company?, we wonder. For instance, farmers of Warangal are lured by stories of successful Bt Cotton farmers in Guntur and Medak district.

There is also a wide network of Agents placed at the village level, who are entitled to a small commission on the sales that they ensure by promoting the seed with fellow farmers. These are usually well-known influential farmers at the village level. We met a couple of such farmer-agents in Chintanekkonda village in Warangal district, who are well-recognised by other farmers in the village.

There is also a system of "advance bookings" of seed practised in the state by the companies and seed dealer network. Here, farmers are warned of possible shortage of seed during sowing time given the 'high demand' for Bt Cotton seed all around – farmers, afraid of being left behind in the race, opt to pay a certain advance to the dealers in return for an assured supply of seed during sowing period.

In Maharashtra….
Many of the above practices are used to sell Bt Cotton in Maharashtra too. Nana Patekar, a popular actor, has been used by the company in its television advertisements and posters in several states. Further, these
advertisements were put out during prime time and before news bulletins. In addition, in Maharashtra, the company engaged him to address farmers' meetings in several places, urging them to use Bt Cotton.

Maharashtra also has other kinds of opinion leaders promoting Bt Cotton. For instance, a religious leader called Sant Satyapal Maharaj is known to urge his followers to adopt Bt Cotton in places like Akola. It is not clear how the Sant, who is not a farmer, is vouching for the product!

In this state, dealers have been showing small video clippings of some cotton plots as Bt Cotton plots to farmers who throng their shops. They tell the farmers who are watching that the video clippings are of Bt Cotton and that Mr XYZ has obtained very good yields from growing Bt Cotton.

In Madhya Pradesh….
Posters appeared in many places in Madhya Pradesh before sowing time, featuring a person who claimed to have used Bt Cotton seed the previous years with great benefits accruing from his Bt Cotton crop. These advertisements urged "other farmers" to benefit similarly from the use of Bt Cotton. Investigations revealed that this "farmer" was incidentally a "paan dabbahwala" (a petty shop owner selling betel leaves and cigarettes) who is not even a farmer, leave alone a Bt Cotton farmer!!! (Source: Charkha, July 2005).

In the same state, other posters had farmers claiming very good yields from growing Bt Cotton. For instance, Ravinder Narain Patidaar of Sarangi village, Jhabua is shown in the poster as having obtained 20 quintals of yield per acre of Bt Cotton! In reality, Ravinder Narain, who had sown 3 packets of MECH 184 Bt and 2 packets of MECH 12 Bt has obtained only 25 quintals for all the five acres of Bt Cotton he had sown! He is aghast that the company is misusing the photos that were taken from him in this manner.

A third farmer called Pyarelal Patidaar (from Jamli village) also regrets the fact that his photo appears on posters which extol the virtues of Bt Cotton – "I said do not put my photo because I do not think that Bt Cotton is better than other varieties – however, they did not listen to me", he explains.

In Tamil Nadu….
A variety of marketing strategies are being adopted by the Bt Cotton companies in Tamil Nadu also, our investigations revealed. And once again, suggestive false claims by Bollgard farmers seem to be the way to reach out to other farmers!

A farmer called S Palanisamy s/o Chellapa Gounder Agarathodai of Vellaiyur of Salem district appeared on a poster proudly displaying a tractor that suggests that he had bought it after using Bt Cotton. We went to investigate. At the beginning of this season, Mr Palanisamy was approached by a company representative who urged the farmer to register for a contest that could take him to Mumbai. That is when the company took a picture of Mr Palanisamy in front of a tractor. However, what the poster does not reveal is that the farmer was not informed that this photo was for an advertisement of Bollgard and that this tractor was in fact taken by the farmer on a private loan! The farmer says that "with the yields that I get from Bt
Cotton, I would not be able to buy even two tractor tyres"!

This episode, not surprisingly, appears on a poster called "TRUE STORIES OF FARMERS WHOHAVE SOWN BT COTTON"!

In Tamil Nadu, another method for popularizing and spreading the market for Bt Cotton seems to be through "Bollgard Mandram" or Bollgard Clubs. Signboards of member farmers spreading the message of Bollgard appear all over many villages here.

Some of the other methods adopted here include:
- Booklet on Success Stories: Seed companies are using booklets of success stories that include last year's Bt Cotton farmer photos and stories about their high yields and profits. The Companies are distributing these booklets to the farmers through seed dealers.
- Village Meetings and Feasts: The companies conduct meetings in select villages and bring farmers from neighboring villages by arranging vehicles etc. Here, they provide food for the farmers and in some cases, a small per diem is also distributed. To gain credibility, the village head and influential farmers are also brought into the meetings where they put out their messages on the benefits of Bt Cotton.
- Advertisements: The companies are putting out advertisements in local newspapers, through cable television, in videos in private buses and even videos in haats (rural weekly markets). They also use vinyl (digital) hoardings and cloth banners. Four wheelers with advertisements and film songs go around the villages, publicizing Bt Cotton amongst farmers.
- Prizes: The Bt Cotton companies gave gold and silver prizes to the top retail seed seller and top wholesale merchant for their sales in 2004.
- Discount Schemes for Advance Bookings: The companies sell the seeds with a discount of around
hundred rupees, for farmers who have booked seeds in advance. They also conduct some lottery draws for the pre-booked farmers - the prizes distributed are two-wheelers and school bags.
- Free Gifts: The companies distributed a school bag each for 5 packets of Bt Cotton as a free gift.
- Handbills: The companies distribute handbills in temple festivals and village bazaars.

To sum up….
Unabashed by what science has been disclosing about the ineffectiveness of the Bt technology, Monsanto's Indian subsidiary Monsanto-Mahyco and its sub-licensee Bt Cotton seed companies have been busy hyping GM seeds to India's poor farmers as magical, as celebrity-endorsed and even, it now seems, as sexy!

There's a striking contrast between the lavish nature of Monsanto's brash promotional campaigns in India and its flat refusal to pay any compensation to the farmers who have suffered often terrible losses as a result of cultivating its seeds.

In this context,…..
The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) on Bt Cotton consisting of CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Thaayagam, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE and YUVA and set up to monitor Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu demands the following:
- that the aggressive and even false marketing of Bt Cotton be stopped immediately
- that the Bt Cotton companies reveal the total amount spent on marketing the seed so far
- that liability be fixed on the companies in all those cases where they resorted to unscrupulous and false marketing
- that the governments pro-actively put out information to farmers about how to protect themselves from such companies

Friday, December 16, 2005

People Tree Proves The Power Of Fair Trade Fashion At Wto Meeting

Fair Trade and ecological fashion label People Tree will prove the success of Fair Trade fashion to the delegates of the 6th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong this week. People Tree's pioneering fashion show, on 14th December, is one of the main events of the three-day Fair Trade Expo to be held opposite the WTO meeting, in the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre.

People Tree will preview their beautiful, handcrafted spring summer 2006 collection, which supports 4,000 small scale producers from some of the world’s most marginalised communities in countries including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru and Kenya. As well as paying a fair price and advance payments, committing to long term orders and providing technical and design support, People Tree invest in social and environmental programmes in the communities where the clothes are made.

With top New York model Summer Rayne Oaks flying in to support the campaign for Fair Trade, joined by models from a Hong Kong agency and hair and make up by Aveda, the show will prove just how good Fair Trade can look. The Honorable Mr Kamal Nath, Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, will be officially opening the show and invitations, printed on mini People Tree organic tee shirts, have been sent to WTO delegates, NGOs and international business leaders.

Safia Minney, Chief Executive and founder of People Tree, said: “Our Fashion Show will prove that Fair Trade is a viable alternative – and where better to drive home this message than at the WTO Meeting in the fashion hub of Hong Kong? We will lobby delegates, from the catwalk, on key trade issues including cotton subsidies, which are keeping producers poor worldwide.”

People Tree and other Fair Trade organizations will be taking the opportunity to call on the WTO to abolish US and EU agricultural subsidies, which are having such a crippling effect on small scale farmers in developing countries, pushing down global prices. Last year US farmers received around US$ 4.2m in cotton subsidies, equivalent to the total value of the crop itself .

The Fair Trade Expo (13th – 16th December) is being organized by an international steering committee including the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Equitterre and Oxfam Hong Kong. As well as the People Tree Fashion Show, the Expo will include a market featuring Fair Trade products from around the world and a one-day Symposium to discuss Fair Trade. Safia Minney will sit on the panel of Fair Trade experts at the Symposium to discuss challenges facing Fair Trade as it moves into the mainstream.

For more information and to view the collection visit


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Microorganisms found in cow waste may provide a reliable source of energy

Results showed that the microbes in about a half a liter of rumen fluid fermented, liquefied feed extracted from the rumen, the largest chamber of a cow's stomach - produced about 600 millivolts of electricity. That's about half the voltage needed to run one rechargeable AA-sized battery, said Ann Christy, a study co-author and an associate professor of food, agricultural and biological engineering at Ohio State University.

While rumen fluid itself won't be used as an energy source, some of the microorganisms found in the fluid are also found in cow dung, which may prove to be a good source for generating electricity. In fact, in a related experiment, the researchers used cow manure directly to create energy for a fuel cell.

Using cow dung as an energy source isn't a new idea - some farmers already use the methane released by livestock waste to power machinery and lights. But converting methane into electricity requires costly equipment - one California farmer reportedly spent $280,000 to convert his operation to a methane digester system.

Methane still needs to undergo combustion, which creates issues with energy efficiency, said Hamid Rismani-Yazdi, the study's lead author and a graduate student in food, agricultural and biological engineering at Ohio State.

We've run some of these trials well over 30 days without a decrease in the voltage output. Both studies suggest that cow waste is a promising fuel source. It's cheap and plentiful, and it may someday be a useful source of sustainable energy in developing parts of the world.

The research showed how electricity can be created as the microorganisms in rumen fluid break down cellulose - a complex carbohydrate that is the primary component of the roughage that cows eat. That breakdown releases electrons.

This study represents the first time that scientists have used cellulose to help charge a fuel cell.

The researchers presented their findings on August 31 in Washington,D.C., at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society. Christy and Rismani-Yazdi conducted the work with Ohio State colleagues Olli Tuovinen, a professor of microbiology, and Burk Dehority, a professor of animal sciences.

The researchers extracted rumen fluid from a living cow. The rumen is essentially a fermentation vat crawling with microorganisms where much of the food that a cow eats is temporarily held and is continuously churned until it can be completely digested. This liquid mass is what scientists call rumen fluid.

The researchers collected the fluid through a cannula, a surgically implanted tube that leads directly from the cow's hide into its rumen. The cow used in the study ate a normal diet.

The researchers filled each of two sterilized glass chambers with strained rumen fluid to create the microbial fuel cell. Each chamber was about a foot high and about 6 inches in diameter.

The chambers were separated by a special material that allowed protons to move from the negative (anode) chamber into the positive (cathode) chamber. This movement of protons, along with the movement of electrons across the resistor and wire that connects the two electrodes, creates electrical current.

The anode chamber was filled with rumen fluid and cellulose, which served as a food source for the microorganisms. Cellulose is plentiful on most farms, as harvesting usually leaves behind plenty of it in the form of crop residue in the fields.

The other chamber, the cathode, was filled with potassium ferricyanide, a chemical that acts as an oxidizing agent to round out the electrical circuit.

Two small pieces of plain graphite served as the fuel cell's electrodes (an electrode draws and emits electrical charge.) A piece of graphite was placed in each chamber. The researchers used a meter to measure the output of the fuel cell.

That output reached a consistent maximum of 0.58 volts. After about four days, the voltage fell to around 0.2 volts, at which time the researchers added fresh cellulose to bring the voltage back up to a higher level.

While that's a very small amount of voltage, the results show that it is possible to create electricity from cow waste,² Christy said.

Putting a couple of these fuel cells together should generate enough power to run a rechargeable double-A battery, Rismani-Yazdi said.

In related work done in Christy's lab, she and Rismani-Yazdi, along with a number of undergraduate students, used actual cow manure to power a microbial fuel cell. These individual cells produced between 300 and 400 millivolts.

The students put a few of these cells together and were able to fuel their rechargeable batteries over and over again, Christy said.

In that work, the researchers didn't need to use cellulose to feed microbes, as some plant material passes undigested through a cow.

We've run some of these trials well over 30 days without a decrease in the voltage output, Christy said. Both studies suggest that cow waste is a promising fuel source. It's cheap and plentiful, and it may someday be a useful source of sustainable energy in developing parts of the world.

While the source of energy for the fuel cell used in these studies is somewhat unique, microbial fuel cells aren't a new idea; other scientists have produced electricity from a handful of specific microbes and also from effluent from municipal wastewater.

Although it's too early to tell if this kind of fuel cell can produce significantly more electricity, the fact that the rumen fluid worked in our study means that there are additional electricity-producing microbes that we have yet to identify, Christy said.

The hope is that one day livestock farmers could use their farm's livestock waste lagoon as a huge fuel cell and generate enough power for their operation, Rismani-Yazdi said.

This work was supported in part by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Germany: REPower builds the word’s biggest wind turbine

In mid-September, REPower Systems AG installed the prototype for the biggest wind turbine ever constructed at Brunsbüttel in Schleswig-Holstein. With a nominal output of 5 MW, the turbine has a blade 126 metres in diameter.

The turbine, originally designed for an off-shore wind farm, will go through a series of tests on land. It should produce 17 million kWh per year, equivalent to the energy consumption of 4,500 three-person households. Other plants are planned for the next few years, while the first off-shore wind farms should be operational from 2006.

Christmas gift: Bioviva, the ecological trivial pursuit

The ecological 'Trivial Pursuit', Bioviva contains a box of question cards, 'eco' question cards, eco-point cardboard disks and wooden game pieces shaped like drops of water. Players travel across a map of the world answering questions about the specific habits through which they journey from a choice of three possible answers. A correct answer is likely to win you an eco point. To win, collect the precise kind and number of ecopoints as stipulated on your 'Destination Card' given to you at the start of the game. You will find yourself laughing out loud at some astonishing facts related to the natural world whilst being given tips of environmentally sound and energy conserving habits to adopt in your everyday life. Who cares who wins?

Made with 100% recycled card. For 2 to 6 players aged 8+ Average playing time: 1 hour.

visit Bioviva

REACH: Commission welcomes Council’s agreement on new EU chemical legislation

The European Commission welcomes the Council's political agreement on a comprehensive new system aimed at ensuring greater safety in the manufacture and use of chemical substances. The new system, REACH, will establish an integrated system for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals. REACH will ensure that the gaps in existing information on the hazardous properties of some 30,000 chemicals are filled and that the necessary information on the safe use of substances is transmitted along the industrial supply chain leading to reduced risks for workers, for consumers, and for the environment. REACH will reverse the burden of proof so that industry, both producers and importers of substances, rather than the public authorities, will have to assume greater responsibility for providing the necessary information and taking effective risk management measures. The formal Common Position of the Council should be approved under the Austrian Presidency in May 2006, a step that will pave the way for the second reading of the proposal by the European Parliament. Parliament adopted its first reading of REACH on 17 November.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: "This agreement puts an end to a long period of uncertainty for industry and helps them plan for the very challenging task of meeting the new requirements. The Council's agreement is a reasonable compromise. We have succeeded in making REACH more effective and more workable. And we have succeeded in maintaining the competitiveness of EU industry and – a crucial point- reducing the burden for small and medium-sized companies."

Commissioner Stavros Dimas responsible for environment policy said: "This agreement will represent a marked improvement in the protection of health and the environment. It will reduce chemical related disease and will allow users and consumers to make informed choices about the substances they come in contact with. It will also encourage innovation and give a strong incentive to industry to replace dangerous chemicals with safer ones. Today's agreement presents to our citizens a chance for a healthier life and a safer environment."

REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals. This new EU regulation will replace 40 existing legal acts and create a single system for all chemical substances. It will introduce a new European Chemicals Agency to be established in Helsinki, Finland, which will manage the registration of substances, through the setting up of a database. It will play an important role also in the evaluation and authorisation of substances.

REACH will require manufacturers and importers to gather comprehensive information on properties of their substances produced or imported in volumes over 1 tonne per year and to submit the necessary information to demonstrate their safe use in a registration dossier to the European chemicals agency. Failure to register will mean the substance cannot be manufactured or imported to the EU market.

Member States' public authorities will examine registration dossiers and substances of concern. They will also scrutinise all proposals for animal testing to keep it to the minimum absolutely necessary. Use-specific authorisations will be required for chemicals that cause cancer, mutations or reproduction problems, or that accumulate in our bodies and in the environment. Authorisation will be granted only to companies that can show that the risks are adequately controlled or if social and economic benefits outweigh the risks and suitable alternative substances do not exist. This will encourage substitution of unsafe substances by safer ones.

Existing system not working

REACH will improve the current EU chemicals legislation, which distinguishes between so-called "existing" and "new" chemicals. All chemicals that were put on the market before 1981 are called "existing" chemicals. They amount to around 100,000. Chemicals introduced after 1981 (around 4,300) are called "new" chemicals. While new chemicals have to be tested, there are no systematic provisions for the existing substances. Consequently, in volume terms, safety information is sketchy for around 99% of these existing chemicals.

As national competent authorities are responsible for the risk assessment of new chemicals, the process is slow, cumbersome and resource-intensive. For example, since 1993, 140 high-volume chemicals have been singled out for risk assessment, of which only a very limited number have completed the process. In addition, the existing system discourages the introduction of new and possibly safer chemicals – thereby giving no incentives for innovation.

Next steps

It is expected that the final decision on REACH will be reached by the European Parliament and Council in autumn 2006. The Commission expects entry into force of the Regulation for spring 2007. Thereafter it will take about a year for the REACH Agency to be operational. Accordingly the operational requirements of REACH are expected to start to be applied from 2008 onwards.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Economists Warn Bush Administration About the High Cost of Inaction on Global Warming

At the daily Climate Action Network (CAN) press briefing at the Montreal climate change negotiations, 25 respected American economists, including three Nobel laureates, called upon the United States to move aggressively to combat global warming. These economists, all with expertise on applying economics to environmental policy, assert that unless we act now, the price of dealing with global warming and its disruptive effects is only going to increase. The statement was delivered to President Bush and key cabinet members, as well as to every U.S. senator and member of Congress.

"It is important that greenhouse gas emissions be managed using an incentive based policy, such as a market-based approach to capping and reducing such emissions," the economists stated. "This type of strategy…assures that economic forces are directed to keeping the cost of reducing emissions as low as they can be."

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said the economists' call for action underscored that the cost of inaction on global warming will hurt the American economy and U.S. based businesses. Many major corporations, including General Electric, Wal-Mart, and DuPont, have made commitments to cut their own emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. A growing number of corporate CEOs are calling for the United States to establish mandatory caps on such emissions.

"In addition to the rising cost of delay, lack of U.S. leadership is an opportunity cost to U.S. businesses and consumers," said Kevin Knobloch, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "An aggressive rollout of energy efficient cars and trucks, appliances, heating and cooling systems and renewable energy technologies will save businesses and consumers significant amounts of money, as well as create high-quality jobs and increase community investment."

According to the economists, as the rest of the world sets up carbon trading markets, the demand for renewable energy and associated technologies will increase. "Adding industries in the United States to the other sources of these demands will help to reinforce this process," the letter concluded.

"The U.S. should be the global leader in manufacturing and exporting clean energy technologies," said Geoff Heal, professor of public policy and corporate responsibility at Columbia Business School and lead organizer of the letter. "If we want to develop and export the energy technologies of the future, then we need federal policies that create incentives for developing and rapidly deploying that technology. A national greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system is one such incentive, and should be pursued vigorously by the president and Congress."

Renewable energy: European Commission proposes ambitious biomass and biofuels action plan and calls on Member States to do more for green electricity

Today the Commission adopted a detailed action plan designed to increase the use of energy from forestry, agriculture and waste materials. Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Energy, said, "This plan will reduce Europe's dependence on imported energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, protect jobs in rural areas and extend the EU's technological leadership in these sectors. The Plan outlines measures in three sectors : heating, electricity and transport. The measures in favour of transport biofuels, in particular, are a practical response to the problem of high oil prices." In parallel, the Commission adopted a report on the different support schemes of electricity from renewable energy sources which concludes that governments need to step up efforts to cooperate among themselves and optimise their support schemes as well as to remove administrative and grid barriers for green electricity.

In the context of security of supply, the EU's increasing dependency on oil and gas imports, constantly rising oil prices and EU commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the development of renewable energy remains high on the agenda of European energy policy. However the take-off of renewable energy is still on hold with prospects of only 9 to 10% for the share of renewables in the EU energy mix by 2010 instead of the 12% target. The Commission has decided to propose an ambitious action plan to promote the use of biomass energy, a renewable source of energy with a huge potential.

Biomass Action Plan

The plan announces more than 20 actions; most of them will be implemented from 2006 onwards. For transport biofuels, they include promotion of "biofuels obligations", through which suppliers include a minimum proportion of biofuels in the conventional fuel they place on the market. In 2006, the Commission will bring forward a report in view of a possible revision of the biofuels Directive. This report will examine the implementation of the Directive in Member States. The EU market share is currently 0.8% which leaves little chance to achieve by 2010 the target of 5.75% that was set in 2003 for the EU as a whole.

The plan includes reviews of how fuel standards could be improved to encourage the use of biomass for transport, heating and electricity generation; investment in research, in particular in making liquid fuels out of wood and waste materials; and a campaign to inform farmers and forest owners about energy crops. The Commission will also work on future EU legislation to encourage the use of renewable energy in heating.

The Commission estimates that the measures in the plan will increase the use of biomass to about 150 Mtoe by 2010 (compared with 69 Mtoe in 2003) without increasing the intensity of agriculture or significantly affecting domestic food production. It forecasts that this will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 209 million tons CO2–equivalent per year; provide direct employment for 250-300 000 people; and reduce reliance on imported energy from 48% to 42%.

Report on the support of electricity from renewable energy sources

The report on support of electricity from renewable energy, also adopted today, concludes that more than half of the Member States are not giving enough support to green electricity. The Commission considers that direct support measures will remain essential in the future to ensure sufficient market penetration of green electricity and calls on Member States to optimise their support schemes and remove barriers.

The Report analyses the different support mechanisms used by Member States. It finds that feed-in tariffs, which are fixed prices for green electricity and used in the majority of Member States, are currently in general cheaper and more effective than so called quota systems, especially in the case of wind energy. One reason for quota systems being more expensive is probably the higher risk for investors due to immature green electricity markets.

The Commission concludes that it is premature to propose a harmonised European support scheme. Competing national schemes can be healthy at least in a transitional period, as more experience needs to be gained. Secondly industry currently needs regulatory stability to make investments and develop renewables. In the short and medium term, Member States are therefore recommended to coordinate the existing schemes at European level. There should be better cooperation between countries and optimisation of national schemes.

The Commission also urges Member States to remove barriers to the development of green electricity. The administrative requirements should be reduced: clear guidelines, one-stop authorisation agencies, pre-planning mechanisms and simpler procedures are needed. Transparent and non-discriminatory grid access must be ensured and necessary grid infrastructure development should be undertaken, with the associated costs covered by grid operators.

For more information on the biomass action plan and on green electricity:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

project of production of synthetic fuels, chemicals and electricity from dry biomass

The Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe (Research Centre Karlsruhe) and the Future Energy GmbH in Freiberg are pursuing a joint project with the goal of producing synthetic fuels from dry residual biomass, such as straw or residual forest wood. In the first process step, the fast pyrolysis of the de-centrally arising residual biomass in regionally operated hybrid reactors takes place at about 500 °C; this results in pyrolysis oil, coke and gas. Oil and coke are mixed to give easily stored and transported pumping and atomisable suspensions (“slurries”), and gas is used in the pyrolysis process. These slurries are transformed in a large entrained-flow gasification system at temperatures of around 1,200 °C and pressures of above 40 bar to a tarless synthetic crude gas. The purified and conditioned synthesis gas is processed to synthetic fuel in an additional processing step after Fischer-Tropsch.

visit the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe

EU research project gives citizens a voice on what they want from the City of Tomorrow

A Citizens’ Declaration on the City of Tomorrow will be presented today in the European Parliament. The promotion of more walking, cycling and public transport; better preservation of our cultural heritage; sound use of land; better governance – these are issues that concern European citizens when asked about the future of our cities. The Declaration has been drawn up by a panel of 26 people from across the EU who were asked to discuss the outcomes of a number of research projects looking at sustainable urban development. This Citizens’ Conference is funded by the EU ‘RAISE’ research project and gives citizens a chance to put their concerns directly to policy-makers.

“Responsible decisions take into account the views of those affected by them. Initiatives such as this Declaration are invaluable in giving a voice to those who live and work in our cities”, said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potoãnik.

The Declaration says “We represent 10% of the richest people in the world and we are the least sustainable so far. Now is the right time to take action. There is a pressing need to change our every day mobility habits, we have to impose restrictions on individual car use and make the sound use of land as the prime objective of urban planning.”

All participants in the panel that drew up the declaration argued that mobility was central to their daily lives, but at the same time it was considered as a major source of their daily problems. They all agreed that we have to aim at shorter daily distances by improving not just our infrastructures and the compatibility of transport systems, but by changing our transport habits. Walking, cycling and public transport need to be promoted as alternatives. Cultural heritage and its preservation were also of key importance to the panel. They explained that “cultural heritage is today’s fragile footprint of the past. What’s lost can’t be replaced. We have to make our cultural past part of our present”. Citizens were also adamant on the fact that “poor governance delivers poor outcomes”. The local level is a good point of departure for consulting citizens on their everyday needs and delivering policies for our cities. The participants stressed that “our voice has value, just like all citizens, and it needs to be heard”. The Declaration also addresses the sound use of land and attaches importance to policies promoting the renovation of old buildings together with a series of fiscal and tax benefits, which must be implemented to improve the quality of life in inner cities.

The idea for and realisation of this Citizens’ Declaration comes from a European-funded research project, RAISE, with partners from Italy, Austria, Belgium, Romania and Poland and financed under the Environment research programme. The project’s aim is to make better use and raise awareness of the results of other EU research projects on urban sustainability. 26 people from the 25 EU Member States and Romania participated in a series of workshops to discuss these research findings and compare them to their own experiences, resulting in today’s Declaration.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

full characteristics of jatropha curcus

Jatropha curcus is a drought-resistant perennial, growing well in marginal/poor soil. It is easy to establish, grows relatively quickly and lives, producing seeds for 50 years.

Jatropha the wonder plant produces seeds with an oil content of 37%. The oil can be combusted as fuel without being refined. It burns with clear smoke-free Associerflame, tested successfully as fuel for simple diesel engine. The by-products are press cake a good organic fertilizer, oil contains also insecticide.

It is found to be growing in many parts of the country, rugged in nature and can survive with minimum inputs and easy to propagate.

Medically it is used for diseases like cancer, piles, snakebite, paralysis, dropsy etc.
Jatropha grows wild in many areas of India and even thrives on infertile soil. A good crop can be obtained with little effort. Depending on soil quality and rainfall, oil can be extracted from the jatropha nuts after two to five years. The annual nut yield ranges from 0.5 to 12 tons. The kernels consist of oil to about 60 percent; this can be transformed into biodiesel fuel through esterification.
Family: Euphorbiaceae Synonyms: Curcas purgans Medic. Vernacular/common names: English- physic nut, purging nut; Hindi - Ratanjyot Jangli erandi; Malayalam ? Katamanak; Tamil ? Kattamanakku; Telugu ? Pepalam; Kannada ? Kadaharalu; Gujarathi ? Jepal; Sanskrit ? Kanana randa.

Distribution and habitat
It is still uncertain where the centre of origin is, but it is believed to be Mexico and Central America. It has been introduced to Africa and Asia and is now culti-vated world-wide. This highly drought-resistant spe-cies is adapted to arid and semi-arid conditions. The current distribution shows that introduction has been most successful in the drier regions of the tropics with annual rainfall of 300-1000 mm. It occurs mainly at lower altitudes (0-500 m) in areas with average an-nual temperatures well above 20°C but can grow at higher altitudes and tolerates slight frost. It grows on well-drained soils with good aeration and is well adapted to marginal soils with low nutrient content.

Botanical Features
It is a small tree or shrub with smooth gray bark, which exudes a whitish colored, watery, latex when cut. Normally, it grows between three and five meters in height, but can attain a height of up to eight or ten meters under favourable conditions.

It has large green to pale-green leaves, alternate to sub-opposite, three-to five-lobed with a spiral phyllotaxis.

The petiole length ranges between 6-23 mm. The inflorescence is formed in the leaf axil. Flowers are formed terminally, individually, with female flowers usually slightly larger and occurs in the hot seasons. In conditions where continuous growth occurs, an unbalance of pistillate or staminate flower production results in a higher number of female flowers.

Fruits are produced in winter when the shrub is leafless, or it may produce several crops during the year if soil moisture is good and temperatures are sufficiently high. Each inflorescence yields a bunch of approximately 10 or more ovoid fruits. A three, bi-valved cocci is formed after the seeds mature and the fleshy exocarp dries.

The seeds become mature when the capsule changes from green to yellow, after two to four months

Flowering and fruiting habit
The trees are deciduous, shedding the leaves in the dry season. Flowering occurs during the wet season and two flowering peaks are often seen. In permanently hu-mid regions, flowering occurs throughout the year. The seeds mature about three months after flowering. Early growth is fast and with good rainfall conditions nursery plants may bear fruits after the first rainy season, direct sown plants after the second rainy season. The flowers are pollinated by insects especially honey bees.

Ecological Requirements
Jatropha curcas grows almost anywhere , even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil. It can grow even in the crevices of rocks. The leaves shed during the winter months form mulch around the base of the plant. The organic matter from shed leaves enhance earth-worm activity in the soil around the root-zone of the plants, which improves the fertility of the soil.
Regarding climate, Jatropha curcas is found in the tropics and subtropics and likes heat, although it does well even in lower temperatures and can withstand a light frost. Its water requirement is extremely low and it can stand long periods of drought by shedding most of its leaves to reduce transpiration loss. Jatropha is also suitable for preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand dunes.

Biophysical limits
Altitude: 0-500 m, Mean annual temperature: 20-28 deg. C, Mean annual rainfall: 300-1000 mm or more.
Soil type: Grows on well-drained soils with good aeration and is well adapted to marginal soils with low nutrient content. On heavy soils, root formation is reduced. Jatropha is a highly adaptable species, but its strength as a crop comes from its ability to grow on very poor and dry sites.


posts i connection with Jatropha:
Jatropha in africa
Jatropha oil for Guatemala
Jatropha vegetable oil, biodiesel scenario in India

Friday, December 02, 2005

Could the Atlantic Current Switch Off?

The Atlantic Ocean overturning that maintains Europe’s moderate climate has slowed by 30 per cent according to scientists from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton in research published today in Nature

Professor Harry Bryden, Dr Stuart Cunningham and University of Southampton research student Hannah Longworth have been researching the flow of the Atlantic Ocean across latitude 25 degrees north – comparing measurements across the Atlantic taken in 2004 with records from 1957, 1981, 1992 and 1998. Ocean flow is measured in Sverdrups, equivalent to one million tonnes of water a second. The team estimate a decrease in the overturning from 20 Sv in earlier surveys to 14 Sv in 2004.

Professor Bryden said, ‘The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, sometimes called the Conveyor Belt, carries warm upper waters into northern latitudes and returns cold deep waters southward across the equator. It is a massive system that includes the Gulf Stream and it carries heat northward out of the tropics into the northern Atlantic warming the atmosphere and helping to provide northern Europe with a moderate climate.

‘In previous studies over the last 50 years the overturning circulation and heat transport across 25°N were reasonably constant. We were surprised that the circulation in 2004 was so different from previous estimates.

‘Estimates of the size of the overturning circulation have been based primarily on hydrographic sections – where a ship takes measurements at regular intervals across the Atlantic. Because of the importance of the overturning circulation for European climate, we have set up a continuous observing system to monitor the overturning using moored instruments. Last year's expedition was meant to provide a traditional observation of the overturning to initialise the new observing system.’

Climate models suggest that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will result in a slowdown of the Atlantic overturning circulation. Scientists fear that disruption to this circulation could result in a several degree drop in temperatures in as little as 20 years. The Natural Environment Research Council, NERC, has funded a £20 million climate change research programme called RAPID, which is co-ordinated by scientists at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. A primary goal of RAPID is to continuously monitor the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

Since 2004 scientists at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton led by Dr Stuart Cunningham have deployed an instrument array across the Atlantic at 25°N – running just south of the Canaries, from the Saharan coast of Africa to Florida. The monitoring array involves close collaboration with American scientists at University of Miami and NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. To work out the circulation and heat transport, it is essential to measure the temperature and salinity of the water and the speed it is moving.

An array of 22 moorings continuously monitors the Atlantic’s circulation, nine across the Deep Western Boundary Current east of the Bahama Islands, four across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and nine across the continental slope off the coast of Africa. The moorings are anchored to the seabed on wires up to 5000 metres long. Instruments that measure salinity, temperature, pressure and currents take continuous readings that are collected on annual visits by ship. The project is due to end in 2008 giving four years of continuous observation.

Dr Stuart Cunningham, who has just returned from an expedition to retrieve data from the moored instruments near the Canaries, said, ‘Continuous monitoring could alert us to potential rapid climate change. This is an early warning system in operation for the Atlantic overturning. Before this array was set up, the only means of gathering data was to make transatlantic research cruises taking measurements that took a snapshot of ocean conditions at a specific time giving little information on seasonal variability’.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Global March for the Climate december 3, 2005

World leaders will be meeting in Montreal November 28 through December 9, 2005 to discuss the future of the international effort to counter climate change. The decisions made at this conference will have a major impact on our future and the future of our children.


Like thousands of citizens in countries all over the world who will take part in International Day of Climate Action, we will walk through the streets of Montreal to demand real measures to stop climate change and ensure a healthy future! By just being present, we can help effect change!

What: Montreal 2005 Global Climate March

Who: All citizens, young and old, of Quebec and the world, who are concerned with their future and the future of the planet.

When: Saturday, December 3, 2005, 12:00 Noon.

Where: Join us at one of the two following rendezvous points: 1. Square Dorchester (corner of Peel and René-Lévesque) 2. Papineau Metro Station exit

How: The March will take place in a festive, family and peaceful spirit.

Purpose: To send a clear message to decision-makers attending the Montreal 2005: United Nations Climate Change Conference .

a sneaker specifically designed to cross the border...

With Brinco , Judi Werthein has created a project that links migrants’ efforts to cross the border illegally with the increasing global corporatization of goods and labor. The project is a uniquely designed sneaker, trademarked Brinco . The design of the shoe is inspired by information and materials that are relevant to, and could provide assistance to, those illegally crossing the border. Underscoring the tensions sparked by the global spread and mobility of the maquiladora, the sneaker will be manufactured in China. In counterpoint to its potential for utilitarian use by Mexican migrants, the sneaker will be sold as a one-of-a-kind art object and will be available in the United States during inSite_05 in Blends, a high end sneaker store located in Down Town San Diego. In a single object Judi reveals the contradictions between fashion, competition in the manufacturing industry, and migratory flows, themes that lie and the heart of the dynamics of labor geography in today’s world.

Judi Werthein proposes to create a pseudo American corporation that will design and fabricate a sneaker specifically designed to cross the border. She proposes that the sneakers will be included in the survival kit that the Grupo Beta distributes to deportees and people attempting to cross the border illegally. The sneaker will include in it’s inner sole a map, a note book, a compass, and a wallet. The sneakers will also be sold as an art object during inSite_05 .

Her proposal intervenes on the flows of labor and goods across the border and addresses the global issue of the contradiction between free movement of goods and trade and the restricted movement of people.