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Clean green energy from the green island?

Apologies from the Ice-Blogger for a lack of news over the past couple of weeks. I have been away on climate-related business, visiting a couple of renewable energy projects, one in southern, one in northern Ireland.
The first involves a resource that is more than common in Ireland:

These are graduate scientists from University College Dublin, out in the field at Oak Park, the National Centre for Arable Crops Research, near Carlow. They are monitoring the progress of different types of grass, with the ultimate aim of finding out whether they can be used viably to produce energy in the form of bio-gas. I’ll have a bit more to say about this and Ireland’s attempts to reduce emissions by using bio-energy soon. I talked to Dr. John Finnan from the Centre, Dr. Cara Augustenborg from UCD (you may remember Cara as the Irish “climate ambassador” on the Climate Change College Arctic field trip) and Professor Christoph Müller, from UCD.I also talked to the researchers pictured here braving the wet and windy Irish weather.
There’s more information on the UCD projects here:

More information on the UCD bioenergy project

The Centre’s website is also worth a click:
Oak Park Crop Research Website

More on this and the project in northern Ireland, which involves the world’s first commercially viable tidal generator, located in Strangford Lough, over the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, thanks to Donna for encouraging comments on the Ice Blog, and to my Irish colleague Mary P. (let me know if you’re happy for your name to be mentioned), a committed environment journalist I met on my trip, who also tells me she likes the blog.Thanks for some interesting conversations on the state of the planet and just how much of the land we would have to use if we wanted to supply Ireland with electricity from biomass, Mary. You are a kindred spirit and I look forward to a continuing exchange of views.
More on the “Irish Projects” soon…


May 26, 2009 | 2:50 pm



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Back on the Blog

The only Arctic areas I’ve seen in the last few weeks have been from the air.

(Doesn’t this remind you of a dino in the snow?)
Exactly one month since the last entry, I’m back at my desk in Deutsche Welle in Bonn and raring to blog.I’ve been in the USA during an interesting time, with the election campaign in full swing – and climate change high on the agenda. People are finally accepting that global warming is not just a figment of somebody’s imagination.

(Pools forming from melting snow in the Arctic).

It’s interesting to see both candidates falling over each other to be the one to save the planet from global warming. With oil prices as they are, the debate over opening protected areas, like the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, for oil exploration,has been a real eye-opener. At the beginning of my trip, Republican contender John McCain was still opposing offshore drilling. During it, he changed his mind and approved President Bush’s decision to lift the ban, supposedly to make more oil available and have an impact on prices. It seems to me the only likely impact is to appeal to any gullible, undecided voters, who might be fooled into thinking this is the way to give them cheap gas.
Barack Obama stood firm in opposing further offshore drilling. And his fellow Democrat Al Gore issued a challenge to the nation to make a complete shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy within 10 years. Well, that is, indeed, an ambitious goal, but then – as Gore said – so was putting a man on the moon. Where there’s a (political) will, there’s a way.
One of the interesting things I came across while travelling in the US state of Washington was the Western Climate Initiative, a group of North American states seeking ways of reducing emissions. It shows that a lot can be done at regional level, even if there is a national government which refused to sign Kyoto or introduce binding emissions targets.
More info on the Climate Alliance of US and Canadian states
If anyone living in a country with a “developing economy” and working on a local sustainable energy project is reading this, by the way, you might be interested in applying for an award. You’ll find the details here:
Global Green Energy Awards 2008
During a conference at Stanford University in California, I felt the effect of the forest fires, creating smog over the whole area. In fact smoke from forest fires is being measured even in the remote areas of the Arctic. One measuring station is in Barrow, which I visited just last month:

The other is on Svalbard, in the Norwegian Arctic, which I visited for a programme last year, as part of our National Science Foundation-funded international radio collaboration to mark the International Polar Year:

More Arctic and Climate News from the NSF
Picture Gallery from Ny Alesund, Svalbard
I found it a bit bizarre to read this morning that there is something like a positive side-effect of all this: it could temporarily reduce the melting rate of the Arctic’s ice, because less solar radiation gets through. Researchers from the University of Colorado and NOAA are analyzing how smoke influences the Arctic climate relative to the amount of snow and ice cover.
Read a summary on the website, CIRES and University of Colorado

One of the big topics at the conference I was attending at Stanford a month ago was how climate change will result in increasing migration, with people forced to move to escape flooding, drought or extreme temperatures and weather conditions. I was interested to read today that there are some optimists who see climate change not only as a huge threat to the planet, but also as an opportunity to turn politics into “collective action” – by including ALL countries in tackling the challenge, not just the rich.
I’ll sign off today with that piece of food for thought. Here’s the link to the article. (Go on, it’s a shortie, I promise).
Climate Change as an Opportunity for Cosmopolitan Action? (By Ulrich Beck)


July 23, 2008 | 10:39 am



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Of Biodiesel, Worms – and Glaciers

writing this in Whittier, a port south of Anchorage surrounded by three glaciers. The glaciers have retreated considerably in recent years, and we’re going out to have a look tomorrow. The ambassadors had their first quick look at a glacier from a distance tonight.

We drove here from Healy in a biodiesel bus, driven by Andy, who’s going to be our guide tomorrow.

We stopped in Anchorage to meet Zane, the guy who makes the biodiesel from recycled cooking oil.We have reported on similar ventures in Germany on Living Planet.
Living Planet: Environment Matters

It was interesting to hear about the situation of renewable energy sources in Alaska at a briefing in Anchorage. At the moment, renewables only account for one percent of energy production. I think that’s far too low, but given that this state provides about a quarter of the USA’s oil output, people say it’s a good start.
All about the Renewable Energy Alaska Project
Felipe, our Portuguese climate ambassador, was impressed and made contact to Zane with a view to meeting up again and exchanging info.

Erika (with the compost project) used the opportunity to introduce Alaska to “Wormy” and campaign for composting with worms. Art, who’s working on turning businesses carbon-neutral, lent some active support.

This photo shows some avalanche debris outside a tunnel we drove through, constructed in World War II in just a year. Some folks thought driving through a tunnel where all you could see in the dark was the ice walls was so cool they wanted another go. Of course we didn’t waste fuel doing that. This is the climate change college after all. (!)There was some interesting “avalanche debris” outside the tunnel:

Marie Laure, our French ambassador, was the one with the wet feet today. I found out she’s a sheperdess at home, so that’s probably why she was unphased by this.

We’ve just had our briefing for tomorrow’s expedition. I still have to sort out my “gear”. We’re camping out by the glacier tomorrow evening,time I got going. And there will be no blog entry tomorrow. More when I get back from what Andy calls “the back country”l


May 5, 2008 | 10:11 pm



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