Tar sands oil is trapped within a complex mixture of sand, water and clay. These deposits have been used for 1000's of years for waterproofing canoes and dwellings. It is only recently in a world so addicted to oil, when all remaining 'technically recoverable reserves' however impractical must be extracted (or taken) that it has been considered feasible to extract the dirty oil from the sands.
The desperation of a humanity that worships oil like the Easter Islanders worshipped their statues is an analogy with subsequent fate that is difficult to ignore. The expression of this desperation; illegal wars occupations and the murder of millions of civilians are considered as justifiable consequences. Interpret the oft quoted term 'technically recoverable reserves' as you wish. Perhaps the desperation is equally as well illustrated as the world powers begin to squabble over the reserves that lie under the icy oceans of the Arctic or as mountains are being 'exploded' as with hydraulic fracturing.
The magnitude of the environmental and social impacts of the Canadian tar sands project has to be fully appreciated. As NASA scientist Jim Hansen has stated (admittedly a glass half empty kind of a guy) 'Tar Sands constitute one of our planets greatest threats'. This is a rational statement. The size of the Canadian Tar Sands is not easy for those of us confined to an island the size of Britain to comprehend. The area, mainly in Alberta is bigger than the whole of England. It is bigger than 22 of the American States. Lakes of Toxic Waste by-product can be seen from space. Proximal to the region of extraction, the local environment suffers as if battered by a major spill every year. It is estimated that 179 billion barrels of oil can be extracted from the Canadian Tar sands. The complex process of extraction of the thick oil from the mixture of sand and clay emits at least 3 times more CO2 than the process associated with conventional oil extraction. Pristine forest is being destroyed, Indigenous communities are being displaced, and an increase in cancers are being reported and most pertinently and to corroborate Jim Hansen's earlier quote; fully exploiting the Canadian Tar Sands would lead to an increase in Carbon Dioxide of between 9 & 12 parts per million, this alone from this single project, could be enough to take us to the brink of runaway climate change.
Protesters have started gathering outside the Whitehouse for a two week period which began yesterday. 50 were arrested including Bill McKibben founder of 350.org. No doubt many more will be jailed by the time the protest ends. They are protesting against the Canadian Tar sands but most pertinently against the proposed XL trans-american pipeline which would pump 100 million barrels per day into the US. There is enormous pressure for all of us but in particular for our American and Canadian friends to act against this most deleterious of projects. We need to raise awareness of their struggle, the often unheard voices of the displaced indigenous peoples and the magnitude of the damage of the Tar Sands. Solidarity with those who are spending the night in the cells.
The top video is a short introduction to the Canadian Tar Sands and the XL pipeline. The bottom video is some 'citizen' journalism from a protester who was there yesterday. There are national protest groups, you can link with, find the UK group by clicking here. You can sign a petition by clicking here
A message from Bill McKibben
The first few months of this year have been among the most exciting on record--people in half a dozen countries have stood bravely up for their rights. Many of them have won, overthrowing dictatorships that date back decades.
Our 350.org colleagues in those countries have--predictably--been a big part of the freedom movement, and they’ve been keeping us up to date on how they’re using everything from Twitter to graffiti art to spread the word. Most of all they keep saying how wonderful it finally feels to be in motion: to be marching, running, moving after years of being stuck in the same tired place.
That feeling of being stuck is how we’ve felt in the climate movement for years now. The scientists have told us why we must change--and every record flood and heat wave adds to their message. The engineers have told us how we can change, as they’ve quickly turned windmills and solar panels from promising experiments into tested technology. The only thing now preventing change is the hold of the financially powerful status quo--all those coal and oil barons, and their friends in high government places, keeping us stuck in the polluting mud of inaction.
This year is going to be about movement in every sense of the word. Not just the big shoulder-to-shoulder campaign we’ve built together across the world these last two years, but also actual, powerful, fun dramatic movement in the streets -- putting into action our demand for a future free from fossil fuels and dangerous climate change.
Circle September 24 on your calendar--that’s the day for what we’re calling Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels.
On 24 September we’ll be figuring out the most meaningful ways to make the climate message move, literally. We'll show that we can use our hands, our feet, and our hearts to spur real change. In many places, people will ride bicycles, one of the few tools used by both affluent and poor people around the world. Other places people will be marching, dancing, running, or kayaking, or skateboarding. Imagine the spectacle: thousands of people encircling national capitals, state houses, city halls. But we won't just be cycling or marching--we'll also be delivering a strong set of demands that can have real political impact. They’ll differ from one country to the next, of course, because the steps we need to take depend on how much fossil fuel we already use. To make this political impact we need to start building momentum now. In the US, 10,000 young leaders got the ball rolling at the Power Shift 2011 summit and rally in Washington, DC last weekend. We'll build this momentum together over the next five months, with hard-hitting online campaigns, focused grassroots organizing at the local level, and climate leadership workshops around the world.
Our friends in Tunisia, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East have proven that change can come quickly. The greatest achievements have been without violence, but not without sacrifice. They’ve done it with bravery, and also good humor; with the internet and also with face-to-face organizing. They’ve got things unstuck in countries that seemed rusted shut. They’re our inspiration for the months ahead.
P.S. While we’re gearing up for Moving Planet, we’re also hard at work on other focused campaigns around the world, like the U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me campaign I described in in my speech Powershift 2011. But on 24 September, we will get to combine our local actions into something very big and very beautiful--and put the powers that be on notice that the dirty status quo won’t hold much longer.
Court of appeal judges have quashed the convictions of 20 climate change protestors. The protestors were convicted of conspiracy to break into Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in December last year, but those convictions have been
overturned after judges ruled that undercover police officer Mark Kennedy
was "involved in activities which went much further than the authorisation
he was given, and appeared to show him as an enthusiastic supporter of the
proposed occupation of the power station and, arguably, an agent
Green Party spokesperson Penny Kemp said:
"These people were not terrorists, but were involved in peaceful direct action to bring about urgent political change where governments are failing to act. Infiltration of a peaceful group was a grossly disproportionate exercise and wasted an enormous amount of public money. Not only that, but Kennedy's actions continue to affect those whose trust he manipulated and abused. Those at Climate Camp and the Big Green Gathering were unfairly targeted for taking responsibility for our planet and for future generations."
In light of the Fukushima meltdown, Germany and Switzerland are now phasing out it's nuclear power plants, last week Italy voted against starting a nuclear programme and the Chinese government has suspended approvals for new plants while it reviews their safety. At this juncture it seems reasonable to ask the question 'Are we seeing the beginning of the end of nuclear?'
In response to this shift in opinion against nuclear, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have met to review what lies ahead for the industry. Various reports reviewing this meeting suggest 'business as usual'. In response to the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years at Fukushima the IAEA's key recommendation was: "Plant layout should be based on maintaining a 'dry site concept', where practicable..." Hardly indicative of a significant change in policy. Building plants on fault lines does not yet seem to be a major concern for the IAEA. Indeed a plant under construction in India judged to be the biggest in the world is being built on a fault line in an area that has a history of earth quakes.
Globally there are currently 440 operational reactors and 65 under construction (See the graphs below for national distribution) This does not include those that are contracted to be built or are being planned. 52 countries have recently asked the IAEA for approval to build plants. In the UK it's nuclear all the way with a staggering 8 plants being planned (Bare in mind only 65 are currently under construction internationally) Saudi Arabia is planning to be build 16 by 2030, United Arab emirates 4, Turkey 2 and so on, this list is very far from exhaustive.
Meanwhile Fukushima workers bravely fight on risking all, not just at risk from radiation exposure but some reports suggest there has been near fatalities due to exhaustion. There has even been a suicide movement i.e a group of older citizens that are prepared to risk their lives by working on the plant to preserve the lives of younger workers. In addition US plants are currently in trouble; as this article title sums up Fukushima Spews, Los Alamos Burns, Vermont Rages & We Almost Lost Nebraska'. This is a reminder of one of the worst types of capitalist exploitation. An industry that need not exist, is financially, environmentally and socially irrational. Weaponisable by-products 'justify' their continued existence and the lies from the corporate-political alliance. The Tokyo Electric Power company (which ran the Fukushima plant) falsified safety reports in the late 1990's and in 2002 and just today the Guardian reports how the UK government launched a campaign to 'smooth the sharp edges' from the public mind about the ongoing Fukushima disaster. The nuclear industry cannot be trusted, much needed jobs can be created by a move toward a sustainable and safe future in the renewable industry.
UK's first 'big' solar panel array is now operational, but there will be no others in the near future
Britain's biggest array of solar panels is now operational in Howberry Oxfordshire. The 3,000-panel array generates up to 682 MWh a year and will save 350 tonnes of CO2 per year. Though the biggest in Britain it is significantly smaller than those in Spain or Italy which are up to 10 times bigger. It is the UKs first large ground system to feed into the national grid and will initially benefit from the tariff scheme paying a premium for supplying clean electricity.
The manufacturer has similar projects due online next month, but these could be the UK's last big solar farms for some time. In February, the Con-Dem government announced a review of feed-in tariffs for anyone generating more than 50kW of power and cut the rates payable for large ground-mounted solar installations by more than 70%. Derry Newman representing the manufacturer comments:
"This means that virtually all investors have withdrawn from financing such developments," and "There were probably many hundreds lined up for development across the country. they're pretty much all cancelled now. This type of installation will be a relative rarity for a few years."
Source Article: UK's biggest solar energy farm connects to national grid | Environment | The Guardian
Berlusconi is losing his grip on power. He has suffered his second major electoral put down in quick succession. Last month his government was badly defeated in local elections across the country, notably losing his home town Milan to the left (for the first time in 2 decades) In addition his party lost (amongst others) Naples,Turin, Trieste and Cagliari.
The referenda which closed earlier today proposed the following: (1) A future nuclear energy programme (Italy abandoned nuclear after a referenda in 1987 in response to Chernobyl) (2) The privatisation of water resources and (3) The legitimate impediment legislation. A ridiculous law that exempts top government officials from appearing in court for criminal trials. If the latter were allowed to go ahead Berlusconi would essentially have been granted immunity from prosecution. Just to recap, he is facing four charges one of which is for paying for sex with an under-age teen and then using his influence to cover it up. One of his defence strategies has been to avoid turning up in court.
All three were overwhelmingly overturned. None with less than 94 percent. Berlusconi's government urged people not to vote in the referenda, but 57% of the population had other ideas. (50% +1 are required for the referenda to become valid) This was not just a vote against Nuclear (one of Berlusconi's key targets, for renewal by 2014) and of privatisation of the water supply but rather a vote against the government and regard the proposed law that was designed to give the prime minister immunity; it was a vote against him personally.
Below is one of the many anti-Berlusconi video's, this one produced for a rally 'No Berlusconi Day' organised through Facebook and Twitter. It Includes a clip of one of his more memorable 'ego trips'
PR Dave Cameron pledged that this would be "the greenest government ever".The recommendations of the statutory body set up to advise the government on global warming policy (committee on climate change C.C.C.) were accepted in full by the previous government. The target was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. But now this is under review. They will cut everything going but may now be set to prove there is an exception when it comes to carbon emissions.
Jonathon Porritt has examined the credentials of the "greenest government ever" covering 77 green policies and reports little or no progress in more than three-quarters of them, describing the governments environmental assertions as "vanishingly remote", and judged that many policies had already been "delayed, watered down or abandoned". The crucial decision will be taken at a meeting on Monday. In response an emergency demonstration has been set up by the campaign against climate change:
Next week: Monday 16th
8.00 am at Lib Dem HQ, at 4 Cowley Street, Westminster
8.45 am Move on to Downing Street
Click here for more information
Recent reports on the unfolding events in Fukushima include this one from the Japan Times referring to the plight of workers at risk of mental illness and death from overwork as they engage in efforts to stabilize the crisis-hit plant and the terrifying discovery reported in the Telegraph that radioactive iodine has been found in breast-milk of Japanese mothers.
This video made by the Australian conservation society links the pivotal role Australia plays in the world's Nuclear Future sitting on an estimated 40% of the world's Uranium and having supplied the Uranium used in Fukushima. Having already had a hand in one nuclear disaster how many more is the country prepared to contribute to. As ever it is a question of capitalism, of profits and of greed over humanity. How many nuclear fat cats are risking their lives with the workers in Fukushima right now?.
The Venezuelan government signed a deal with Russia in October last year commisioning a nuclear power plant that would have provided 4,000 megawatts (MW) of power due to have been on-line in 10 years time. Following the unfolding events in Japan, Chavez has given the plans the red light, stating that the safety risks associated with reactors are too great and that he hoped that Venezuela can set an example for other nations to halt nuclear development and avert potential future humanitarian disasters. Although he is not hopeful that other nations would follow his lead:
“I do not have the least doubt that this (the potential for a nuclear catastrophe in Japan) is going to alter in a very strong way the plans to develop nuclear energy in the world.”
We have to hope that as the socialist revolution marches on in Venezuela ( in the face of an internal corporate media hate campaign and the failed US funded coup of 9 years ago this month ) that the oil dependant Venezuelan economy can also begin to take the lead in harnessing it's potential for wind and solar power.