This is The ChangeUnderground for the 28th of August 2023.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
From the Agriland website:
New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved a feed additive to reduce methane emissions in livestock.
Dutch State Mines Nutritional Products Ltd (DSM) applied to import or manufacture a substance containing 10-25% of 3-nitrooxypropanol (3-NOP) – a chemical that is new to New Zealand.
DSM has claimed that 3-NOP can reduce methane emissions from ruminant animals including cows, sheep and goats, by 30%.
Now 30% seems like a big number but way back and I do mean waaaay back in episode 74 on the 24th of July 2017 this podcast first covered the use of seaweed for methane reduction. The particular species, Asparagopsis armata, has been shown to reduce emissions in ruminants by 98-99%. At this stage of the climate situation I’ll take 30%, it’s not approaching anything like the levels we need but it’s an improvement. Many incremental improvements will lead to breakthroughs and results. So well done Kiwi cousins.
Speaking of changes, the New York Times has piece entitled: The Clean Energy Future Is Arriving Faster Than You Think
Delivery vans in Pittsburgh. Buses in Milwaukee. Cranes loading freight at the Port of Los Angeles. Every municipal building in Houston. All are powered by electricity derived from the sun, wind or other sources of clean energy.
Across the country, a profound shift is taking place that is nearly invisible to most Americans. The nation that burned coal, oil and gas for more than a century to become the richest economy on the planet, as well as historically the most polluting, is rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels.
A similar energy transition is already well underway in Europe and elsewhere. But the United States is catching up, and globally, change is happening at a pace that is surprising even the experts who track it closely.
Yes the yanks are finally off to the races. To quote an individual I’m highly ambivalent about, W. Churchill:
You can rely upon the Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.
Once the money starts flowing and revenues become obvious, the pile on will only accelerate.
As an aside I’ve become heartily annoyed at the pics on social media of electric cars being recharged with diesel generators so I’ve decided to do something about it. I managed to find, very easily, an old photo of an early internal combustion engine car being pulled by a draught horse. I keep it on my and post it with the following words: It’s as if each new technology relies on the old until the wrinkles are sorted out.
I’ve only received positive feedback on these posts so maybe that’s a sign of positive change too.
Anyway, back to the main thrust of the episode.
In a piece from the Vox website by Jonquilyn Hill comes the story of a group of young people in Montana who have sued their state government for not considering climate impacts when approving fossil fuel developments. They won. The Montana legislature tried to pass legislation to negate the efforts of the youngins but that was ruled unconstitutional. The incremental change here is the need to consider climate impacts but as I’m a somewhat cynical individual, I suspect the law makers will find ways around the judgement. That’s the problem with the legal action route to change. It does signal a course correction but lawyers have a way of finding loopholes.
It may not be a problem if the overwhelming direction of new power production and vehicles manufacture are electric. It is certainly far cheaper to build solar and wind farms with the early generation batteries we’re stuck with for the moment than it is to build coal or even gas fired power stations. The nuclear route which some are pushing would take far too long to come on line for the changes we need now. The old caveat to that statement would be the leaps in fusion technology. Every nuclear power station on earth is a fission reactor. A controlled version of the Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. Fusion is what goes on in stars. Pushing hydrogen atoms together until they form helium atoms and release energy in the process. No contaminated waste products are produced. The thing is, since I was the age of the young people suing the State Government of Montana, fusion has always been fifty years away. Reports I’ve heard in reputable scientific pods and websites suggest that figure might now be done to 10 years.
Solar, Wind Etc
In the meantime we actually have technologies that work, solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and etc and etc The weak link has always been storage. Pumped hydro we discussed before and our little island of Tasmania, about the same size as the island of Ireland for reference purposes is putting in a second interconnector to the main grid on the mainland. The idea then being to funnel excess energy from solar and wind generated on the mainland to us and use it to run our hydro schemes in reverse until the power is required. In effect to turn Tasmania into a giant pumped hydro battery to bring grid stability to the mainland.
I read about a similar idea between Morocco as the generator, using solar panels and Europe as the battery/consumers. The French have a large proportion of their power generated by hydro so there’s an option. Of course these cables become targets during hostilities but then so too do oil refineries.
We can do this, people. We must do this and do it quickly. I think we might just scrape through as a species along with all of the others. It will be a near run thing but I’m betting on the right outcome.
So lets “Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil”!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back, all things being equal, next week.
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First methane inhibitor approved in New Zealand
The Clean Energy Future Is Arriving Faster Than You Think
These kids sued over climate change — and won