Geoff Bennett - Editor

Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.

Our first item is the news that legislation to introduce a Carbon Tax in Australia successfully passed the Lower House and is expected to pass through the Upper House and into Law sometime in early November. To get it into context, the scheme will cover about 60% of Australia’s emissions and is one of the most broad-based systems in the world.

Which is just as well, as our next article discusses the undeniable evidence that anthropogenic activity is responsible for an increasingly warming world, albeit we are certain deniers will continue to publicly question this.

Of course passing legislation is one thing, being able to measure progress or lack of is another. We are therefore pleased to highlight a recent report featuring our own software e-Bench™, released by the UK research consultancy – Verdantix, that energy management software had received a boost from activity by retailers and governments. It would appear that the market is slowly embracing the rewards that are available from managing energy and utility use.

This week we are taking a look at the European Union and how as a trading block it continues to lead the world in the drive to be as sustainable as possible. Sadly, here in NZ, it is hard to use the ‘S’ word without someone looking sideways at you. As far as we are concerned sustainability is a buzz phrase for efficiency and an efficient business is a good business.

In the EU, the challenges and threats posed by climate change are well recognised. Even with the Eurozone financial problems posed by Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy all requiring varying degrees of financial support, the average European fears climate change more than the potential financial fallout.

With such a high level of concern and support for initiatives such as energy efficiency (over 75% support energy efficiency as a way of creating jobs), it is perhaps not surprising to find that the EU climate policy is in fact working. The EU has managed to decouple economic growth with increasing emissions, showing a decrease of 15.5% to below 1990 levels, at the same time as recording 41% economic growth over the same period. Now that is smart.

As part of EU policy, they are now considering introducing a ban on importing fossil fuels extracted from ‘dirty’ sources. It is quite probable this could extend to oil or tar sands, such as from Alberta, Canada, coal converted to liquid and oil from shale rock. Only strong economic measures such as these, are likely to stem or at least limit production from sources that are massively more environmentally damaging than those from ‘conventional’ sources.

And could those who continue to cause environmental damage be held accountable? Well quite possibly, if the mock trial held in the UK’s Supreme Court were to be repeated for real. The trial produced two verdicts of guilty and one not guilty for the crimes of ‘ecocide’ or environmental destruction. It makes you think of just what might be possible…

Changing tack, we examine what might actually be the coming of the holy grail of energy generation; what used to be referred to as ‘cold fusion’ and now more generally known as ‘low energy nuclear reactions’ (LENR). This article examines a range of different initiatives in LENR and then focuses on what would appear to have the highest chances of success – the Rossi energy catalyser. We also carry a rather technical article where the Swedish Skeptics Society reviewed the energy catalyser, concluding that more energy was being generated than what was being put in and that low scale nuclear reactions were in fact occurring. We now await to see how the 1 MW system presently under construction in the US will work out.

We also look at a novel way a US company proposes to make motor fuel by simply adding water to wood chips. The trick to making the process viable is to alter the state of the water to a pressure and temperature, where the water is neither steam, nor an ordinary liquid but in a form known as ‘supercritical’.

Another alternative form of energy comes from Rwanda, where the potentially explosive volcanic gases lying at the bottom of Lake Kivu are being used to generate electricity. These gases have a history of actually exploding when their concentration gets critical, so it is a win-win in that the extraction of the gases is lessening the chances of igniting, at the same of generating much needed electricity for the region.

Our last article, also has the possibility of exploding, but probably not with the same dire consequences. The Japanese toilet manufacturer TOTO has created a motorcycle that runs on faeces. And yes, this is most definitely what could be labelled as ‘toilet humour’.

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.

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