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.

The G20 just concluded their 2014 meeting in Brisbane with a welcome commitment to take some action on climate change. Being a major coal producer, Australia tried to use influence, as host, to water down the text of the communique, but the final document included positive language to phase out subsidies to inefficient fossil fuels and commitment to the international climate fund. Prior to the summit, ordinary Australians showed their disagreement with the stance of their Prime Minister who was reluctant to put the issue of Climate Change on the agenda. They went to the beach and literally stuck their heads in the sand.

The Summit was influenced to reach some agreement on climate change by the US-China climate deal. Some of the key points on this deal are detailed in our next article. Even though the agreed levels may not go far enough to meet the 2 deg C targets, the agreement generates momentum for further political agreement at the Paris climate conference and increases certainty for a green tech market.

What should the G20 be looking at as ways to support climate change action? Reducing the $88bn a year in subsidies for the fossil fuel sector would be a good start, along with increasing the amount spent on renewable energy development. The petroleum industry across the world gets tax breaks and subsidies for exploration and development which translate to cheaper fuels. If the G20 is to achieve the technology revolution required to address the goals they are setting, there is need to level the playing field for cleaner fuels and technologies.

The Pope, in his annual letter to the chairperson of the G20, asks they consider how “Unbridled Consumerism” damages the planet. He asks them to reflect on the real values that affect us all: including, amongst others: achieving better living conditions for the poor; reducing inequality; acceptance of different religious or ethnic groups; – and bear these in mind when discussing economic policy aimed at banishing global recession. Some examples of the impact of this Consumerism are shown in the next two articles.

In El Salvador, the small town Nejapa has not enough clean drinking water for the locals because the huge bottling companies are using all the areas clean water in their product and selling it. A huge aquifer under the town is being exploited by these companies to the extreme of not leaving enough for the locals, and that which is available is at a huge expense to them.

And in many places around the globe sand is disappearing… people are removing it by the bucketful, to mostly sell for cement manufacture. Large companies are also dredging the sea bed. Once thought to be inexhaustible, sand is now becoming scarce or depleted at many beaches. This causes many economic issues as well as humanitarian ones. Those who can afford to, buy it; those who can’t, sell it. Once sand is removed, the ocean devours the remaining sand at a faster rate, and beaches disappear, oceans invade, and concrete walls are needed to stop this - a vicious circle.

Some of those who have vested interests in maintaining the status quo when it comes to climate change are using severe bullying tactics to try and silence the climate change messengers, pushing back against action to achieve the 2 deg C target. Death threats and abuse are now the tactic of some not in agreement with the scientists. “If you don’t like the message, it seems that the answer is to shoot the messenger”.

These are just some of many impacts of consumerism, or could we call it “greed” that will have to change if we want and expect to live in a world where economic focus and climate change focus are in harmony.

In our next series of articles we look at the on-going development of the electric car and how one day this type of vehicle could become truly main stream. Currently there appears to be a wide gulf between the various vehicles available - limited range vehicles (effectively town cars), and others which have impressive (fossil-fuel-like) performance and range.

There are many advantages to an electric vehicle, particularly the electric motor, which is much less complex than a petrol or diesel engine, requires less maintenance, and has, potentially, a better service life. To cap this off, the vehicle is a low emission vehicle so what’s not to like! Once the (perceived?) problem of range is overcome, vehicles of this type could become a real alternative to current vehicle options. We do, of course, need more, and better, batteries, which is covered off in our next article.

You may have seen articles relating to the proposed Tesla/Panasonic ‘Gigafactory’. A proposed $5 billion site is in the pipeline in Nevada USA, which will ramp up battery manufacturing and development to an unprecedented level. But, and there is always a but, if electric vehicles are to become a serious contender, to meet current global car production the factory would have to multiply output 1000 times from where it is today. That is a factory 144 times the current proposed size, and there is the issue of enough minerals for batteries to make it happen!

If in the Christchurch area on November 30 why not pop along to the Motorsport Park in Ruapuna to see a range of electric vehicles in action? EVolocity will showcase a number of electric vehicles from mainstream street use through to performance/race based motorcycles.

We finish up this week by taking another look at the New Zealand founded company LanzaTech; they have developed a carbon capture process that could feed the world. The process recycles CO2 emissions into omega-3 rich fatty acids which can be used as a fish meal substitute. Currently farmed fish are fed fish, so without having to do this fish stocks could actually flourish, and at the same time provide food for other species (humans)!

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we 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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