Environment

In late June, two important events related to renewable energy took place. On June 24, the Senate passed changes to the government's renewable energy target, removing the bias towards small-scale energy systems that put many wind farm projects on hold. The scheme set a 20% renewable energy target by 2020.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen has called them “factories of death”. British columnist George Monbiot has said “everything now hinges” on stopping them. US climate writer Bill McKibben is prepared to be arrested to have them shut down. But Australian state governments don’t get it — they are still enchanted by coal-fired power stations. Climate campaigners say Australia should urgently replace existing coal-fired power plants with renewable energy, but 12 new “death factories” are slated to be built in Australia over the next few years.
Sand mining on Stradbroke Island, offshore from Brisbane, will be phased out by 2027, under a new plan announced by the Queensland state government on June 20. Most of the island will become national park and development of ecotourism will be the main industry.
The Canadian province of Alberta is well known as a climate-destroying behemoth. The tar sands developments in its north are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Less well known are the ambitions of its neighbouring province, British Columbia. It shares similar fossil fuel reserves and ambitions as Alberta. Vast coal and natural gas reserves are being opened at breakneck speed. Construction is underway or planned for accompanying road, rail, pipeline and supertanker transport routes.
The world’s worst ever oil spill is also the biggest methane leak in human history, US government scientists have said. The US Geological Survey’s “flow team” has estimated between 4.5 billion to 9 billion cubic feet of natural gas have escaped from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig since it exploded in April, Associated Press said on June 19. John Kessler, an oceanographer at the Texas A&M University, told AP the leak was “the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history”. Scientists think methane makes up 40% to 70% of what is spilling from the damaged BP rig.
In July, Socialist Alliance election candidates will be taking a trip to the Northern Territory to personally witness conditions under the federal government's intervention into Aboriginal communities. SA youth candidates — and Resistance members — Jess Moore, Zane Alcorn and Ewan Saunders will join Indigenous activists, students, community groups and campaigners from across the country in Alice Springs for an important gathering of intervention-affected Aboriginal communities.
Attempts by Tahmoor mineworkers to negotiate with mining giant Xstrata have collapsed yet again after the company refused to budge during mediated talks in May. For 20 months, the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy Union (CFMEU), has been trying to negotiate an agreement.
The tar sands mining project in Alberta, Canada, is possibly the largest industrial project in human history and critics claim it could also be the most destructive. The mining procedure for extracting oil from a region referred to as the "tar sands," located north of Edmonton, releases at least three times the CO2 emissions of regular oil production procedures and will likely become North America's single largest industrial contributor to climate change.
British Petroleum (BP) has admitted it may not stop the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico until August — at the earliest. But despite the catastrophe, the US government’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has given BP new leases for deepwater drilling. The MMS has rubber-stamped 198 new deepwater drilling leases in the gulf since the BP spill began on April 20. It awarded BP 13 of these.
Multinational oil companies in Nigeria spill more oil every year than has been spilled by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the gulf disaster, most people are unaware of this ecological crime. There have been major spills in Nigeria since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, but they have received hardly any attention from the international media. A May 12 explosion at a Shell installation turned 39 hectares of the Niger Delta into an oil slick, BBC News said on June 15. Two weeks earlier, an Exxon Mobil oil pipeline ruptured. It spewed a million litres a day for a week.

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