renewable energy

The Fixer: Uber’s Ambulance Service

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 4:00am in

Welcome back to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions reported elsewhere. This week: putting all those ride-hailing cars to work for better public health. Plus, Japan’s meltdown-scarred prefecture goes green, and a citizen assembly fights climate change in Leeds.

Medicaid’s missing link

When it comes to poor health outcomes, transportation is the factor that’s hiding in plain sight. In the U.S., 3.6 million people lack access to health care because of transportation barriers –– inexcusable in an era when streets are clogged with Ubers and Lyfts. Now, these ride-hailing services are partnering with Medicaid providers to get patients to the doctor, and make a buck in the process.

They’re using a half-century-old detail included in the 1966 law that created Medicaid, the public health option for tens of millions of low-income Americans. Inserted into that law was the guarantee of non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), which led to the creation of paratransit services in cities across the country. The problem is, many of these public paratransit services don’t work very well. Their dispatch centers are understaffed, and rides often need to be booked well in advance.

As a work-around, health care providers and insurance companies are partnering with companies like Uber and Lyft, using $3 billion in public funds allotted for Medicaid transportation. In 2017, Blue Cross Blue Shield announced a deal to have Lyft transport 250,000 of its patients to medical appointments. And Boston’s transit system, the MBTA, is piloting a system that offers transport to Medicaid patients through ride-hailing services –– the city plans to make the program permanent next year.

The early results of these efforts show promise. A study showed that Boston Medical Center reduced its no-show rate by nine percent by using Uber to transport patients. And the insurance company CareMore has stated that partnering with Lyft led to 45 percent shorter wait times and a 92 percent improvement in on-time arrivals.

Read more at Shelterforce

From the ashes

Fukushima, the Japanese prefecture rendered partially uninhabitable by a nuclear meltdown, is set to become a renewable energy hub for Japan. A $2.75 billion project will transform the region’s contaminated farmland with 11 solar arrays and 10 wind farms that will produce 600 megawatts of electricity –– two-thirds as much as a nuclear plant.

Nunobiki wind farm in Fukushima prefecture. Credit: Contri / Flickr

The power will flow all the way to Tokyo, which, before the meltdown, relied heavily on Fukushima’s nuclear generators for electricity. A 50-mile electrical grid will connect the new solar and wind arrays to the Japanese capital by 2024.

The plans are a continuation of Fukushima’s post-disaster leadership on renewable energy. In 2017, the prefecture was already getting 60 percent of its electricity from renewables. That’s far more than the 17 percent that powers Japan as a whole –– a country that has been criticized for its heavy reliance on fossil fuels. The new initiative virtually guarantees that Fukushima will easily achieve the goal it set in 2014 of being powered by 100 percent green energy by 2040.

Read more at the Verge

Peer pleasure

“Citizen assemblies” are becoming a popular way to involve regular folks in making major decisions about what goes on in their cities and even their countries. In 2017, Ireland’s 99-member citizen assembly famously made the recommendation that led to the country lifting its abortion ban. And in Australia, a citizen assembly stopped the construction of a nuclear storage facility. But how does this process actually work? Can we trust the decisions of a group of randomly selected strangers?

Vice sat in on a citizens assembly in Leeds, England, to witness a motley crew of 21 citizens deciding how their community should respond to climate change. Described as “a cross between a zippy startup break room and an earnest student council meeting,” the participants dedicated nine weeks to hearing from scientists, politicians and business owners. They then broke off into groups to make decisions about everything from their city’s transportation system to its recycling policies. The tone was “non-judgmental,” which doesn’t mean there weren’t differing opinions — some of the participants were initially skeptical that climate change is a problem at all. 

But after much debate, the group sent 12 recommendations to the Leeds City Council, including returning bus service to public ownership and canceling the expansion of the local airport. Time will tell whether the government will go along with the group’s conclusions, but many of the members reported that simply participating changed their perspective. “Since the jury, my family has been trialing meat-free days at home and thinking about whether certain car journeys we make can be done on foot,” said one. “Family and friends have come on board with this too, and I think it’s the perfect way to get people talking about any subject.”

Read more at Vice

The post The Fixer: Uber’s Ambulance Service appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The Fixer: Water under the Bridge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/01/2020 - 7:00pm in

Welcome back to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions reported elsewhere. This week: farmers and nomads in Darfur find common ground. Plus, coal country students go solar and Wall Street takes a step back from fossil fuels.

United by water

Two hardships of life in rural Darfur are the lack of water and the threat of violence, both exacerbated by climate change and a brutal war that has dragged on since 2003. As the available land — and with it, water — grows ever scarcer, conflicts have flared between settled farmers and camel-herding nomads competing for resources. An attempt to solve both problems at once is showing promise: community-built dams along a seasonal river near El Fasher, the capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state.

The dams, built in collaboration between the two groups, have created water sources that the nomads use along their 600-mile migrations, and that the farmers use to irrigate their fields. By giving the nomads clear routes through the farmland, the project has also brought cooperation as the passing herders sell milk and meat to the farmers, and the farmers offer the herders refuge and harvested crops.

“It was an opportunity to rebuild the old relations,” said one of the farmers of the face-to-face contact. “The government fueled us to fight against each other, but we have realized we were being misused,” said another. In a sign of progress, last September the nomads invited a group of the farmers to one of their weddings. The fields, for their part, have reached new heights of productivity: land that used to support 150 farmers now supports 4,000.

Read more at the Guardian

Studying solar

Many a graduating high school senior in Colorado’s Delta County used to take a job in the local coal industry. That was before two of the county’s three mines closed. Now, they’re either forced to look further afield for coal work, or often, set their sights on a local, lower-paying service industry job.

So several years ago, one of the area’s science teachers began teaching a class on solar arrays: how to build them, install them and make money from them. Described as having a “mad scientist vibe,” teacher Ben Graves wanted to get more of his students on a path toward the electrical trades, where they can earn a living in the area’s fast-growing solar industry. 

Former President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joseph Biden visit a solar array in Colorado. Credit: GPA/Flickr

His efforts have benefitted not just his students, but the school’s budget. In the past four years, Graves’ classes have installed two solar arrays behind the high school. (This year, for their final project, they’ll disassemble one of them and rebuild it.) These arrays now provide 10 percent of the school’s weekday energy demand. “The facilities folks at first waved it away as a class project,” Graves said with a laugh. “Now, maintenance sees it as a real way to reduce demand charges.”

Read more at High Country News

Banking on the climate

Will Wall Street save the climate? Let’s not go overboard, but according to an article in the Atlantic, some of America’s biggest banks are beginning to act a little more responsibly. 

Last month, Goldman Sachs changed its protocols around under-writing fossil fuel projects. Among those changes were a refusal to finance oil exploration or drilling in the Arctic. It follows other banks like Barclays and Societe Generale. It also committed to spending $750 million on what the magazine calls “clean energy and climate-adjacent areas” over the next ten years.

Time will tell if the big investment firms are willing to make the changes that will make a real impact, but any shift away from fossil fuels is a positive development.

Read more at The Atlantic

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The No-Waste Goal That Succeeded by Failing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/12/2019 - 7:00pm in

The village of Kamikatsu sits among verdant rice fields and mountainous forest on the Western Japanese island of Shikoku. With less than 1,700 residents, it’s the smallest village on the island, but for the last few years, has been garnering headlines around the world.

For decades, the village had given little thought to processing its waste, either burning it in an open incinerator or burying it in the ground.

A failed new incinerator project, however, forced the village to rethink its strategy and a lofty ambition was born — to become a zero-waste town by 2020.

Today, more than 80 percent of the village’s waste is kept out of incinerators and landfill, but the transformation wasn’t easy or quick.

Lifestyle shift

Kamikatsu’s journey towards zero waste started more than two decades ago. The town had recently built, at great expense, a new incinerator to take care of its waste. But it was rendered a health and safety risk by the central government, because of the number of harmful dioxins it released into the air.

So the village had to think again. The most obvious solution was to shift the waste to other municipalities, but this was an expensive move, and it wasn’t a sustainable solution for the small economy.

Instead, the village decided to plough its efforts into reducing as much waste as possible, and the Zero Waste Academy, led by Akira Sakano, was born.

The village of Kamikatsu. Credit: Zero Waste Academy

In practice, the idea is quite simple: waste gets separated into categories and wherever possible is reused, recycled, or reduced.

But while not necessarily revolutionary — after all, millions of streets around the globe offer up color-coded bins to the local governments for collection on at least a weekly basis — Sakano’s scheme goes well beyond that.

For one, the rubbish is separated into at least 45 categories. At the top level, food waste, metals, paper, plastics, glass bottles, food trays, furniture and machines all get separated.

Within that, there are often subcategories, so metal will get separated into aluminum and steel, or paper gets separated into newspaper, cardboard, paper carton, paper carton with aluminum (coated), hard paper tubes, paper cups and shredded paper.

“By doing this level of segregation, we can actually turn it over to the recycler knowing that they will treat it as a high-quality resource,” explains Sakano, who was one of the Co-Chairs at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting at Davos this year.

She says it took some time to persuade the local population at first. Not only did they have to wash and sort their waste at home, but they were also expected to bring it to the waste-collection center.

“It was a real shift in lifestyle,” she explains. “Lots of people were against the new collection system, asking why they had to bring their own rubbish to our waste-management site. They thought that the municipal government wasn’t doing its job properly.”

Credit: Zero Waste Academy

So the municipal office set about organizing gatherings in the local community where conversations could take place.

“They were dialogue and explanation sessions,” says Sakano. “And while there was still a bit of conflict, part of the community started to understand the context and cooperate, so the municipal office decided to start the segregated collection system. Once the residents saw that it had started, they realized that it wasn’t that difficult.”

Word got around and residential groups got behind the scheme, becoming both supporters and advocates. What started with a few turned into the majority, and soon, pretty much everyone.

“You’ll now see people segregating around five to 10 categories in their house and then doing the final segregation at the station,” says Sakano.

Having wasted so much money on a defunct incinerator, the town had to think of a cost-effective setup.

The Zero Waste Academy operates under four Ls — local, low cost, low impact and low tech. There is no big machinery here since residents put their own waste in the correct bin, while some ground staff has been hired to support the segregation and get the full bins ready to turn over to recyclers.

The scheme took off and, by the end of 2018, only 19 percent of the town’s rubbish had to be sent to an incinerator or landfill. But that wasn’t the only reason for its success.

Community matters

It’s that trip down to the waste-management station — the one that so many residents were initially so skeptical of — that sets this recycling strategy apart.

Japan has a rapidly aging population. Some feel so isolated and alone that they resort to committing crimes because they know that, in prison, they’ll have company. Because Kamikatsu is a small, close-knit community, the problem of isolation is not so great. But over half of the population is elderly, and the community gathering aspect of the waste center is critical to their wellbeing. It encourages them to engage with others, stay connected and feel part of the community.

With this in mind, the waste-management center has deliberately morphed into a hub of the local community.

For instance, the onsite “kuru-kuru” (circular) shop takes clothing, tableware and sundries that are still useable, but no longer wanted by their owners, and gives them to others. People can also borrow more than 8,000 items of tableware every year, eliminating the need for residents to buy single-use plates and cups for special events.

Credit: Zero Waste Academy

There’s also an upcycling craft center. Residents bring in old kimonos they don’t need, then the elderly, mostly local, women make products out of the discarded materials.

“Everyone in the town comes through the waste collection point anyway, so they come not only to discard their waste, but to see some of our stuff and talk with our staff. It’s not just waste collection but a gathering place for communities,” says Sakano.

Those that don’t have the means of transport to reach the centre can register at the local town hall and have their waste picked up.

“They see this not as a waste-collection service, but an opportunity to socialize with the younger generation and to chat. When we visit them, they prepare lots of food and we stay with them for a while, we ask how they are,” explains Sakano.

On occasion, they alert local services if the resident doesn’t answer the door as expected. In one case, the elderly inhabitant was lying prostrate and unmoving, so they called an ambulance for help.

“It’s almost like social welfare,” says Sakano. “It’s an opportunity for Japan to see waste collection services as something that connects with other functions of society, whether that’s good community engagement or policy targets.”

Global potential

Sakano believes it would be simple to replicate the idea globally — and says through seeing exactly what happens to their waste, residents understand the circular economy better and want to change their consumer habits.

“The specific elements of what we have is very much dedicated to our location and geography. But how the community is built and the basic idea of how you can move towards zero waste can be copied anywhere,” she says.

Credit: Zero Waste Academy

“The main issue with waste is that residents rarely have to think about what happens to it or where it goes; it’s invisible and out of sight, out of mind. But at the waste-collection center, we report back on the exact amount that has been recycled, where it has gone and what’s happened to it.

“Here they see where it goes, what it will turn into, how much it costs to do that but also, how we can also sell some of the resources and make money for the town. It makes people consider, once they see the price or once they see this is recycled or this is not, that their actions make a contribution towards the town community as well as to future generations.”

The year 2020

As 2020 looms into view, Sakano ruefully admits that their target of 100 percent zero waste will not be possible without the contribution of the bigger system and wider stakeholders. She believes it’s now time to start pressuring others to contribute.

“Our target of 100 percent cannot be achieved while manufacturers continue to use non-recyclable products,” she says.

“Products need to be designed for the circular economy, where everything is reused or recycled. These actions really need to be taken to businesses and incorporate producers, who need to consider how to deal with the product once its useful life has ended.”

With that in mind, in 2016, Sakano started the Zero Waste Accreditation scheme, where local shops and businesses are given approval according to their effort to reduce waste and avoid as much unnecessary packaging and single-use items as possible.

“Local shops can make a big difference,” she says. “They are also consumers, they also purchase products and pass them down to their customers. If they change their purchasing and even stop using certain products, that feeds back to producers.”

Sakano’s ultimate dream is to see the program replicated on a global scale. She says that that 80-90 percent progress towards zero waste is achievable — if towns and villages are creative.

“It’s important,” she urges, “no matter the obstacles, to keep striving to achieve the 100 percent goal. It’s important that world leaders now take their turn to make circular economy happen.”

This article was originally published by the World Economic Forum.

The post The No-Waste Goal That Succeeded by Failing appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The Fixer: CPR Training With Curves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 7:12am in

Welcome back to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions reported elsewhere. This week: a CPR dummy that finally represents the “other” 50 percent of humanity. Plus, leftovers become natural gas in Utah, and an ancient Egyptian cooling system finds its way to a New Delhi design studio.

Cardiac abreast

If you’re a woman who requires CPR, you’re less likely to receive the lifesaving assist than a man. The reason is as obvious as it is absurd: it’s all about your breasts. 

Only 39 percent of women will receive CPR from an unknown bystander, compared to 45 percent of men. It’s one more way women’s lives are endangered by gender-biased safety norms. A new product aims to correct this (and surprise, it was invented by a woman). The Womanikin (rhymes with mannequin) is a neoprene vest that attaches silicone breasts to CPR dummies. First aid classes in Switzerland, Canada and the United States have begun using them to get students accustomed to giving chest compressions to women, embarrassment free.

Alice Henshaw, the wilderness EMT who developed the Womanikin, tells NPR that her innovation has made her male trainees aware of biases they never knew they had. “The big thing that we’re really working towards is basically… looking at the person and not the parts,” she said — a life-or-death difference, since the risk of death increases by 10 percent every minute CPR is delayed. Though the Womanikin is still a pilot product with only a few prototypes available, Henshaw is pursuing a retail partnership to mass produce it and get it strapped onto flat-chested CPR dummies everywhere.

Read more at NPR

Scrap heaps

Forty percent of the food produced in America never arrives at a plate. Instead, all those would-be Cheez-Its and Cheerios end up in landfills, where they slowly decompose. The decomposition process releases methane, a major contributor to climate change. Since February, however, some of that food is becoming fuel for less sentient kinds of machines.

The first load of organic food waste to arrive at the Wasatch facility, on February 25, 2019. Credit: Wasatch Resource Recovery

The Wasatch Resource Recovery facility in Utah turns food scraps into clean natural gas, a process considered “renewable” because of its organic process. In huge vats, microbes break down the food, producing gas as they do; this gas is captured, purified, and turned into clean natural gas in a carbon-free procedure. Every day, 30 truckloads of food waste arrive at Wasatch from conglomerates like Dannon and Nestle — enough to produce natural gas for use by 40,000 people. The plant is the first of its kind in the western United States, and will soon get a whole lot bigger: the district plans to double the facility’s capacity in phase two of the project. 

Read more at Deseret News

Pipe dreams

In much of India, an air conditioner is a must-have item for the growing middle-class, which is why a/c units there could account for nearly half of peak power demand by 2050. One architect has a solution, however, and it’s an old one — not from India, but from Egypt, another country where people have been finding ways to beat the heat for millenia. 

A worker installs a CoolAnt system in a server room at Deki Electronics in Uttar Pradesh, India. Credit: S. Anirudh / Ant Studio

Monish Siripurapu, founder of New Delhi design firm Ant Studio, constructs passive cooling systems from stacks of terracotta tubes arranged in a honeycomb pattern. Water circulates over the porous terracotta, which soaks it up. As the tubes dry, the water evaporates, and the air that passes through them is cooled, which cools the room as well. A similar process was used by ancient Egyptians. “We are trying to readapt this in multiple places for different needs,” Siripurapu told CNN. “We have implemented [it] in a café, in a school, and we have done one in a residence.”

The results are impressive. One CoolAnt system, as Siripurapu calls his product, can lower a room’s temperature from a dangerous 120 degrees to more tolerable mid-90s. The product is also providing work for New Delhi potters, who have long been losing business to bigger manufacturers. “Civilization,” Siripurapu says, “cannot continue to build the same way that we are doing.” 

Read more at CNN

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Jacob Gitman on Climate Change and the Need for Renewable Energy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/11/2019 - 8:22am in

Many people are unaware or unwilling to accept the fact that climate change is making an irreversible impact on planet Earth. According to NASA, the global temperature has risen by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. It may seem like negligible temperature rise, but it has caused changes in weather patterns and caused ocean levels to…

The post Jacob Gitman on Climate Change and the Need for Renewable Energy appeared first on Peak Oil.

Top UK Renewable Energy Suppliers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 11:28am in

We all know it; the time to transition to renewable energy is now. There is no avoiding the fact that we are heading towards a cliff if we don’t start living more sustainably. Many new businesses know and work on the issues of energy sustainability and climate change since the 1990s. To break free from…

The post Top UK Renewable Energy Suppliers appeared first on Peak Oil.

Super power - Australia's low carbon opportunity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 3:47pm in

Ross Garnaut, University of Melbourne.

Four years ago in December 2015, every member of the United Nations met in Paris and agreed to hold global temperature increases to 2°C, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.

The bad news is that four years on the best that we can hope for is holding global increases to around 1.75°C. We can only do that if the world moves decisively towards zero net emissions by the middle of the century.

A failure to act here, accompanied by similar paralysis in other countries, would see our grandchildren living with temperature increases of around 4°C this century, and more beyond.

I have spent my life on the positive end of discussion of Australian domestic and international policy questions. But if effective global action on climate change fails, I fear the challenge would be beyond contemporary Australia. I fear that things would fall apart.

There is reason to hope

It’s not all bad news.

What we know today about the effect of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases broadly confirms the conclusions I drew from available research in previous climate change reviews in 2008 and 2011. I conducted these for, respectively, state and Commonwealth governments, and a federal cross-parliamentary committee.

But these reviews greatly overestimated the cost of meeting ambitious reduction targets.

There has been an extraordinary fall in the cost of equipment for solar and wind energy, and of technologies to store renewable energy to even out supply. Per person, Australia has natural resources for renewable energy superior to any other developed country and far superior to our customers in northeast Asia.

Read more: Australia's hidden opportunity to cut carbon emissions, and make money in the process

Australia is by far the world’s largest exporter of iron ore and aluminium ores. In the main they are processed overseas, but in the post-carbon world we will be best positioned to turn them into zero-emission iron and aluminium.

In such a world, there will be no economic sense in any aluminium or iron smelting in Japan or Korea, not much in Indonesia, and enough to cover only a modest part of domestic demand in China and India. The European commitment to early achievement of net-zero emissions opens a large opportunity there as well.

Converting one quarter of Australian iron oxide and half of aluminium oxide exports to metal would add more value and jobs than current coal and gas combined.

A natural supplier to the world’s industry

With abundant low-cost electricity, Australia could grow into a major global producer of minerals needed in the post-carbon world such as lithium, titanium, vanadium, nickel, cobalt and copper. It could also become the natural supplier of pure silicon, produced from sand or quartz, for which there is fast-increasing global demand.

Other new zero-emissions industrial products will require little more than globally competitive electricity to create. These include ammonia, exportable hydrogen and electricity transmitted by high-voltage cables to and through Indonesia and Singapore to the Asian mainland.

Australia’s exceptional endowment of forests and woodlands gives it an advantage in biological raw materials for industrial processes. And there’s an immense opportunity for capturing and sequestering, at relatively low cost, atmospheric carbon in soils, pastures, woodlands, forests and plantations.

Modelling conducted for my first report suggested that Australia would import emissions reduction credits, however today I expect Australia to cut domestic emissions to the point that it sells excess credits to other nations.

The transition is an economic winner

Technologies to produce and store zero-emissions energy and sequester carbon in the landscape are highly capital-intensive. They have therefore benefited exceptionally from the historic fall in global interest rates over the past decade. This has reduced the cost of transition to zero emissions, accentuating Australia’s advantage.

In 2008 the comprehensive modelling undertaken for the Garnaut Review suggested the transition would entail a noticeable (but manageable) sacrifice of Australian income in the first half of this century, followed by gains that would grow late into the second half of this century and beyond.

Today, calculations using similar techniques would give different results. Australia playing its full part in effective global efforts to hold warming to 2°C or lower would show economic gains instead of losses in early decades, followed by much bigger gains later on.

If Australia is to realise its immense opportunity in a zero-carbon world, it will need a different policy framework. But we can make a strong start even with the incomplete and weak policies and commitments we have. Policies to help complete the transition can be built in a political environment that has been changed by early success.

Three crucial steps

Three early policy developments are needed. None contradicts established federal government policy.

First, the regulatory system has to focus strongly on the security and reliability of electricity supplies, as it comes to be drawn almost exclusively from intermittent renewable sources.

Second, the government must support transformation of the power transmission system to allow a huge expansion of supply from regions with high-quality renewable energy resources not near existing transmission cables. This is likely to require new mechanisms to support private initiatives.

Third, the Commonwealth could secure a globally competitive cost of capital by underwriting new investment in reliable (or “firmed”) renewable electricity. This was a recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s retail electricity price inquiry, and has been adopted by the Morrison government.

We must get with the Paris program

For other countries to import large volumes of low-emission products from us, we will have to accept and be seen as delivering on emissions reduction targets consistent with the Paris objectives.

Paris requires net-zero emissions by mid-century. Developed countries have to reach zero emissions before then, so their interim targets have to represent credible steps towards that conclusion.

Japan, Korea, the European Union and the United Kingdom are the natural early markets for zero-emissions steel, aluminum and other products. China will be critically important. Indonesia and India and their neighbours in southeast and south Asia will sustain Australian exports of low-emissions products deep into the future.

For the European Union, reliance on Australian exports of zero-emissions products would only follow assessments that we were making acceptable contributions to the global mitigation effort.

We will not get to that place in one step, or soon. But likely European restrictions on imports of high-carbon products, which will exempt those made with low emissions, will allow us a good shot.

Read more: Labor's reset on climate and jobs is a political mirage

Movement will come gradually, initially with public support for innovation; then suddenly, as business and government leaders realise the magnitude of the Australian opportunity, and as humanity enters the last rush to avoid being overwhelmed by the rising costs of climate change.

The pace will be governed by progress in decarbonisation globally. That will suit us, as our new strengths in the zero-carbon world grow with the retreat of the old. We have an unparalleled opportunity. We are more than capable of grabbing it.

The Conversation

Ross Garnaut conducted the 2008 and 2011 climate reviews for the Rudd and Gillard governments. His book Superpower – Australia’s Low-Carbon Opportunity, is published today by BlackInc with La Trobe University Press.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Peter Martin is economics correspondent for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

He blogs at petermartin.com.au and tweets at @1petermartin.

The ‘I’ on Labour’s Manifesto Policies

Thursday’s edition of the I, for 10th October 2019, carried an article by Nigel outlining Labour’s election promises. The article ‘What will be in the Labour Party election manifesto’, stated that ‘Jeremy Corbyn aims to target areas for radical change’. These were itemised and described as follows

Brexit

The plicy issue likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. One in office, Labour would spend three months negotiating a new Brexit deal with Brussels to enable Britain to remain in customs union with the European Union and be closely aligned to the European single market.

It would then organise a referendum within six months, offering voters a choice between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU. Labour would hold a special conference to decide which side it would endorse in the referendum.

Taxes

Labour says its tax-raising plans would only affect give per cent of taxpayers. It is currently committed to increase income tax rates to 45 per cent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 per cent for salaries over £123,000.

Cuts to corporation tax would be reversed and the rate would be fixed at around 26 per cent. 

Infrastructure

Labour is pledging to spend £250bn on upgrading the UK’s transport, energy and broadband infrastructure. Another £250bn of capital would be provided for businesses and co-ops to “breathe new life into every community”.

Nationalisation

Labour would bring the railways, Royal Mail, the water companies and the National Grid into public ownership so “essential services we all rely on are run by and for the public, not for profit.”

Minimum Wage

Workers of all kinds would be legally entitled to a UK-wide minimum wage of £10 an hour. LOabour says the move will make the average 16- and 17-year-old in employment more than £2,500 a year better off.

Free Personal Care

A new National Care Service would help elderly people in England with daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing, washing and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care, and provide better training for carers. The £16bn annual cost would come out of general taxation.

Free Prescriptions

Prescription charges would be abolished in England. They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

More than 80 per cent of English prescriptions are already issued free of charge, but in other cases patients pay £9 per item.

Boost Doctor Numbers

The number of GP trainees in England would rise by 50 per cent to tackle a recruitment crisis. Labour says it would mean an extra 27 million GP appointments per year.

Scrap Tuition Fees

One of the party’s most popular policies at the last election, Labour is committed to scrapping university tuition fees in England and Wales, which currently stand at a maximum of £9,250 a year.

It would also cancel existing student debt, which the party says has reached “unsustainable” levels.

End Rough Sleeping

Labour would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.

Outlaw Fracking/ Increase Renewables

Fracking would be banned “once and for all”, with Labour putting its emphasis on developing clean and renewable energy.

The party wants 60 per cent of UK energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and would build 37 state-owned offshore windfarms. it is pledging to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a Green Industrial Revolution.

Scrap Ofsted

The schools inspectorate, which the party claims causes higher workload and stress for teachers, would be abolished and replaced with a two-stage inspection regime.

A Four-Day Working Week

Labour would cut the average working week to 32 hours within ten years, but with no loss of pay. It would end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms sidestep EU rules on limiting hours to 48 a week. Zero hours contracts would be banned.

Overturn Union Legislation

Margaret Thatcher’s union legislation would be scrapped as a priority, and moves begun towards collective bargaining in different sectors of the economy.

Reverse Legal Aid Cut

Labour would expand legal aid as a priority with help focussed on housing cases and family law.

These are all policies that this country desperately needs, and so you can expect the Tories, the Lib Dems and the lamestream media, not to mention the Thatcherite entryists in the Labour Party itself, to scream ‘extremism!’ and do everything they can to stop them.

And you can trust that the party is absolutely serious about honouring these promises. Unlike David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris Johnson, all of whose promises about restoring the health service and reversing cuts, bringing down the deficit and ending austerity, have proven and will prove to be nothing but hollow lies.

Rusty Tweed Discusses The Value of Solar Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/10/2019 - 9:31am in

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, about a third of the energy being generated worldwide is through renewables. IRENA also states that 84 percent of the new renewable energy facilities that are coming online worldwide are either solar or wind installations or a combination thereof.  Rusty Tweed, an entrepreneur from San Marino, California, sees the…

The post Rusty Tweed Discusses The Value of Solar Power appeared first on Peak Oil.

The Fixer: Who’s Afraid of Collectivism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/10/2019 - 2:36am in

Ready for even more solutions? Welcome to The Fixer, a weekly briefing of problem-solving efforts and initiatives reported in publications around the world. This week: Amsterdam gets more cars off the street, California’s farmers grow solar arrays and China reinvents collective farming for a gentler generation. 

Knip it Good

Despite Amsterdam’s well-publicized innovations in prioritizing people over cars, the city is always looking for ways to reduce driving just a little more. Last week, it unveiled new measures aimed at nudging even more people out of their vehicles, including all-night transit service on weekends and a street redesign known in Dutch as a knip. 

Streets like this in Amsterdam are being redesigned to prohibit through traffic. Credit: Ben Koorengevel/Unsplash

A knip is a simple method of using barriers to cut a street in two, allowing drivers to access the street while making it impossible to drive from one end to the other. This ensures that any car using that street—an Uber making a pickup, a truck dropping off a package—has a destination there and isn’t just passing through. Amsterdam has already knip’d the road that passes by its main train station, and traffic there has fallen by 70 percent. Now, says Citylab, it’s rolling out knips on more central streets, and is even considering using cameras to prohibit driving all the way through the city entirely. It’s all part of Amsterdam’s effort to knip CO2 in the bud and meet its goal of becoming an emissions-free city by 2030. 

Harvesting the Sun

California has two big problems: Not enough water and not enough solar. A new report from the Nature Conservancy suggests a two-birds-one-stone solution.

California has been installing photovoltaic panels like mad, which has reduced its reliance on fossil-fuel electricity. But it still needs a lot more solar power to meet its goal of a carbon-free grid by 2045. Where to put all those panels, however, is a tricky question. This is a heavily populated place, and solar panels take up vast amounts of space.

At the same time, the state’s agriculture sector is facing its own dilemma: how to keep the irrigation flowing once the state’s new groundwater pumping restrictions kick in. 

Converting farmland to solar arrays could help California achieve its aggressive renewable energy goals. Credit: Vincent Leroy/Flickr

The Nature Conservancy suggests a way to solve both problems at once: convert those sun-drenched, aquifer-draining Central Valley farms into solar fields. The terrain is already degraded from decades of farming, and the revenues from the energy production could replace the farmers’ incomes while helping the environment instead of harming it. For instance, the company that makes Pom Wonderful has been building solar arrays on its fallow fields since 2007, and its owners tell the Los Angeles Times they’re making as much money with solar as they do growing pomegranates.

But where will we get our superfoods now? Don’t worry, your avocado toast is safe—according to the Times, California could convert 470,000 acres of farmland to solar before its fruit and nut growers feel the squeeze.

Collective Action

The forced collective farming of the Mao era left Chinese villagers shell-shocked. But a new cooperative model is reviving the practice, this time from the bottom up. Farmers Specialized Cooperatives (FSCs) are village-run agricultural collectives enabled by a national law put into force in 2007. Unlike the government-mandated collectives of decades past, FSCs are entirely voluntary, yet still receive government support in the form of necessities like fertilizer. They also give small landholders a system to share expensive resources, like greenhouses. And they seem to be fostering a sense of community, too, writes a researcher in Sixth Tone. Villagers who are too old to farm use them contract out their land to other co-op members, and after one village flooded in 2011, its FSC banded together to support the affected farmers.

A farmer in China’s Gansu Province works in a greenhouse, the type of amenity most farmers can’t afford to build as individuals. Credit: World Bank/Flickr

FSCs are proving popular and seem to be putting old fears to rest—since 2007, they’ve exploded in number from 26,000 to over 2 million. “When considered against the backdrop of an increasingly hollowed-out countryside, these and other, similar projects have not just practical significance, but real social value as well,” the researcher concludes.

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