Friday, February 25, 2011

Carbon Pricing in Australia

July 2012 will see a carbon price implemented in Australia.

Is it a carbon tax? Well, yes I guess it is. But views as to using carbon tax versus an ETS have evolved and changed over the past several years, with the complexity and bureaucratic shemozzle of an ETS seen as a big stumbling block to any implementation of a scheme about climate change. A carbon tax is seen as economically efficient.

Neither is perfect.

A lot more detail still to come, and a few heads will no doubt get kicked along the way.
It is probably fair to say only the absolute diehard sceptics still subscribe to a view that climate change is not real and happening.....and maybe accelerating, even if there is some noise about normal cyclic movements in climate, sometimes attributed to changes in the solar energy cycles.

An interesting piece has been seen on the ABC web site today:[ ]

This is a reasonable cover of the issues, without getting into the trade exposed intensive industries arguments that were discussed during the previous ETS discussions.

But this option of a tax can be done now and should send appropriate signals to consumers and industry that there is not a free ride anymore.

It should be an interesting period over the next few years as this evolves......or gets stymied depending on how the political pieces fall.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to Effect Climate Change - NOW

While we all wring our hands and think that government and our institutions are doing little about climate change - too hard, too many parties to get to work together and so on, there may be some options that can provide effect in both the near term as well as mid term.

And they use existing technology.........and can be implemented now.

Methane is a clear problem gas in the atmosphere, with much greater greenhouse gas potential than carbon dioxide. While methane from ruminants is often seen as giant problem, it is also a problem from termites. And either issue might not be fixed any time soon, although higher quality feed for ruminants does help in their case to reduce methane emissions.

The following link to a recent report published / presented on 23 February does seem to offer some sensible suggestions.

The issue of methane from landfill is a significant one and in Australia, many of the larger municipal sites do collect and utilise methane, with data available during the now aborted ETS scheme showing about an average of around 65% of produced methane being collected.

Australia is in the small league as regards landfills however, with much more potential in north America.

There is also a developing industry of anaerobic digestion of organic materials to generate methane, prior to aerobic composting. A sensible development, in both rural areas [ dairy herds, feedlots for example] as well as larger urban areas generating food wastes.

We need to start now though, if we are to have a reasonable chance of restricting temperature rise to the two degrees desirable.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Agriculture and Innovation

Agriculture and horticulture often get some bad publicity as being stuck in using ancient ideas and that people in these industries are old fuddy duddies without much innovation.

I would say that is probably the exact opposite of real world situations. Innovation is alive and very well in these two industries, and seems to have been around for well over a hundred years. While it is often true that farmers are older on average than the population, they still embrace new ideas.

Whether it has been mechanisation and machinery development, application of technology in plant breeding or use of new products including herbicides and pesticides, satellite navigation and related use in yield mapping of paddocks, driverless machinery, use of RFID systems for animal identification and management..............the list can go on, and on!!

This recent snippet reinforces the view that agriculture is VERY progressive, and has been for a very long time. I am sure that even today, the same story can be repeated about Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Argentine, as well as the USA.

February 1911 - Scientific American Magazine

Inventors and Farmers

“In all the history of empire building there is no chapter to compare with that which tells the story of the development of the great West from a vast stretch of prairie, desert and primeval forest into the richest and most extensive agricultural empire in the world.

The rapidity and completeness with which this transformation has been effected are chiefly due to the invention of agricultural machinery of wonderful precision and capacity. The mechanical engin­eer has at once simplified work and increased output from the farm.”

It is still taking place across all the major agricultural producing countries today.............2011!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Origin of Insecticides

In browsing Scientific American magazine of February 2011, the following brief note appeared in the highlights of 150 years ago - February 1861.

Modern agriculture and horticulture does have a degree of reliance on both herbicides and insecticides, although some would say that is changing as biotechnology makes advances and GM crops advance.

Whether true or not, pyrethrin was one of the very earliest insecticides. And the snippet below provides some interesting thoughts from 150 years ago.

February 1861 - Scientific American Magazine

Pyrethrin Insecticides

“A vegetable powder, under the name of ‘Persian Insect Powder,’ has lately been introduced into the drug market, for the extermination of insects, vegetable parasites, &c.

Until recently, the botanical source of this powder has not been known, except to its maker. For a number of years it was erroneously considered to be a native of Persia, but it has been traced beyond question by Dr. Koch, as having its origin in the Caucasian provinces, and to the contused blossoms and flowers of Pyrethrum roseum and Pyrethrum carneum.

It is of a yellowish, gray color, perfectly odor­less, yet slightly irritating to the nostrils; at first almost tasteless, but afterwards leaving a burning sensation upon the tongue.

As its effects for the destruction of bugs, roaches, parasites on delicate plants, &c. have been fully established, and it being otherwise harmless, its introduction into general use would be of great importance to families and horticulturists.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Waste and Energy Management Gone Crazy

Stick a fork in it, we're done

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative is over at the House's Longworth cafeteria.

By Charlotte Allen
February 13, 2011

After about a month in control of the House of Representatives, Republicans haven't managed to undo as many deeds of their Democratic predecessors as they'd like. They couldn't get rid of "Obamacare," and they haven't made much headway in slashing the president's $4-trillion budget. But the GOP has succeeded in short order in one critically important venture: getting rid of the "compostable" cornstarch-based knives, forks and spoons that were a universally — and bipartisanly — hated feature of the House cafeteria operation.

The tableware, the color of mucus and as bendable as a pocket watch in a Salvador Dali painting (and thus unable to pierce any foodstuff firmer than the innards of Brie cheese), was the most visible manifestation of recently deposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative.

That was her carbon-cutting effort to use the food-service and other House operations to fight global warming and a host of other perceived environmental, health and social ills. During the lunchtime rush, you could observe dozens of staffers struggling to stab lettuce leaves and poultry pieces with fork tines that appeared to be double-jointed as well as dull.

But on Jan. 25, Dan Lungren, the GOP congressman from the Sacramento area who now heads the House Administration Committee, directed the House chief administrative officer to trash — so to speak — the composting program, which converts the dining service's cornstarch tableware, along with its biodegradable plates, trays, cups and drinking straws, into garden mulch.

It turns out that the composting program not only cost the House an estimated $475,000 a year (according to the House inspector general) but actually increased energy consumption in the form of "additional energy for the pulping process and the increased hauling distance to the composting facility," according to a news release from Lungren. As far as carbon emissions were concerned, Lungren concluded that the reduction was the "nominal ... equivalent to removing one car from the road each year." He plans to switch the House to an alternate waste-management system recommended by the Architect of the Capitol, in which dining-service trash would be incinerated and the heat energy captured. "Composting releases methane," said Lungren's spokesman, Brian Kaveney, and methane gas, as even the most warming-conscious among us have to admit, traps atmospheric heat far more efficiently than carbon dioxide, the usual bugaboo of the climate-change crowd. Lungren's stick-a-biodegradable-fork-in-it (if you can) stance toward a linchpin of Pelosi's grand green plan marks the latest skirmish in a lifestyle war that may on its surface seem purely partisan: GOP global-warming skeptics versus a Gaia-worshipping Democratic Party.

But I'd say the battle lines are really between an elite determined to impose upon a captive populace its notions of what is good for it — cost be damned — and the populace itself, which would rather not be coerced.

In Pelosi's home territory, the city of San Francisco, composting is mandatory for householders, who face a fine if they throw orange peels into the trash rather than into their city-provided composting bins.

Plastic bags are against the law in large-chain stores, and plastic water bottles are against the law in City Hall. In the name of health you can't buy a soft drink on public property in San Francisco, and soon you won't be able to buy a Happy Meal with a toy at McDonald's for your kid.

The uber-bohemians of San Francisco love this sort of thing; others, maybe not so much.

Green the Capitol was launched in 2007, soon after Pelosi became speaker. The Longworth cafeteria, catering to House employees but also serving the public, was to be the carbon-neutral jewel in Pelosi's green crown. Out went the familiar mystery meatloaf and high-fat coconut cake and in came food that was organic, sustainable, locally grown and fair-traded. I visited the Longworth cafeteria in early 2008, soon after it reopened under Pelosi's rule. Not only had food been replaced with "cuisine" (roasted corn and poblano chili, anyone?), but there was also a sea of didactic signage. One sign reminded you that the beef in the hamburgers was "humanely raised" and "antibiotic-free." Other placards touted "cage-free eggs" and "rBGH-free milk." A poster trumpeted the "pulper," a costly machine that made compostable cubes out of food waste. And then there were the recycling stations, where a lengthy set of rules instructed diners on how to separate trash items and dump them into four different slots (coffee cups in the "compostable" slot, coffee lids in the "landfill" slot).

No sooner did the cafeteria reopen than the grousing began, from both sides of the political aisle.

Some diners tried to puzzle out what turkey escabeche might be and wondered what happened to the fried chicken. Others complained about the new high prices that accompanied the new haute offerings."I just wished my pay improved" along with the food quality, a Democratic aide complained to a reporter for Politico. But the bitterest carping was over that compostable flatware. A Hill urban legend circulated that the spoons would melt in a cup of hot coffee. They don't, but they do bend readily enough to make you think you're Uri Geller.

When I revisited the Longworth cafeteria last week, three years later, I could not help noticing that although the flimsy cornstarch tableware was still in use — it will be retired as soon as the stock on hand is used up — a sea change had otherwise occurred. The sermony signage was gone, as was much of the art-food: the purple Peruvian potatoes and the "panzanella station," where you could build a salad out of arugula, figs and large wedges of stale bread. The salad bar these days is, well, a salad bar, with trays of chopped olives, shredded carrots and garbanzo beans to top the lettuce. Serious efforts have been made to cater to the needs of House employees who can't afford Armani suits. Among the stations with the longest lunchtime lines was one labeled simply "BBQ." Its special was a $5.50 pulled-pork platter with two sides (including classic mac and cheese) and cornbread.

The years from 2006 through 2010, starting with the Democratic takeover of the House and ending with the party's rout after two years of Barack Obama's presidency, were four years of an effort by a know-it-all liberal elite to impose sweeping and extreme social and fiscal measures on a centrist-to-right public: four years of turkey escabeche, so to speak.

Now, with a GOP House and divided government, there seems to be a return to normalcy, and it's beginning with the promise of knives and forks that work.

Charlotte Allen is a Washington writer.
Copyright © 2011,
Los Angeles Times

A stern reminder of what can go wrong with crazy ideas poorly implemented and totally out of touch with community ideas.

I am sure a program - a sensible program - could have been implemented in the cafetaria. And afterall, what would be wrong with ordinary plate and cutlery use, and washing them, with a sensible waste management program to handle the organic wastes? It is generally wiser to wash and reuse equipment rather than single use.

As for menu changes, are not they best organised with users views considered? If Jamie Oliver can do it for communities in the US, maybe he needs to be asked about the menus?

Oh is the USA I guess.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Red LED to Boost Greenhouse Horticulture Production

SIEMENS subsidiary Osram Opto Semiconductors has developed a powerful LED for use in plant cultivation.

The new LED emits a deep-red light at a wavelength of 660 nanometers, the ideal light for plant photosynthesis. The LED has an efficiency of 37%, which is one of the highest for a light source of this colour, and yields considerable energy savings compared to conventional lamps. 5000 of the new LEDs were used in a pilot project in Denmark to illuminate a cultivation area of several thousand square meters.

The trial saw power consumption in the greenhouse fall by 40%.

According to Siemens, relatively little of the light used by plants for their growth is from the visible light spectrum. Chlorophyll molecules mostly absorb deep-red and blue light for the purposes of photosynthesis. The efficient red LED from Osram Opto Semiconductors has an emission curve that is very closely matched to the spectral sensitivity of chlorophyll. The new LED is based on the thin-film technology used for high power semiconductor chips.

In greenhouse cultivation, some plants are grown on several levels stacked on top of one another. For this reason, the new LED is available in two variants, each with a different beam angle. The Golden Dragon Plus has a beam angle of 170 degrees and is well suited for use in reflector lamps for illuminating large areas under cultivation. The Oslon SSL LED, with a beam angle of 80 degrees, is designed for use in multi-level applications, such as those for the cultivation of lettuce.

Using LED light, it is also possible to promote different growth phases of the plant under cultivation. Red light, for example, encourages plants to grow in length, whereas blue light fosters bud formation. Controlled variation of the proportion of blue light between ten and 30 percent can reduce the use of fertilizer and other chemicals.

The developers claim that compared to conventional high-pressure sodium lamps, the luminous efficacy of the system as a whole is 60% higher with red and blue LEDs. The diodes have a service life of 100,000 hours for maintenance-free operation for many years.


This sounds pretty interesting for greenhouse growers, especially in higher latitudes where daylength and daylight is severely restricted in winter months. Even if only partially as effective as claimed.

As an aside.........I am sure that hydroponic marijuana growers will also find an exciting use for the technology too! [I am not advocating its use] Reports seem to indicate they usually apply the latest and greatest technology.