Electric Busses Save Tonnes of Energy

streetcar

The implementation of electric busses into public transit fleets continues to grow – and it’s happening too quickly for the oil industry. Obviously the oil industry doesn’t like sustainable energy sources; however, public transit systems do. The efficiency gains of an electric bus fleet are evident and as a result less oil is being consumed. Chinese cities are the quickest at buying up electric busses and as a result the costs of adding these efficient vehicles to a fleet have gone down globally.

For every 1,000 battery-powered buses on the road, about 500 barrels a day of diesel fuel will be displaced from the market, according to BNEF calculations. This year, the volume of fuel buses take off the market may rise 37 percent to 279,000 barrels a day, about as much oil as Greece consumes, according to BNEF.

“This segment is approaching the tipping point,” said Colin Mckerracher, head of advanced transport at the London-based research unit of Bloomberg LP. “City governments all over the world are being taken to task over poor urban air quality. This pressure isn’t going away, and electric bus sales are positioned to benefit.”

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Bird Brains Avoid Wind Farms

wind turbine

Opponents of clean energy try to find any reason to stop renewable installations (I guess they hate the planet?) and when it comes to wind farms they suddenly start caring about birds. Their argument is that birds will fly into the blades of wind turbines. This argument was recently studied on the shores of the UK and found to be marginally correct, instead of killing thousands of birds a wind farm found only an average of one every four months. This death rate is notable less than the amount of birds killed by flying into windows on skyscrapers. Hopefully the anti wind energy people now redirect their own energy to protecting birds from pointless deaths from lights being left on in towers.

Tim Frayling, Senior Environmental Specialist Ornithology, Natural England said: “Natural England acknowledge the significant achievement of providing empirical evidence of bird avoidance in relation to an offshore wind farm for the first time, and the progress in starting to address some key questions in this area.

“The proof of concept has been successfully demonstrated and we would look forward to seeing similar studies in different locations, including wind farms closer to seabird colonies.”

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Breakdown Plastic Using Digestive Enzymes

lab

Recycling polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics is difficult as the hard material is tough to breakdown. For years there’s been research into using bacteria to eat the plastic to help with getting the plastic to reusable state. This year a bacterial enzyme called “PETase” has been found to be highly effective at breaking down this hardened plastic. The enzyme itself comes from a bacteria that was found within a plastic recycling plant (nature always finds a way) which was subsequently modified to be more efficient. This discovery may lead to a healthier use of plastic, but for now the best thing you can do is buy less plastic objects.

They compared the DNA sequence of the PETase gene with that of cutinases from thousands of bacterial species, looking for differences. They then created new versions of PETase, each with one or more of its amino-acid building blocks changed to resemble those of ancestral cutinases.

As many of the differences between PETase and cutinases were, presumably, what allowed PETase to do its job, they expected these new enzymes to digest the plastic less efficiently. To their surprise, however, one of the engineered enzymes (with two amino acids mutated to be more cutinase-like) was able to digest PET about 20% faster than the natural one. That is a modest increase, but one that came about by accident rather than design. This, Dr McGeehan argues, shows there is plenty of scope for further improvement.

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Shipping Industry Finally Delivers on Climate Change

ocean shore

When climate conferences occur and parties sign on to legal agreements like the Paris Agreement some industries are excluded. Historically aviation and shipping have been left out from many climate change agreements which has resulted in both industries being behind the times, inefficient, and down right bad for the planet. Already, climate change is harming coastal nations and these coastal nations usually favour shipping. The impact of increasing water levels, storm surges, and more has led to those shipping-friendly nations to better regulate international shipping practices.

The result is a deal that shipping industry will finally address their greenhouse gas emissions by reducing their emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Mr Paul added: “This is history in the making… if a country like the Marshall Islands, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, and particularly depends on international shipping, can endorse this deal, there is no credible excuse for anybody else to hold back.”

The UK’s shipping minister, Nusrat Ghani, described the agreement as ” a watershed moment with the industry showing it is willing to play its part in protecting the planet”.

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China’s Efforts to Fight Pollution are Working


Back in 2014 China decided it was sick of producing so much pollution and decided to do something about it. China started to close coal plants, spent $120 billion cleaning air in cities and launched similar initiatives throughout the country. The results have been longer life spans for people in impacted areas and a more efficient economy. The rapid pace of change is impressive even for China as no other country has been so quick to reduce pollution, that being said China has a long way to go to reach WHO standards seen in the rest of the world.

Although most regions outpaced their targets, the most populated cities had some of the greatest declines. Beijing’s readings on concentrations of fine particulates declined by 35 percent; Hebei Province’s capital city, Shijiazhuang, cut its concentration by 39 percent; and Baoding, calledChina’s most polluted city in 2015, reduced its concentration by 38 percent.

To investigate the effects on people’s lives in China, I used two of my studies (more here and here) to convert the fine particulate concentrations into their effect on life spans. This is the same method that underlies the Air Quality-Life Index that can be explored here. These studies are based on data from China, so they don’t require extrapolation from the United States or some other country with relatively low concentrations of pollution.

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