Green Groups Balk at England’s Plan to Fast Track Fracking
Government ministers published proposals Thursday that would speed the development of fracking in England, igniting opposition from environmental groups and local communities, The Independent reported.
The rule changes could open an area almost as large as Wales for immediate drilling.
"Communities and their local councils across the UK have said no in every way they can, but the government have turned a deaf ear to everyone who doesn't own a fossil fuel company," Rebecca Newsome of Greenpeace UK told The Independent.
The proposals would give planning authorities £1.6 million to speed up application processing time, create a new shale environmental regulator, allow companies to drill at test sites without prior permission and shift approval for new wells from the local to the national level by declaring fracking sites "nationally significant infrastructure," The Guardian reported.
Greenpeace further criticized the proposals in The Guardian, saying they would make "exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory."
The Local Government Association also expressed concern that fracking decisions would be taken out of the hands of impacted communities.
"We are clear that it should be up to local communities to decide whether or not to host fracking operations in their areas," environment spokesperson, councilor Judith Blake told The Guardian.
The proposals came in a statement issued by the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Greg Clark and the housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire.
They argued that natural gas was an important part of the UK's emissions commitments under the Climate Change Act and that, due to a decline in offshore gas production in the North Sea, the UK had gone from exporting natural gas in 2013 to importing it from Norway and continental Europe.
"[W]e believe that it is right to utilize our domestic gas resources to the maximum extent and exploring further the potential for onshore gas production from shale rock formations in the UK, where it is economically efficient, and where environment impacts are robustly regulated," the statement read.
They said that local decisions on shale exploration applications were "disappointingly slow."
According to The Independent, fracking opponents are concerned about the processes impact on water and links to increased seismic activity, as well as the need to shift away from fossil fuels all together.
Since a fracking ban was lifted in the UK in 2013, no new wells have been dug. Local governments rejected seven of eight shale drilling plans put forward in the first three months of 2018, The Guardian reported.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Rose Dickinson suggested that the government's plans went against the wishes of a majority of English citizens.
"If there was a referendum on fracking, it would be banished to the dustbin of history—and that's where these proposals belong," she told The Independent.
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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