In recent years, there have been multiple known alternatives to using fossil fuels, and some countries have already began using them and lobbying for them. I dare say it’s now a matter of legislation and execution in various institutions so that they may all follow suit in this turn to renewable power. For instance, solar energy powers schools in Denmark, villages for the homeless in the Netherlands, and the entirety of Diu in India. Meanwhile, wind energy is to run millions of homes in the UK, some states in America, and about 70% of Australia.
And now, Costa Rica announced a pledge to become the first entirely decarbonized country in the world by 2021.
Carlos Alvarado, [Costa Rica’s new president and] a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands during his inauguration on Wednesday.
“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first,” Mr. Alvarado said. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”
The president even seems to live consistently to his words, arriving at the ceremony aboard a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle. In addition to decarbonization, the country has previously declared plans to entirely eliminate single-use plastics by the same year. That’s right — Costa Rica wants to lead a lot of environmental endeavors by 2021.
But what’s so special about the target date?
“When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate … that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” [Mr. Alvarado] promised during a victory speech.
Right. By that time, Costa Rica will have celebrated its 200th year of independence. I suppose it’s part of the same push and momentum that they were able to gain a record in 2017 for producing more than 99% of the country’s electricity using only renewable sources.
Perhaps acknowledging that the history of the people is also the history of their land, Costa Rica wants to celebrate the anniversary of their independence with a healthier, greener, and cleaner environment.
Coffee: it’s every workaholic’s go-to beverage and, astoundingly, perfect for manufacturing sportswear. Nowadays, it isn’t just perfect for a pick-me-up — it’s potentially fueling London’s signature double-decker buses.
“Instead of sending a tonne of waste coffee grounds to landfill where it degrades and releases methane and CO2, we collect it, recycle it and turn it into a renewable fuel which is then used to replace further conventional fuels – so it’s a double saving”, [said] Bio-bean founder Arthur Kay.
Among the heaviest Americano consumers, Londoners contribute up to 200,000 tons of coffee waste annually. To make the most out of discarded grounds, Bio-bean is extracting 6,000 liters of oil to mix into fuel. The final blend is of 20% biofuel, which will also help to reduce carbon emissions.
“We’re not saying that it’s going to totally replace fossil fuels overnight,” Kay said.
“The amount of diesel produced globally is always going to be more than the amount of coffee.”
Considering London buses run nearly 2 billion trips a year, Bio-bean’s initiative could encourage alternative energy use. Perhaps a beer fuel may even be in talks.
When improper waste disposal procedures are producing islands of trash, it may be time to consider the weight of environmental issues. One by one, communities are diverting themselves from fossil fuels to pursue more environmentally friendly energy options. For state-owned vehicles in Sri Lanka, electric and hybrid cars will be stepping in as replacements as early as 2025.
Private owners have until 2040 to replace their cars, tuk-tuks and motorcycles, when the country plans to no longer allow any fossil fuel-burning vehicles on its roads… said [Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera].
Home to roughly 6.8 million vehicles, Sri Lanka’s transition into electric will benefit the country immensely. To encourage a hassle-free switch, the government is encouraging consumers by cutting taxes on electric cars.
“The tax on electric cars will be reduced by over a million rupees (S$8,851) to encourage motorists to switch to clean energy,” Mr. Samaraweera told parliament.
On the other hand, Samaraweera is also hiking carbon and import taxes to discourage keeping gas vehicles. With inflation on the rise, Sri Lanka’s bumpy ride will hopefully segue into smoother (and sustainable) sailing.
Australia has been making waves in the environmental newsfeed this past year with some fantastic headlines: its energy sector powered 70% of the country’s homes using only renewable sources, a huge permaculture farm fed dozens and dozens of families with only organic produce, and even without human help, a supposedly extinct species of insectivore suddenly showed up. But this Sunday, Australia made just about its biggest wave yet.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull pledged more than 500 million Australian dollars for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef — the greatest single investment that this reef or any other coral ecosystem in the world has ever received.
[T]he Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a national non-profit . . . will use the money to counter water pollution, combat coral-eating starfish, increase public awareness, boost reef monitoring, and improve the environmental impact of surrounding businesses . . . The funds will also be used to expand reef restoration efforts, including trialling new techniques that can breed corals resistant to high temperatures and light stress.
For a while now, the Great Barrier Reef, which hosts about 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, is known to be in great danger. Its damage — including coral bleaching and ocean acidification — can be traced to climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, harmful coastal development, and continuous fishing despite the already-present negative effects. A 2016 study even said that more than 90% of the reef has already been affected by coral bleaching.
However, Australia’s environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, is confident that “the right plan and the right investment” will help secure what he describes as a “remarkably resistant” reef . . . “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it . . . Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management and to be able to test the impacts on the reef.”
Of course, we must inevitably mull over the damage humans have caused the beautiful coral ecosystem in the past decades, but it seems to have been resilient in maintaining itself and in forgiving us. Perhaps the millions of dollars pledged to its protection can finally help us start to make up for the damage and deserve its forgiveness. I honestly can’t help but hope it’s better late than never for us and the Great Barrier Reef.
Challenging regular sources of energy such as solar, wind, and hydropower are some unusual contenders. Thanks to the growing innovativeness of professionals and amateurs alike, it’s possible to harvest energy from walking and even sweating. Now, scientists are harvesting biofuel from kelp forests growing in the Pacific Ocean.
Kelp is transformed into biofuel by a process called thermochemical liquefaction. The kelp is dried out, and the salt is washed away. Then it’s turned into bio-oil through a high-temperature, high-pressure conversion process.
Biofuels are sustainable and non-polluting, making them great contenders against fossil fuels. Extracting the product from kelp is low-maintenance and unbelievably fast. Asian countries, in particular, are well-versed in the kelp industry, growing it primarily as a food source. However, this is where American startups may be biting off more than they can chew.
“They already have a pre-existing infrastructure that’s pretty sophisticated for growing and harvesting. It’s harvesting for food and other products… And that’s a much better starting point than small companies in the U.S. that try to go from ground zero to a transportation fuel.”
Nonetheless, open-ocean farming is very much a possibility in terms of biofuel production. With 71% of the planet’s surface water-covered, utilizing oceans for the benefit of the environment isn’t such a bad idea.
With an increasing number of industries stepping away from fossil fuels, eco-friendly substitutes are all the hype. Over time, both human and cow excrement have proved useful in the kitchen and as gas replacements. Unsurprisingly, an Israeli study has found turkey poop to be a valuable resource in producing combustible biomass fuel.
“Environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem,” said the researchers in a statement. “Converting poultry waste to solid fuel, a less resource-intensive, renewable energy source, is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels.”
The process converts turkey stool into hydrochar and biochar. Both materials produce much less methane and ammonia as compared to traditional coal.
“This investigation helped in bridging the gap between hydrochar being considered as a potential energy source toward the development of an alternative renewable fuel,” [environmental hydrology and microbiology professor Amit] Gross said. “Our findings could help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and agricultural wastes.”
At this stage in the game, researchers at the Zuckerberg Institute seem to have killed two birds with one stone. It looks like these turkeys are off the dinner menu.
If Microsoft can fly planes without motors, surely there is a lot in store for passenger aircrafts. The wait may soon be over, as European manufacturers are aiming to test-fly an electricity-powered plane in 2020.
Airbus is responsible for integrating the engines with flight controls. Rolls-Royce will develop the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator and power electronics. Siemens will deliver the power distribution network.
With all the big guns taking part in developing E-Fan X, commercial flights in 2025 don’t seem too ambitious. Contributing 2% of carbon emissions worldwide, commercial planes could use a makeover. Aircraft giants EasyJet and Boeing are also in on the action, crafting up their own eco-jets.
“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer.
Looks like cutting on fossil fuels is a virus that has clearly infected aviation titans.
To salvage deteriorating resources, nations worldwide are setting ambitious eco-goals in a short span of time. By 2012, Costa Rica hopes to phase out single-use plastic products. For the first time in 70 years, Kazakhstan is reintroducing wild tigers into its cat-barren jungles. Not to be left out of the loop, St. Louis is swearing off fossil fuels in an attempt to go fully renewable by 2035.
“It can be a win-win for everyone. We can protect health. We can improve air, we can improve water. We can address climate change. We can save people money on their bills. Why wouldn’t we be moving in that direction?” said [Sara Edgar of Sierra Club.]
St. Louis is among just over 40 cities that have pledged to rely solely on wind and solar energy. For decades, the city has remained a top contributor to health issues caused by smog. It’s now clear that its local government is hoping to make a more positive name for the tourist spot.
“Some of the things that Donald Trump has done since he became commander in chief just goes against everything that I stand [for], that the people of St. Louis stand for,” [said St. Louis President Lewis Reed.]
Yikes. Trump better watch his back — it’s obvious St. Louis isn’t rolling back on its own environmental safeguards!