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"For my pocket it's much better," said the 27-year-old Dutchman. "If I would heat with oil or gas I would spend probably quadruple the amount of money that I spend on peat."
"And it keeps me warm twice," he adds, referring to the physical labor involved in harvesting the dark, carbon-rich earth which is the first stage in the formation of coal.
The clumps of peat, or turf, are dug from Ireland's bogs -- waterlogged land formed after the last Ice Age. They must be turned regularly and stacked to dry before hauling them home. It's a time-consuming task but soaring oil prices mean a new generation is rediscovering the tradition.
...Peat has been used for fuel since prehistoric times but it wasn't until the 18th century that deforestation, spurred by British shipbuilding, made it Ireland's major source of fuel. By the 1840s, when the Great Famine killed an estimated 1 million people, peat was often the only source of heat.
..."Bogs are a huge store of carbon dioxide so if you do start cutting and burning them you're actually releasing a lot of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere," says Caroline Hurley of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC).
The bogs also provide a haven for vulnerable birds, particularly waders and ground nesters like the golden plover and red grouse, and to plants like butterworts and bladderworts which have adapted to the poor soil by becoming carnivores.
(25 November 2005)
Arctic booms as climate change melts polar ice cap
The global hunger for oil is fueling a new gold rush.
Alex Duval-Smith, UK Observer
Giant snowflakes tumble down outside the Kaikanten bar. Inside, Mustafa Mirreh from Somalia stares down his pool cue, trying to pot the black. His opponent, Italian engineer Pier Luigi Poletto, has turned to the slot machine. The Kilkenny beer has run out. There is only canned Guinness. This could be grounds for a fight, but French fishermen J-P and Max have been distracted by the rare sight of a woman crossing the floor.
These are the Klondikers of global warming: men from all over the world who have come to Hammerfest, gateway to the Barents Sea, to make their fortune from new resources - oil, gas, fish and diamonds - made accessible by the receding ice.
It is the dark season here - two months from November to January when the sun never rises above the snow-laced rocks around Hammerfest, ice-free thanks to the Gulf stream. In the horseshoe-shaped port, trawlers from all over the world wait for favorable weather to head back into the Barents Sea. Hammerfest, with its colorful wooden houses, feels cozy. But it is a nerve center of the scramble for the Arctic's wealth that raises urgent questions.
The 14 million sq km Arctic Ocean is home to 25 per cent of the planet's unextracted oil and natural gas. With a population of four million, the region is much more stable than the Middle East. Global warming, in combination with the current high oil price, makes it ever more accessible. Yet the bordering countries - Russia, Canada, the US, Norway and Danish Greenland - have yet to agree on who owns what. Long-forgotten bays, waterways and islands are moving to the top of the international agenda.
(27 November 2005)
Also posted at Common Ground.
New era for Britain's coal mines?
Jasper Copping, UK Telegraph
Soaring prices and fears that gas supply will not meet demand fuel initiatives to create £500m mine and re-open old pits
Britain's coal industry could enjoy a resurgence with new mines created and existing pits re-opened in an effort to tackle the country's deepening energy crisis.
A return to coal mining on a large scale has been put forward as a way of responding to Britain's growing demand for power and the soaring price of natural gas.
The country's precarious energy provisions have been thrown into sharp relief this winter with fears that gas supply will not meet demand.
And a greater reliance on coal is already being considered by the Government, which has pumped money into "clean coal" technologies to find ways of reducing pollution when coal is burnt.
Yesterday, Andrew Davies, the economic development minister for the Welsh Assembly, claimed the idea could mean a new era for Britain's mines.
(12 November 2005)
Is coal the answer?
Jessica Aberle, Peoria Journal Star
High-energy fuel source makes a comeback in a state (Illinois) that has millions of tons of it
For more than a decade, Illinois coal miners watched their traditional markets fade, production drop more than 50 percent and employment hit all-time lows.
Coal-fired power plants switched to lower sulfur, lower energy Western coal to meet the ever-increasing federal clean air standards. One by one, Illinois mines closed and production at others slowed. The United Mine Workers of America lost an average of 1,000 members per year beginning in 1990.
...Recent studies show the Illinois Basin is on the verge of a major upswing in demand because of the amount of new scrubbing going online to meet sulfur emission limits. The Illinois Basin Coal Supply, Demand and Price Trends Study by Hill and Associates concluded the Illinois Basin is seeing a resurgence similar to what was experienced in the 1970s and 1980s.
(27 November 2005)
Related story by Jessica Aberle:
Time running out for oil, gas reserves
U.S. has plans for Canada oil sands
Kevin G. Hall, Knight Ridder Newspapers via Arizona Republic
FORT McMURRAY, Alberta - Along a giant patch of Canada's Far North, where moose outnumber people, a vital part of America's energy future seeps out of riverbanks and is hidden below soft prairie grass.
These Canadian oil sands will help keep American SUVs running in the years to come.
In the north of the remote Alberta province rests the equivalent of 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. About 176 billion barrels is recoverable with today's technology, and perhaps twice that amount is potentially recoverable. But this oil can't be pumped from the ground the conventional way. It's spread across more than 54,000 square miles, about the size of North Carolina, and is mixed with sand and clay.
"It's the single largest hydrocarbon deposit on the Earth, and it's next door to the biggest market for oil products: the United States. What's wrong with it? It's crap oil," said Neil Camarta, senior vice president of oil-sands operations for Shell Canada.
"You've got to use a lot of energy and a lot of pots and pans to extract it from the sand, and you have low-quality oil. It's a high-cost business and a lot of capital and a lot of operating costs."
(27 November 2005)
No choice over nuclear - Beckett
Nuclear power may have to be embraced in a bid to combat climate change even though it is not a "sustainable" energy source, Margaret Beckett has admitted. The environment secretary said she was very reluctant to build new nuclear power stations, but that she had "accepted that it could happen".
But Mrs Beckett said any investment in nuclear must not be at the expense of renewable energy sources. An energy policy review is set to be announced early this week.
In an interview with ITV1's The Jonathan Dimbleby Programme, Mrs Beckett was questioned about her view that nuclear power is not a sustainable energy source.
"I don't think you can argue that it meets the definition of sustainability," she stressed. "But that's a separate issue from saying, however, despite those enormous problems, you're driven to it by other considerations such as climate change and I've always accepted that that could happen."
Nuclear power currently meets about a fifth of Britain's electricity needs, but that is set to fall to just 4% by 2010 when old power stations are decommissioned.
(27 November 2005)