Scientists turn CO2 into jet fuel

Jon Fingas, Associate Editor

Researchers may have found a way to reduce the environmental impact of air travel in situations when electric aircraft and alternative fuels aren’t practical. Wired reports that Oxford University scientists have successfully turned CO2 into jet fuel, raising the possibility of conventionally-powered aircraft with net zero emissions.

The technique effectively reverses the process of burning fuel by relying on the organic combustion method. The team heated a mix of citric acid, hydrogen and an iron-manganese-potassium catalyst to turn CO2 into a liquid fuel capable of powering jet aircraft.

The approach is inexpensive, uncomplicated and uses commonplace materials. It’s cheaper than processes used to turn hydrogen and water into fuel.

There are numerous challenges to bringing this to aircraft. The lab method only produced a few grams of fuel — you’d clearly need much more to support even a single flight, let alone an entire fleet. You’d need much more widespread use of carbon capture. And if you want effectively zero emissions, the capture and conversion systems would have to run on clean energy.

The researches are talking with industrial partners, though, and don’t see any major scientific hurdles. It might also be one of the most viable options for fleets. Many of them would have to replace their aircraft to go electric or switch fuel types. This conversion process would let airlines keep their existing aircraft and go carbon neutral until they’re truly ready for eco-friendly propulsion.

Source: Yahoo News

By Sophie Stuber

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is approving the construction of 5G towers on what could be sacred Indigenous lands without tribal consent, VICE News has found.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation works on projects in 12 states across the midwest and southern U.S., and is expected to inspect proposals for every 5G tower that goes up in those states. On average, it receives 150 small cell tower projects per month. But since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, it has received 1,700 requests.

We just have no capacity to respond,” RaeLynn Butler, manager of theMuscogee (Creek) Nation Historic and Cultural Preservation Department in Oklahoma, told VICE News.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many tribal offices are closed or are working at reduced capacity. Many officers are working remotely, and some areas lack the connectivity for people to work effectively.

“It’s ironic that we have people reviewing cell phone towers who don’t even have internet access at home,” Butler said.

According to Section 106 of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, every federal agency must consider the impacts of “its actions” on historic sites for new construction projects. On Indigenous land, this includes consulting with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. If the tribe does not respond to a consultation request within 30 days, the company can continue with the project.

A spokesperson from CTIA, a trade association that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry, said its member companies “are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure timely review of new infrastructure.

“The FCC has adopted rules that balance the goals of providing for tribal review while enabling expeditious buildout of next-generation wireless services,” Jilane Rodgers Petrie, director of public affairs, wrote in an email.

The FCC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Matt Peterson, vice president of communications at American Tower, wrote: “We are not aware at this time of any situation regarding one of our towers where we moved forward without hearing from the THPO office.”

In the three years that Joshua Mann has worked at Eastern Shoshone Tribal Historic Preservation Office in Wyoming, he has been asked to consult on 17,000 projects on Indigenous lands.

“We get a lot of conflict. It’s overwhelming with the towers. The race to 5G right now, it’s crazy,” Mann said.

The FCC claims that excavations for 5G infrastructure don’t affect historic sites, but the preservation offices say these determinations are made without the presence of experts or archeologists from local Indigenous communities.

In West Virginia, the FCC first proposed a “broadband expressway project” in 2018 to build 150 new 5G towers across one of the ancestral homelands of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. Even though the band refused to sign the proposal, the project was reupped this year and is going ahead anyway.

“They pretty much told us that they were going to put these towers in. They didn’t care if we had historical properties there,” said Whitney Warrior, the current preservation office director for the United Keetoowah Band.

“It’s very clear that they have no intention of being educated in tribal sensitivity at all.”

During the pandemic, consultation requests have increased in some areas.

In July, the FCC tried to pass two new amendments to reduce tribal consultations. One of the amendments would exempt Section 106 consultationsfor companies expanding on an existing tower of less than 30 feet.

“Especially now with the pandemic (the FCC) is doing so much work knowing that tribes are vulnerable and hardly in the office,” said Sheila Bird, the former preservation officer for the United Keetowah Band.

“Our first and foremost concern is to not disturb unmarked graves,” said Bird, who’s now a consultant at Kituwah Nighthawk Consulting.

Protecting ancestral homelands is essential in preserving history, culture, and traditions for future generations.

“Once all of that’s gone it’s gone forever,” Warrior said. “If we don’t protect our tribal legacy, then the loss will be a total genocide of an entire race of Indian people.”

Many Indigenous communities also say they have not been compensated for consultations they have conducted.

“They haven’t paid in probably two years,” said Karen Pritchett, Tower Construction Notification System coordinator for the United Keetoowah Band.

Without proper funding, tribes cannot review projects in a timely manner. “When you have an unfunded mandate, it puts tribes in a harder position to reach the expectations of industry,” Butler said.

With the announcement that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will step down in January, there is hope that there will be more collaboration with local Indigenous tribes.

“The reality is that we need these towers to have better communications and to survive the pandemic. But we need to work together better,” Butler said. “We’re constantly seen as a barrier. It’s frustrating to know that with everything that we have done, the thousands of towers and projects we have reviewed, that it’s still not enough.”

Follow Sophie Stuber on Twitter. Source: https://www.vice.com/

 

 

In a ruling today a coroner has made legal history by concluding that air pollution was a cause of the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. This is the first conclusion of its kind. The coroner also identified failures to bring air pollution below legal limits and failures to provide information about the risks of air pollution to Ella or her family.

Ella’s family are represented by Doughty Street’s Adam Straw. Adam is led by Richard Hermer QC and acts alongside Ravi Mehta. They are instructed by Jocelyn Cockburn at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors.

Media includes: www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/16/girls-death-contributed-to-by-air-pollution-coroner-rules-in-landmark-case and  www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-55330945

Source: https://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/

Parliament committee says miner must negotiate a compensation deal with traditional owners and ‘ensure a full reconstruction’ of the caves

A parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of 46,000-year-old caves has delivered a scathing report criticising the actions of Rio Tinto and calling for the Western Australian government to put a stop to the destruction of heritage until new laws are passed.

The majority bipartisan interim report said Rio Tinto’s decision to destroy two rock shelters in Juukan Gorge, against the wishes of the traditional owners and despite knowing the archaeological value of the site, was “inexcusable”.

“Rio knew the value of what they were destroying but blew it up anyway,” the report said.

The report recommended a moratorium on the approval of all new section 18 approvals under the Aboriginal Heritage Act until new laws are passed next year – unless it can be “established and verified that there is current free, prior and informed consent obtained from Traditional Owners”.

Protecting history: how Juukan Gorge could change mining forever
It also called for mining companies to introduce a voluntary moratorium on acting on existing approvals, under section 18 of the Western Australian legislation, to destroy sites.

“How many Juukan Gorge catastrophies are lurking on working schedules around the country? We don’t know because there are still existing legal regimes that permit various companies to destroy them,” senator Pat Dodson told the Senate after the interim report was tabled on Thursday.

“Whilst our report is called Never Again, it’s in a legislative environment where there’s still capacity for an organisation or a company to destroy such a site. So we have a serious problem.”

The report recommended the Australian government outlaw the use of gag clauses in agreements between mining companies and traditional owners, which prevent traditional owners from speaking publicly against the destruction of their heritage.

It also recommended that:

  • Rio Tinto must negotiate a restitution package with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples (PKKP) and ensure a full reconstruction of the rock shelters and remediation of the site at its own expense.
  • Rio must commit to a permanent moratorium on mining in the Juukan Gorge area.
  • All mining companies, including Rio Tinto, should undertake an independent review of all agreements with traditional owners and remove any gag clauses or restrictions in existing agreements.
  • All mining companies should commit to a voluntary moratorium on applying for new section 18 permissions until new Aboriginal heritage laws are passed.
  • Rio Tinto should commit to a stay on actions on the 1,700 Aboriginal heritage sites which it currently has permission to destroy.
  • The WA government should urgently establish new procedures to improve the regulation of Aboriginal heritage and undertake a mapping and truth-telling process to record all sites that have been destroyed or damaged.
  • The federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 be “urgently” reviewed, and responsibility for the legislation revert to the minister for Aboriginal affairs.

Dodson said the failures that led to the Juukan Gorge disaster “did not happen out of the blue”.

“These failures were symptomatic of the ‘don’t care’ culture that infected Rio Tinto from the top down,” he said. “It had gone through a rapid decline in the way it did business.”

Dodson said it was “a mistake” for Rio Tinto board member Michael L’Estrange to conduct the company’s internal review into the disaster. “His report is full of mea culpas and corporate lingo,” he said. “It was an unsatisfactory piece of work. It didn’t get to the heart of the drift and rot that was allowed to corrupt Rio Tinto’s formerly good practice.”

He said that First Nations people were “seriously disadvantaged” when dealing with mining companies, failed by state and federal heritage legislation that required “serious overhaul”, and failed by the “ineffectual Native Title Act”, which he said had “delivered nothing of substance to protect the interests of First Nations”.

“If Eddie Mabo were with us he would be deeply distressed to realise that what he had fought for so vigorously has delivered so little.”

The inquiry was led by the LNP MP Warren Entsch, who wrote in the forward that while the interim report focused on the actions of Rio the committee would continue to investigate the actions of other mining companies and failures in state and federal legislation.

The report said the WA legislation was “outdated, unfit for purpose and in urgent need of replacement” and noted that while the state government had begun reviewing the laws in early 2018 it continued to use the same approvals process. It also raised concerns with the proposed new laws stating “the experience of the PKKP with Rio Tinto, and that of other Aboriginal groups, would suggest that the bill’s focus on agreement-making needs careful consideration”.

The WA Aboriginal affairs minister, Ben Wyatt, said the recommendation to introduce a moratorium on new section 18 approvals until the replacement legislation was introduced was “not a practical solution in light of their use across a vast array of different projects most of which are uncontentious”.

“As minister, I won’t be considering applications for Section 18s where native title parties have not been appropriately consulted,” he said.

Wyatt cited the dissenting report from the WA Liberal senator, Dean Smith, who argued that the proposed moratorium could prevent upgrades and maintenance of public infrastructure including the $3bn project to upgrade Perth’s train network.

Smith also said it was “disappointing” that the majority report “creates an impression that Rio Tinto’s behaviour is reflective of the values of the entire Western Australian mining industry”.

But he agreed with the rest of the committee that Rio Tinto should be subject to further scrutiny, telling parliament the company, including its chairman and board, “are still on notice”. “They should not allow themselves to believe the investigation into their culpability has concluded,” he said.

Rio Tinto’s global CEO, Jean-Sébastien Jacques, and its Perth-based chief executive of iron ore, Chris Salisbury, both appeared before the inquiry before resigning over the issue in September. They both appeared again alongside the head of corporate affairs, Simone Niven, who also resigned, in October.

All three had previously lost their annual bonuses following an internal review that blamed the destruction on “shortfalls in linked-up decision making”, but will keep their long-term bonuses on exit from the company. The internal review has been criticised as “inadequate” and lacking transparency.

Smith criticised the “golden handshakes” granted to the outgoing executives and questioned Jacques’ assertion that he had been unaware of the significance of the shelters until after they were destroyed on 24 May 2020. “This is also difficult to believe,” Smith said.

Rio’s global chairman, Simon Thompson, on Wednesday said the company would review the report’s recommendations. He also repeated his apology to the PKKP.

“We are committed to learning from this event to ensure the destruction of heritage sites of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again,” he said.

‘Devastated’ Indigenous owners say Rio Tinto misled them ahead of Juukan Gorge blast

PKKP Aboriginal corporation spokesman Burchell Hayes said they were grateful the committee had conducted a “full, thorough, and transparent investigation”.

“We hope the inquiry’s preliminary findings prompt a fundamental reset of the sector, particularly in the relationships between traditional owners and mining companies; and pave a way forward for more equal partnerships fostered by greater respect and mutual benefit,” he said.

“We have started the long road to healing and repairing our relationship with Rio Tinto but … Rio Tinto now needs to turn its words into actions.”

The PKKP people told the inquiry in October they were “devastated” by the destruction of the two rockshelters, one of which had been described by an archaeologist paid for by Rio Tinto as one of the most significant archaeological sites in Australia.

The inquiry was called in June, three weeks after Rio Tinto blew up the 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site.

Senior executives from BHP, Roy Hill, Woodside and Fortescue Metals were also called before the public hearings. All defended their own relationship with traditional owners. But Aboriginal corporations in the Pilbara said that the issues outlined in the destruction of Juukan Gorge were widespread. They include agreements with gag clauses that prevent traditional owners from speaking out against mining companies, and a heritage system that is geared towards mining companies and does not allow for review once more information about a site is discovered.

Governments around the world should all declare a state of climate emergency until the world has reached net zero CO2 emissions, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has told a summit of world leaders.

At least 38 countries have already declared such a state of emergency, often owing to their vulnerability to the impacts of climate breakdown, which are already being felt.

“Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” Guterres said on Saturday. “I urge all others to follow.”

Declaring an emergency would require countries to step up their actions on greenhouse gas emissions urgently. An increasing number of governments have a target to reach net zero emissions by around the mid-century, but few have detailed plans on how to get there.

Many countries are also pouring money into high-CO2 activities as they strive to recover from the coronavirus crisis and recession. Guterres noted that G20 countries were spending 50% more in their stimulus packages on fossil fuels and CO2-intensive sectors than they were on low-CO2 energy.

UK to stop funding overseas fossil fuel projects
Read more
“This is unacceptable,” he told the online Climate Ambition Summit, co-hosted by the UN, the UK and France. “The trillions of dollars needed for Covid recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations. This is a moral test. We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”

More than 70 world leaders, civil society activists, business chiefs and city mayors are attending the Climate Ambition Summit, which marks five years since the landmark Paris climate agreement.

Under the Paris agreement, countries are bound to keep global temperature rises well below the 2C above pre-industrial levels that scientists regard as the outer limit of safety, with an aspiration to limit global heating to 1.5C, which should avoid the worst of the ravages of climate breakdown.

However, the commitments to reduce emissions that countries made at Paris were insufficient, and would result in catastrophic heating of more than 3C. The agreement contains a ratchet mechanism by which nations must update their commitments every five years. The first deadline is now looming, on 31 December, and at Saturday’s summit world leaders are supposed to come forward with strengthened plans, called nationally determined contributions (NDCs), to cut emissions by 2030.

The UK has come forward with a goal of cutting emissions by 68% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The EU on Friday confirmed its pledge of a 55% cut by 2030.

Many other countries, including China, Japan and South Korea, have come forward with longer-term goals of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or 2060.

The US is not represented at the summit, which was only opened to countries willing to make strong new commitments. The president-elect, Joe Biden, has however signalled his intention to push forward with the Paris agreement, pursue a green recovery from Covid, and reach net zero emissions.

Australia, Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia were also excluded from speaking among others.

Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, pledged on Friday to end UK taxpayer-funded support for fossil fuel projects overseas, after months of pressure from green campaigners. About £21bn of such funding has been provided in the last four years.

The summit is a staging post towards the vital UN Cop26 talks, aimed at putting countries on track to meet the obligations of the Paris agreement. The Cop26 talks will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow next November, after they were postponed this year owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: The Guardian UK