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The European city of Vienna is testing a prototype of a solar powered street light called the solar tree. The multiple stemmed street lamp consists of a number of disks arranged atop multiple stems in the form of a stylised tree. Each disk is covered with solar panels on the upper side and a number of low energy light bulbs on the lower side. The street lamp continues to light the street below it all night, even after four days without sunshine. Street lighting is responsible for 2million Megawatt hours of electricity or 10 per cent of Europe’s electricity consumption, which produces almost 3 billion tonnes of green house gases.
The price of pasta in Italy has increased 27% during 2007, leading to the first organised food strikes in modern Italy. Food strikes have a long history in Europe, it was a bread riot which sparked the French Revolution in 1789 and classical Rome was thrown into chaos a number of times when pirates or corrupt governers interrupted the flow of grain from Africa, Sicily and Egypt to the Italian peninsula. In january 2007 a street march by 70,000 people led to government legislation controlling the prices of tortilla which have risen 700 per cent in the decade since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed. The pasta price rises in Italy are largely due to increasing cost of fossil fuels but the Italians are so used to the government subsidising the price of food they believe it is corruption that has allowed this increases to flow through to the public. As one of the proposed solutions the organisers demanded more farmers markets where consumers can meet producers and cut out the “greedy” middle-man.
Speaking at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in Monterey, California, Energy guru Amory Lovins suggested that the United States can win the “oil depletion endgame” by reducing its energy consumption rather than winning wars against other energy hungry nations. He cites the design of lightweight automobiles among other technology solutions that can vastly reduce the energy consumption in the US without destroying the economy or undermining the existing way of life. As most cars weigh more than ten times the occupants, ninety percent of the energy used by existing automobiles is spent on moving the vehicle rather than the passenger. The TED conference has been running for thirteen years and endeavours to present the most influential speakers of our times.
After winning an election against a Prime Minister he accused of backflipping on climate change, the new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is now praising the US for its “flexibility” on climate policy. The United States almost derailed the climate conference in Bali, refusing to participate in discussions that did not force India, Brazil and China to commit to reductions in Greenhouse emissions. Kevin Rudd has praised the US for its last minute compromise that allowed an agreed statement to be released, even though European nations and green activists were disappointed that the final agreement contains no specific targets. Nations leading the way on opposing climate change are concerned that Australia will become an advocate for the US position, instead of a powerful influence forcing the US to follow the rest of the world in taking specific action to reverse global warming.
Scientists at the Salk Institute in the US have released results of a study on fruit flies which indicate that the activity in which body cells consume themselves, known as autophage – self eating- may be a key process that limits ageing. For a long time it has been considered that the autophage process was a cause of many facets of ageing. The latest results indicate that it probably accelerates as we age because it reverses some of the effects of ageing. It appears that by cleaning up the accumulated toxins in these ageing cells by eating them, autophaging may prevent the onset of diseases like Alzheimers.
That was Energy Matters News on the Generator, Bay FM 99.9 one tenth of a degree below boiling. I’m Charlie Starret. Energy Matters news is available daily through ebono.org.