Biomass key for low-carbon energy, spurs food prices
Greater use of woody fuels is vital to slash global carbon emissions but fast advances in crop yields will be needed to avoid driving up food prices, members of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found.
Biofuels are already widely used in the United States, Europe and Brazil to substitute for gasoline and diesel, but are made from crops including sugar, oilseeds and corn which has driven concerns they are stoking food prices.
That has led to calls for more advanced versions, made from woody biomass from trees and grasses like miscanthus, which can also be burned in furnaces to generate heat and power.
The comprehensive study of food, water, forest and energy impacts, published online on Thursday, found biomass could help the world meet ambitious carbon emissions targets but threatened natural forests and wildlife and could drive food prices higher.
The paper concluded that biomass made most sense in an approach that protected natural forests, piling even more pressure on farmland and so depending on yield advances to avoid deadly food price spikes in the future. (Reuters)
Citing a Lack of Usage, Costco Removes E.V. Chargers
Costco, the membership warehouse-club chain, was an early leader in offering electric-vehicle charging to its customers, setting an example followed by other retailers, including Best Buy and Walgreen. By 2006, Costco had installed 90 chargers at 64 stores, mostly in California but also some in Arizona, New York and Georgia. Even after General Motors crushed its EV1 battery cars, the Costco chargers stayed in place.
Yet just as plug-in cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt enter the market, Costco is reversing course and pulling its chargers out of the ground, explaining that customers do not use them.
“We were early supporters of electric cars, going back as far as 15 years. But nobody ever uses them,” said Dennis Hoover, the general manager for Costco in northern California, in a telephone interview. “At our Folsom store, the manager said he hadn’t seen anybody using the E.V. charging in a full year. At our store in Vacaville, where we had six chargers, one person plugged in once a week.”
Mr. Hoover said that E.V. charging was “very inefficient and not productive” for the retailer. “The bottom line is that there are a lot of other ways to be green,” he said. “We have five million members in the region, and just a handful of people are using these devices.” (NYT)