North/South relations fractured...
Published: 31 Jul 2013
Fracking should be carried out in the North East of England, where there are large "desolate" areas, according to George Osborne's father-in-law.
Conservative Lord Howell, who was Energy Secretary from 1979 to 1981 and a minister in the Foreign Office responsible for international energy policy between 2010 and 2012, argued there was "plenty of room" for developments and less concern than was the case over "beautiful natural areas."
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", involves drilling deep under ground and releasing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to crack rocks and release gas stored inside. Water companies are worried the process could contaminate drinking water aquifers that lie above shale gas reserves. However, supporters of fracking say it is safe and essential to making the UK more energy self-sufficient. Widespread fracking has not started yet in the UK, with only some exploratory drilling carried out in Lancashire in 2011. Other possible sites have been identified.
During Lords Questions, Lord Howell asked, "Would you accept that it could be a mistake to think of and discuss fracking in terms of the whole of the UK in one go? I mean there obviously are, in beautiful natural areas, worries about not just the drilling and the fracking, which I think are exaggerated, but about the trucks, and the delivery, and the roads, and the disturbance, and those are justified worries. We can't have a situation where it's OK for the South to think these things should happen in the North, or vice versa."
A reasonable argument, until he continued, "But there are large and uninhabited and desolate areas. Certainly in part of the North East where there's plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody's residence, where we could conduct without any kind of threat to the rural environment."
Criticism of Lord Howell's comments have been universal, with bemused people up and down the country posting their own pictures of the beauty of the North East on Twitter, with the hashtag #desolate.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, wrote on Twitter, "North East England very beautiful, rugged, welcoming, inspiring, historic, advancing, not "desolate" as was said in House of Lords today."
Friends of the Earth's Tony Bosworth called the comments "jaw-dropping", adding, "The Government's ill-conceived fracking plans aren't something that can be quietly brushed under the carpet "up North" - as the villages resisting the drillers in the Tory heartlands of England's South show."
North East Chamber of Commerce's director of policy, Ross Smith, said, "To be frank, this is a ridiculous way to describe a region that boasts some of the most beautiful unspoiled countryside in the UK and a host of the most recognisable and cherished landmarks and attractions in the country. However, if the point that Lord Howell is trying to make - albeit in a totally bizarre way - is that the North East has the expertise, the skills and the businesses within our energy sector to help solve the UK's energy issues then I would wholeheartedly agree."
A Government spokesman has since said, "Lord Howell is not a minister and does not speak for the Government. He has not been a Government adviser since April 2013."
US cities struggle to keep their land above water
Published: 30 Jul 2013
Many of the inhabitants of America's cities and towns may soon need a snorkel to get around, a new study has revealed.
By 2100, it is estimated that thousands of US cities and towns, including Boston, New York and Miami will be "locked in" by greenhouse gas emissions built up in the atmosphere.
The survey does not specify a date by which these cities, or parts of them, would actually fall under water. Instead, it specifies a "locked-in" date, by which time a future under water would be certain – a point of no return.
Even if all carbon emissions stopped immediately, it would take some time for the related global temperature rises to ease off. That means the fate of some cities is already sealed, the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says.
"Hundreds of American cities are already locked into watery futures and we are growing that group very rapidly," said Benjamin Strauss, a researcher at Climate Central, and author of the paper. "We are locking in hundreds more as we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere."
The list of threatened communities spans Sacramento, California – which lies far from the sea but would be vulnerable to flooding in the San Joaquin delta – and Norfolk, Virginia. The latter town is home of America's largest navy base, whose miles of waterfront installations would be at risk of being locked in to future sea level rises by the 2040s. The Pentagon has already begun actively planning for a future under climate change, including relocating bases.
But the region at highest risk was Florida, which has dozens of towns which will be locked by century's end. The date of no-return for much of Miami would be 2041, the study found. Half of Palm Beach with its millionaires' estates along the sea front would be beyond saving by the 2060s. The point of no return for other cities such as Fort Lauderdale would come before that.
"Pretty much everywhere it seems you are going to be under water unless you build a massive system of dykes and levees," Strauss said.
Pensioner's milkshake banned from the yard
Published: 29 Jul 2013
It's been a bad few weeks for McDonald's in terms of health and safety. Following their refusal to serve a woman on horseback at their drive-thru in Greater Manchester, a Portsmouth pensioner has now been banned from taking her mobility scooter through a drive-thru in Bedhampton.
Mrs Legg, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is partial to a strawberry milkshake, so popped to the fast food giant on her way back from Asda. She was served, but told she wouldn't be again because of health and safety. She commented, "It wasn't causing a problem was it? I just don’t understand. It's discrimination. I don't want to sue anyone and I don't want free strawberry milkshake for the rest of my life – I just think it should be brought to people’s attention."
She continued, "Health and safety was never created for this sort of ridiculousness – it was to protect people who were working in industry and with machinery."
A spokeswoman for McDonald's said, "Our drive-through lanes are custom built for motor cars, vans and trucks. In line with this policy we do not to serve pedestrians or bicycle riders (or people on horses) at the drive-thru window, for everyone's safety. Customers on mobility scooters cannot be served through the drive-thru lane but are welcome to bring their mobility scooter into the restaurant where possible."
Mrs Legg's stance has been praised by Health and Safety Executive Chair Judith Hackitt. "I salute Kate Legg for challenging officials who cited health and safety as a reason why she couldn't use her mobility scooter at a McDonald's drive-thru. As she points out so eloquently, health and safety regulations are there to ensure workers come home to their loved ones, safe and well, after their day's work - and have nothing to do with this matter. Everyone should follow Kate Legg's lead. Don't accept this nonsense."
For more information, see:
- Hi-no, silver: http://cedr.ec/yq.
Six new SVHCs added to candidate list
Published: 24 Jul 2013
The European Chemical Agency's (ECHA) Member State Committee has reached agreement on the identification of six substances as substances of very high concern (SVHCs).
These six substances have been added to the Candidate List for authorisation as of 20 June 2013. They are:
- cadmium oxide;
- ammonium pentadecafluorooctanoate (APFO);
- pentadecafluorooctanoic acid (PFOA);
- dipentyl phthalate (DPP);
- 4-Nonylphenol, branched and linear, ethoxylated.
For more information see:
Consultation for new substances in the Authorisation List
Published: 24 Jul 2013
The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) is seeking comments on its recommendation of six new substances to be included in the Authorisation List.
- N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF);
- diazene-1,2-dicarboxamide (C,C'-azodi(formamide)) (ADCA);
- aluminosilicate Refractory Ceramic Fibres (Al-RCF);
- zirconia Aluminosilicate Refractory Ceramic Fibres (Zr-RCF);
- bis(pentabromophenyl) ether (decabromodiphenyl ether) (DecaBDE);
- 4-(1,1,3,3-tetramethylbutyl)phenol, ethoxylated (4-tert-Octylphenol ethoxylates) (4-tert-OPnEO).
The consultation is now open and will end on 23 September 2013.
For more information see:
Published: 23 Jul 2013
A rather unusual incident at a McDonalds restaurant in Greater Manchester saw a woman on horseback turned away from their drive-thru kiosk as they are unable to serve customers on horseback for health and safety reasons.
The woman then led the animal inside the restaurant where it reportedly defecated on the floor.
A spokesperson for McDonalds said, "On 20th July a woman allowed her pony to enter our restaurant in Whitefield after being refused service in the drive-thru lane. The incident caused distress to customers and disruption for the restaurant and the police issued the woman with a fixed penalty notice".
They added, "The health and safety of our customers and staff is our top priority and for this reason we are unable to serve pedestrians, bicycle riders or customers on horseback through the drive-thru."