Tuesday, August 05, 2008

This year the UK Youth Parliament debated which three main issues it would campaign about (see blog 1 May 2008). The winning campaign, about the environment, received 490 votes and is called "Your Future, Your World, Your Fight". Perhaps dropping the 3 Y's might have made the title more meaningful. Newsround didn't report the debate on 2 May 2008 in which 11 year old Chandler Burns said "... The decisions we made yesterday are the reasons we are where we are today. But even more importantly the decision we make today will determine where we are tomorrow. .."

Newsround does regularly report on environmental issues, and today Laura explained how rubbish can be turned into fuel. It seems that the rubbish is heated to a really high temperature and the gas given off is then mixed in with bacteria which turn the gas into a fuel called bioethanol. John McNally from INEOS said that the bioethanol made by this process gives off 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than petrol. A million tonnes of rubbish can produce enough bioethanol for more than a million cars. Newsround displayed a caption which read "It's good for the environment" but is that really true?

Laura explained that countries like Brazil already use ethanol, but it's made using plants grown in places where food could be grown instead, so lots of people think using rubbish makes more sense than using plants. Another important issue with plant ethanol, not mentioned in the Newsround report, is the harmful effect on the environment caused by destruction of rain forests to provide land for fuel production.

Lastly, going back to bioethanol from rubbish and the claim that it gives off 90% less greenhouse gas emissions. Surely loads of energy is needed to heat the rubbish in the first place, so there could be additional greenhouse gasses given off unless the energy to heat it comes from renewable sources such as wind, wave or solar power.

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