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How CRISPR works: what could possibly go wrong? In fact, an awful lot, as it turns out. Image: James atmos via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).

CRISPR and the three myths of precise genome editing

Jonathan Latham, PhD / Independent Science News

25th April 2016

The very term 'genetic engineering' implies high precision in the alterations made to genes and deep understanding of their consequences, writes Jonathan Latham. In fact, we have never had either. And even with the arrival of CRISPR and other 'gene editing' systems, that remains the case: technologists are thrashing about in a perilous sea of unfathomable complexities and unknowable outcomes. more...
From front cover of 'Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming' by Andreas Malm (Verso Books).

Fossil Capital: the rise of steam power and the roots of global warming

Irma Allen

27th April 2016

We all know that coal and steam vanquished over water power in Britain's - and the world's - industrial revolution, writes Irma Allen. But as Andreas Malm sets out in his fascinating new book, the deciding factors in that victory were the unconstrained mastery over people and nature that coal provided mill owners. And so the model was set for the fossil age that may only now be coming to an end. more...
Under construction: the New Safe Confinement arch at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, 23rd October 2013. Photo: Tim Porter via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA).

Chernobyl entombed: new sarcophagus aims to make site safe for 100 years

Claire Corkhill

26th April 2016

The Chernobyl sarcophagus which has long contained the fissured reactor core is at risk of collapse, writes Claire Corkhill. The solution: build a pair of tracked arches 260m wide and 100m high, and slide them over the site to enclose it for a century to come: so creating a sealed space for robots and remotely operated machinery to deconstruct the reactor and sarcophagus piece by radioactive piece. more...
Image of CRISPR / Cas9. Image: NHGRI. via ja.wikimedia.org (Public Domain).

New GMOs are 'not GM' - EU folds under US pressure

Oliver Tickell

21st April 2016

The EU Commission has caved in to US pressure in TTIP trade talks by deciding to consider organisms modified by new 'gene editing' techniques as non-GM - in violation of the EU's own laws. The move could make the 'new GMOs' exempt from labeling and from health and environmental testing. more...
So cute! Two month old snow leopard cubs at the Cat Survival Trust in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, UK. Photo: dingopup via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Saving the Earth? I think there's an App for that

Paul Jepson, University of Oxford

21st April 2016

Consumer environmentalism aligns conservation with modern consumer culture, writes Paul Jepson, offering NGOs the means to reach new people and generate new funding streams. But it risks ever more shallow public engagement and digital activism where masses of people back 'solutions' that only make themselves feel good. more...
Large wind and solar farms can be planned and built in 2-3 years (compared with 10-15 years for nuclear) and are ready now to replace fossil and nuclear electricity. Photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND)

Renewable energy versus nuclear: dispelling the myths

Mark Diesendorf

19th April 2016

Don't believe the spurious claims of nuclear shills constantly doing down renewables, writes Mark Diesendorf. Clean, safe renewable energy technologies have the potential to supply 100% of the world's electricity needs - but the first hurdle is to refute the deliberately misleading myths designed to promote the politically powerful but ultimately doomed nuclear industry. more...
The nuclear show must go on! Sign for the Atomic Theater at the Museum of Science & Technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, USA. Photo: Joel Kramer via Flickr (CC BY).

'New' nuclear reactors? Same old story

Amory Lovins

12th April 2016

The nuclear industry is forever reinventing itself with one brilliant 'new' idea after another, Amory Lovins wrote in this classic 2009 essay. But whether it's touting the wonders of future SMRs, IFRs or LFTRs, the reality never changes: the reactors they are building right now are over time, over budget and beset by serious, entirely unforeseen technical problems. more...
It took centuries of smoking before tobacco's link to cancer was proven - so how come 20 years of eating GMO's 'proves' they are safe? Photo: Ximena Salazar via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

The Precautionary Principle: the basis of a post-GMO ethic

Rupert Read

18th April 2016

GMOs have been in our diets for about 20 years, writes Rupert Read. Proof that they are safe? No way - it took much, much longer to discover the dangers of cigarettes and transfats, dangers that are far more visible than those of GMOs. On the scale of nature and ecology, 20 years is a pitifully short time. To sustain our human future, we have to think long term. more...
Hiroaki Koide (小出裕章さん) speaking at EcoLaboCamp on Mt Takao, August 2007. Photo: Hanako via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Koide Hiroaki: an insider's exposé of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

Katsuya Hirano & Hirotaka Kasai / Asia-Pacific Journal

17th March 2016

Koide Hiroaki has spent his entire career as a nuclear engineer, and has become a central figure in Japan's movement for the abolition of nuclear power plants. He met with Katsuya Hirano and Hirotaka Kasai to discuss the catastrophic nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima Daaichi in March 2011, and the crimes and cover-ups committed both before and after the event. more...
The Xindayang D2 at its launch last June. Photo: Geely Holdings / Xindayang.

China's electric vehicle boost drives global transport revolution

Kieran Cooke

10th March 2016

Improved technology and falling costs are moving electric car sales into the fast lane as manufacturers seek achieve significant economies of scale, writes Kieran Cooke. And now China is leading the EV charge with its plans for 5 million plug-in vehicles by 2020. more...
30 protestors from Chard, Ilminster, Glastonbury, Bristol and Shepton Mallet occupied EDFs premises at Cannington Court today, urging EDF to cancel it's long-delayed Hinkley C project. While some protestors scaled a wall and went inside, others blockaded

EDF's Hinkley C offices occupied as UK nuclear hopes wither

Oliver Tickell

15th February 2016

An occupation of EDF's site office for Hinkley C turned into a celebration today as the EDF Board postponed its 'final investment decision' for the tenth time. With strong opposition among French unions and the project afflicted by severe technical and financial problems, it's not just Hinkley that's going down, but the UK's entire nuclear programme. more...
Aedes Aegypti mosquito feeding on human blood. Photo: James Gathany via jentavery on Flickr (CC BY).

Pandora's box: how GM mosquitos could have caused Brazil's microcephaly disaster

Oliver Tickell

1st February 2016

In Brazil's microcephaly epidemic, one vital question remains unanswered: how did the Zika virus suddenly learn how to disrupt the development of human embryos? The answer may lie in a sequence of 'jumping DNA' used to engineer the virus's mosquito vector - and released into the wild four years ago in the precise area of Brazil where the microcephaly crisis is most acute. more...

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Another Chernobyl? The Centrale Nucléaire de Tihange in Belgium was closed down a year ago after the discovery of 16,000 cracks in its reactor vessel. Now the government wants to start it up again. Photo: grotevriendelijkereus via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Nuclear renaissance? Failing industry is running flat out to stand still

Dr Jim Green

30th January 2016

Despite the endless rhetoric about a 'nuclear renaissance', there are fewer power reactors today than there were a decade ago, writes Jim Green. The one country with a really big nuclear build program is China, but no one expects it to meet its targets. And with over 200 reactor shut-downs due by 2040, the industry will have to run very hard indeed just to stay put. more...
A schematic of how hydrogenase catalyst can be used reversibly to produce hydrogen, and 'burn' it in a fuel cell. Image: Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Biology, Humboldt University, Berlin.

'Green platinum' catalyst promises cheap fuel cells, emission-free fuels

Tim Radford

11th February 2016

Advanced new catalysts are poised to stimulate a clean energy revolution, writes Tim Radford. An organic replacement for the precious metal platinum would allow surplus electricity to be cheaply converted into hydrogen fuel, then burnt in low cost fuel cells to propel 'green' vehicles and generate power on demand. more...
Australian farmer Geoffrey Carracher, who is against GM farming, with some canola seed that has been cross contaminated with GM seed from a nearby farm. Photo: Craig Sillitoe via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

GM 2.0? 'Gene-editing' produces GMOs that must be regulated as GMOs

Janet Cotter & Ricarda Steinbrecher

13th January 2016

The EU is considering the exclusion of gene-edited plants and animals from GM regulations, write Janet Cotter & Ricarda Steinbrecher. However gene-edited organisms clearly fall within the definition of GMOs in both European and international law. They also present real risks to the environment and human health - and must be regulated like any other GMOs. more...
Dr. Shanta Karki studies rice plants being grown at IRRI's Biotech labs, which have worked on the development of Golden Rice. From the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

How GMO lobbyists taught me we're winning

Claire Robinson / GMWatch

11th January 2016

GMO promoters enthuse about how GM crops will be able to help the poor and hungry, far in the future, writes Claire Robinson. But they are silent about the currently-planted GM crops - 99% of them herbicide-tolerant or insecticidal. Could it be because opponents of the technology are being proved right at every turn? more...
Water cannon deployed against a March for Education in Chile, 9th August 2011. Next time, it could be drones armed with incapacitating chemical agents. Photo: Mauricio Ulloa via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

War and police? Drones, chemicals and political repression

Paul Rogers

10th January 2015

A fusion of drone systems and chemical agents is set to transform the landscape of combat for states and non-state actors alike, writes Paul Rogers. These technologies won't just be used for warfare, but for 'public order' ... suppressing riots, protests and political dissent. Forget water cannon - this is the real deal. more...
Nothing wrong with nuclear fusion - but let's just keep it gravitationally contained, and 150 million kilometres away! A solar tower in Nevada, USA, harnessing the power of the sun. Photo: Rick Bolin via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Nuclear fusion is great - gravitationally contained, and 150 million km away

Linda Pentz Gunter

9th December 2015

ITER, the elusive and multi-million dollar fusion fantasy, was yet another nuclear chimera introduced at the Paris COP21 climate talks as a 'solution' to our climate crisis, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. But the idea is pure fantasy: long before it can be made to work, if it ever can, it will have been made obsolete by harnessing the power of our giant fusion reactor in the sky: the Sun. more...
Responding to climate change is all about replacing or adapting our established energy infrastructure. Photo: Jes via Fliclr (CC BY-SA).

How fast can the world transition to a low-carbon energy system?

Paul N Edwards, University of Michigan

30th November 2015

As world leaders convene in Paris for the COP21 climate summit, the major task before them is to replace fossil energy generation with renewables, writes Paul N Edwards - and with the right incentives, it could happen fast. For developing countries it's different: they could skip over fossil fuels much as they have gone straight for mobile telephony. But will they seize the opportunity? more...
With lithium-air batteries, this Tesla EV could travel from Boston to Washington DC, or from London to Edinburgh, on a single charge. Photo: Niall Kennedy via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Li-air battery could make oil obsolete in ten years

The Ecologist

23rd November 2015

Sooner than it takes to build a nuclear power station, lithium-air batteries could be helping wind and solar to make coal, oil and nuclear obsolete, say Cambridge scientists. Five times lighter and five times cheaper than current lithium batteries, Li-air would open the way to our 100% renewable future. more...
Nuclear power plant at Ohi, Japan. It may be gleaming and impressive looking, but the plant stands near several active seismic faults and lacks adequate protection against earthquakes. Photo: Kansai Electric Power Co. via IAEA Imagebank on Flickr (CC BY-S

Don't nuke the climate! James Hansen's nuclear fantasies exposed

Dr Jim Green

20th November 2015

NASA scientist James Hansen is heading to COP21 in Paris to berate climate campaigners for failing to support 'safe and environmentally-friendly nuclear power', writes Jim Green. But they would gladly support nuclear power if only it really was safe and environment friendly. In fact, it's a very dangerous and hugely expensive distraction from the real climate solutions. more...
Photo: Greg Lilly via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

An activists' guide to the 'Snooper's Charter' - and what to do about it

Paul Mobbs

12th November 2015

The recently announced Snoopers Charter 2.0 gives the state enormous powers to delve into our lives, writes Paul Mobbs. And all the more so when combined with other data to which the government has access - by simply buying it from commercial providers. If you don't like the idea, it's time to get your systems secure and shrink your digital data trail. more...
DCNS and Nass&Wind designed this 'Winflo' floating wind turbine.

With floating platforms, offshore wind cost set to plunge

Paul Brown

11th November 2015

Floating wind turbines offer huge falls in the cost of offshore wind power, writes Paul Brown, and could be generating power in UK waters at well under the cost of new nuclear by 2020, provided adequate support. more...
This slag heap in northern France could contain enough alkaline waste to sequester half a million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. Photo: Guillaume 📷 DELEBARRE via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Industrial wastes could capture 1Gt a year of CO2 emissions

Helena I. Gomes, Mike Rogerson & Will Mayes

15th November 2015

The world produces over a billion tonnes a year of dangerously caustic wastes, write Helena Gomes, Mike Rogerson & Will Mayes. They are currently being dumped, although they could be used to sequester a gigatonne of CO2 from the atmosphere - while also yielding minerals essential for key renewable energy technologies. more...
Solar panels, and the price we pay for them, have already fallen to earth. Coming up next, batteries. Photo: International Space Station, 2011, by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Batteries and renewables - believe the hype!

Helle Abelvik-Lawson / Greenpeace Energydesk

5th November 2015

What's the new 'big thing' in energy? Of course, cheap, abundant solar power is very new and very big. But to make it work on a really large scale we need to be able to store its energy to use when we need it, not just when the sun is shining. Soon the batteries will be there to make that possible - at a price we can afford. And that will be a very big thing, indeed. more...

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