Get the cotton: The 1.5 kg of oil that BARC's new superabsorbent cotton can soak up per 1 gm of its own weight could of great use to marine conservationists | Photo: IB Times

BARC develops biodegradable superabsorbent to soak up oil spills

India’s nuclear research institute, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), reported that it has developed a cotton-based superabsorbent that could soak up a minimum of 1.5 kg of oil (from water) with just 1 gm of the material. The absorbent is super oleophilic (attracts oil) and can be reused 50-100 times before being allowed to biodegrade. Its applications could extend to cleaning up municipal wastewater and cleaning up oil spills on roads and at oil stations. 

The product is reportedly also highly weather-resistant and can be packed and stored commercially. Its patent was granted in December 2020.

Shutting down 50% of India’s coal plants would cost $32-48 billion

The Council on Energy Environment and Water (CEEW) released an important study which finds that the early decommissioning of 50% of India’s coal plants (130 power stations) would cost the government between ₹2.31 lakh crore ($32 billion) and ₹3.50 lakh crore ($48 billion). This works out to between ₹2.3 crore/MW ($ 0.33 million/MW) and ₹3.7 crore/MW ($ 0.51 million/MW), and the cost would include buying out the debt and equity components of the plants’ existing financing. 

However, paying out their workforce over their assumed years of operational life would increase the cost by ₹57,490 crore ($ 7.8 billion). Yet, the exercise would unlock ₹0.11 crore/MW/year ($15,450/MW/year) in annual savings. 

5% of coal plants responsible for 73% of global energy sector emissions 

A new study by the University of Colorado (Boulder) found that 73% of the global power sector emissions came from a mere 5% of all coal plants, and six out of the 10 most polluting plants were in East Asia. The other four were evenly split between India and Europe and each of them was located in the “global north”. Poland’s 27-year-old Bełchatów plant was the world’s most carbon intensive plant in operation as it emits around 28-76% more carbon per unit of energy than its less polluting counterparts. 

The study suggested that offsetting the emissions of the most polluting units would collectively reduce up to 49% of global energy sector emissions, and offsetting the emissions of the remainder of the coal fleet would help the US, South Korea, Japan and Australia clean up up to 80% of their power generation. 

Greenland chooses to opt out of oil and gas exploration over climate impacts

The government of Greenland has chosen not to allow any oil and gas exploration activities off of its coastline as it was concerned about the impact climate change would have on its territory. Calling it a “natural step”, the government has instead come out in favour of renewable energy, even though the US Geological Survey estimates that the island is home to around 17.5 billion barrels of oil and up to 148 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. 

Greenland is also a territory of Denmark, from which it receives around $540 million every year in subsidies, and any significant source of independent income could help strengthen its demand for independence. 

Shell to appeal court ruling on mandatory emission cuts 

Oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell confirmed that it would appeal the ruling handed out to it by a Dutch court on May 26, that ordered it to slash emissions by 45% by 2030 (over 2019 levels). The ruling was hailed as a landmark decision as it requires Shell to significantly step up its emissions reduction efforts and realise actual cuts, instead of expanding its operations but gradually reducing their emissions intensity. Shell’s CEO said that he agreed that an accelerated transition to net zero is needed, but “a court judgment, against a single company, is not effective. What is needed are clear, ambitious policies that will drive fundamental change across the whole energy system.”

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