We know that the aviation industry produces massive carbon emissions. In fact, all forms of travel requiring fossil fuels are harmful to the environment. There are programs now to offset your travel footprint, and more people are more aware of travelling smarter, lighter and even less. But what about our travel to and from airports – is there a greener way to say goodbye?
Studies in UK airports, trying to reduce the impact of travel to and from airports, have come up with some innovative ideas to cut emissions, including:
Audio/video facilities at airports for people to say hi and bye from home
Encouraging people to drive to airports less to say goodbye to loved ones
Situating luggage drop-offs in city centres and train stations, while making it easier to use public transport to travel to airports
Internet and mobile phone-based info-sharing services to promote car-sharing among airport users
Having hosted over 100 foreign students and visiting friends in the last 5 years, we have lost count of the times we picked up and dropped off people to and from the airport. When I think of the emissions I produced just in driving around Brisbane domestic and international airport terminals, waiting for people to arrive (because there were no or little convenient places to park and wait – and not wanting to waste money or time parking), I cringe. These days, except for special friends and family, we encourage everyone to take taxis or public transport to reduce emissions, congestion and my stress!
Queensland, the sunshine state, is also being promoted as the solar state, but how much of this new Qld Government campaign is true? The reality of Qld’s renewable energies, especially solar, is sadly mostly illusion.
So what is true?
Only about 2% of Qld’s electricity comes from renewable sources
Historically, our energy comes from burning a by-product of sugar production
88% of Qld’s electricity comes from mining and burning coal, which is Qld’s giant industry
The remaining 10% of electricity comes from another fossil-fuel source – gas
The state of Qld emits more greenhouse gases per person than anywhere else in Australia (and Australia emits more greenhouse gases per person than any other developed country)
While Qld’s coal reserves are massive, they are not limitless, but our solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy resources are mostly limitless, and definitely more sustainable and valuable than coal in the long term. The government’s collective small measures to cut emissions does appear greener to Queenslanders, but is just distracting us from the larger issue of Qld’s carbon addiction. Qld may be the Sunshine State, but we are not the Solar State by a long shot, and to promote Qld as such is deceptive and misleading to the public. The reality is, the government is yet not serious about this issue. Australia is a mountain of coal surrounded by a sea of gas, but sunshine should be number 1.
In April 2010, the government vowed to double solar energy use across Qld within 5 years, from 250MW to 500MW, which would be 4% of Qld’s current power. So small changes are happening, but are they happening is it fast enough?
A few things that are happening include:
Since its big solar push started in July 2008, around 32,000 homes and small businesses have installed solar systems
Not-for-profit group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has issued a 200-page report to help Qld join an Australia-wide effort to produce all our electricity from renewable energy in just 10 years
Renewable energy technology is already being used in many places around the world, and has been for a long time, so it is more than possible and available
Qld could transition easily to Concentrated Solar Thermal power, which could generate around two thirds of all our power
This technology uses mirrors to reflect the sun’s power onto towers, storing energy in molten salt for up to 17 hours, which then heats steam to drive turbines
When combined with wind and hydropower, this would give Qld more than 22,000MW of electricity – well beyond the 14,000MW Qld will need by 2020
Consumers could pay around 6.5c/kW hour extra, which is similar to the rise we could expect for non-renewable energy now
The only obstacle to this transition will be political, from the government and from big mining companies, who are still transitioning from the ‘old economy’