Pragmatic Environmentalist: Watching the Public Fall for Environmental "Feel Good" Scams and Spam

A couple of years ago I wrote this post. Everyone seems to be in a general state of denial about this problem with charging these vehicles in Poland. This is classic "green wash" (the superficial appearance of being environmentally- conscious). The latest green wash is plastic straw bans. Most all of the plastic in the ocean comes from emerging economies where there is often not even household waste service (everyone dumps everything). Plastic in the EU and US will end up in landfill, waste recovery plant or being recycled. Only a small fraction is capable of being recycled, which itself uses more energy than it saves. Plastic bans in the West will do nothing about plastics in the ocean except make people feel good about themselves, i.e. more virtue-signaling. Just like eliminating all US carbon emissions will only reduce temperature by 0.03 degrees under the UN IPCC's own model: a change that will be quickly swept away by events. The full achievement of the Paris Accor…
The EU Commission continues its battle with Poland over air pollution.  The air in Poland makes up 33 of the 50 worst urban areas in the EU. Emissions from coal plants, old cars, and household burning are the culprits.

Changing things will require a lot more than electric cars now being encouraged, since they remain charged by coal fired power plants and actually increase emissions.

I don't think that it really any plan in Poland to do anything different. If there is, it is not clearly in public right now and certainly will not be dramatic enough to work any time soon.

    Remediation of contaminated land by the use of plants that take up the pollutants is a very promising new approach. Phytoremediation relies on plants that can tolerate growing in contaminated soil and also have the ability to take the pollutants out of the soil. They are harvested and re-planted as necessary until the level of contamination comes within the targeted concentrations.

   “Phytoremediation is based on the use of natural or genetically modified  plants capable of extracting hazardous substances i.e. heavy metals including radionuclides, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons from the environment and turning them into safe compounds.” Mahar (2016). “Phytoremediation is emerging as an efficient treatment technology that uses plants to bioremediate pollutants from soil environments…phytoremediation of organics appears a very promising technology for the removal of contaminants from polluted soi…


It is finally being acknowledged that Poland will miss the 2020 target for its share of renewable energy and will face a cost of up to 8 billion PLN.  The facts have been recognized by the Supreme Audit Office which suggested the huge cost of having to buy green energy from other EU member states.

The comes largely because Poland squander its first eleven billion zlotys in RES support by giving the funding to existing coal-fired power plants that added biomass fuel and to existing hydro plants that were already built before the RES obligation was even imagined. No new capacity for generation of renewable energy was created by this policy and the share of RES it promoted was largely temporary (as power plants closed or stopped burning biomass). The suppression of other technologies by deflated green certificate prices and the delays caused by the auction procedures thwarted new projects for years.  

Now the Polish Government is apparently accepting the notion of green energy, but only af…


Note: A shorter version of this post will appear as an article in ReSource Magazine (South Africa).

Discussions of hazardous waste in Africa all come down to the same issue: how to get from an essentially unregulated situation to a well-regulated system with adequate commercial waste management capacity.In some ways, the prevalence of open dumping of municipal wastes mask a possibly larger problem. As rules tighten, the incentives to avoids or ignore the rules grows. The plethora of new hazardous wastes rules in Africa creates huge incentives for non-compliance. These incentives reach a crisis level when there are few or no legal alternatives within many African countries and the ability to export the waste to better facilities in other African countries is overly restrictive. We will likely find that the literal mountains of municipal waste in open dumps have provided a low-cost – if illegal – option for hazardous waste dumping. Vast territory and limited enforcement capacities in Afr…

Renewable Energy Constructions Lags Due to Auction Mechanism

You always hate to say later that your dire prediction was correct. Few folks get credos for being the bearers of bad news.

But when the auction mechanism was introduced in Poland and the EU a few years ago, many of us predicted that it would impact RES investment in a serious manner. And not for the good.

Ther auction requires projects be permitted and approved and have complete designs and building permits (which in Poland are vastly more detailed than in many other countries). The front-end requirements are serious and more serious for smaller projects, where they are a larger percent of the total investment.

Having cleared those hurdles, you are left with waiting for the auction and then going to construction. The period after the auction to build varies with the type of project, but it is considerable. The financial support for the project needs to be obviously closed in this period, it cannot be closed prior to the auction except in general terms.

So we have delays for project d…

Polish Government Has Systematically Under-Estimated the Difficulty of Switching Support Systems

When the Polish Government began years ago to start the notion of completely changing the support system to an auction and away from Green Certificates, several of us raised issues about the difficulty in making a transition.

The European Commission's movement to auctions was largely sparked by the big utilities - who have huge advantages in this system. See comments of Polish Biogas Association. Smaller projects have disproportionately higher front-end costs and historically do poorly in auction systems wherever they are introduced.

To offset this problem, the Polish law has been amended to provide guarantee support for small biogas projects under 1 MW at a rate that is 90% of the reference price in the auctions. This is an excellent provision, although it is set at a level that is too low to optimize biogas development in Poland across many projects. [We suggested a 2 MW cap]. Most biogas projects selected under the old system were over 1 MW due to improved efficiencies at that …