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Cheap coal becoming popular
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Coal on the global market is so cheap that it threatens government attempts to tackle climate change, the chairman of the Environment Agency has warned.

Lord Smith says the UK’s share of electricity generated by coal is up to 40% – the highest since 1996.

Unless this trend is curbed, he says, the UK will miss its targets on curbing climate change and sulphur pollution.

The price of coal has been driven down by the dash for shale gas in the US.

Gas is much less polluting than coal, so carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have fallen in the US. But European power generators have gobbled up the resulting cheap coal, driving carbon emissions up in several nations.

The EU's statistical agency Eurostat estimates that from 2011 to 2012, CO2 emissions increased by 3.9% in the UK. The rise is most likely to be due to increased coal burning.

UK emissions of sulphur, which is damaging to health, have risen when they are supposed to be falling.

Lord Smith urges the government to commit to long-term targets to remove almost all carbon pollution from electricity generation by 2030. MPs are due to vote on this issue next week.

He also urges ministers to resist any attempts by power generators to keep open old coal stations which are due to close under an EU directive on air pollution.

Lord Smith said “There’s lots of talk about a dash for gas but in effect we’re in a dash for coal that’s completely unsustainable. The government must ensure it doesn’t continue.”

Lord Smith says it is important the UK develops its own reserves of shale gas, so long as gas power stations are able to store the resulting CO2 emissions in the future.

"If we lock ourselves into gas generation for the next 40 years without capturing the CO2 emissions, we will never meet our targets on climate change,” he said.

"At the current rate of progress we will miss our future carbon budgets."

A government spokesman said measures were in place to ensure new coal power stations could not be built unless they captured their carbon emissions.

There were no plans, he said, to extend the life of old coal power stations

 
3D Engineering revolution
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Provel, owned by the US 3D Systems company, is a parts printer for eyewear, dentures, racing car instrument panels and fully diecast engine components – incredible jewels of technology that would be impossible to reproduce by hand. Here in the foothills of the Alps is an outpost of the new industrial revolution that, in Italy as elsewhere, is growing out of decades of earlier innovation. Provel was set up in the Nineties by a Veneto-born chemist called Giorgio Buson. It makes prototypes for companies that could never have imagined they would be listed together in the Provel order book, including Ferrari, Fiat and Volkswagen’s Italdesign as well as luxury and fashion labels like Pomellato, Gucci, Bulgari and Luxottica, white goods producers Indesit and Electrolux, aircraft manufacturer Aermacchi and denture manufacturers. This is where prototypes of Formula One cars are made for Ferrari (and for its rival Red Bull), of compact saloons for the squeezed middle class, of jewellery for the noveaux riches of Shanghai and of sundry parts for household appliances, aircraft and even the human body.

The advantage is that the prototypes slash time to market. A 3D object is made using an injector which at each pass deposits five or ten hundredths of a millimetre of an acrylic resin, a metal alloy, a wax or a nylon powder. This is consolidated with a laser, or left to cool, and then tested. Until the desired result is achieved. Mr Buson recalls: “In the Seventies, it used to take six years from the designer’s first sketches to release to market. Today, we’re looking at eighteen months, and even that’s shrinking”. 3D prototype printing is the continuation of that race by other means. One Provel with thirty staff at the heart of an industrial system is enough to boost the competitiveness of groups whose combined turnover is worth tens of millions of euros. Printing is done inside machines that look not unlike large fridges. Some groups, Electrolux and Luxottica among them, opted in the end to buy the kit from Provel and carry out this phase of new product development in-house. There are also microwave oven-sized machines costing about a thousand euros for families. They print handles, cutlery, imitation jewellery and chess pieces at a temperature of 190 °C. Provel also supplies the software to design these articles.

Giorgio Buson, 63, was born into a Padua farming family. Nothing about his background hinted that he might end up at the centre of this silent revolution. Nothing, except one detail – the postwar nationalised chemical industry had located Montedison at Porto Marghera. Buson studied chemistry, hoping to find work in the nearby industrial zone, and started out selling resins. One day at a trade fair in Germany, he saw some prototype machines and decided to invest in them. He grew the business using internally generated funds – no bank loans – and eventually found himself working for the Ferrari wind tunnel when Schumacher won seven world titles, partly thanks to aerodynamics. Then in 2010, when 3D Systems of Rock Hill, South Carolina, was looking for a company to invest in to bring printers to Europe, Provel was ready. International capital and technology plus the creativity of a self-made Italian sit at the heart of a living industrial system. Perhaps the din of busy factories could yet ring out again in Italy’s thousands of Pinerolos.

 
Turkey buys Nuke from Japan and France
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The $22bn (£14bn) contract is Japan's first successful bid for an overseas nuclear project since a tsunami wrecked the Fukushima power station.

The deal was signed by visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it would transform relations with Japan into a "strategic partnership".

"What happened at Fukushima upset all of us. But these things can happen. Life goes on. Successful steps are being taken now with the use of improved technology," the Turkish prime minister added.

The deal comes as part of renewed efforts to promote Japanese nuclear technologies abroad, despite concerns over safety.

One of the Japanese firms included in the consortium is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, one of the companies behind the Fukushima plant damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Turkey is also prone to earthquakes, and the government cited Japan's expertise in earthquake protection as one of the factors in signing the deal.

The other firms are Itochu Corporation and French utility group GDF Suez.

Japan is looking to boost exports of its technological expertise as it attempts to increase economic growth and escape two decades of near stagnation.

Fast-growing Turkey, meanwhile, is planning to invest in domestic energy generation to reduce its dependence on imports as the economy expands.

The new nuclear plant will be Turkey's second. It is currently dependent on imported oil and gas to meet 97% of its energy needs.

 
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