Nature & Environment

Topic – Environment (Electricity)

A comparison between the energy supply of Germany, France, Spain and Sweden.

Germany

Only four of the world’s countries consume more energy than Germany which in 2010 imported around three quarters of its needs in primary energy (everything except for electricity and heating). More than a third of the total energy consumption is made up of oil, around a quarter of natural gas, one quarter of coal and a tenth of nuclear power.

The production of coal has decreased since 1989. The state support for the mining industry has been cut; unprofitable coal mines in the east have been closed down and strict rules have been implied to limit the environmental damages. Due to the before mentioned actions, Germany now has to import coal.

Normally, Germany has a surplus of electricity. About half of the generated electricity in 2010 came from fossil-fired power plants, while almost a quarter consisted of nuclear power. Germany is among the leading countries in the world when it comes to developing renewable energy sources. The country produces a large portion of the world”s solar cells and wind turbines. 2011 a fifth of the electricity produced came from renewable energy sources. The aim is that renewable energy will count for half of the generated electricity in 2030. The government in Berlin decided in 2008 that Germany, which already had the most wind power in the world, would have built 2,000 new wind farms in the Baltic- and North Sea until 2020.
Germany is the first major industrialized nation in the world who is planning to phase out all its nuclear power. In 2001, the country decided to close the 17 nuclear reactors by the year 2022. The decision was temporarily torn up in 2010 but was reintroduced after the nuclear disaster in Japan in spring 2011, when Germany shut down eight reactors. The archaic nuclear reactors in the former East Germany were closed in the 1990’s for safety reasons.

As a leading nation in environmental protection, recycling and energy-saving measures, Germany undertook in 1998 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent in 2010 compared to 1990’s levels. The aim was near in 2007, and thus, Germany decided to cut carbon dioxide emissions by a further 20 percent by 2020. The ambitious program for greenhouse gases has also caused concern in parts of the German industry, which fears that it will lose competitiveness.

The main reason that Germany did that well was that many coal-fired power plants and industrial plants without cleaning equipment in the former East Germany were closed down or were upgraded. Other environmental problems remain, not only in East Germany. Among other things, a large part of the water is polluted, and less than half of the groundwater meets the government”s environmental standard

France

France has assets in many minerals, but the quantities are limited. The once so extensive extraction of coal phased out completely in 2004, although higher oil and gas prices meant that the government had given the go-ahead to re-open the coal mines again. The assets of oil and natural gas are small. For their energy supply, France is largely dependent on nuclear power.

To reduce the dependency on oil, France has invested in nuclear power. The country is the world”s largest nuclear power producer per capita. Nuclear power counts for over three-quarters of the electricity generated. In 2011, the government decided on a major investment in yet another investment in nuclear energy, in spite of warnings after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. But after François Hollande”s admission as president in 2012 it was planned to rather phase-out old reactors. The Socialist Party wants to close the oldest reactors by 2025 and reduce the share of nuclear energy of electricity generated to about 50 percent. Hydropower counts for over a tenth of the electricity generated.

Spain

The country imports about 80 percent of its total energy consumption; mainly oil and gas, but also some coal. The country”s coal production will be phased out by 2018 because the extraction is expensive and coal is of poor quality.

The domestic energy production consists of a mixture of gas, nuclear power, coal and renewable sources. In 2010, a third of the production came from renewable energy such as hydropower and wind power (where Spain is the world leader); nearly a third of gas, one-fifth from nuclear power, over eight percent from coal and more than five percent from oil. Most subsidies are given to solar energy, which is still a small sector.

More recently, reserves of oil off the Canary Islands and shale gas in the Basque Country have been discovered. Spain also has a good capacity to receive liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Sweden

The energy consumption in the cold Sweden is high, but the use of fossil fuels is relatively low. Hydropower, nuclear power and bio fuels have enabled a reduction in oil imports.

The cold climate, an electricity demanding industry and the long distances contribute to that Sweden has a high energy consumption. The use of renewable energy is relatively high, more than a third, while the use of fossil fuel is low in an international perspective. Since the 1970’s, Sweden aims to reduce their dependency on oil and its share of the total energy consumption has since fallen from two thirds to one third. Today, oil is mainly used in the transport sector, while the industry largely uses bio fuels and heat production is powered with electric and district heating. In district heating plants bio fuels are primarily used with some fossil fuels, but also heat pumps and waste heat from the industry. Among bio fuels there is burning of garbage, residues from forestry and forest industries as well as energy crops.

Cheap hydroelectric power was a major factor in Sweden”s industrial development and is still central to the production of electricity. Hydro and nuclear power count for nearly 90 percent of the total production. Wind power is being expanded at a rapid pace, making up about 4 percent in 2011.

Nuclear power has been controversial for a long time. Following a referendum in 1980, the Parliament decided that all nuclear plants would be phased out completely by 2010. After several years of political discussions the decision was repealed in 1997, but a nuclear power plant was shut down completely in 2005. A new energy agreement was reached in 2009 meaning that existing nuclear power plants may be replaced with new ones, but without government subsidies.

Conclusions

The countries have very different conditions, but common to all is that they are working hard to phase out fossil fuels. Both Germany and Spain are world leaders in the development of renewable energy and Germany”s objectives stand out most clearly, even in relation to all the countries in the world. As for nuclear power, one can divide these four countries in two groups. Spain and Germany are working to find alternative energy sources to nuclear power, while Sweden and France are committed to developing it. France is approaching the fastest and is directly dependent on nuclear power, but is at a crossroads with the new president”s admission. It will be interesting to follow the developments. Sweden, with its long winters, has been trying to phase out nuclear power, but has not been able to replace it with renewable energy. However, development is progressing rapidly even if the goal of phasing out nuclear power no longer exists.

For Germany, the disaster in Japan meant a crucial turning point – nuclear power should be scrapped entirely. No country in the world seems to be better placed to meet this goal, in that they are world leaders in developing renewable energy sources. However, what can be a bit worrying is if nuclear energy is replaced by fossil fuels. What speaks against this is Germany”s extremely ambitious aim to reduce carbon emissions. In many ways, Germany is exemplary in the world with their aspirations for a better environment. Spain is in a different situation where we have a very small national production of energy. That it is a world leader in wind power, however, indicates that it has an ambitious plan that may change Spain”s dependency on imported energy. It has undeniably excellent conditions for wind power with the huge coastline that the country possesses. It will also be interesting to follow the developments concerning the energy that it is actually importing. Today, most of it consists of energy from fossil fuels – maybe one is able to change the direction even at that topic?

Topic – Water & Nature

In France

Dissolved oxygen 7.6 mg/l or 39 %
konductivity 1931 µS/ cm
pH 7.6
Temp 19.98 ⁰C

In Sweden

Dissolved oxygen 6.5 mg/l or 35 %
Conductivity 20 µS/ cm\r\npH 7.4
Temp 14.5 ⁰C

Conductivity is another word for a capability to lead electricity and is a measurement of how a material can transport electrical charge. Good electrical capability is characteristic for metals. It is usually measured in Siemens per meter. Dissolved oxygen in water is a measurement of how much oxygen there is in a substance. It is essential for all multicellular organisms in the water when it is included as both building material and a kind of energy buffer. If one has a lack of oxygen in the water it can lead to suffocation. A result above 7 is rich in oxygen, between 5-7 is moderately rich in oxygen and then it goes downwards.
pH describes the concentration of hydrogen in a substance. While it, at the same time, measures the acidity of the water. A pH value of 7 is neutral, above 7 up to 14 is alkaline and below 7 going downwards is acidic. However, it is not that simple because a neutral substance can be at
around 6.5 and is still drinkable and it does not harm one’s body.

Conclusions

Both water samples were relatively similar to the values except in conductivity where the water from the Garonne River in Pauillac, France was incredibly higher than in Vänern in Karlstad, Sweden. If one looks at the pH value of lakes and streams, which ranges from around 6-8 on the pH scale, then it is consistent with our results.

Pure water has a low conductivity, a poor capability to lead electricity. The conductivity of the water is dependent on how much dissolved ionic compounds there are. High conductivity can be the result of various influences from the environment, in this case a nuclear power plant in connection to the water. It may also be a result of total oxygen deficiency in the water. It is also significant if the water is fresh or salt, as salt water has more sodium chloride, leading to ionic compounds. This means that it has better conductivity, like the Garonne River because this river flows into the Atlantic Ocean.’, ‘Nature & Environment around 6.5 and is still drinkable and it does not harm one’s body.ConclusionsBoth water samples were relatively similar to the values except in conductivity where the water from the Garonne River in Pauillac, France was incredibly higher than in Vänern in Karlstad, Sweden. If one looks at the pH value of lakes and streams, which ranges from around 6-8 on the pH scale, then it is consistent with our results.Pure water has a low conductivity, a poor capability to lead electricity. The conductivity of the water is dependent on how much dissolved ionic compounds there are. High conductivity can be the result of various influences from the environment, in this case a nuclear power plant in connection to the water. It may also be a result of total oxygen deficiency in the water. It is also significant if the water is fresh or salt, as salt water has more sodium chloride, leading to ionic compounds. This means that it has better conductivity, like the Garonne River because this river flows into the Atlantic Ocean.’, ‘Nature & Environment

Topic – European Herbes

Classic Bavarian Herbes in the Alps

Plantain

• shrub
• rosette of basal elliptical leaves
• long spikes of tiny greenish flowers
• found throughout the Alps
• spread worldwide by the human beings
• very resilient

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kidney vetch

• shrub
• yellow petals
• odd-pinnate leaves
• large end sheet
• Distribution area includes the whole of Europe and North Africa

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round-headed rampion

• shrub
• Protected !!
• rounded flower head
• several flowers per flower head
• Its habitat is Europe from the Pyrenees to the Balkans
• Species is found at altitudes of 2400 meters

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European globeflower

• shrub
• Protected !!
• poisonous
• globe-shaped flowers of 3-5 cm
• Central and Northern Europe

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forget-me-not

• Flower color varies from reddish to blue
• clusters of small flowers
• crown only reddish, then blue
• widespread in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America
• in South America it is only to be found in the extreme south

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morning campion

• shrub
• hairy plant
• poisonous
• pink or white flowers protruding from the hairly calixes
• widespread in Eurasia mainly in the central and northern areas

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valerian

• shrub
• clusters of many pink flowers
• calming effect
• Widely distributed in the temperate zones of Europe, Asia, Africa and America

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red clover

• shrub
• spherical to egg-shaped head
• threefold leat

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heath spotted orchid

• shrub
• Protected!!
• conical
• With spikes of violet flowers
• Stems often red
• It has fleshy roots
• the heath spotted orchid is only to be found in Germany where it is common

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cow parsley

• shrub / herb
• Apiaceae
• hollow stems
• Nodesw on the stem from which the leaves grow
• two to three times pinnate leaves
• Clusters of small white flowers
• In Central Europe common and widespread up to the tree line in the Alps

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Bavarian gentian

• shrub
• Protected!!
• 2-3 cm long flowers
• Stem leaves smaller than basal leaves
• in the mountains of the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere, but also in the Andes. In Europe there are about 35 species. They grow mainly in the Alps

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meadow crane’s bill

• shrub
• two flowers on each stalk
• hand-shaped leaves
• This herb is to be found in Europe and Asia in the meridional and boral climatic zones

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blue bugleweed

• shrub
• With spikes of blue flowers
• shaggy haired
• alternate aromatic leaves
• Is to be found mainly in Central and Eastern Europe. It has spread from France and Italy to Turkey

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Little rattle

• Shrub / herb
• poisonous
• Few leawes shaped like a lance head
• rustling when shaking the ripe plant
• The little rattle is to be found all over Europe including the British Isles from northern Sweden it was introduced in North America

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Bird´s-foot trefoil

• Shrub
• Poisonous for snails (not for mammals)
• edged stems
• Main area of this herb is middle and western Eurasia and the northern Mediterranean area

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crowfoot

• Shrub
• Poisonous
• bright yellow flowers
• Five petals
• Belongs to the buttercup family
• Almost 600 species are to be found all over the world except in the Antarctic
• In Central Europe, you can find over 60 species

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lady’s mantle

• Shrub
• Panicle with yellow-green, small flowers
• Leaf shape is reminiscent of a fan
• With Semi-circular to triangular lobes

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