IHS Chemical Week


Copenhagen (day 6 of summit): Boats, Trains and Automobiles

4:38 AM MST | December 14, 2009 | By ALEX SCOTT

The Copenhagen United Nations climate summit arguably is the world’s most important peace time meeting of the past 50 years. With so much at stake for the chemicals industry (as well as the planet), unlike CW’s direct competitors, it was decided early on that the magazine would send a correspondent to the event.


In a nod to the intentions of the meeting to reel in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when I booked my travel arrangements back in June, I chose to go by 100% biodiesel car, boat and then train. No planes.


The flight time from London to Copenhagen is approximately 2 hours and generates (including return) 0.7 m.t. of CO2 (including nitrous oxide impact in the upper atmosphere). I would also have taken 60 miles round trip to and from the airport by car adding approximately a further 15kg of CO2.


By contrast, my multi-vehicle journey will have taken me (I am still 2 hours off the Danish port of Esbjerg) 25 hours and 20 minutes and is set to generate 175kg of CO2 (see breakdown below).


* Biodiesel Car 232 miles (373km) at 120 grams/km x 0.15 (as calculated by climate statistician Chris Goodall in ‘How to Live a Low-carbon Life.’  = 6.7kg of CO2

* Passenger ferry for 1,222 kms = 152 kg (according to www.carbonindependent.org)

* Train for 440 miles (708km) return = 16.2 kg of CO2.


The biodiesel I used in my car is not yet the second generation cellulosic biofuel that several key players in the chemicals industry are set to roll out in 2010, although it is as sustainable having been made from waste cooking oil including used oil for cooking French fries and fish. The only downside is the slight smell of fish and fries.


Before you accuse me of powering my car on nothing more than self satisfaction I readily put my hands up and acknowledge that this saving is just a drop in the CO2 ocean. But it’s a start and a point to myself that there are alternatives.

Journeyman: Alex Scott with a tankful of 100% biodiesel.


The less carbon intensive journey seemed like a good idea at the time. Yet as the voyage neared I became keenly aware of the weeks of constant gales that had been screaming over my route in the North Sea, which lies between Great Britain and Denmark. As luck would have it this Sunday and Monday (the time of my crossing) the sea has been as flat as a millpond. There has still been plenty of screaming though-only it’s been the more annoying type made by the younger inhabitants of cabins situated on both sides of mine. Not so lucky. On the upside, the boat has just announced over the tanoy that “wine tasting has just begun in the ship’s a la carte restaurant. Now that’s a service you don’t often get offered on a plane, especially at 10 am in the morning (9am U.K. time so even for a seasoned journalist that is early).


I am slightly over half way to Copenhagen from my CW home office start located halfway between London and Oxford in the U.K. My expectations are mixed: Many of the world’s leaders, including President Obama, are due to participate in the meeting as the summit reaches its zenith on Friday 18th December. As I write this an historic agreement is still in reach but there are signs that there remains a major gap between the positions of developing and developed countries. At this point in time the probability is that the summit could go either way. This is unlike the consensus of climate science which indicates that we only have one option-to take action over climate change now.



CW’s correspondence from Copenhagen has been sponsored by sustainable chemicals firm Genomatica.




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