Hamburgers and Beyond
Last night I grilled burgers for my family; a typical meal for a sunny summer Sunday dinner where we live. What wasn’t typical is the meal was entirely vegetarian. My local butcher shop is now carrying Beyond Meat patties as part of their regular line. They can’t keep it in stock. They are amazed at how well it sells and as a butcher shop they told me that it is obvious that consumer demand is changing and their business has to change with it.
The burgers were delicious and even the most carnivorous of our group were satisfied. Everyone liked the taste, the texture and the fact that the food felt lighter and less filling. The Beyond patties are perfect and have earned their place as a staple in my home.
The top story for last week is about this very phenomenon; the death of the traditional beef industry, taken over by what the author calls alt-meat. They call upon a quote attributed to Ghandi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I do not know how far along that continuum the alt-meat industry is, but there is little doubt in my mind that the beef industry is going to change significantly in coming years. It is a polluting, dirty industry that uses more feed than it produces meat. With most of the meat destined for cheeseburgers at fast food restaurants, this carbon intense food is now easily replaced by products like the beyond burger. In fact, just like my local butcher, the fast food restaurants serving Beyond Meat products also have had a tough time keeping it in stock. Will there ever be a viable replacement for steak, bacon, hams or turkey? Nobody knows for sure, but one thing is certain, there is a demand for it and the laws of supply and demand dictate that some company will find a way to fill it.
In other top news stories, Philippine president Duterte announced policies to advance renewable energy deployment to tap the archipelago’s enormous solar, wind, hydropower, ocean and biomass potential, Dutch company Port-Liner is building two giant all-electric barges dubbed the ‘Tesla ships‘, the European Investment Bank has announced an end to multibillion euro financing for fossil fuel projects by the end of next year and restoring the world’s lost forests could remove two thirds of all the planet-warming carbon.
There’s a famous Gandhi aphorism about how movements progress: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” That was actually written by the Workshop on Nonviolence Institute as a summary of Gandhi’s philosophy, but regardless, it’s remarkable how often it accurately describes the evolution of causes, from legal cannabis to gay marriage. I’ve been thinking about that quote since I wrote my first piece about plant-based meat (or alt meat, as I like to call it) for Outside in 2014. Back then, we were firmly in the “laugh at you” stage. Beyond Meat, the first of the Silicon Valley startups to use advanced technology to produce extremely meat-like burgers, had been ignored for its first few years, but in 2014, it released its Beast Burger, which was treated by the press and public as a slightly off-putting curiosity. What was this stuff? Would anyone actually eat it? Ewwww. That product wasn’t very good—I compared it to Salisbury steak—and when Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat ’s founder, announced his intention to end livestock production, you could almost hear the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association laughing in the background. But I didn’t laugh.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to fast-track transition to renewable energy from coal use is a welcome move for most civil society groups and the national government as it has an important implication for the country’s climate future, and for the global effort to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius climate goal. The Climate Change Commission (CCC) said the policy pronouncement of the President to advance rapidly renewable energy deployment and reduce the country’s dependence on coal for energy generation, a strategy aligned with achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change which the Philippine government ratified in March 2017. “We recognise the urgent need to ensure the sustainability and availability of resources and the development of alternative ones. In this regard, I trust that Secretary (Alfonso) Cusi (Department of Energy) shall fast-track the development of renewable energy sources and to reduce dependence on traditional energy sources such as coal,” President Duterte said in his Fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The Dutch company Port-Liner is building two giant all-electric barges dubbed the ‘ Tesla ships ‘. The company announced that the vessels will be ready by this autumn and will be inaugurated by sailing the Wilhelmina canal in the Netherlands. The 100 million-euro project supported by a €7m subsidy from the European Union is expected to have a significant impact on local transport between the ports of Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam. Chief executive of Port-Liner Ton van Meegen told The Loadstar : “There are some 7,300 inland vessels across Europe and more than 5,000 of those are owned by entrepreneurs in Belgium and the Netherlands. We can build upwards of 500 a year, but at that rate it would take some 50 years to get the industry operating on green energy.” The battery-powered barges – pictured above – are capable of carrying 280 containers. The first 6 barges are expected to remove 23,000 trucks from the roads annually in the Netherlands and replace them with zero-emission transport. Port-Liner is developing its own vessels, but they developed a battery pack technology that houses the batteries inside a container.
Fossil fuel divestment The European Investment Bank has vowed to end its multibillion euro financing for fossil fuel projects by the end of next year in order to align its strategy with climate targets. The EU’s lending arm has drafted plans, seen by the Guardian, which propose cutting support for energy infrastructure projects which rely on oil, gas or coal by barring companies from applying for loans beyond the end of 2020. The EIB said its focus on long-term investments means that it must align with the Paris Agreement which aims to cap global heating at 1.5C above 1990 levels by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “This transition will be profound. Solidarity is required to ensure that potentially vulnerable groups or regions are supported,” the EIB report said. The lender said it will set up an energy transitions fund to support projects which help EU member states to transition to a cleaner economy. In the past the EIB has funded fossil fuel projects including the Trans Adriatic gas pipeline and oil storage facilities in Cyprus. The crackdown on fossil fuel lending comes amid growing pressure on financial institutions to cut their exposure to high-carbon projects.
Reforestation could be a powerful tool against climate change, according to a new study. Pictured, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, October 2013. (CNN) — Restoring the world’s lost forests could remove two thirds of all the planet-warming carbon that is in the atmosphere because of human activity, according to a new study. Since the industrial revolution, humans have added around 300 billion tons of extra carbon to the atmosphere — mainly through burning fossil fuels — which is heating the planet to dangerous levels. But trees naturally remove carbon from the atmosphere, storing it above and below ground. A new study , carried out by researchers at Swiss university ETH Zurich and published Thursday in the journal Science, has calculated that restoring degraded forests all over the world could capture about 205 billion tons of carbon in total. Global carbon emissions are currently around 10 billion tons per year. The researchers identified ecosystems around the world that would naturally support some level of tree cover, but have become “degraded” — deforested for timber, for example, or turned into farmland that has since been abandoned.