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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 24 November
PRESENTER
TOM HEAP
Tom Heap
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 24 November 2005
Ratcliffe Power Station
Could giant kites soon be pulling supertankers?

Carrying freight by sea should be the environmentally-friendly option. It uses less fuel than air freight and it's less dangerous than road haulage. The trouble is that marine diesel is nasty stuff: it contributes 75% of the Sulphur Dioxide released into the atmosphere. It makes ports unpleasant places to be around, grim for local residents and fatal for marine wildlife. The solution may lie in the past - a return to sail power.

Tom Heap visits Wismar in Germany and heads out onto the Baltic Sea on the Jan Luiken, a boat equipped with a giant kite to pull the vessel along. This could be the shape of the future of sail power. Skysails are a German company who have been trialling the technology and believe that in a few years time their technology could be applied to much larger cargo vessels.

Reliant on completely unpredictable winds, carrying a huge weight of canvas and rigging the sailing ships of the past were spectacularly inefficient. However, new technology has moved the age of sail on, and into the twenty-first century. Best of all you can now control everything by computer. No need for that large, heavy, expensive crew to look after your rigging and no need to re-rig every time the wind changes force or direction. Vast improvements in forecasting technology are also making sail viable again. Accurate satellite wind forecasts can ensure that a ship takes the route that follows the prevailing winds.

But that is not the end of the story. Research into new fuels and new vessel design will all cut down the polluting effects of the shipping industry in the years to come as scientists, and environmentalists search for the shipping Holy Grail: the environmentally friendly super tanker.
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