Gareth Eynon

Just a guy writing about the state of the planet. The Green Review is a look at some of today's most pressing environmental issues - and also those which tick me off the most.


Sign Today to Preserve the Power of the ePetition

For the past few years I have been witnessing a steadily increasing torrent of ePetitions making their way into my inbox. Now don’t get me wrong; they are not spam and I have personally invited them to tempt me with their good causes, pressing issues and downright travesty. However, I now find myself a little concerned that if we collectively sign too many, we could initiate the effect of dulling the keen-edged weapon that is the internet petition.

A few years ago, any politician, CEO, media mogul or ignorant bastard would have been gob-smacked to find a petition dropped into their laps (digitally speaking) that was signed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. Consequently, it would have been very likely that whoever the petition was aimed at, be it a government or a misbehaving corporation, would have been pretty unnerved to find their dodgy dealings have attracted the attention of so many and galvanised them into action – albeit the small action of filling in a box and clicking send. At this point of its life, the ePetition is a very powerful tool.

It occurred to me just the other day, though, that by signing all of the petitions sent to me, I may soon found myself sitting on a lonely forgotten mountainside with that kid ; you know, the one who kept shouting, “Wolf! Wolf!

Over the past year I have signed ePetitions on tar sands, the Amazon, protecting the bees, Syrian atrocities (twice), climate change, the NHS, plastic bags, energy prices, bankers bonuses, fracking, ousting Jeremy Hunt, saving the Rhino, saving this and saving that. I’m a true armchair activist, which of course is fine, but where I’ve previously thought I may be doing some good (ePetitions have been proved to work in the past), I may also need to get a little more picky if that do-gooding is to continue.

Of course ePetitions are a great way of sharing an issue that needs addressing and they will still make people sit up and take notice, plus the fact that the bad guys know that so many of us know what they are up to is wonderful.

However, with all the ePetitions in circulation and people signing everything (like I used to) it won’t be long before 500,000 signatures can be simply brushed aside by the people we’re attempting to influence.

I don’t think that ePetitions should stop; not at all. I just think that those of us who do like to take action by right clicking should spare a thought for the on-going potency of these petitions. It would be very easy for them to loose their muscle if we over-use them. In a way, the biggest enemy of the ePetition is (ironically) it’s biggest advantage: the ease with which one can sign them. I have cookies on my computer so that whenever I decide to sign by filling in my email, all I have to do is push ‘g’ and then send. The rest is done for me. Perhaps if we had to undergo a little more work to get these things signed, then we would only sign the stuff that really matters to us.

Failing that, and since coming to the realisation that signing every ePetition that finds its way to my inbox may not be for the best, I have now designed my own personal hierarchy for ePetitions (designed being a very loose word here):

If it’s something I don’t really care about – delete.

If it’s something I care about, but don’t feel strongly enough to sign – spare a thought, delete.

If it’s something I care and feel strongly about – sign.

If I feel it’s imperative that the issue is fixed now – sign and share on facebook and twitter.

If you like, please feel free to follow my easy four-step guide to not dulling the edge of the ePetition and then carry on signing what you feel you must while protecting the integrity of this potentially very powerful tool. Once this is spent, finding another such device to influence the untouchables may take years, so let’s preserve this one while we still can. Thanks.


If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on the facebook page. The more contentious the better…

Oh, and just in case you are wondering; there isn’t in fact a petition to sign here, I just used that in the title to try and attract your attention, but you can say something in the comments box if you’d like. If I get more than 3 comments, I may just change the world…

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What a Fracking Week!

For the last year or so I was beginning to believe that our war against shale gas was going the right way. In just the last week, however, two separate pieces of news come along that lead me, depressingly, to think that may not be the case.

Regular followers of the Green Review (hi both) will be aware that I have been against fracking for some time now, and that this is not my first post on the subject. Fracking – the term used to mean hydraulic-fracturing – has time and again been proved to be destructive, causing earthquakes in Blackpool and polluting water sources in America – check out this video with the flaming tap at the end (it also gives a good explanation of why fracking is so destructive). It would also appear that Pennsylvania residents are being forced from their homes in the pursuit of shale gas.

In the year since I first wrote about my concerns over fracking, there seemed to be a general feeling of contempt for this ‘untapped energy source’ and I really couldn’t envisage a future for shale gas; the government even banned it for a time. However, the energy companies in keeping true to form have obviously spent this time lobbying the UK government hard and the government now seems to be caving under the pressure; not just the pressure from lobbying, but also the pressure from increasingly high energy prices. In the first of the articles I referred to in the title, this certainly appears to be the case:

The bit of news I’m talking about is a BBC story claiming the UK government may indeed be siding with the fracking companies. It says that the coalition will allow shale gas extraction and that it may “continue with checks”. What does that mean? A check could involve some clipboard-wielding government bureaucratic-type person turning up at a drilling site once a month and asking the foreman, “Any earthquakes today?”

“Nope,” replies the foreman.

“Any water pollution?”

“Nope,” replies the foreman again.

“Okay. Thank you very much,” says the government regulator as he puts two ticks on his clipboard and walks away. Checks complete.

Ok, so that may be a little far fetched but what I’m trying to say is that we need incredibly strict regulation on this industry, not ‘checks’. Our banking industry was ‘checked’ and looked what happened there.

Now, the second bit of news, which I’m sure is completely unrelated to the government’s recent decision (yeah, right), is that the UK “may have enough offshore shale gas to catapult it into the top ranks of global producers”. Admittedly this is in reference to offshore shale gas so many of the dangers posed to local water sources may not be an issue here. Nonetheless, the part of the story that got me was that they say we will have to wait for oil to hit $200 a barrel for it to be viable to set up the offshore industry. What!? Is that the government’s plan? Wait for energy prices to be so high that we can’t afford to heat our houses and then at that point – hooray! – the UK can once again be a player on the global energy market. What about renewable energy? What about energy efficiency? If we have the carrot of future energy self-sufficiency dangled in front of us, what incentive is there to strive for a clean energy future?

I just wonder how much of the money that could have been spent on building the UK a clean, renewable energy industry will instead now be spent on getting the offshore shale gas industry on its feet all ready for Dash For Gas part 2 … “this time it’s more expensive”.

Let’s not forget that shale gas is still a fossil fuel; the climate is still warming and we are still on the road to self-destruction. Now though, it seems that with our newly found energy savior we can forget about mitigating climate change because we can all look forward to future powered by gas. Again.

Am I wrong to feel like this? Should securing a future energy supply come above all else? What do you think?


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British Airways Lead the Way With Bio Jet Fuel

What? I hear you say. Praise for an airline in the Green Review? Am I reading the right blog? Well; yes you are. And I have to say that – praise where praise is due – this is a really good idea.

British Airways, like most other airlines, will be very quick to tell us that they are doing their bit to protect the planet, and none of us will really believe them. Nevertheless, the world’s favourite airline could soon be on its way to becoming the world’s greenest airline if this project is successful.

BA is pioneering the world’s first waste bio jet fuel plant. Now, I’ve already had a pop at bio fuels for airlines, calling it a load of old greenwash, and I don’t agree with biofuels in general. However, I am a firm believer in fuels derived from waste, which is what BA are intending to manufacture.

Of course there is still the issue of carbon emissions from airlines and the fact that they release these emissions directly into a very sensitive part of the atmosphere. This impact will not be cured by a simple swap of fuels. That said, though, some figures say that lifecycle carbon emission reductions of 95% will be possible when compared to traditional jet kerosene, but we’ll see about that eh? (That’s not the sound of me being cynical is it? Never)

These lower emissions will – in part – be down to the fuel being produced in East London, practically next door to London City Airport and only a few miles from London Heathrow Airport. I also like that if this is adopted en-masse, it could potentially reduce our dependency on imported oil and we could see a home-grown fuel industry spring up that has the added bonus of reducing the amount of waste we have to send to landfill.

The biomass plant will use the Fischer-Tropsch process to turn the waste into fuel, and as an added bonus, will power itself and also put 20MW of electricity back into the grid, at the same time. Neat.

According to BA, “The first plant, being built in partnership with US-based green energy specialist Solena Group, is due to enter full production in 2015. Once completed, the London plant – costing £200 million to build – will convert up to 500,000 tonnes of waste a year into 16 million gallons of green jet fuel, enough to power 2 per cent of BA’s operation. The waste will come from food scraps and other household material such as grass and tree cuttings, agricultural and industrial waste.

Of course 2 per cent sounds measly, which I guess it is in the grand scheme of things, but it is a step in the right direction and this is a pretty major innovation. I mean just imagine if every airline in the world were using the waste of the cities they are serving and producing their own ‘clean’ fuel right on their own doorsteps.

I do not condone the massive expansion of the airline industry, nor the way many of these low cost carriers are run (in particular the accident-waiting-to-happen that is Ryanair) and I do think we are jumping on a plane far too readily. However, air travel is an essential part of our modern lives and I think – if we’re honest – we would all miss it if it were gone. We certainly wouldn’t see the type of climate change and environmental summits that we see today – even if some of them are as useful as a hydroelectricity plant in the Sahara.

So can we envision a world where all of our planes – in fact all of our transport is running on waste? I doubt it. But this is a step toward tackling the increasing emissions from the airline industry while additionally securing our future energy supplies. Well done BA, let’s hope this works as well as you say it will.

In other airline news; The Major of London, Boris Johnson, has seen plans for his Thames Estuary Airport seriously dented, as the area earmarked for the development has just been included on a list of Nature Improvement Areas, throwing a huge green spanner into the planning application process. Oops.


If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on the facebook page. The more contentious the better…

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I’m a Huge Fan of Wind Power, But This is Insane…

I class myself as being pretty ‘up’ on environmental issues, but I was shocked when reading an article in the ENDs Report the other day. It was concerning the fact that we pay massive sums for wind energy. Ok, you say, we know that… ah yes, but this relates to the that fact that we pay millions of pounds when the turbines are too productive. Like I said, it’s insane. 

These constraint payments are made when a wind farm produces electricity that has nowhere to go, say in a period of high wind but low demand. It’s all part of the National Grid’s balancing mechanism, and is supposed to keep all things fair.

In essence the theory is that if you have to tell a power generator to lower its output you are in breach of contract and they are losing money, so you compensate them. Fair enough… I think.

The trouble is that when a conventional fossil-fuelled power station is asked to lower production, they consequently save on fuel, so their payments reflects this. When a wind farm has to ‘shut down’ they not only lose profits through idleness, but also due to the renewables obligation, they lose out on potentially huge subsidy production payments, and so the constraint payments have to be a lot more. From recent reports it seems that nearly £15 million has been paid out over the last 2 years. £15 million? That’s crazy money.

They kept this one quiet…

After doing a bit of research on this subject, I found myself less ashamed at not being aware of these payments when a Google search for ‘wind farm constraint payments’ threw up a number of hits that also contained the word ‘secret’. That’s hardly surprising.

I’ve had many a late night debate (often slightly drunken and occasionally heated) over the merits and pitfalls of wind power, and this topic has never been raised, not once. I have to say I’m quite glad about that, because if someone did bring this up in a debate it would surely flummox me.

While it probably cannot be argued that this amount of money is being paid to wind farms, the government does try to put a realistic spin on things. They (DECC) say that only 10% of constraint payments go to wind power. Ok, but they also say this:

“No generator of any type should receive an excessive benefit from constraint payments. That is why the Government is currently consulting on the introduction of a Transmission Constraint Licence Condition later this year to help ensure we don’t encounter problems in the balancing market when normal competition amongst generators is distorted by transmission constraints. Planned upgrades to the most congested parts of the transmission system are also underway which will help ease constraints. The upgrades will begin to take effect from 2013.”

In other words, they know there’s a problem and they’re sorting it. Well that’s something I suppose.

I’m still a huge fan of wind power and watching a giant turbine atop a green, verdant hill turning lazily in the breeze never fails to bring a smile to my face. This discovery, however, as really dented my optimism is the industry.

As I said in a recent post, I’m happy to pay a proportion of my energy bill to help fund future renewable energy projects. I’m not happy, though, to pay what would appear to be a tasty little loophole payment to the wind power companies. I understand that they may lose money in subsidies, but surely this should be factored into any cost benefit analysis that is conducted prior to investment, not realised at a later date and left up to the taxpayer/energy customer to fork out.

If this is an issue, then any future wind developments must not be able to fleece us like this. On a positive note; the first step, a call for more transparency over constraint payments, appears to have been taken already.

If wind is to increase in such numbers as are expected, we shouldn’t have to face a future where we continue to pay these massive sums for having too much energy. Why don’t they use it for something else, like pumped storage?

Really at this point I should also question the government’s stupidity and short-sightedness over this but – just like a turbine blade – that keeps coming around again, and again, and again. So I can’t be bothered. They’re stupid; we’re all very clever. Let’s just leave it at that.

If the anti-wind lobby or – heaven help us – The Daily Mail really gets hold of this story and runs with it we could be in trouble. Even I think it’s stupid, and I love wind power. So if you do know any slightly deranged, outspoken country folk who hate wind power, please don’t forward this blog onto them. Thanks.

So yes, crazy as it may be to be paying millions of pounds to stop wind farms doing exactly what we’ve already paid millions of pounds for them to do in the first place – making electricity; at least it looks like something is being done about this. Let’s keep a very careful eye on this space shall we…?


P.S. I still think it’s insane.

If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on the facebook page. The more contentious the better…

Photos courtesy of Renewable UK

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More Anti-Green Claptrap From The Daily Mail (but this time I’m onto them)

I happened upon another anti-green article in the Daily Mail the other day (no surprise there), but what I found to be of real interest was the way the reporter cunningly used information from different sources to pile the pressure on his headline subject and twist the story to make it sound like green policies are responsible for much, much more than they actually are.

I’ve also got to say that this article was all over the place. It pulled figures from everywhere and then assembled them in such a higgledy-piggledy way that it was impossible to really make neither head nor tale of the piece. There’s one thing for certain though: it’s anti-green through and through. Still; at least the reporter didn’t hack anyone’s phone to get the scoop… or did he?

Disclaimer: Can I just say that I am not a Daily Mail reader; I just have friends and family who alert me to articles such as this. Thank you.  

The article opens by claiming that green polices add 15% to a typical energy bill. Fair enough; they probably do. However, it then subtly starts to pile on the numbers by first saying that “the combination of green taxes and wholesale price rises” could push prices up by 36%. Note the part that says “…and wholesale price rises”. Next we are told of a hypothetical ‘high-price scenario’ included in a Whitehall paper, which would also then push up the numbers. Finally we are informed that, due to these factors, consumers will need to find an extra £500 a year for energy by 2020. Yep, that’s an extra £500 a year – shock, horror, dismay. At this point the reporter cleverly brings green taxes back to centre stage and works in a biased quote from those renowned experts on green policy The TaxPayers Alliance (?!), and hey presto, this £500 extra on your bill is all down to those nasty old green policies.

The article also says these green taxes will help to fund “wind farms, nuclear power stations, more solar panels and a new pylon network.” Erm, hello? Only two of these are ‘green’ technologies. Idiot.

I will give credit, however (much as it pains me) to the fact that the article makes mention of switching your energy supplier to save money, and also that the story ends with a pro-green policy quote from a Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman.

Nevertheless. What bugs me here is the Mail’s blatant attempt to turn its readers against any kind of green policy. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this either (thank goodness, as they keep me supplied with blog material). Joking aside though, why do they feel so strongly that we should not have to pay anything to safeguard our future?

Also let’s not forget: It’s not only climate change we are trying to combat here. We are also trying to give ourselves some energy security. I mean, do we really want to be beholden to Russia and other even more psychopathic regimes for our gas supplies?

And one last thing: Why does the reporter feel that green taxes are any less legitimate than other taxes? If these taxes from energy were used to fund, say, the police instead, would the Daily Mail still be so angry? (of course it would, what am I saying? It’s the Mail).

Protecting our environment and securing a healthy planet for our future generations is not a triviality; and it’s not going to come cheap. Somebody has to pay, and spreading the burden across the populace seems fair to me. It also seems fair that households who couldn’t care less about energy conservation will pay more towards these green policies because the tax is levied as a proportion of your bill. Ergo, families who do try to conserve energy will pay less. Fair indeed.

These green policies are intended reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to shield us from exactly the type of wholesale prices rises the article mentions. Surely the reporter would agree that this is a good thing to aim for, but how exactly does he propose we pay for it, if not with green taxes?

By all means, alert us to the potential rises that have been forecast, but don’t put them under the headline of “green taxes add 15% to your bill”.

Daily Mail readers aren’t known for their ability (or desire) to read between the lines. So – as the reporter is obviously intending – the reader comes away with the image that green taxes are adding £500 to energy bills, which of course, is absolute nonsense.


For a more in depth (and a little more sensible) look at this very story click here…

If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on our facebook page. The more contentious the better…

Photos courtesy of me, Nostal6ie and Daniel Gilby

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I’m Sick of Sick Posts on Facebook

It seems to me that the tirade of sanctimonious  – and sometimes sickening – posts on facebook is getting heavier of late. Not only do these really irritate me, but I also fail to see the point of them.

To give you some examples of what has annoyed me recently, try these:

The first one was a picture of what was obviously a very late aborted baby laying in the hands of a surgeon. Yes a very sad picture, but did I want to come across that while looking through my facebook timeline? No. I bloody well didn’t. The oddest thing about this was that the person who shared it was commenting “this is horrible picture and shouldn’t be on facebook”. Well don’t hit the flippin’ share button then!

The second picture was (yet another) one of these animal cruelty pictures. This time it looked as if a dog had a really nasty injury to its mouth and there was blood everywhere. Thanks for that – just what I wanted to see, especially as my 7-year old was looking over my shoulder.

Apart from the fact that these pictures really annoy me, I also have to ask; do the people posting them, sharing them and making some self-righteous comment about then actually know the provenance of these photos? Do they know where they come from? Was the baby aborted to save the mother, who subsequently then had to suffer the virtual loss of a child? Was the baby aborted because it was already dead? Was this photo picked up from a medical journal or a memo circulated to paediatric surgeons? Is the picture a fake?

In the photo of the dog I noticed that the background didn’t seem to be that of a domestic home, due to the clinical-looking wall and ceiling tiles. Also the dog had a nice big full bowl of food – not a usual practice for animal abusers. Maybe this was an animal hospital and the dog had a wound that had reopened? Maybe the dog had fallen? Who knows? Again, I wonder if the picture is either fake or taken out of context.

What I do know is that people should perhaps engage their brains before they jump on the social bandwagon and start condemning something they actually know diddly squat about.

If you are a person who loves to share these types of picture, think about this: Perhaps these animal abuse photos are actually designed to be circulated around the Internet by the abusers themselves and by re-posting them you may be actually supporting what you think you are condemning. Perhaps the animals are abused for the very reason these photos can be taken. There are sick people out there who do thrive on the instant “fame” such actions can result in: “I put this picture out on facebook and it got shared 100,000 times…” Think about it.

Do these re-posters live by morals that are above the rest of us?

I admit that I will re-post environmental articles that I feel may be of interest to others or that I feel strongly about. But at least I can say that I make every effort that is feasible to live a sustainable life (apart from the amount of travelling I do, but that’s for work and also something I’m trying to change). My point is: these people who are so shocked at pictures of animal cruelty, are they vegetarians? Do they eat organic meat? Do they know where their meat comes from and that the livestock is kept in conditions that do not invoke any suffering? Do they worry about palm oil and the effect that has on wildlife around the world? Maybe some do – but not many.

When I post something up on facebook, I keep it clean and I would definitely not want to shock someone with anything I post. Besides, shock tactics have rarely been proven to work.

Additionally, these pictures are not informing me of something I’m ignorant to. I know late abortions are happening, I know animals are mistreated. I don’t need nasty pictures on facebook to remind me of this.

If all of these photos came with a link to donate to a relevant charity, a petition to lobby the government or some other means of making them relevant and useful, then fair enough. But the majority of them don’t. They are just sad people wallowing in a sad world they feel they must impose on the rest of us.

I could pull a million sick photos off the Internet and circulate them around my social media networks, but why would I want to. Why do others want to?

It reminds me of a video I watched when I was younger that showed people dying in a multitude of different ways. The intro to this video said something like “we have brought you this film because we want you to see the futility of killing”, or some other crap along those lines. What they should have said was, “we bring you this video because you’re sick bastards who enjoy watching others die, but we can’t actually say that, so we have to pretend this is for pious reasons instead”. What a load of nonsense.

If there was no harm in circulating these photos, then fair enough, but many people look at facebook with their kids in the room, or are just looking to connect with friends or find a funny little youtube clip to watch.

I will admit that I am as fascinated by the macabre as the next man and that when a BBC News reporter says, “some of the scenes you about to witness may be disturbing”, I feel even more compelled to watch. But that’s my choice and I get warned beforehand. Having nasty photos sprung on me when I’m just looking for some facebook funnies isn’t… well… funny.

Re-post this is you agree… Blagh!


If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on our facebook page. The more contentious the better… (and no dodgy photos please)



Why Are We So Behind in the War on Plastic Bags?

While the UK may be no eco-angel, it is nonetheless fairly good when it comes to environmental initiatives:  a firm governmental backing of renewable energy and domestic recycling programmes are a couple of examples that spring to mind. When it comes to plastic bags, however, we are well behind other countries.

I spend quite a lot of time in the US, and one thing that constantly strikes me on my visits here is how well US businesses have done at lowering the use of plastic bags in their shops. We like to look at America as an environmental bad boy, but when it comes to the environmental plague of plastic bags, we fall far behind them. Of course there are still plastic bags issued in the US, but the majority of shops I have visited recently are giving away paper bags: Walgreen’s, Whole Foods, Crate and Barrel, Victoria’s Secret (ahem) and even Walmart – yes Walmart – have gone down the paper bag route.

In France – another country not really known for its eco-credentials – their biggest supermarket, Carrefour, now charges for plastic bags. So what’s wrong with the British retailers?

If you contact any supermarket about this matter, they will give you their usual spiel about how they are taking the plastic bag issue seriously, doing their bit, blah, blah, blah… What they really mean is they’re paying lip service, but can’t actually be bothered to tackle the problem properly.

Anyway… my reason for this post isn’t simply to have a moan (my usual reason for reaching for the keyboard), but to share a government petition that I think deserves our attention. It reads as follows:

17 billion plastic bags a year are given to British consumers. The average Briton accepts 5 times a weeks. 200 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide and 10% ends up in the ocean. When plastic bags get into the ocean they can entangle, suffocate and even kill marine animals. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it just breaks up into smaller pieces. The number of plastic bags issued by UK supermarkets in the past year has risen by 333 million. Plastic bags are becoming a big problem and there are better solutions! Instead we should have reusable cotton bags/recyclable paper bags/biodegradable starch based bags. Banish the bags and go with reusable/biodegradable ones instead! If we want to cut the amount of waste sent to landfill this is the big step forward…

These bags are menace to the planet and apart from offering meagre rewards as an incentive, UK supermarkets seem adamant on sticking to their current polices.

Ideally we should all be using reusable bags when we go shopping, but that’s not always possible, and besides, it’s unfair to place the entire obligation for this on the consumer. The retailer also has a duty here.

So assuming there will always be a necessity for retailers to provide bags, the natural alternative is for the traditional polyethylene bags to be replaced with paper ones. Now nobody can argue that the production of paper is without its own environmental impacts; but it’s much better than plastic. It doesn’t use fossil fuels to manufacture, the primary component can be gained from renewable resources and  – most importantly – when discarded, the paper will biodegrade, causing far less damage to the natural environment.

So that’s it. If you’re a reader of this blog, you don’t need me to labour on about the perils of polyethylene. All you need to do is go and sign the petition and get the government to put pressure on the retailers. We live in one of the great democracies of the world… let’s use that voter power.

Sign it here. Thanks.


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