Posts Tagged CO2

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…?

GR

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

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

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.

GR

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

, , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

Oh Canada. What Are You Doing?

You may have read recently that Canada has officially pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Although the move has long been expected, it still comes as a disappointment to many. This action, however, is not a protest on Canada’s part because it feels the accord isn’t working – it is working. Nor is it because Canada feels that the weak agreement just isn’t strong enough to really effect a positive change on the planet. Oh no, quite the opposite. It’s pulling out because it can and it will and nobody has the power to stop it, so there.

The Canadian government has stated that meeting its targets for reducing greenhouse gases is too expensive. Apparently, the country hadn’t realised that there would be some form of cost attached to saving the planet and everything on it.

What gets me about this whole fiasco is the way countries can convene at a summit like Kyoto, fail to agree on anything put forward, argue over the exact text in a document, insert a comma here, remove a legally binding cause there, while all the time watching these proceedings trudge on for days and days upsetting no end of politicians, diplomats and official representatives of various organisations. And all of this for what? So that we end up with an agreement where any country may pull out simply if it doesn’t work for them. Nobody said this was going to be cheap or easy, but I guess Canada didn’t notice that part of the final draft.

I remember when Canada used to the country everybody loved: America’s more intelligent, less offensive next-door neighbour. Home of the Mountie, maple syrup and Bryan Adams. Now it seems to be taking on a new persona; that of a corrupted, greedy, former environmental advocate.

We’ve always frowned at Canada’s financial and logistical assistance for those partaking in the Arctic seal hunt, and they’ve played no small part in the collapse of North Atlantic cod stocks. However, in more recent years Canada appears to be also cementing itself a new image as an American-idolising devotee to environmental destruction. With its push to extract oil from tar sands, a product often referred to as the world’s dirtiest oil, and now the shunning of Kyoto, it seems that this once highly-regarded country is turning its back on protecting the planet in order to turn a profit.

Withdrawing from Kyoto is effectively a message to the rest of the world that Canada doesn’t care about the future of this planet (as long as it will cost, that is). Naturally the politicians are saying that they will adhere to their own targets and lower carbon emissions their own way, but it’s perfectly clear to the rest of us that whatever measures are adopted won’t come close to the measly 6% cut in emissions they were committed to under Kyoto – in reality they have actually increased carbon emissions by about 16%.

Another aspect of Canada’s withdrawal is that they would face stiff penalties under the agreement for falling short of the agreed targets. I can’t belive that to get away from paying the penalties that they agreed to in 1997, a nation can simply just pull out. Surely that makes a complete mockery of the penalty system in the first place. I mean let’s imagine this: it’s the 2014 World Cup final: England are playing Spain and are winning 4-3. There are two minutes left to play. Wayne Rooney brings a Spanish player down in the penalty area as he’s about to score a goal. Consequently, the referee awards the Spanish player a penalty kick. Now, if this game were being played in ‘Canada’s world’ Wayne Rooney would just sulkily turn to the referee, tell him that a penalty kick is far too stiff a punishment for this offence, announce he’s not playing anymore, leave the field and thus the Spanish would no longer have their penalty kick. They loose, England win. It’s bizarre (although the addition of the ‘Canada Rule’ may add another dimension to football).

Let’s face it though; no one can really blame Canada for this. The true fault lies with the politicians who cannot look further than their own term of office or their own GDP. The original Kyoto Protocol was put through the grinder and watered down so many times that it became the wishy-washy, toothless, non-binding agreement that allows countries to do these type of things. Because countries (and their governments) are inherently selfish, we will never see a truly monumental climate agreement and countries like the US and China will be free to avoid any commitment while countries that do commit will also be free to… erm … uncommit.

What Canada has done just reinforces my view that politicians will only attempt to save humanity as long as it’s feasible for them to do so and if it will earn them either a few extra votes of a little cash on the side. Meanwhile, it makes a mockery of any future global agreements on pollution, climate change, deforestation, biodiversity, etc, etc…

The thing that worries me now is that any such accord in the future will be looked upon as just a piece of paper that you sign at the bottom, but don’t actually have to take action on if you don’t want to or you can’t afford it. It sets a really scary precedent for other nations to look to.

Anyway, to finish off, let’s move on to other un-related matters: Does anyone fancy defaulting on a trillion Euro debt? Anyone? Anyone? Yes, Greece; I’m looking at you…

GR

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

Photos courtesy of  Christina Deridder Vasyl Helevachuk and Alexey Gostev

, , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Good News! But It Was Well Hidden Amongst The Bad News

You may have read an article in the Guardian this week (or elsewhere) telling us that greenhouse gas emissions are up to the levels predicted in only the IPCC’s worst-case scenarios. So despite the decades of warnings, it appears that we’re still ploughing headlong into self-destruction. Oh well, no surprise there.

Normally, I would relish writing a post on this and why it’s going to be the death of us all, and how the planet’s doomed, etc, etc. However, I am not feeling too good this week, and being in such a fragile state, I don’t actually want to linger on the bad news. Instead I want you to read a more uplifting paragraph from the same article. (Plus, I am using this as an excuse to be lazy and just settling for a little re-blogging).

First of all, just to keep you up to speed, here is the crux of the original story: The latest figures that show the levels of greenhouse gases humanity is chucking into the atmosphere are way up there with the worst case scenarios forecast in all the climate models and predictions. In other words… we’re buggered. But like I said; I can’t be bothered with that right about now.

The good news I wanted to share with you is this:

“The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8% below 1990 levels”. (I personally think this should be front-page news, but the media doesn’t do happy stories, does it?)

So you see? We can do it. There is a ray of hope. Enough said. That’s it for this post… I’m off now to suffer in the throws of my man-flu. Peace.

GR

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

Photo courtesy of Max Blain


, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Five Stupid Quotations From Climate Change Sceptics (and how I’d answer them if only I could think on my feet)

As an environmentalist … No. Stop. Not environmentalist; I hate that word. (Thinking out loud again, sorry)

Ok. Take 2:

… As an advocate of the movement to save this planet and everything on it from extinction due to climate change; pollution; deforestation; drought; famine; irresponsible multinationals; GM food; banks; nuclear proliferation; media moguls; desertification; Audi drivers and oceanic acidification, I often find myself embroiled in a heated debate over climate change with people I like to refer to as The Denialists.

Occasionally, I will manage to have a meaningful, in-depth, well-researched, enlightening discussion with one of these people. All too often, though, most denialists just seem capable of coming up with the same tired arguments and replies regarding the realities of climate change and environmental degradation. Below are the five that I hear time and again:

Stupid quote#1: “Man-made climate change isn’t real: Earth’s climate has always gone in cycles”

Answer#1: Yes agreed, the earth’s climate has always gone in cycles – hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold, etc. Well done. However, what we are doing by polluting the atmosphere with too many additional greenhouse gases is interrupting the delicate process that causes these cycles thus pushing the whole system into overload. Ironically, we are jeopardising the precise mechanism that denialists so love to wave in our faces.

The earth has maintained an intricate balance over the last few billion years because it had all the tools it required: sunlight, clouds, ice, forests, gases, minerals, plants, animals, etc, etc. What we’ve done over the last few centuries is come along and thrown some truly momentous spanners in the works. Still; the unbelievers think that we should just let the Earth get on with it while we do the same. Ok. What an interesting experiment…

Stupid quote#2: “What’s the point in curbing carbon emissions when China and India are building a coal-fired power station every week?”

Answer#2: Yes, yes, yes. That’s the attitude. Why bother? We’re buggered anyway.

Geeeeez people, since when did two wrongs make a right? Of course this makes the task before us even harder, but we’re tougher than that, aren’t we? This life we currently enjoy must be worth fighting for, if not for us, then for our children and our grandchildren.

An analogy that springs to mind here is that it’s like the guy who goes to the gym and is then perceived to undo all the good work he’s just done by having a burger and a cigarette afterwards. Yes, you could argue that there’s no point in going to the gym if he continues to eat junk food and smoke. I would argue, though, that whether or not he eats badly and smokes, he’s still ultimately doing himself more good by going to the gym than if he’d stayed away.

If by curbing our destructive ways of life we are – at best – just cancelling out what China and India are doing; well then at least we’re doing something.

Dr Jorge Argibay also added this valid point: “It is precisely by doing something about carbon emissions that we can acquire the authority to ask China and India to do the same!” Exactly, thanks Jorge.

Quote#3: “The Earth will survive no matter what we do to it”

Answer#3: Perhaps. But we’re talking about our survival here, aren’t we? Excusing inaction by offering this quote is dumb at best. Surely we want to protect this planet’s ability to sustain life so that our ancestors can also enjoy life… don’t we? To say something like that shows up a selfish streak a mile wide.

Anyway, how do we know the planet will survive? Has it ever been tested like this before? I agree, that it’s managed to thaw its way out of an ice-age or two, but let’s remember: the earth has at its core a massive nuclear fusion reactor that’s hot enough to melt rock. So it’s not really surprising it has the capacity to thaw itself. But to cool itself when so many of its cooling mechanisms have been stripped away, altered or poisoned? Who really knows?

Stupid quote#4 “We’re not running out of fossil fuels. We have loads of oil, gas and coal left”

Answer#4: Agreed, but this oil and gas is continually getting harder and more expensive to find and extract. This also comes at great risk.

I’ll just sum up with these three words: Deep. Water. Horizon.

Stupid quote#5 “Climate change is a myth fabricated by the big corporations and governments of the world so that they can increase profits and raise taxes on the back of it”

Answer#5: So the entire world’s scientific community is on the payroll of the corporations? Oh please. That’s as silly as saying that George. W. Bush planned and executed 9/11. Admittedly, there are plenty of vested interests in keeping the climate change debate alive, but the fact that it’s made up simply to make money just doesn’t ring true.

As for the governments; well, they don’t need excuses to raise our taxes, let alone an excuse that costs as much as concocting something as big as climate change. Get real people.

In summary then…

So then, if like me, you find yourself confronted by climate change denialists who seem intent on spouting these ever-used quotations to back up their arguments, then please feel free to call upon the answers above, if like me, you also find that you can only ever think of a suitable repartee once the debate is over (usually around a week later in my case).

Of course you are probably clever enough to counter to these dumb-assed quotes for yourself. If you do have cleverer, wittier or shrewder answers to these arguments than mine, then please let me know and I’ll add then to this post (and also use them myself, if I may). Thanks.

GR

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

Photos courtesy of Arvind BalaramanValerij Dedkov, An Apollo astronaut and Kostas Tsipos

, , , , , ,

6 Comments

Burnt, Buried or Liquidised: My Macabre Guide to a Planet-Friendly Funeral

Insurance adverts abound on daytime television telling us not to leave a huge debt for our loved ones to pay when we kick the bucket. But how can we best avoid leaving a huge debt for the planet to pay as well?

Green funerals are nothing new: The Tibetans have been chopping up dead relatives and feeding them to the vultures for years; sailors have traditionally been buried at sea to become fish food; and funeral pyres have been used for centuries, not only creating a welcome source of heat, but also leaving nothing more than a pile of ashes that can be used to fertilise crops. Modern technology, however, has brought the green funeral bang up to date.

The contemporary funeral can be quite a hefty affair in regards to the resources it uses: a hardwood coffin; a blazing inferno to cremate the body; land space to bury the body and, quite often, a half-mile long presidential motorcade following the hearse.

Much has already been written on environmentally-friendly funerals so I will not duplicate that here. What I want to look at in this post is the newest technology currently emerging.

So what’s new then?

Ok. If you want to go green when you die (as opposed to grey) you may want to try these:

The Ecopod

The Ecopod. No, this is not a new product from Apple; it’s actually a “revolutionary and beautiful new design in coffins” that’s made from recycled newspaper and mulberry pulp (I love the gold one – very bling). Alternatively, if you want to avoid taking up any more of the Earth’s precious space than you have to, try squeezing yourself in to one of this company’s Acorn Urns (just watch out for giant squirrels).

Actually getting your body to the funeral is a source of carbon emissions – but do not fear (the Reaper), help is at hand in the form of the Brahms Electric Hearse. This is the only way to travel to your final resting place if you want to be green. I suppose you could use a horse drawn gun carriage like the queen or, even better, be buried right beneath your deathbed. But failing these options – go electric.

Another way of keeping your carbon footprint down at a funeral is don’t invite people who will have to travel for miles to your send-off. Either make no friends during your life or  – more sensibly – perhaps you could set up a live Internet stream. Ok, I know this may be getting just a little bit silly, but I’ve always said it’s best to laugh at death. Ha ha.

Right then: so you’ve popped your clogs, you’ve been placed in an alien-esque cardboard pod, been driven to the cemetery with minimal carbon emissions and have no friends in attendance… how then do you wish to be disposed of? Burial? Nope; too much land-take and methane emissions. Cremation? Nope; too much energy and carbon emissions. OK, how about being liquidised then? That’s right… liquidised – or to use the correct term; disposed of via alkaline hydrolysis.

There’s a new machine on the funeral circuit that will reduce a body down to liquid in about 2-3 hours. A Glasgow company Resomation make the contraption and they’ve called the process the same: Resomation. Really? That’s the best they could come up with? Could they not call it something a little more imaginative like Body Blitzing or The Death Dissolve?

According to the manufacturers, Resomation is a green alternative because:

  • (Research) has shown that the substitution of Resomation for cremation as part of a funeral will reduce that funeral’s emissions of greenhouse gases by approximately 35%Ok, not bad…
  • The energy needed for the Resomation process in the form of electricity and gas is less than one-seventh of the energy required for a cremation. Even better.
  • In the UK up to 16% of all mercury is estimated to be emitted from crematoria because of the fillings in teeth, Resomation produces no airborne mercury emissions. Great.
  • Sterile liquid is safely returned to the water cycle free from any traces of DNA. Erm, excuse me, what was that? Returned to the water cycle? Are they saying that if I choose Resomation there’s a chance my kids could be drinking me in their tea a couple of weeks later? No thanks.

This is how the BBC describes the resomation process. Now I know I’ll be dead when it happens and won’t feel a thing, but geez…

Resomation… works by dissolving the body in heated alkaline water. The system works by submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide which is pressurised to 10 atmospheres and heated to 180C for between two-and-a-half and three hours. Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. The bones are then removed from the unit and processed in a “cremulator”, the same machine that is used to crush bone fragments following cremation into ash. Metals including mercury and artificial joints and implants are safely recovered. (BBC News) Again, I think I’ll pass thanks.

If, like me, you find this idea rather unappealing then take comfort in the fact that crematoria are also looking into reusing the waste heat from the cremation process to heat the crematorium facilities, thus lowering the carbon footprint. Although, for this to be properly utilized, you’ll have to wait to die in winter. However, if you would favour a summer demise, there’s also talk of heating swimming pools with this energy.

In summary then…

In all seriousness, there are 600,000 funerals a year in this country – or over 1600 a day. That’s a lot of land filled with bodies, energy consumed for cremations and associated emissions of methane and carbon. The above ideas (resomation included) really could help to lower these, so why not point people in this alternative direction when they are making funeral plans.

If you feel you really must keel over and die, then have some consideration for those of us you leave behind on this ever-shrinking planet. Thanks.

GR

For a more serious (somber) look at this issue plus some good advice check out this link or this one.

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

Photos courtesy of Hmproudlove, Ecopod, Brahms Electric VehiclesAusteng and  Stephen Orsillo.


, , , , , , , ,

8 Comments

Eco-Lie#2: Eco cars? I Don’t Flippin’ Think So!

Ok, next in line for a telling off in the Great Eco-Lie Outbreak are a number of car manufacturers: namely Vauxhall, RenaultSeat, Ford and KIA (this list grows as I find them).

On a couple of occasions recently, while trundling along minding my own business, I have noticed that written on the back of the (painfully normal) car in front is the word ‘eco’. Well, the profanities issuing forth from my mouth at this point are akin to those normally reserved for middle lane drivers and those who don’t signal at roundabouts (Oh, I can feel my blood boiling right now). Ok, well maybe the word ‘eco’ in connection with a car doesn’t make me that mad; but it does still make be blink twice in incredulity.

What on Earth is ‘eco’ about a car? Yes they are necessary, yes I own one, and yes a little Fiat 500 is better for the planet than a Range Rover. However, all cars pollute the atmosphere, require enormous amounts of raw materials and energy to manufacture and when they reach the end of their relatively short life (around 8 years or 150,000 miles) they require a huge amount of infrastructure to dispose of properly – which, admittedly has improved in recent years.

I agree that it’s a good thing these manufacturers are addressing their products’ impact on the planet, but calling cars green is stretching it at best; calling them ‘eco’ is just way off the mark. And also (yes I know, one shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘and’, but I’m having a rant so leave me alone) … where was I? Oh yes. And also, when they add this word ‘eco’ they follow it up with some marketing spiel like, “because we feel you shouldn’t have to compromise performance just because you want a car that’s kind to the planet, blah, blah, blah”. Ok then, if you’re not sacrificing performance; why not make all of your cars like this’?

In fact, don’t take my word for it, here’s some sales pitch from Vauxhall, written verbatim – but watch for the twist at the end: “We all love cars and we all love to drive. We still want performance, practicality and a pleasurable experience behind the wheel. The big question is – can you have both?” Erm, both? Don’t you mean all three? Blimey, who writes this stuff? More to the point, who checks it? Idiots.

Ford also make me laugh with their sales pitch: “So while you’re helping the environment, you’ll be helping your bank balance too.” Since when did buying a brand new car help either the environment or one’s balance? Fools.

Now I’m sure that most of the owners of these cars feel they are doing their bit by buying an ‘eco’ model, and perhaps they are. I must also praise some manufacturers for really making an effort to improve their impact on the planet. However, I just can’t agree that a word essentially meaning ‘in harmony with nature’ is used to describe a car. Hyundai, for instance, call their lower emissions range Blue Drive. Nice.

So, that being said, am I simply getting hung up on a single word, when the concept is the same? You betcha I am! My problem is what that word conveys, and when it’s used so out of context, then I believe it to be misleading. Yes, I do have a problem with that.

One last thing on the subject of cars: Is it me, or is the BMW X6 by far the most pretentious car on the road, mostly driven by guys with a massive ego and a tiny… conscience?

So there. Another one to add to the great Eco-Lie outbreak. Next time, I shall look at an Eco-Lie that anyone who has stayed in a hotel cannot have missed. Can you guess what it is?

GR

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

Photos courtesy of Jean Schweitzer and Taylor Jackson

, , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Sitting on the Nuclear Fence

As an environmentalist, concerned parent and lover of all things non-radioactive, I feel that I should be fundamentally opposed to nuclear power. Unfortunately though, this issue has me in a bit of a quandary:

We are currently careering headlong towards hugely destructive climate change and a potential energy crisis. However, no matter what we may think of nuclear power, it could help to alleviate some of the pressure on society.

In light of these uncomfortable facts – much like a Greenpeace banner – I find myself perched on the proverbial fence.

A traditional fossil fuel-fired power station

The Fukushima disaster in Japan has really split the world’s nuclear power producers on where to go next: Japan’s Prime minister is calling for a nuclear-free future; Germany has said it is to phase out nuclear power by 2022; Switzerland will halt expansion of its nuclear programme; and the Italians have also voted no to nuclear. On the other hand, France is to spend a further 1 billion Euros on nuclear energy production; the USA is hinting at building 4-6 new units by 2020; and although the UK’s coalition government can’t make up its Tory/Liberal mind, it does seem that a future with nuclear energy is on the cards.

So where do I stand on this issue? (Bloody good question!)

Yes, nuclear power scares me:  My concerns are over the hugely polluting process of uranium mining, what to do with the wastenuclear proliferation and potential accidents (Fukushima showed that nothing can be ruled out and France has just had an accident). I’m not going to go into detail as we all know why we fear nuclear. However, while all of these are issues of great magnitude, so is climate change and our dwindling reservses of fossil fuels.

Where I feel pulled over to the other side of the fence is in relation to CO2 emissions. As we all know, man-made CO2 emissions from electricity creation (among other things) are causing our climate to change in a way too fast for us and the natural world to keep up with. This has potentially devastating results for all inhabitants of planet Earth. Nuclear power provides an answer to this in that its CO2 emissions are practically zero.

The future?

The future of nuclear power may be glowing bright due to some new inventions: a hybrid fission/fusion reactor that takes nuclear waste sludge and turns it into electricity, and nuclear batteries.

Now don’t worry folks, we aren’t going to see our little ones placing highly radioactive batteries into their new toys come Christmas morning, and then watching them cook the turkey just by standing next to it. No; nuclear batteries are refrigerator size mini reactors that could be placed at the centre of military bases, mining installations and other such large remote complexes. One company (among others) pioneering this technology is Hyperion, who have named this device The Hyperion Power Module. One of these babies will chuck out 25 megawatts and be capable of powering about 25,000 homes.

My first reaction to this technology is this: What’s to stop some crazy terrorist putting one in the back of a lorry, parking it outside the Houses of Parliament and blowing it up? Well, apparently they’ll be encased in so much concrete and security that it would be impossible to steal one. Hmmmm: Titanic? Unsinkable? I wonder… Talking of which; they are considering using them to power cruise ships as well. Ok then, I’ll rephrase the question: What’s to stop some crazy terrorist sailing a nuclear cruise ship up the River Thames, parking it outside the Houses of Parliament and blowing it up?

Jokes aside though, I do think that this technology could have a place in the future, especially in the developing world.

One of my biggest concerns over nuclear power is the waste that is creates. The amount of nuclear waste we produce  steadily mounting and it can remain dangerous for thousands of years. This necessitates the need for it to be buried deep underground – but even then it still poses a risk.

An answer here could possibly be evident in the shape of the compact fusion neutron source (CFNS). This contraption will ingest nuclear sludge in one end and generate power at the other. According to an article in Fast Company, the CFNS will eat up so-called nuclear “sludge,” which is a dangerous, highly toxic, long-lived radioactive by-product of existing nuclear power stations. The sludge is formed into a jacket around the core fusion reactor. The CFNS spits out neutrons and heat which “burn” the sludge, releasing more energy as heat – which is used to generate more electricity -and reducing the sludge into less dangerous material.

Pure fusion reactors have long been the ultimate goal, since they release vast amounts of energy from small amounts of “fuel” and have very few dangerous by-products. But the Super X Divertor could act as a solution until the difficult problems of building a fusion reactor are solved.

Before you go panicking about nuclear fridges being driven into the centre of the world’s major cities or do a little celebratory dance because the answer to nuclear waste has been solved; slow down just a tad. Neither of the above technologies have been proved beyond reasonable doubt and we are still a long way from clean nuclear utopia.

For me, the issue of nuclear power tugs at my principles much like the issue of testing medicine on animals: I hate the thought of animals subjected to pain and death just so we can live longer; but would I sacrifice a member of my family to cancer just so these creatures don’t have to suffer? No, I wouldn’t. I also wouldn’t like to see the world plunged into catastrophic climate change and power outages just because nuclear power doesn’t sit well with our conscience.

The fact of the matter is renewable energy cannot fill the energy gap quickly enough – much as I wish it could. Additionally, fossil fuels cause climate change and are steadily running out, simultaneously becoming more and more expensive to extract – a price that we the consumer are paying.

Nuclear power may not be perfect, but it does have the potential to give us that emissions-free, back up supply we so desperately need.

In the meantime, however, hopefully we can sort out once and for all how best to use the sun, wind, water and waste as a means of supplying energy to the ever-increasing and ever-industrialising population of Planet Earth.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m desperate to live in world of completely clean energy and would love to see nuclear phased out altogether. But my fear of the effects of climate change lead me to ask if perhaps there may be a place for this technology.

So then, what should we do in regards to the future of nuclear power? Well, if I knew the answer to that, I would be writing my acceptance speech for the Noble Peace Prize; not this blog.

GR

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 Ian BracegirdleMamay and Alban Egger

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Yet More Anti-Green Clatter Spills Forth From The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail - that most beloved of English institutions –  has released yet another anti-green article. This one seems designed to get Middle England all fired-up at the indignation of having to adjust the UK’s highly-polluting energy supply so as to protect our children from a future of devastating climate change. How awful!

This article – which, incidentally, was front-page news – is getting all flustered because it claims that families will have to fork out an extra £1000 a year as part of their energy bills in order to fund a switch to green energy and nuclear power.

What a load of rubbish. Nowhere will you find anyone in-the-know who agrees with this figure. It is plucked out of thin air simply to allow the Mail readers their daily 5 minutes of irritation at this cruel, cruel world. Even the Daily Telegraph – another paper that dislikes anything remotely green – only claims an increase in bills of £160 over the next 20 years. (Although, the way things are going, I’m expecting that type of increase on my bill next month).

The Mail’s reporter says that the move is intended to cut emissions to meet UK and EU targets. No. The move is intended to shift the UK toward a future where we can enjoy a clean, secure energy supply without polluting the atmosphere or worrying about Russia turning off the gas. Oh, and apparently it’s also intended “to appease the climate lobby”.

So what is this climate lobby then? Are they the ones who agree that climate change is a threat, or are they the energy companies who stand to make large profits from the upshot of this? Are they wind power advocates or supporters of nuclear power? Hmmm: A nice, clear-cut definition; thanks for that.

I’ll admit, I still don’t know where I stand with regards to nuclear power, but I have to say, it’s nice to see nuclear being mentioned in this article alongside the usual culprit, wind power.

So then, the Mail is getting on its high horse because we’ll all have to pay higher bills as we move away from a fossil fuel-based energy supply. I presume they are referring to these same fossil fuels that are responsible for the numerous, unrelenting price hikes we’ve suffered over last few years? Ok; great idea. Let’s just forget about green energy and stick with what we know shall we? That’ll really keep the costs down.

So where did the Daily Mail get this figure of £1000 per year from? Was it Ofgem? The Carbon Trust? The Department of Energy and Climate Change perhaps? No. It was a bank called UniCredit; well there’s some objective journalism for you.

Another of the sources in this article, Dr Benny Peiser, says, “Britain itself could be sitting on a gas gold mine, which would power homes for decades”. The only ‘gold mine’ I imagine he can be talking about is shale gas, and that’s a very bad idea.

Now, I’m not so naïve as to think we can have a lovely new clean energy system and not have to pay for it. But it really gets-my-goat (in case you hadn’t noticed) when papers like the Mail pull figures from sources that are employed simply to make good headlines.

Finally (and strangely) I would like to finish by saying a big thank you to the Daily Mail. Much as you annoy me with your journalistic tripe; without you I think I may struggle for material to use in my blog. Keep up the bad work and long may our relationship continue. Cheers.

GR

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 Daniel Gilby and npower Renewables (from Renewable UK)


, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments

Putting a Green Spin on Things: Gas Powered Tumble Dryers

You may well have read my recent post on ceiling mounted airers, in which I looked briefly at the impact tumble dryers have on the planet. Well, in researching that post I found a surprising bit of kit that I never knew existed: the gas powered tumble dryer.

I’m well aware that the average domestic user shouldn’t really be using a tumble dryer, but perhaps you own a business that requires one, or maybe run a children’s football team and get lumbered with the kids’ muddy kit every Sunday evening. If you are one of these people then read on. If not; get a washing line.

There are 10 million tumble dryers in the UK, accounting for 4.3% of our domestic energy consumption. Ok… Stop for one second: 4.3% of our domestic energy consumption? Geez people, what’s wrong with the sun and the wind? Do we really have to throw so many clothes into these machines? I have a family of four, including two young, messy children, we live in small Victorian terrace and we have never, ever felt the need for a tumble dryer.

Anyway, sorry about the rant – on with the post.

Gas powered tumble dryers are beneficial to your pocket and the planet for the reason that they use gas, which is cheaper than electricity and emits less CO2

The average carbon emissions from a domestic electric tumble dryer are 159kg of CO2 per year and they cost about £37.00 to run (based on 148 4.7kg cycles) A gas tumble dryer should produce 54% less carbon than this and cost 61% less to run.

There is only one gas tumble dryer available in the UK market and that is the White Knight (a somewhat grand title for a clothes dryer, don’t you think?) However, you may be able to purchase a second hand gas tumble dryer from a launderette, which would be an even greener option (reuse); just remember to remove the coin mechanism – or perhaps not; it may look quirky and cool.

Of course there are some downsides to using a gas tumble dryer:

  • They have to be fitted (and maintained) by a CORGI registered gas fitter; an electric version simply needs to be plugged in.
  • If you use renewable electricity in your home, you will not benefit from any savings by using a gas tumble dryer. But then again, if you do have robust green principles and have taken the time and expense to install a renewable energy system, I’d be surprised to find a tumble dryer in your house anyway.

You can pick up a gas tumble dyer from about £300 so they’re not too expensive in comparison to electric models as is so often the case with ‘green’ technology.

To finish, I would like to say that we shouldn’t really be using tumble dryers at all. There are plenty of other ways to dry clothes without the need for these machines. Nevertheless, if you do truly need a tumble dryer, or feel you really can’t live without one, perhaps you should think about a gas powered version. At least it’s greener than the alternative.

GR

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…

Photo courtesy of my mother-in-law. Gracias

, , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: