Are we creating fewer carbon emissions? This can be very hard to discover. If you want to look at the world as a whole you have to measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere scientifically. The last most accurate measurement was 381 parts of carbon dioxide per million parts of the atmosphere. Various official bodies want to stabilise this at 400ppm, although 450ppm is thought by some to be the lowest achievable level. Some think that anything above 450ppm sends the climate into catastrophic change.
These are opinions, not facts; we do not really know what figure, if any, constitutes a tipping point beyond which the planet can never recover.One good way of looking at how we are doing as a country is to look at the quarterly statistics for energy collated and published by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. As that name is not only a mouthful but indicates the diverse and curiously mixed responsibilities that the department undertakes.
They shorten it to BERR, although they went through a phase of calling themselves DBERR.
When you look at energy statistics take into account that at least 98% of the energy we use comes from fossil fuel and nuclear. Seeing whether we increase or decrease our energy use tells you whether we are likely to be pumping more carbon dioxide into the air or not, and by how much we are increasing the amount of nuclear waste we have to stockpile.
Once you make seasonal adjustments and adjustments for the weather it looks like we consumed 1.6% more energy than we did in the third quarter of 2006. That is not good.
Taking the fossil fuel sources individually, coal production is up but coal imports are down; 2.6% less coal was used to generate electricity in power stations, so that is good. Coal demand is marginally down. Oil is virtually unchanged, in terms of production and consumption. The UK is now a net importer of oil by more than 2 million tonnes a quarter. Gas production is down by 11.2% a year. Gas exports are down by 25% and imports up by 31%. Gas used for electricity generation is virtually unchanged. Taking a year on year view, gas consumption overall is up by 5%.
Making electricity is a big generator of emissions. As a country 25% of the electricity we use comes from highly polluting coal, 36% from gas and only 15% from nuclear. Nuclear usually accounts for around 20% but two nuclear power stations have been undergoing some much needed maintenance work, so the nuclear share is down this quarter.
Households account for 23.6% of the electricity used. I will not give price information for domestic gas and electricity because the statistics issued do not take into account the very high price rises recently announced. I can tell you though that an average home used £552 worth of gas and £383 worth of electricity in 2007, making a total energy spend in the home of £935. Recent price rises will take the average to about £1200, so start saving now.
Most people will have to earn £2000 in order to pay £1200 out of their wages for energy. If you earn £22,000 you will pay just under 10% of what you earn for energy, thus falling just outside the definition of being “fuel poor” and therefore you will not be entitled to any government help with the energy bills or measures.
If you decide to shop around for your electricity and gas in the hope of saving money you will need to know your energy consumption each year in kilowatt hours to get the best deal. You can find this out from your bills which show this consumption, but only if your meter readings are up to date. It is always worth reading your meter and send in the readings.
In case you cannot do this and you might find it helpful to know that the average home is thought to consume 18,000 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity.
Cheap energy is now gone for good. Quite apart from the pressing environmental reasons, you need to save your wallet by switching off lights, turning the temperature down and unplugging appliances when not in use.
By mid December 2007 unleaded petrol was 17.2% up on last year and diesel 15.3% up on last year. Cheap car fuel has also gone for ever, so drive carefully, with a view to conserving as much fuel as possible, and if you can, stop taking the car for those very short journeys. Drive gently.
Overall, there is nothing in the figures to make me think that our carbon emissions are fallen; if anything the rate of emissions is probably marginally rising.Clearly the policy of the government of reducing carbon emisisions is failing completely.
These energy stats are very important but the way that I have presented them is I know not compelling. I will try to think of a way to remedy that, so we can keep track of prices and use at a glance.
Filed under: carbon emissions, climate change, Coal, electricity, energy, energy statistics, fuel poverty, gas, heat, natural gas, nuclear, nuclear energy, oil, petrol | Tagged: 381ppm, BERR, catastrophic climate change, domestic consumption, driving gently, electricty statistics, failing policy, gas, nulcear, oil, saving energy | 3 Comments »