Arctic ice melt and how this will affect us.

Arctic ice melts and how this will affect us.

Ice at the Arctic and the Antarctic plays an important role in regulating our climate. Ice is white, and white reflects back solar radiation, instead of absorbing it. The area of ice at the poles acts as part of the very complicated control system that our planet has to keep its climate more or less as we enjoy it now. If there were no ice at the poles the world would be a far warmer place than it is today.

A large area of ice – around 20 square kilometers, has broken away from the northern part of Ellesmere Island, which is to the west of Greenland. Continue reading

Why I do not buy energy on a green tariff

Why don’t I buy energy on a green tariff? 350,000 people have signed up to buy energy on a green tariff from one of the six major domestic energy suppliers in the United Kingdom. I am not one of them. I was never convinced by something that calls itself a “green” tariff. The phrase is actually meaningless. What does “green” mean when applied to electricity and gas supplies? Most people would think that ”green” means energy generated by sustainable renewable means – such as wind power, photovoltaics or possibly even by biomass (although I do not classify biomass as “green”). Notice that there are words that I have used which could be used by the energy suppliers to describe their energy tariff, but instead they have opted for the vaguer, almost mysterious word “green”. Continue reading

Can Parliament control energy prices?

Can Parliament control energy prices?

Parliament’s role has been gradually changing over the years. It still makes laws, but most of the laws it makes are “whipped” by the government onto the statute book; Members of the House of Commons are dependent upon their parties – Harold Wilson once famously threatened the “take away their dog licences” when challenged by dissenters. That means that the real work of Parliament is now done in committees which examine what is going on and sometimes make very valuable recommendations which should be given wider publicity and more credence than they are. Continue reading

Energy prices spiral, fuel poverty increases – time to rethink fundamentals

As energy prices continue their upward spiral hundreds of thousands of families are now spending a huge share of the income on energy. Once this share goes above 10% of the income the family is said to be in fuel poverty. The UK are under an obligation to abolish fuel poverty, because it is scandalous that anyone in a civilised developed and wealthy nation should suffer from hypothermia or be without energy, in the same way that it would be scandalous if people in the UK were starving. Continue reading

UK’s nuclear energy will cease to be under government control

The UK’s nuclear energy will shortly cease to come under government control.

Centrica (the energy company which owns British Gas) is buying 25% of British Energy, the nuclear generating plant, from EDF. The UK Government owns 35% of British Energy, which is worth according to the price that Centrica paid for its shares, around £4.3 billion. Having sold 25% to Centrica, EDF will now buy the UK Government’s 35%, giving EDF (which stands for Electricté de France) control of the UK‘s nuclear generating industry which is expected to be expanded greatly if the unimaginative Secretary of State John Hutton has his way.

The astonishing thing about this is that the Government is so willing to dispose of an industry which it thinks critical to our energy future, and see it disposed of into foreign hands. Continue reading

Gas and electricty prices rise again, a pain and a scramble

Gas and electricity prices rise again; the pain is just starting.

Following up on Centrica’s statement last week that their prices would rise so that an average consumer would be paying £1000 a year for gas, EDF has announced an actual price rise. For those without a capped energy price gas will cost 22% more and electricity 17% more than it does today. The new prices are from 25th July so they are already biting into the pockets of domestic consumers. Continue reading

Solar concentrators in the desert

There has been talk about building a huge array of solar concentration mirrors in a desert to generate electricity. There are already a number of plants that do this. The mirrors concentrate the rays of the sun and the energy is converted from radiation into heat. The heat is used to create steam which drives a steam turbine generator producing current. Continue reading

Why I do not buy carbon offsets

I do not buy carbon offsets.

The carbon offset is now big business. Plenty of people are being offered carbon offsets when they book air travel. In a moment of environmental concern many people do sign up. I do not recommend that you do buy a carbon offset . These are my reasons.

  1. We do not really understand how to offset carbon dioxide. You can plant a tree, but it has to be the right tree in the right place, otherwise you may well release as much carbon as you will save by ploughing up the land.
  2. Carbon emissions that you create stay in the atmosphere for one hundred years. What guarantee is there that the projects your carbon offsets invests in will remain for a hundred years? What happens if, for example, that the trees planted are cropped for biomass? Back goes the carbon!
  3. Third world renewable energy projects do not offset carbon. You can invest in a new third world renewable energy project, but that assumes that the third world project would have gone ahead with a fossil fuel alternative, had it not been for your investment, which is not the case.
  4. There are no proper regulations governing the institutions that sell carbon offsets. You could well be buying nothing at all.
  5. The range of prices of so called carbon offsets varies so much and this in itself must cause suspicion.
  6. There is no transparency in the carbon offset business. How much profit do the banks, airlines and carbon offset companies make from your money which you expect to be applied towards doing environmental good? How much is left in the till after all the commissions profits and the rest have been removed?

So, in essence, if you buy a carbon offset you will buy something that may not offset carbon, where there is no regulatory control and where there is no transparency. If carbon offsets were offered for sale by the more dubious type of direct selling businesses, no one would buy them. The fact that they are offered by reputable institutions makes them appear respectable, but I do not think they are.

JP Morgan (Mr Tony Blair’s current employer has recently purchased Climate Care, a business that deals in carbon credits. What environmental credentials does JP Morgan and Mr Blair have? Climate Care state, on their website, that “the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has set rigorous standards for project validation and verification and credible project standards for voluntary emissions reductions have been launched.”

The CDM’s standards do not actually work in the way climate care claim. They finance projects that may have taken place in any event, even without the carbon credits that the CDM brings. In addition the CDM standards do not take into account the complete environmental and ecological effect of the projects from which the credits are derived. The CDM’s standards are not a benchmark of projects that provide genuine carbon emission reductions.

The carbon offset industry is big business. It is based on a fallacy that it reduces emissions. I do not think that it does. What it does is to provide charitable help for many worthy projects.

I do not recommend that you buy carbon offsets. It is far more effective to think about reducing your emissions in the developed world, rather than offsetting emissions in the developing and undeveloped world which run at a fraction of those in the developed world.

Charity is a very good thing but it should not be confused with offsetting carbon dioxide emissions. That is why I do not buy carbon offsets.

Clean coal and dirty coal

Coal is dirty to touch and dirty when it is burnt. Can we ever have clean coal? We burn lots of it in order to generate electricity, and so does the United States, China and India as well as many other countries. It is the fossil fuel that emits the most carbon dioxide when it is burnt. It is a matter of some irony that the closing of Britain’s coal mines had the unintended consequence of making Britain pollute less, as electricity generation switched to natural gas. Continue reading

Glyndebourne’s wind turbine and its carbon emissions by helicopters

Glyndebourne Opera House wants to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. This is a very worthy aspiration. The opera house has applied for and succeeded in getting permission to put up a 850kW wind turbine the pole of which will be 44m high. It will have three rotor blades having an overall diameter of 52m; the overall height would be around 70 metres. There have been some objections on aesthetic grounds because the turbine will be located on the South Downs and some think that the helicopter style blades of the turbine will spoil the beauty of the place. Continue reading