I told you so

According to a new study published by Chatham House burning wood pellets is not carbon neutral and creates more emissions than burning coal. I told you so and have been telling you so on these pages for many years.
Governments do not listen. I told them so too, but they obviously thought they knew better. The UK government created a Renewable Heat Incentive based around burning wood pellets under which they subsidised the fuel and the subsidies, paid out of our taxes were very high indeed. In fact in Northern Ireland the RHI became a source of income as the subsidy was greater than the cost of the fuel.  Continue reading

Climate Change Deniers – why am I wrong?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,Newtontold us. With climate change writingNewton’s law does not invariably apply. I know that sometimes when I post some ideas about climate change, someone else posts on this blog some ideas which are opposite, but not necessarily equal. That is the fine thing about climate change writing. The opposite views are not necessarily equal. Continue reading

The great land grab

The big money may be moving out of stock markets across the world and it may be worried about the security of bank deposits but one thing is sure; it is rushing into investing in land, arable land, around the tropical and sub tropical world. In the past ten years Oxfam reports that 227 million hectares of farm land have been bought or leased by big business and investors. Continue reading

The Energy Tipping Point of Mr Laidlaw

Mr Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica, said at the recent Economist Energy Summit that he believes that we are rapidly approaching a tipping point in energy. Presumably a tipping point occurs when the old regime of there being sufficient energy to meet the world’s needs changes to there being insufficient energy to meet the world’s needs. Mr Laidlaw points to three factors that are creating this tipping point. The first is dependence on volatile world markets for fuel, the second factor is climate change and the third factor is affordability. Continue reading

Biofuel to burn a planet

In June Oxfam this year launched a campaign to prevent more starvation. The problem that Oxfam’s campaign is highlighting is one that I have written about previously in these posts: growing food for fuel is making some food prices so high as to create more starvation because so much fuel is being sourced from grown food. Continue reading

Biofuel Madness

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is made up, at the last count of 15 professors and four doctors whose talents and knowledge range over many specialities and disciplines. Professors have knowledge and my hope is that the Council’s report will be heeded by policymakers as they have set themselves the task of identifying and defining the ethical questions that are raised by the rapidly advancing field of biological science. Genetic modifications, advanced breeding techniques and synthetic biology (rather a contradiction in terms) are like much of science moving forward more quickly than the ethical understanding of how such advances should be used for the benefit of humanity. It was always the case. We move our knowledge more quickly than our understanding. Wisdom fails in keeping pace with the movement of change. Continue reading

Biochar Madness?

You might run across the term “biochar”. Inventing a word which is prefaced by “bio” give the word an impression of green, sustainable and environmentally friend, like biofuel and biomass, but these words have been hijacked to create an impression that does not accord with reality. Continue reading

Biofuel Madness

Biofuels are unfortunately an important part of European Union and United Kingdom policy. At the moment the United Kingdom sources about 3% of its vehicle fuel from plants, which have starchy or woody cellulose content, which is fermented to create ethanol. In the United States a great deal of ethanol is made from corn. Biofuels are used in transport and in heating.

Growing fuel instead of digging for it or drilling for it may sound sustainable and environmentally friendly, but things are not always as they appear. The theory behind biofuels is that they are renewable; instead of depleting a fossil fuel source humanity may grow as much fuel as it needs. The carbon dioxide emitted by burning biofuels will be taken from the atmosphere by more biofuel plants, which will photosynthesise it thus removing it from the air and create more biofuels with the carbon dioxide.

That is a simplistic view of biofuels, and it fails to look at the whole life cycle impact of biofuel production. The simplistic theory might be for practical purposes workable if we had unlimited land resources and a small world population. However, people are populous and land is finite – as Mark Twain remarked “they stopped making it”.

The growth of biofuels has led to some unintended consequences. Good land used for food is now used for energy; food prices have risen. Many forests particularly in the tropics have been cut down for biofuel plantations; much of the wood has been burnt, and the soil disturbed creating a large spike of emissions; biodiversity has been lost and rows of palm oil trees now replace what was an important alveoli and air conditioner for the planet.

There are biofuels that can be sustainably grown in places where the land is not fit for anything else, and which can be cropped with no significant adverse environmental impact. At the moment about a third of the United Kingdom’s biofuel falls into this category and unfortunately local law and EU regulations do not distinguish between good biofuel and bad biofuel. It is about time we did.

Why do we know better?

Andrew Warren of the Association of the Conservation of Energy has written an interesting article comparing theUnited KingdomwithGermanywithin the context of climate change measures. Both nations are similarly sized with similar economies, Mr Warren points out with virtually identical climate change targets.

However as Mr Warren points out the United Kingdom is basing its energy policy on electricity consumption increasing and being serviced by renewable energy, whereas the German energy policy is based upon reducing waste in all energy consumption. Continue reading

Mr Branson’ folly

Very wealthy people often claim to be environmentalist. Everyone rich is in favour of protecting the environment provided that protection does not stand in the way of their wealth. For example, Richard Branson owns a couple of Caribbean islands called Moskito and Neckar where you may stay, as an eco tourist, for a great deal of money. I am not sure what an eco tourist does but I know what Richard Branson does. He uses concerns over global warming to make more money. Continue reading