Did peak oil happen in 2008, and did that cause the recession?

According to Professor Peter Newman of Curtin University in Australia peak oil has already occurred. The professor thinks that demand now outstrips supply, or would do so if the global recession had not curtailed the demand for oil significantly. He thinks that oil reached its peak (in terms of supply) when its price peaked at $140 a barrel in 2008, and its price then significantly contributed to the recession. Certainly more oil was produced in 2008 that in 2009 and probably there will be less oil produced in 2010. Continue reading

Do not breathe too deeply in the city

I was brought up in Poplar, which is in the East End of London and is now part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. My school was separated from a main road by a very narrow pavement. The road was dirty and dusty because it carried mainly lorries and commercial vehicles going to and from London’s docks, around the Isle of Dogs and further east at Tilbury. The noise from the traffic was such that being taught in some rooms was a trying experience and it was disturbing, mildly so, when we took examinations, but the traffic dirt was the worst problem. Tower Hamlets has not changed much, in terms of traffic since then; I suppose that there is now more traffic but the traffic is less polluting with higher emission standards and catalytic converters. Continue reading

Biofuels and solar energy decisions that are hard to understand

Politicians are always talking about “hard decisions”. Mr Blair and Mr Brown criticised their political opponents for what they claimed was an inability to take “hard” decisions. By “hard” decisions they usually meant “unpopular” decisions, sometimes those where innocent people in the world outside the United Kingdom would lose their lives.

  Continue reading

Web comparison sites and Ryanair

Why do we need price comparison websites?

A free market should be an honest market. A free market which is dishonest is not ultimately free. The purpose of having a free market is to establish as far as possible prices that are fair, fair to the buyer and fair to the seller. 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.

Biofuels and their carbon cost

 As we are running out of fuels that we find by digging deep into the earth where they have rested for hundreds and thousand of years locking huge amounts of carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere, and as our world’s population increases to more than 6.6 billion souls each of them expecting and working for a better life, so we are growing the fuel we need as a cheaper and more environmentally beneficial way than using resources that will be exhausted in the lifetimes of our great grandchildren.  But what will the consequences of increased use of biofuels be? Will they be benign or are we storing up another set of problems for new generations? Continue reading

Terminal 5, snow and solar systems

At one time flying was rare and glamorous. Now it is a boring chore that you have to undertake with great guilt about the carbon emissions that flying creates assuaging the guilt by remembering that the vapour trials of aircraft diffuse light, probably slowing down the rate of global warming.


I went to the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport on Sunday. It was the first day of the new tax year, 6th April and for the first time in years it was snowing heavily in London. Continue reading

An extra day in the leap year – use it to help or harm the environment?

Today is the 29th February a date that is on the calendar every four years (or less frequently in some centuries). Depending on how you do the maths (whether you are paid on an hourly basis, or weekly basis or a monthly basis or a yearly basis), employers might get from the day an extra day’s “free” labour every four years. 

I shall not be giving Genersys employees the day off but the National Trust is giving their staff a day off. Continue reading

The China Argument and using cars less


I watched a television programme about Ms Kris Murrin, a woman who tries to persuade people to use their cars less and walk and cycle more. In the Channel 4 documentary series The Woman Who Stops Traffic, Ms Murrin encounters all sorts of arguments about why people should not give up their cars for a day, some of which are so specious that it is hard to figure out how to answer them. One argument crops up all the times when environmentalists try to persuade people to change their behaviour; I call it “the China Argument” Continue reading

Biofuels in Brazil and the environmental cost of them

In Brazil people are talking about biofuels.  Biofuels were hailed as the solution to fossil fuel carbon emissions, rather like biomass is in the United Kingdom today. Brazil produces large quantities of biofuel, mainly from sugar cane, which is turned into ethanol. This is pumped from what used to be petrol pumps and propels transport all over Brazil. 

Of course there is no free lunch in energy, and the complexities of life on earth means that the biofuel panacea turned into a biofuel poison. Continue reading