Tuesday, January 31, 2006

How Britain outsources its carbon emissions

The UK has not succeeded in separating economic activity from carbon emissions, contrary to the Government line.

The Low Carbon Kid always suspected that there were hidden emissions due to our reliance on imported goods which do not show up in the official figures. This is because those figures are based on outputs from activities in ths country.

As more services are outsourced and goods imported, so more of these emssions are hidden.

The Energy Review claims that our carbon intensity - total energy used divided by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - is reducing. We are sustaiing economic growth but producing less carbon.

Bullshit. What we should be counting is the emissions from all our activities all over the world.

Now, new research from the Carbon Trust shows that UK consumers use products and services with a combined carbon footprint of 176.4 MtC (million tonnes of carbon per annum).

This is 11.7 MtC greater than the emissions generated by all UK production. Which means that the UK is a net importer of carbon intensive products and services from abroad.

These figures are the ones which should be used to judge whether we are meeting our Kyoto and national carbon targets. We're already 50% behind on the latter. If these figures are factored in we're behind on the former as well.

It's simple common sense.

>>the Carbon Trust

Staring doom in the face, paralysed with indecision

A two per cent rise in global average temperature will melt the Greenland ice cap, raising sea levels by seven metres and destroying the homes and livelihoods of millions.

"Climate change is worse than was previously thought and we need to act now," Henry Derwent, special climate change adviser to Tony Blair, said at the launch of a scientific book on climate change.

Researcher Rachel Warren from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who contributed to "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change", said carbon dioxide emissions had to peak no later than 2025, and talked of rapidly approaching catastrophe.

The peer-reviewed report adds that to have a chance of preventing the rise, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 should be stabilised at below 400 parts per million (ppm). Currently, it is about 380 parts per million; before the industrial revolution it was about 275ppm.

It says a 'tipping point' could occur would make the problem irreversible and potentially accelerate out of control.

While this notion is not new, what is new is the urgency and imminency of the threat. Previously it was thought to be further down the century.

The book says the biggest obstacles to the take-up of technologies such as renewables and "clean coal" lie in vested interests, cultural barriers and simple lack of awareness. Well, durr.

Tony Blair writes in the foreword, "it is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases... is causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable."

Well he knew that already. Tony, don't just stand there, implement the TEQ idea, pioneered at the Tyndall Centre, and bring on the energy police.

Don't listen to your adviser, David King, who commented: "No country is going to turn off a power station which is providing much-desired energy for its population to tackle this problem ."

Demand management is the only possible way to put the brakes on our emissions. Energy police. Now.

"Fill 'er up - with wine!"

Europe's surplus wine lake is to be turned into ethanol to power vehicles.

The European Union's Official Journal carries a tender to transform 666,095 hectolitres of undrunk wine to companies willing to put it to "exclusive use as bioethanol in the fuel sector".

France and Italy each have lakes 250,000 hectolitres big, Spain hasn't drunk 150,000 hectolitres and Hungary a mere 16,095.

After the business has been done, the national agency will check that it had, actually, been turned to fuel, but not by drinking it.

Renewable energy? Yes (hic) please..

Monday, January 30, 2006

"Anti-terror" Bush seeks to create more potential terror

The Bush administration wants to invest in nuclear power, and this means restarting the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Twenty years ago President Carter banned reprocessing because it was too expensive and there was concern terrorist groups could get access to plutonium and make nuclear bombs. President Reagan lifted the ban and Clinton reinstated it.

But the administration plans to ask in its 2007 budget next month for $250 million so the Department of Energy can develop new ways to reprocess nuclear fuel to make it harder to use its plutonium byproduct in nuclear weapons.

Reprocessing separates uranium and plutonium from spent fuel so the elements could be used further. In Britain, this is done at Thorp in Sellafield.

Twelve of the 33 nations that generate nuclear electricity practice reprocessing.

Thousands of tons of nuclear waste are piling up at nuclear power plants around the US.

In the UK, it was announced last week that the inventory of the stockpile of waste has dramatically increased because military waste has been added to the list for the first time.

Please note: renewable energy cannot be used as a weapon of mass destruction, and leaves no harmful residue.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Nuclear - short term fix not long term investment

If the nuclear industry wins a few more of the contracts it's going after, worldwide - say another 20 builds, not beyond possibility - known uranium resources would run out in 30-40 years. Why not invest instead in a technology that will last forever?

The UK Energy Review itself points out that known recoverable uranium reserves would last around 50 years at current levels of demand and a further 30 years is available from decommissioned plants and weapons.

But a global expansion of nuclear power stations would reduce this, but there has been little exploration for uranium since the mid-1980s. Today, mine expansions and new mines are planned in Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil and Namibia.

Uranium is typically refined in source countries but enrichment in the UK is conducted at Capenhurst, near Chester.

The UK has no commercial uranium resource but it could draw on its stockpile of separated plutonium to supply Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel, enough for the lifetimes of two large reactors.

But why go to all the expense when the technology is at a dead end? How can Lord Sainsbury call this technology sustainable? The Science Minister wants his head examining.

Massive investment in renewable energy would make us instead world leaders in technologies that we can sell to the world and provide sustainable jobs - forever, not just for 40 years.

Pre-licensing new nuclear power stations - is it in the bag?

The government has already acted on nuclear industry lobbying about 'pre-licensing' nuclear power stations to speed up their construction.

There was talk in the press at the start of the week about this. The Energy Review reveals that Government has already asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to provide an expert report "to ensure that risks arising from [potential energy developments] are sensibly managed by industry, including ... the potential role of pre-licensing assessments of candidate designs".

This reveals that the Government was aware of this lobbying some time ago, and has already acted on it.

Which in turn speaks volumes about the its revised attitude to nuclear power since the last energy review in 2002.

And Wicks says the Review is impartial? He is in fact already moving the goalposts.

Last summer, Trade Minister Alan Johnson said "By 2020 there will be three nuclear power stations responsible for generating 7 per cent. of electricity, whereas now 12 nuclear stations generate 20 per cent.". But this week in the Guardian Wicks has made the need seem more urgent - "Ten atomic stations, supplying about 18% of Britain's electricity, are due to close by 2020, with the country due to rely on renewable sources but mainly gas imports unless more nuclear plants are built".

Nothing has changed since then - in fact if it's changed at all, the industry itself has indicated that it is finding ways to prolong the lives of existing nuclear power stations in other countries.

Actually, we will probably lose about 12% of generating capacity from nuclear by 2020 - in fourteen years we can surely increase renewables' share to that amount with far less risk.

Here's a nuclear industry association road map" for speeding up nuclear new build. Pride comes before a fall?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Nuclear is only 3.6 per cent of our final energy consumption, so reduce the demand!

The government's energy review should look at reducing demand for electricity and gas rather than considering how to expand supply.

Analyst Kevin Anderson, based at the University of Manchester, told the BBC "Given that nuclear power provides only 3.6 per cent of our final energy consumption, the argument that the UK cannot meet its carbon dioxide targets without building a new generation of nuclear stations to replace the existing and aging generation is evidently wrong."

Britain could rule the waves again!

Northern Ireland regulators have approved the installation of a 1 MW tidal energy turbine. This is the second marine energy installation announced in two months [see blog entry below].

Marine energy is now taking off, and Britain is set to rule the waves again. A new review of the industry says Britain could win £85 million within four years in wave and tidal energies.

Northern Ireland's Environment and Heritage Service has given consent to Marine Current Turbines to install its SeaGen tidal turbine in Strangford Lough.

The turbine will be installed and connected to the grid this year, and will generate power for 600 homes.

“The great advantage with tidal power is its predictability, certainty of fuel supply, and zero carbon emissions,” says Martin Wright of Marine Current Turbines. He forgot to say it's also free, of course!

“The UK leads the world in the field of tidal energy and this announcement is a very important step in maintaining that position,” said energy minister Malcolm Wicks.

Global capital expenditure on wave energy is estimated at £72 million between 2004 and 2008, with 50% in the UK. Capital expenditure on tidal projects is estimated at £55 million during the same period, of which 90% is related to the UK.

Just think - if all the money they want to put into nuclear and gas imports went into developing and installing this technology, in twenty years we'd be unbeatable as world leaders in the field and be self-sufficient in energy for ever.

>> Marine Turbines
>> Consulting firm OTM's report Marine Renewable (Wave & Tidal) Opportunity Review, produced for the Scottish Enterprises Energy Team [pdf 1.2MB]

Nuclear waste problem unsolved - official

A leaked official report exposes the bogus nature of the pro-nuke lobby's proposals to manage the nuclear waste legacy.

The Government's own nuclear waste advisers, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CORWM), have concluded in an outline report that "If Ministers accept our recommendations, the UK's nuclear waste problem is not solved."

Pro-nuclear pushers can no longer hide behind the idea that they expect CORWM to give a green light to nuclear power just because a waste dump of one sort or another is proposed. It won't wash - they're living in a dream world.

We are still a million miles from resolving the problem of existing waste, never mind creating more.

The report says on paragraph 64 :"If Ministers accept our recommendations, the UK's nuclear waste problem is not solved. Having a strategy is a start. The real challenge follows."

Status of the report: "The Committee is currently completing the third and final phase of its programme: assessing its short-listed options for managing the UK's radioactive waste and recommending the best option or combination to Government. It decided in autumn 2005 to start preparing its final report, beginning with an outline and introductory Chapters, then progressively adding more material, starting with its work to date and ending with its final conclusions and recommendations. This is the current version of the report."

Scottish Ministers have on record a commitment that no new nuclear power stations would be supported in Scotland until the nuclear waste problem is solved. Welsh ministers want a nuclear free Wales. Are the people of England going to go it alone?

>> the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CORWM)

>> BBC coverage

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Europeans say: Renewable energy? Yes please!

Yet another survey has revealed opposition to nuclear energy.

The Europe-wide poll showed almost half of EU citizens (48%) believe their national government should focus on developing solar power. 41% want promotion of advanced research for new energy technologies, and 31% developiment of wind power. Regulation for the reduction of dependence on oil (23%) and developing the use of nuclear power (12%) come lowest.

France has warned in response that abandoning nuclear would cause electricity prices in Europe to rise - but the obverse is actually true: building new nuclear stations would raise prices.

The poll also revealed that 47% wanted more energy decisions to be made at a European level. Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said "This gives us encouragement to work on this policy." EU heads of state will discuss the outlines of such a policy in March. It could cover issues from boosting renewable sources to harnessing the bloc's combined negotiating power for talks with foreign suppliers.

Europeans want help to save more energy

Results showed that about 25% of people think more efficient use of energy woould improve the performance of the European economy and that European citizens want to save energy but don't know how. 43% would like more information on efficient use of energy, and 40% support tax incentives (Colin Challen's tax on incandescent light bulbs and reducing VAT on insulation for example).

Eight out of 10 citizens say they take energy consumption into account when buying energy-using devices, higher when buying cars or refrigerators (almost 60% state they pay much attention) than for light bulbs (43%).

Despite significant variations between countries, it can be said that citizens seem to be more concerned about energy consumption in the new Member States than in the EU-15 group.

Behaviour concerning light bulbs is revealing: in the six countries where over half said they paid “a lot of attention”, five are new Member States: in Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy almost 6 out of 10 stated that they paid a lot of attention to the energy consumption of light bulbs, while in Spain, Greece or Ireland this proportion decreases to 3 out of 10.

40% of Europeans say they would be prepared to pay more for energy from renewable sources (2 points more than in an earlier survey). 27% would even accept an increase of 5% (3 points more) and 13% a higher price rise. The evolution seems to confirm that the price “ceiling” is situated at a 5% price increase.

Residents in the new Member States are more reluctant to pay higher prices for “green energy” because of the economic situation or the unemployment rate.

Car use

When it comes to changing the habits of the use of cars, the rise in fuel prices seems to have an impact only if a certain ceiling (around 2€/litre) is reached: more than 2 out of 10 Europeans stated they would use their car “a lot less often” while 3 out of ten declared they would do so “a bit less often”.

Such a situation would really affect citizens in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Austria, where almost one third said they would be prepared to significantly reduce the use of cars/vehicles. On the other hand, Irish, Cypriots, Maltese, Dutch, and particularly Slovenians (between 36% and 47%) would use their cars as often.

The Eurobarometer survey covered almost 30,000 people, and was carried out in the 25 EU member countries as well as acceding and candidate states from Oct. 11 to Nov. 15 last year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Doc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect by David Thorpe

Inside a nuclear reactor, no one can hear you scream. In 2006 it's 20 years since the world's worst nuclear accident.

At the time, the Low Carbon Kid was so shocked he wrote this book as a savage satire on the nuclear industry. David Thorpe was then a comics and tv scriptwriter (and journalist), author of the Doc Chaos tv series and comics series.

Doc Chaos is the autobiography of nuclear power as a crazed, Frankensteinian scientist out of control, persuading the world's leaders to take on this seductive, star-powering technology to their glorious self-destruction.

It is a tempestuous and disastrous love story in which the object and subject of love are chaos and nukes.

This gut-wrenchingly funny, thoroughly original and brutally accusing novella is specially illustrated by some of the finest talents in British comics at the time, and even now:
  • Simon Bisley
  • Brian Bolland (the original Judge Dredd artist)
  • Brett Ewins
  • Duncan Fegredo
  • Rian Hughes
  • Lin Jammett
  • Pete Mastin
  • Dave McKean
  • Savage Pencil
  • Ed Pinsent and
  • Bryan Talbot

"No one could be fully prepared for Doc Chaos. It is a comedy of terrors." - New Musical Express.

Originally, proceeds from the book went to support the World Information Service on Energy (WISE - see link right). If you buy the book today for £6, the proceeds go to support this blog site, a daily post of information in the campaign for a world free from nuclear and fossil fuel pollution caused by our energy consumption.

To buy this book, send me an email and I will send further details
£6.00 * ISBN 1 869802 08 X * 88 pages * Hooligan Press © David Thorpe 1988

Monday, January 23, 2006

TUC worries about jobs and skills for new energy supply

The TUC is concerned that we won't have the capacity to build whatever the energy review decides we need.

The Low Carbon Kid thinks they should instead be concerned that whatever solutions are arrived at creates the safest and most sustainable jobs for the British workforce. This is bound to be a mix of energy sources that concentrate on supply service agreements and decentralised supply, rather than centralised, capital-intensive ones like new nuclear power stations.

Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, said: "The Government's ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions raise major questions about workforce and skills development. The UK needs to develop a whole range of new low carbon technologies. We will be raising with ministers the need to ensure that we have the capacity to develop and manage the new energy system this challenge throws up."

Certainly several studies have shown that there is a skills gap, and the construction industry is well employed by many PFI schemes. But Barber also needs to wise himself up a bit and get a grip on which technologies provide the most livelihoods.

Wolfe cries in alarm!

Another respondent to the energy review launch is worried that it's all going to be too rushed.

Philip Wolfe, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: "Ministers rightly remind us how complex the issues are, yet are consulting for just three months and promise new policy proposals by the summer. I hope that we will not end up with a quick and dirty energy policy that ditches the good work of the last Energy White Paper and has to be revisited yet again in a couple of years' time."

He outlines the priorities as:
  • We must close the so-called 'energy gap' before trying to fill it.
  • The Government should start by doing more to promote energy saving.
  • They should also firm up 2020 targets for new renewables production across all sectors
  • They should stop thinking that energy policy is only about electricity supply and look to heat, transport fuels and demand reduction as well.

Wave and tidal power could supply a fifth of UK energy needs

To coincide with the energy review's launch the Carbon Trust has published the results of research which shows that ocean power could eventually replace the component of the energy mix currently filled by nuclear power.

They say it could become cost-competitive with conventional and other renewable types of energy generation in the long term – given the right level of investment now.

The report also reveals that the sector could meet three per cent of the UK’s total electricity supply by 2020.

The study is based on the Carbon Trust’s Marine Energy Challenge, a £3 million, 18-month programme, designed to improve understanding of wave and tidal stream energy by helping developers advance their technologies.

Marine energy currently costs more than conventional and other alternative energy sources as the generation technologies are at early stages of development. However, the report predicts that the cost has the potential to fall significantly. It cites private investment, underpinned by long-term Government support, as vital in unlocking the potential of the marine energy market.

Other key factors include the availability of grid connections and network capacity, regulation and security of supply considerations.

John Callaghan, Programme Engineer at the Carbon Trust, said: “The UK leads the world in marine renewables technology development. Given our superb natural resources and long-standing experience in offshore oil and gas, ship-building and power generation, the UK is in prime position to accelerate commercial progress in the marine energy sector and secure economic value by selling marine energy devices, developing wave and tidal stream farms and creating new revenues from electricity generation.

“Given the sector’s potential as a low carbon and indigenous energy source, growing the marine renewables market is an exciting prospect as part of the UK’s fight against climate change.

"However, public support and private investment is needed now to step up the pace of marine renewables development in the UK and ensure it meets its potential.”

The Carbon Trust recommends that the UK public sector funders should consider the following ways to support the development of the UK marine energy sector:
  • Give increased support over time for marine renewables technology development, with greater support for RD&D and cross-cutting technology issues to help deliver cost reductions;
  • Support marine renewables project development from now into the medium term, contingent on technologies proving technically viable in the first instance, and later - on evidence of reducing costs;
  • Develop a clear long-term policy framework for support to the sector to give business greater investment certainty.
The Carbon Trust’s Marine Energy Challenge brought together small scale developers of marine renewables technology with engineering expertise in order to accelerate the overall development of the sector.
>> www.thecarbontrust.co.uk/ctmarine.

Scottish greens say review is a sham

The Scottish Greens have said the review looks increasingly like a charade since it is only a few years since the last energy review which came out against nuclear power, and in favour of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

They accused ministers of hiding their intention to build new nuclear power stations behind the 'Yes, Minister' style statement 'mature debate'.

Green MSP Shiona Baird, Green speaker on energy, said: "Of course we welcome any truly mature debate on nuclear power because it is imperative that we separate fact from myth. Ever since scientists first argued that power from nuclear fission would be 'too cheap to meter', the myths of nuclear power have been all too obvious. Anyone informed of all the facts would be unconvinced that nuclear power is a viable or sustainable form of power.

"It is uneconomic and would pull money away from investment in energy efficiency and renewables. It presents unacceptable and grave dangers to world security and the environment, and there remains no solution to the waste problem. Scotland needs to make its own decisions about energy for the long term and not be pushed again into a nuclear future."

Chris Ballance MSP, Green Speaker on nuclear energy said: "Nuclear power is not the answer to securing safe, clean and sustainable energy sources for the future. To suggest it as such is an insult to people's intelligence. It is certainly not the solution to climate change - it is in fact very carbon intensive to mine, process and transport the fuel, to construct the stations and to manage the waste – and as reserves of good quality uranium ore reduce, it becomes almost as carbon intensive as gas. The nuclear industry is clutching at straws in making the climate argument - and it fails miserably to convince that it is a clean, cheap or safe source of sustainable energy.

Energy Review launched- EST gets first response in!

Malcolm Wicks, DTI Energy Supremo, finally launched the consultation document today that will help decide the UK's energy strategy and supply mix for the foreseeable future.

He said that nuclear is being considered but "we need too to ask whether we are doing enough to create the conditions for other low carbon technologies to come forward and to examine how carbon sequestration could ensure we can continue to have access to the world’s ample coal reserves and other fossil fuels to meet our energy needs."

The answer to the first question is blatantly obvious - not nearly enough. At present it's akin to trying to launch a rocket to the moon with a Brock's fire-cracker.

The consultation document is here. the deadline for replies is April 14. Get yours in! You can bet the Low Carbon Kid certainly will, and sharing his response to reading it in more detail in the next few days.

The Energy Saving Trust got in a prompt response saying that "energy efficiency and microgeneration should form crux of UK's energy policy":

Whilst it has been proven that reducing demand is the most cost effective and environmentally sound option, this message has been overshadowed in public debate and media coverage by a focus on new large-scale generation such as nuclear power and wind farms.

Effective policy interventions to support energy saving and microgeneration (such as small scale solar and wind) are crucial in order to deliver on what we believe should be the key areas of focus for the Energy Review, namely:
  • A pressing need to address escalating energy demands and our dependence on gas;
  • The 2010 target of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20 per cent, which we are currently not on track to meet;
  • A need to eradicate fuel poverty.
Energy efficiency can deliver carbon savings now as well as a low carbon economy in the long term.

Domestic energy use is currently responsible for 27 per cent of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions. The average household wastes two tonnes of CO2 annually by not installing simple energy efficiency measures. The potential exists to save over 50 million tonnes of CO2 every year, and over 200,000 GWh of energy - equivalent to the output of 56 gas-fired power stations.

The potential impact of microgeneration and how it can aid security of supply means it too should become a mainstay of energy policy.

A recent Energy Saving Trust study, for the Department of Trade and Industry, concluded that, by 2050, micogeneration could provide 30-40 per cent of the UK's total electricity needs and help to reduce CO2 emissions by 15 per cent per year.

As fuel prices continue to rise, there is a growing need to tackle the problem of fuel poverty.

Energy efficiency and microgeneration are again the most effective solutions in tackling hard to treat homes that are off the gas grid.

Reducing the growing emissions from road transport, which accounts for another quarter of CO2, is also crucial.

Fiscal incentives such as increased VED for the least fuel efficient vehicles and increased investment in greener fuel and vehicle technologies should form a key component of the UK's transport energy policy.

It is time for people to recognise that no matter how much more capacity we build for power generation, the UK will not achieve security of supply or reach its environmental targets unless we also tackle the problem of our ever increasing demand for energy in the first place.

How to navigate to a low carbon future

Official, but boring account of the EU's stategy to address climate change.

This Euro-active overview is as succinct a summary as any.

It quotes Christian Egenhofer, a senior researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels, saying it would be wrong to assume that one or a few 'killer technologies', such as hydrogen, can do the job. "Rather we will need a broad range of technologies: clean coal technologies, various renewables, carbon capture and storage, nuclear, to name but a few."

It also quotes the Pew Center on global climate change, a Washington-based think tank, that reducing greenhouse gas emissions "will require a broad portfolio of policies to foster technology development".

More nuclear lies and cover up from FirstEnergy

Would you buy a new nuclear power station from these guys? FirstEnergy Corp admitted on Friday that some of its employees lied to US regulators about safety violations at its Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio.

It said it had fixed a deal with the US Department of Justice to pay $28 million in fines, restitution and community-service projects in order to avoid indictment of the utility. Ie, it bribed the Dept of Justice to prevent the possibility of its employees going to jail. These guys are deliberately not named publicly.

The penalty is the largest ever imposed for nuclear safety violations in the United States.

Davis-Besse, which can produce electricity for about 900,000 homes, was forced to close in early 2002 when it was discovered that leaking boric acid had chewed a pineapple-sized hole in the reactor vessel's carbon steel lid, a serious safety violation. Officials said it was the most extensive corrosion ever seen at a U.S. nuclear reactor.

On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted two former Davis-Besse employees and a contractor, charging them with hiding damage from federal regulators.

In a nice touch, the fine includes $5 million partly for Habitat for Humanity environmental work and university research into energy efficiency!

Chernobyl - adding insult to misery

We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the world's worst nuclear accident.

Tomorrow, the Low Carbon Kid will post details of how you can order his book based on the disaster, The Chernobyl Effect, published first 18 years ago.

Today though, a reminder of how the disaster is still fresh in the lives of thousands of people who live in the area.

Last month, President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko said he believes "it is important to draw people’s attention to problems of the Chernobyl zone and to formulate a complex plan of its re-cultivation". He criticized former governments for their indifference to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

“There is still no complex plan to solve problems of the Chernobyl zone. We remember about it once a year – on April 26. But that does not help us solve social problems of Slavutych, aid more than three hundred self-settlers, or cope with the problem of re-cultivation,” he said.

Seem like a good move? Re-cultivation - growing food for poor local people afflicted by mutated and diseased children? Beware - never take these nuclear cowboys at face value. Peer under the carpet or in the cupboard looking for skeletons and ulterior motives - lies and smoke. For here's what he said later:

The Ukrainian Head of State said the country should construct a modern and environmentally safe plant in the Chernobyl zone to store and process nuclear waste from Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

Ah, so money is the real motive. Ukraine pays Russia $60-80m a year to store its nuclear waste, which it regards as a drain.

The "reviving" of Chernobyl blatantly disregards the report of the National Academy of Science which states that even low doses of radiation can cause cell defects. Ukraine's president is placing short-term profits over long-term risks from radioactive releases due to accidents, transport vulnerabilities, terrorist attack, geological events.

The world's largest radioactive waste dump just might be enticing in a area of the world that has historically been politically and economically unstable.

The Organization Committee on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Chernobyl Accident is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Stanislav Stashevsky.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Low Carbon MPs

These are the committee members of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, referred to a couple of posts down, to contrast with the Pro-Nuclear Group.

Notice they have no trade association behind them and claim no perks. Former DTI minister Byers is amongst them, as is Tim Yeo, former Tory Environment Minister. Significantly, no members of this anti-climate change group are also in the pro-nuclear group.
Purpose: To raise awareness of the threat of climate change and to promote policies which counter that threat.


  • Chair: Colin Challen (Lab)
  • Vice-Chairs: Lord Beaumont of Whitley (Green), Lord Redesdale (LD)
  • Treasurer: Peter Ainsworth (Con)
  • Secretary: Dr Desmond Turner (Lab)

20 qualifying members:

  • Colin Challen
  • Stephen Byers
  • David Chaytor
  • Mark Lazarowicz
  • Janet Dean
  • Dr Ian Gibson
  • Nia Griffith
  • Kelvin Hopkins
  • Dr Desmond Turner
  • Dr Alan Whitehead
  • Peter Ainsworth
  • Lord Crickhowell
  • David Curry
  • Lord Renton of Mount Harry
  • Bill Wiggin
  • Tim Yeo
  • Norman Baker (LD)
  • Lord Beaumont of Whitley (Green)
  • Lord Redesdale (LD)
  • Mike Weir (SNP)
Contact details for correspondence and general enquiries about the group: Mr Colin Challen MP, House of Commons, London SW1A OAA. Tel: 020 7219 8260

Benefits received by group from sources outside parliament: None.

Paid employment outside parliament of staff who hold a parliamentary pass: None.

Date of group's last registered annual general meeting: 29 June 2005

Category of group: On Approved List; All-Party Parliamentary Subject Group.

>> Parliament list

"Survey shows opposition to nuclear is still high"

"Majority prefer renewables and efficiency over nuclear future" is how Edie reported the findings of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Ipsos MORI survey of public attitudes, we discussed two days ago.

It's interesting how different media slanted the results. But Edie says the main finding is "An overwhelming majority of people favour the promotion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures as the best ways to tackle climate change rather than restarting a nuclear power programme".

"A majority of the British public still reject nuclear power as the preferred option for tackling climate change."

The survey found that 78% of respondents favoured renewables as the energy choice of the future, while 76% thought energy efficiency and lifestyle changes would be a better way of tackling emissions.

The results found high levels of concern about climate change among the British public and its findings seem to contradict a variety of polls over the past few years which tend to suggest a lessening of opposition to nuclear power.

It also shows the lack of faith that many people have in democracy these days, as 62% said that it doesn't matter what the public think of nuclear power as nuclear power stations will be built anyway. The Low Carbon Kid is happy to see that public scepticism is alive and well.

"The survey findings suggest that, given the numbers of people who are opposed to the renewal of nuclear power, there remains considerable potential for conflict around this issue. Additionally, many of those who do accept new nuclear power for Britain do so only reluctantly, and only if renewables and other strategies are developed and used alongside," Professor Pidgeo, who headed the survey, said.

"Ordinary people have a more sophisticated understanding of energy futures than many decision makers like to believe. This wider context is something which the Government should take very seriously during its own review."

Meanwhile, one of Professor Pidgeon's colleagues at the Tyndall Centre, Dr Kevin Anderson a senior research fellow, has said that claims that nuclear power can solve the problems of climate change are "simplistic" and that we can deal with climate change without nuclear power.

Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Anderson said that the UK could very easily compensate for the loss of energy from closing nuclear stations with simple measures in energy efficiency.

"If you've got money to spend on tackling climate change then you don't spend it on supply. You spend it on reducing demand," he said.

The Low Carbon Kid says "Let the people decide". Renewable energy? Yes please.

Tax those light bulbs!

Colin Challen is our very own self-appointed Energy Policeman.

He's asking MPs today to consider a tax on incandecent light bulbs, which use seven times more energy than fluorescent (low energy) ones and last only a quarter as long. He says it would save the equivalent of a nuclear power station's output if they were all priced out of the market. Incandescent lamps, which are commonly found in households, are highly inefficient sources of light because about 90% of the energy used is lost as heat.

Colin is a star. He's MP for Morley & Rothwell (Leeds), Chair of the All Party Group on Climate Change and a member of the Environmental Audit Committee. He is waging a campaign for a low carbon, non-nuclear future.

Last November he asked the ASA to amend its code of practice after British Nuclear Group placed an advertisement placed in several magazines which received several complaints.

The Low Carbon Kid has said the nuclear industry will lie its way back to favour, and it did so here. The ad showed a "faked photograph of a non-existent cleaned up nuclear power station, returned to the state of a green field with trees in it. It is quite possible, under current decommissioning arrangements, that such a green field will never come into existence, or at least not for decades or hundreds of years," said Colin.

Colin added: “The combined effect of the photo and the advert’s strapline was very misleading. Basically, the ASA are now saying that a fake picture – which after all can speak a thousand words – is OK, but would they apply the same criteria to written lies?"

Colin also launched the Climate Change (Contraction and Convergence) Bill, in November, the first instance in any parliament of the C&C framework being placed in a legislative format. It builds on his previous Domestic Tradeable Quotas Bill (now called TEQs).

>> Colin's web site
>> Ban the Bulb campaign
>> Climate Change (Contraction and Convergence) Bill text

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Generosity of Australia and US knows no bounds

At the conclusion of the 'Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development & Climate' talks Australian prime minister John Howard pledged to invest $75 million over five years to combat global warming, and the U.S. delegation said President George Bush will seek $52 million in his 2007 budget.

It's kind of like, you're lying at the side of the road bleeding to death and a car stops and offers you a paracetemol, isn't it?

And then as it drives off it runs over your toes.

U.S. energy secretary Samuel Bodman said nuclear must be considered as an option if there are to be cuts in GHG emissions, because global demand for electricity will increase 50% over the next 20 years. “Nuclear power, it seems to me, is an obvious requirement” for the future.

The Energy Police should just put him out of his misery.

Wasting energy? This is a job for the Energy Police!

Using too much energy? Better watch out - you could face a fine!

At least in China. Beijing is setting up an "energy police" force to crack down on excessive lighting and heating and other power waste in shopping malls and office buildings, according to Wednesday's China Daily.

Twenty energy-efficiency supervisors will patrol the city. "We have been advocating energy saving for years but it has remained only a slogan because of a lack of a supervising system," Beijing vice mayor Zhang Hao was quoted as saying.

The Low Carbon Kid always knew that voluntary agreements and 'carrots' didn't work half as well as 'sticks'! He would like to see a similar pilot scheme in the UK.

See anyone struggling with Catch-23? - Send in the Energy Police to turn everything off!

Neighbour got a Humvee and blazing lights all night? Shop him to the Energy Police!

Now there's an outcome for the Uk Energy Review. Will someone tell Blair?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The pro-nuclear MPs

These are the committee members of the Nuclear Energy All-Party Parliamentary Group, referred to a couple of posts down. They are being used by the industry lobby group, the Nuclear Industry Association, to soften opinions on the industry:

  • Chair: John Robertson MP (Lab: Glasgow North West)
  • Vice Chair: Lord Christopher (Ex-Trade union leader; General Secretary Inland Revenue Staff Federation) (Lab)
  • Vice Chair: Lord Jenkin of Roding (Con) (former Secretary of State for Social Services (1979-81), for Industry (1981-83) and the Environment (1983-85)
  • Vice Chair: Lord McInally (LD) (MD of Symetec, food processing company)
  • Secretary: Michael Connarty MP (Lab: Falkirk East Constituency and Member, European Directives Committee A (Agriculture, Environment & Health & Safety. Listed policy interests do not include energy.))
  • Assistant Secretary: David Drew MP (Lab: Stroud, a 'green' constituency. He says he "regularly attends meetings of the Parliamentary Renewables and Sustainable Energy" on his web site but omits his membership of the NEAPPG)
  • Treasurer: Jimmy Hood MP (Lab: Lanark & Hamilton East) (his CV lists under 'employment': Fellow of Industry and Parliament Trust; Shell UK and Mars; Fellow of Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme; Army
Many of them are Scottish.

...And twenty qualifying members:

  • Bill Olner
  • Lord Lea of Crondall
  • Anne Moffat
  • Helen Southworth
  • Russell Brown
  • David Hamilton
  • Geraldine Smith
  • Lord Howie of Troon
  • Lord Dubs
  • Lord Evans of Parkside
  • Robert Key
  • Bob Spink
  • Baroness Carnegy of Lour
  • Baroness O'Cathain
  • David Mundell
  • Robert Goodwill
  • Lord Maclennan of Rogart (LD)
  • Lord Clement-Jones (LD)
  • Lord Flowers (CB)
  • Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB)

Contact details for correspondence and general enquiries about the group: Mr Michael Connarty MP, House of Commons, London SW1A OAA. Tel: 020 7219 5071.

Benefits received by group from sources outside parliament: Nuclear Industry Association provides administrative assistance (booking meeting rooms, organising events and trips, sending out invitations to meetings, writing minutes)

Paid employment outside parliament of staff who hold a parliamentary pass: Miranda Kirschel, Corporate Affairs Manager, Nuclear Industry Association.

Date of group's last registered annual general meeting: 28 June 2005.

Category of group: On Approved List; All-Party Parliamentary Subject Group.

Correct as of: 21 December 2005 (from the House of Commons Register of All-Party Groups)

BBC - Battling to Beat Carbon?

The BBC has a new environmental report out. It aims to cut by half CO2 emissions per broadcast hour

It claims that total CO2 emissions reduced significantly in 2004 from the year before mainly because approximately 95% of all electricity used by the Beeb now comes from a renewable tarriff. That's the easy win.

But transport CO2 emissions increased over 2004, "reflecting international priorities" - ie reporting abroad.

The corporation says it's trying to increase efficiency of vehicles and travel which should result in a decrease over the longer term.

It also gives figures for its coverage of climate change:

News & Current Affairs168 items71 items
Children's7 items5 items
Radio96 items68 items
Online news292 items123 items

>> BBC Interim Environment Report for 2004/05.

Britain should emulate California and New York

As the Blair government warms to nuclear power, Americans turn to renewables. How ironic is that?

Both sides in the nuclear / renewables debate are hotting up for the battle of the decade, due to start properly next week. And it's common knowledge that, despite the rhetoric from Malcolm Wicks, nuclear power is a facing a prodigal return to the fold.

But we know that if the nuclear industry gets billions to rebuild, then that is money denied to needed investment in technologies that will benefit us in the much longer term. Nuclear power, if it's necessary at all, would only be useful to get us through the next 50 years of crucial carbon-minimisation, to lessen as much as possible the effects of already-increasing climate change.

The same investment in renewables would have a much longer-term benefit because technologies such as photovoltaic power, fuel cells, ocean power are far more sustainable.

Investment in developing the latter two especially would make the UK a world leader and bring income-winning exportable expertise as for decades to come.

Public and private investment in these, given the right policy signals, would bring the price down and make it affordable for many.

How ironic, then, that this is exactly what is happening now in California and New York, in oil-guzzling America. [Washington already has a generous renewables-friendly policy.]

California enters the Solar age

Last week, California regulators approved the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the largest solar energy policy ever enacted in the U.S. and second only to Germany in terms of global solar policy.

The CPUC will provide $2.8 billion in customer incentives for solar projects on existing residential buildings, as well as all public buildings, industrial facilities, businesses, and agricultural facilities.

The California Energy Commission will provide $400 million in incentives for new homes, specifically targeting collaborations with the builder / developer community.

The plan allots $3.2 billion for solar energy rebates in the state for the next 11 years, providing for the installation of approximately 3000 MW of solar energy, roughly the equivalent of six large natural-gas fired power plants. Rebates beginning this year will stay at $2.80 per watt and gradually decline for the following ten years by 10 percent per year.

The money will come from existing funds already earmarked for solar power and a very small additional surcharge on monthly electric bills over eleven years.

"The most important significance to this plan is that it takes long term commitments to grow the industry. Manufacturers are contemplating major investments because of this." said Mark Farber, co-founder and Vice President, Strategic Planning of Evergreen Solar, a photovoltaic manufacturer.

Gordon Handelsman, Sr. Director of Marketing and Sales for Shell Solar, said: "I see the market as a tripod between Japan, Germany and now the U.S. The U.S. has been the lagging piece of the stool, this will address that." Marc Roper, Vice President of sales and marketing for the U.S. division of solar manufacturer Schott Solar, added that it also helps reduce the global risk for the industry and its current and future investors by diversifying demand.

However, the industry's growth is restrained by the current bottleneck in the supply chain for silicon, needed for roughly 90 percent of solar panels built around the world. "In the short term we probably are not going to see enormous growth," Roper said. "But this gives us, as an industry, confidence to work with silicon producers to expand capacity. This enables us to secure the feedstock." Just as it takes some lead time to ramp up solar manufacturing facilities, it takes lead time for silicon suppliers to ramp up their production.

Importantly, the Solar Initiative includes a pilot programme for solar thermal water heating. It says "We also propose that solar thermal water heating and associated heating and/or cooling that offsets natural gas and electricity use onsite be eligible for CSI incentives on a limited basis initially. Although solar water heating does not normally reduce electric demand since most hot water heaters are gas, the need for reductions in gas usage is increasingly critical given recent concerns regarding natural gas prices and supply nationwide. We also note that incentive dollars, in addition to coming from the electricity sector, will also derive from natural gas ratepayer funds. Consequently, funding natural gas-reducing solar applications is a natural fit with the program."

For the full text of the decision go to the CPUC home page , click on "Solar Inititiative". Click on Appendix A to see the text on solar water heating above.

New York to turn to Renewable Energy

Meanwhile, in the Big Apple, New York Governor George E. Pataki has called on New York to implement a host of renewable energy plans and incentives including making the entire state a tax-free zone for renewable energy companies.

He made the announcement at the 2006 Legislative Session in his twelfth and final State of the State Message.

Other measures include:
  • making renewable fuels available at service stations all across the state, starting with the Thruway
  • making the renewable fuels used in automobiles "tax-free" throughout the State
  • the establishment of ethanol refineries in the state
  • the development of efficient hybrid vehicles that can be plugged in at home or alternatively run on renewable biofuels
  • creating "shovel-ready" sites and help finance advance "clean" coal power plants.
"Governor Pataki knows that wind power and other renewable energy projects will help clean our environment and create hundreds of jobs, particularly in upstate New York," said Charles C. Hinckley, CEO of Noble Environmental Power, a wind power project development company.

Two new biofuel production facilities are already in various stages of development in Fulton and Seneca Falls, according to the New York Farm Bureau.

Many, if not all, of the measures would need to be accomplished through the State Legislature but the Governor's suggestions give them impetus.

Back in the UK

Such vision is not shared by Blair's ally, Bush, however. Perhaps that is the reason why Blair favours nuclear.

But, the policy review is yet to formally start here, and there is everything to play for on both sides. Watch out for plenty of dirty tactics from the nuclear lobbyist firms such as the All-Party Parliamentary Nuclear Group.

This was set up in February 2003. Its mission is “to encourage and facilitate discussion among MPs and peers from across the political spectrum with an interest in nuclear issues”. The group’s website says administration of the group is by Miranda Kirschel, of NIA.

It does not elaborate that the NIA is a trade association and information and representative body for the British civil nuclear industry. It represents more than 100 companies. See the Low Carbon Kid's previous blog on this topic and the Times article from last week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Make Wales Nuclear Free campaign

Several campaign groups have formed the Keep Wales Nuclear Free campaign, although they perhaps forgot about Wylfa and the fact you can only keep it nuclear free if it is already!

Never mind.

The groups include Centre for Alternative Technology, Friends of the Earth Cymru and the Green Party

Paul Allen, Development Director of the Centre for Alternative Technology said, "A shift of energy policy ... to energy efficiency and renewable energy sources is not only imperative for preventing runaway climate change, it is also vital to our international security.”

Julian Rosser, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru commented: “The industry spin machine seems to have transformed nuclear power from dead duck to spring chicken almost overnight. However effective their lobbying has been, the fact remains that nuclear is not safe, secure, financially viable or reliable. There is massive untapped potential in Wales for saving energy and generating clean green renewable electricity. That would help tackle dangerous climate change and create far more jobs than nuclear power.”

At the Keep Wales Nuclear Free campaign website individuals and organisations can endorse a petition and sign up.

Survey finds people want renewables and energy efficiency above nuclear power

Today's Independent newspaper gives a pro-nuclear spin to a Mori survey of nearly 1,500 people on the UK energy policy, but the reality is different.

The paper says that "the public is deeply divided on nuclear power but for the first time there are signs that a majority would accept it for the sake of tackling climate change." - "54 per cent of people would be willing to support the building of new nuclear power stations if it would help solve global warming."

It quotes Professor Nick Pidgeon of the University of East Anglia's Environmental Risk Centre saying that "[The public is] prepared to suspend their concern because they see a bigger risk from climate change."

But in an interview on Radio 4's Today programmme, Professor Pidgeon said that there was "a very strong desire amongst everybody asked to tackle climate change, and people would only accept new nuclear power only if it was part of a solution to that."

They "overwhelmingly preferred renewable energy and energy efficiency over nuclear power given the choice."

He said nuclear was the "least worst" option and that deep concerns remain about "hazardous waste and the effect of nuclear power on human health."

He said the survey didn't ask if people would accept a power station near their homes, but he knew from previous research that there is a higher level of opposition nearer homes.

Carolyn Quinn asked Pidgeon about the outcome of the Energy Review, due to be formally launched next week.

He said "it is too early to say, but clearly the nuclear option is being re-looked at. What I would say is that the Government will make a mistake if it confines the argument to nuclear vs climate change. It has to take account of other ways of dealing wth climate change like renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"It may be in the short term we will need a mix of energy sources including nuclear, and people may be happy with that, but it has to take seriously the finding that people want renewables and energy efficiency above nuclear power."


Independent article
Radio 4's Today
Professor Nick F Pidgeon.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Amicus no longer the worker's friend

Someone has got to Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Amicus, who has come out in favour of nuclear power.

If Derek had the full facts he'd know that there are potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs for his members in renewable energy compared to just hundreds in nuclear power.

In a keynote speech last Wednesday Derek, who represents one million manufacturing workers, pointed out that:

"The main reason given for outsourcing production by manufacturing companies in the UK is ... high energy costs."

He then mistakenly said:

"Successive governments have shied away from difficult decisions and left us with ageing nuclear power stations and as yet no plans to start a new building programme. Together both have contributed to our over reliance on foreign gas and foreign electricity generation."

Of course the reality is that our increasing reliance on foreign gas is because we have squandered our own resources, and been spoilt by cheap gas, thus making it uneconomic to use it more eficiently. The income from the gas has also been wastefully spent.

Derek then said: "With renewable energy sources several decades away from providing more than a tiny minority of our energy needs we urgently need government policy to promote clean coal technology and nuclear power new builds so we can meet our medium term energy needs, save thousands of jobs, avoid black outs, rocketing household bills and meet our targets for reducing carbon emissions."

Well, the first statement is wrong - some sources are decades away, but many others are much nearer. The timescale also depends on the level of investment. For the cost of eight nuclear power stations, which would be ready in 8 years at the earliest, we could have the equivalent amount of safer energy from a variety of sources, much of it decentralised and therefore more efficient, and employing far more potential Amicus workers.

Yes, clean coal is a good short to medium-term stop-gap solution. But nuclear, or any alternative, won't stop household bills rising. And talk of black-outs is simply scare-mongering.

Some reading on jobs and renewables for Derek:
Finally we ought to mention the obvvious job creation potential of ESCOs.

This has been pioneered at Woking Council. Allan Jones was appointed head of the London Climate Change Agency because of his trailblazing work in Woking where the council became the only one in the country to have won The Queen's Award for Enterprise. He told me once: "We created a series of private networks supplying less than 100 MW per site, financed 80% by loans, and 20% by shareholders. 81% of the shareholders were from the private sector and 19% from local authorities. These ploughed their profits back into the community.

"We used a mixture of CHP and photovoltaic solar power because of the complementary seasonal supply profiles. In other words, when you need less heat in the summer, that's when solar electricity can meet the electricity demand. The only barriers to this are vested interests and regulation. We'll be addressing both, to turn London into a world class energy-conscious city. There is no need for centralised generation of electricity, and if half the country supplied its energy needs in this way we would need no more nuclear power stations."

The beauty of the model is also that as the elctricity is delivered by private wire - not thru the grid, distribution charges and losses are avoided. The cost of generating the power may be more expensive than conventional electricity or heat, but the delivered cost to the customer is about the same.

With ESCOs, a service (heat or power) is delivered rather than a product (boiler). Jobs are therefore needed to administrate and maintain all aspects of the system.

A common criticism of wind farms is that most of the jobs are only the at construction stage. But the same is true of nuclear power.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The climate impact of transport and air travel in the UK

The Low Carbon Kid has just uncovered a Department for Transport document published just three days before Christmas which gives some revealing statistics about the rising climate impact of travel in the UK.

It reveals the difficulty of taking air travel to task for its climate impact, since there is no international agreement yet on ways of allocating emissions from aviation and shipping to individual countries.

It shows how much this impact is increasing, and in particular the weight we should give to air travel. It also shows how this figure is calculated, not an easy task.

The data is in the form of a letter supplied under the Freedom of Information act to an unknown enquirer. In the letter, reproduced below, all names have been blocked out (XXX), including that of the DfT official who wrote the letter - presumably under the Freedom From Information Act. This must be the same reason why it was leaked just before Christmas when no one would notice.

The key information in it is:
  • the growth in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport industries 1990 to 2003 was 50%
  • In 2003, these industries together represented 13% of the UK's emissions
  • for some reason it excludes household use of private vehicles, and road freight not by road haulage companies (for example, supermarket freight is not included)
  • for Government statistical purposes the transport sector makes up 23% of the UK's CO2 emissions, - it grew 7% since 1990 (CO2 accounts for over 96% of transport's greenhouse gas emissions)
  • there is no international agreement yet on ways of allocating emissions from aviation and shipping to individual countries
  • assuming emissions from all departing shipping or flights are assigned to the UK, including them would raise transport's contribution to the UK's CO2 emissions to 27%
  • In 2003, aviation's share of the total domestic CO2 emissions was 5.4%, doubled since 1990 (2.8%)
The letter:

"Dear Mr XXX,

"Thank you for your email of 29 November about CO2 emissions from aircraft.

"I have been asked to reply.

"Your request has been considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

"We believe the 47% figure you quote is the growth in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport industries between 1990 and 2002, reported in the 2004 Environmental Accounts.

"This has since been updated - the growth from 1990 to 2003 was 50%.

"However, this refers to the transport industries, not all transport.

"The transport industries include domestic public transport, road haulage companies, and all sea and air transport.

"In 2003, these industries together represented 13% of the UK's emissions.

"It excludes household use of private vehicles, and road freight not by road haulage companies (for example, supermarket freight is not included).

"To ensure a suitable like for like comparison along the lines you suggest, it would be better to consider that the transport sector makes up 23% of the UK's CO2 emissions, having grown 7% since 1990 (CO2 accounting for over 96% of transport's greenhouse gas emissions).

"However, this excludes international aviation and shipping, there being no international agreement yet on ways of allocating such emissions.

"If we assume that emissions from all departing shipping or flights are assigned to the UK, including international aviation and shipping would raise transport's contribution to the UK's CO2 emissions to 27%.

"In response to your other specific queries:

"(i) In 2003, aviation's share of the total domestic CO2 emissions was 5.4%.

"This represents 0.58 million tonnes carbon equivalent from domestic aviation and 8.09 million tonnes carbon equivalent from international aviation.

"(ii) In 1990, overall aviation CO2 emissions (domestic plus international) was 2.8% of the UK total CO2 emissions. [Taken from UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 1990 to 2003, NETCEN]

"(iii) Figures vary slightly for the amount of CO2 produced per aviation mile.

"The most recent figures derived from Defra's Company Greenhouse Gas Reporting Manual suggest 150g CO2 per passenger km for short haul and 110g CO2 per passenger km for long haul flights.

"We are unable to set out this figure in suitable layman's terms due to the complexity of making such a comparison.

"However, you can compare these figures with other modes of transport and activities in the Defra Company Greenhouse Gas Reporting Manual.

"If you are interested in finding out more about climate change and the context of various emissions, other organisations have made estimations of the impact of different activities in terms of greenhouse gases and you may find the following websites of interest: Energy Saving Trust BP - www.bp.com - carbon footprint calculator Climate Care. Please be aware that these websites are not necessarily endorsed by Government.

"The information supplied to you above continues to be protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

"You are free to use it for your own purposes, including any non-commercial research you are doing and for the purposes of news reporting.

"Any other re-use, for example commercial publication, would require the permission of the copyright holder.

"If you are unhappy with the way the way your request was handled, you may ask for an internal review.

"Please contact XXX who will arrange an internal review of your case.

"XXX If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you also have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.

"The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office Wycliffe House Water Lane Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF I hope this letter is helpful but if you have any further queries about it, please contact me.

"Yours sincerely, XXX"

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TEQs - a way out of Catch-23?

Tradable Energy Quotas are one idea to use human nature to escape from Catch-23 and tackle climate change.

Imagine filling your vehicle with fuel and handing over two credit cards. The first is your credit card; the second would be like a loyalty card, of the sort in wide use nowadays.

But when it's swiped, it's not bonus points being credited to you, but "carbon units" being debited. As Richard Starkey and Kevin Anderson put it, in a newspaper article in 2005, "welcome to life under carbon rationing".

TEQs is an electronic system for rationing energy in order to both reduce the carbon dioxide remissions and to maintain a fair distribution of oil, gas and electric power during shortages.

(They used to be called Domestic Tradable Quotas and featured in Colin Challen MP's DTQ bill last year.)

Here's how they are expected to work.
  1. Every adult is given an equal number of TEQs (pronounced “tex”) units. Industry and Government bid for their units at a weekly Tender.
  2. At the start of the scheme, a full year's supply is placed on the market. Then, every week, the number of units in the market is topped up with a week's supply.
  3. Units can be traded. If you use less than your entitlement, you can sell your surplus. If you need more, you can buy them.
  4. When you buy energy, such as petrol for your car or electricity for your household, units equivalent to that amount of energy are deducted from your TEQs account. Most transactions are automatic, using direct-debit technology.
  5. The number of units available is set out in the TEQs Budget, which looks 20 years ahead. The size of the Budget goes down week-by-week - step-by-step, like a staircase.
  6. The Budget is set by an independent Energy Policy Committee.
  7. The Government is itself bound by the scheme; its role is to work out how to live within it, and to help the rest of us to do so.

TEQs have been devised by David Fleming He first published the system of TEQs in 1996. He is founder of The Lean Economy Connection. You can find more at the TEQs web site.

Similar systems are being researched by the Oxford Climate Change Institute (Brenda Boardman), The Tyndall Centre (Richard Starkey), the RSA (Jonathan Carr-West) and the Sustainable Development Commission (Oliver Knight).

The Low Carbon Kid likes the principle as it appeals to human greed and survival instincts, just like loyalty cards, and turn the result into a positive cycle.

When citizens or organisations purchase fuel or electricity they would surrender corresponding units from their carbon card. Each card links to a national database and individuals would be able to trade units.

Those who don't have a car, or use less power, can sell their surplus. Those who need more can buy it. The overall number of units is capped, and therefore the quick wins for carbon saving are achieved the most economically. The scheme has the benefits of seeming to be fair and equitable, and of leaving choice with the end user rather than having cuts foisted on them by government.

The basic idea is like carbon trading for corporations applied to everyone. It takes the principles of Contraction and Convergence from the Global Commons Institute, and draws on ideas first expounded by David Fleming in 1998.

As Fleming puts it: "When anyone (consumers, firms or the government itself) makes purchases of fuel or energy, they surrender a quota to the energy retailer, accessing their quota account. The retailer then surrenders carbon units when buying energy from the wholesaler. Finally, the primary energy provider surrenders units back to the Register when the company pumps, mines or imports fuel. This closes the loop.

"The Carbon Budget is at the heart of the scheme. Firstly, it guarantees the targets for reduction in carbon emissions. Secondly, it provides a long term quantity signal. Intentional reductions in carbon emissions take time; people will therefore need to take action now in the light of their knowledge of the quantity of carbon units that will be available in the future.

"The Carbon Budget should be set (it is suggested) by an independent body."
It will be in individuals' interests to help others to reduce their carbon dependency, argues Fleming. "Your carbon consumption becomes my business: people will want to try to influence each other's behaviour for their mutual advantage."

It is also in everyone's interests that the price of carbon units should be low. "A high price would increase the cost of industry's purchases of energy, raising prices across the economy as a whole. However, the price of units would be to some degree under the control of the people who used them, since the more they were able to reduce their demand for units, the lower their price." Furthermore, carbon units lend themselves to local collective initiatives; they can be pooled as a fund, providing the basis for coordinated local action.

Supporters also believe that TEQs provide a framework for establishing carbon reduction at the centre of public policy, aligning social values with individual responsibility. Households, industry and the government would have to work together, facing the same Carbon Budget, trading on the same market for carbon units.

Everyone is given a stake in the system and would have a sense that their efforts at conservation will not be wasted by the profligacy of others, and that the system is founded on justice.

What about fuel-poor households? They generally use less energy and so most would be better off because they could sell their surplus units.

Asia-Pacific climate talks will not escape Catch-23

The United States, Japan, China, India, Australia and South Korea, all coal exporting and importing nations and producers, and some of the world's biggest resource and power companies are meeting at the first Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate in Australia.

The big six account for 48% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and 48% of its energy consumption.

No campaign groups or scientific organisations have been invited. No agenda has been published. No targets will be set. There will be no scientific evaluation of the best energy technology policies to reduce greenhouse pollution. The talks are a closed shop.

As mentioned in the blog entry Catch-23, the US expects business and technology to solve climate change.

But the only regions in the world which have successfully and dramatically achieved deliberate action to reduce emissions have done so by government action. It's the only way out of Catch-23 - besides the crash.

"Technologies do not just appear from nowhere; they have to be developed, mostly in response to new markets," argues Jonathan Kohler, an economist at England's Cambridge University. These are nurtured by the right public policies.

An example is in America itself. Tomorrow the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is expected to vote to approve the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which will secure $3.2 billion for solar energy rebates in the state for the next 11 years.

Schwarzeneger must know something Bush doesn't.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Westmill wind co-op seeks investors

The first community owned wind system in the south of England is seeking investors.

Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative Ltd. is looking to raise £3.75 million to build the first community owned wind farm on the Oxfordshire/ Wiltshire border.

Community owned renewable energy projects are an excellent business model. But although common in Denmark and elsewhere there's only three or four others in the UK.

The Share Offer will close on 28 February 2006. It is open to individuals or organisations. The minimum investment is £250, the maximum is £20,000 (unless you are a Co-operative ). If the Offer is over subscribed preference will be given to local people and Baywind members.

It is being supported and is modelled on Baywind Co-operative Wind Farm in Cumbria that has 1300 members and been running successfully since 1996.

Construction is due to start Spring this year, commissioning is planned for December 2006. The five wind turbines are predicted to produce 12.6 GWh/yr – equivalent to the domestic electricity consumption of over 3000 average households.

For more information visit www.westmill.coop. To request the prospectus phone 0870 234 2002.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Catch-23 - why only the crunch will make us change

The Low Carbon Kid presents a new concept to help explain the current crisis we face. It's called Catch-23.

Crisis? What crisis?

James Lovelock, who gave us Gaia Theory - the idea that the Earth's eco-system is self-regulating, went on record last week as saying the human race is in a mood similar to the one before the second world war.

In other words, we know a terrible thing is going to happen, we know what we need to do, but we are just not doing it. We are in denial.

Any survivors who make it to the other side of this catastrophe will wonder why on earth we behaved like this... continuing to consume energy as if there's no tomorrow. Whoops - did I mean to ensure there's no tomorrow?

Why do we behave like this? The answer's complex and hard to grasp, because it involves paradoxes. To make it easier to talk about it, I'm going to lump it all under one name and then give examples.

Let's call it Catch-23.

What is Catch-23?

Joseph Heller defined Catch-22 in his great novel, as follows:

You have to be mad to get out of flying missions. But anyone who wants to fly missions must be mad. Anyone who says they're mad to get out of flying missions is therefore sane and has to fly missions. So, everybody has to fly missions.

It's a great catch. We use it in everyday speech when we're caught in a logical loop.

So what's Catch-23?

Simply put, another logical loop: you can't have your cake and eat it.

Everybody wants cake. Cake is business as usual. But business as usual is no longer an option. What you eat now you won't eat later. But we'd rather have the cake now than worry about the future. So soon we won't have cake.

Put it another way, we have fossil fuels, but we shouldn't use them. If we do, we soon won't have any cake at all.

The difference between Catch-22 and Catch-23 is that Catch-23 is somehow hard-wired into our human nature. It’s part of our short-term survival instinct.

Examples of Catch-23

Catch-23 means that despite the fact that we are making electrical goods more resource-efficient, we are buying more and more of them, canceling out our gains.

Catch-23 means that despite the fact that renewable energy installations are increasing all the time, they are not keeping up with overall energy demand, and so are remaining at the same proportion of overall energy supply.

Catch-23 means we're considering using nuclear power to bail us out, even though we know it will bring another set of problems almost as big as climate change.

Catch-23 results in millions continuing to fly on trivial journeys despite the environmental cost.

The greater our technological advance, the more energy we use. That's Catch-23.

Catch-23 is why carbon sequestration is no answer. It will just mean we'll feel free to use more energy.

Everyone knows this, in their heart of hearts, but they're in denial.

The best known historical example is the Easter Islanders, who denuded their island and then died out.

Our ancestors did the same thing a few thousand years ago when they poured out of Africa and went on a ten thousand year spree, fanning out over the land-masses, including down from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, killing off all the big mammals as they went.

Just imagine it: your tribe enters a landscape heaving with wildlife. All you have to do is throw a spear. A morning's work and you can have the rest of the week off making nookie. And growing the population. It's paradise (the garden of Eden?). You think it will never end. But it does. What the hell, move south to the next valley and start all over again. Generations later you're in the cold tip of South America.

And then you think: where's everything gone? Oh well, better invent agriculture. And so mankind condemned itself to an eternity of toil, tilling the land and guarding against predators – animals, bandits and tax-collectors.

If only they'd seen it coming. Left enough bison, wildebeest, and fish to keep the population steady. But they didn't know what they were doing.

The difference is, we do. We’re supposed to be smart.

But being smart is not enough. Our surival instinct is too short-sighted. We need the right motivation.

Take me for example. I still run a car. I use LPG for heating. That's because I live in the country and couldn't afford a water-powered heat pump. We've all got our excuses. That's Catch-23.

Is there a way out?

Yes. But it's usually too late.

The common way out of Catch-23 is when you have no choice. Lovelock refers to the second world war and how we all changed our behaviour rapidly: changed our diet, buckled under, conserved resources - because we had to.

It's clear we'll only do the same this time too. We're waiting for the crunch, just like those poor people in New Orleans before Katrina struck.

And the ones who died there - would they have made every effort to leave the city if they'd know what was going to happen to them? You bet they would.

Here's the Bush administration last Friday defending its role in the breakaway Asia-Pacific climate pact meeting this week in Sydney: "Most of our pollution control in America will come through good old-fashioned Wall Street financing".

But Catch-23 says that nothing "good, old-fashioned" will work any more. You can't have your cake and eat it. We need new economics and a new attitude: to reduce by at least 60% the energy we now use, as the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said, all over the world.

The Low Carbon kid says a realistic contraction and convergence figure would be a 90% reduction in the developed world.

Anything else leads straight back to Catch-23, and a whole lot of damage coming our way.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Countering nuclear lobbyists' propaganda

German Minister Dismisses Nuclear Power Lobby

Nuclear power is not the answer to the gas supply crisis in Europe, says the German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Germany should boost renewables instead.

In saying this, he blew away some of the propaganda the nuke lobbyists have been throwing around lately.

Gabriel, environment minister since November, told a news conference on Tuesday that existing reserves of uranium could run out in 30 to 40 years. The industry claims there is enough for hundreds of years. Significantly for Amerrican fuel security, none of the supplies are in North America.

"The technology is expensive and the fuel relatively cheap, but the latter will change fairly soon," Gabriel said.

Gabriel's stance appears to have the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who must hold the fragile coalition of left and right together.

Gabriel's Social Democrats struck a deal in 2001 with utility firms to close Germany's 19 nuclear power plants by 2020, but leading members of their conservative coalition partners are urging a rethink as in Britain.

Gabriel added that those advocating a longer life for the country's nuclear power stations were simply seeking to increase earnings for the affected firms.

E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall Europe operate nuclear plants in Germany.

Roughly a third of German gas comes from Russia.

Gabriel said 25 percent of Germany's electricity could come from renewables by 2020. By then, energy productivity should have doubled compared with 1990s levels.

Unlike in the UK, only a quarter of Germans believe the country should produce more nuclear power. Eighty-one percent want Germany to stress renewables.

Exposing the PR strategy

According to an article documenting nuclear's PR spending in the New Statesman last year: "We are all being taken in by a carefully planned public relations strategy."

Lyn Harrison of the British Wind Energy Association says that "A major part of that strategy is to subtly and quietly undermine the technical and economic ability of wind power to play a major role in electricity supply. In a true wolf-in-sheep's clothing trick, the nuclear lobby pours forth woolly words on "partnerships" with renewable energy, while savaging wind behind the scenes.

"Among the so-called "fact sheets" from the World Nuclear Association is one on renewables. It blithely tells us, after a wicked manipulation of statistics, that Britain's 20% renewables target "is neither technically nor economically feasible." That is a downright lie. Britain's power system planners are not idiots. They have studied the effect of 20% wind alone and there are no technical barriers.

"There are no economic barriers either, as we devote space to pointing out in this issue in a detailed comparison of nuclear and wind costs. It was not an easy exercise. While the cost of wind today can be easily determined from the wealth of available facts, nuclear costs can only be arrived at by accepting what the industry claims it can build plant for.

"Actual numbers are in short supply. But in a comparative study we took nuclear at its word, using its estimates of cost, should it be allowed to build a series of eight stations, 10 GW, in Britain. (Power from just one nuclear plant looks so expensive as to be off the wall chart). We then compared generation costs for nuclear and wind on two level playing fields: if both were funded in the public sector and if both were financed in the private sector. Not surprisingly, wind costs no more to generate than nuclear in the public sector and is 20% cheaper in the private sector. No wonder nuclear tacitly admits it cannot survive without massive government support."

According to an MIT study, "An illustrative deployment of 1000 reactors, each 1000 MWe in size, under this scenario is given... We believe that the world-wide supply of uranium ore is sufficient to fuel the deployment of 1000 reactors over the next half century..."

But this is only a small fraction of what a full blown wind economy can do at a reduced cost.

The above scenario represents a total of 1 billion kilowatts installed, or 8.76 trillion KWH per year (at 100% capacity). That's not even a third of the total power requirements that the U.S consumes. Wind power can yield about ten times that for a cost that will eventually be much lower than all these finite sources.

In the UK, the argument is that nuclear is needed to provide a base load. The DTI / Oxford study referred to last year in this blog, shows this is not necessary. The wind is always blowing somewhere in the UK. And wind would never be mroe than 30% of the total mix, if that. Ocean power in any of its three forms is reliable and also always available.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The home energy efficiency ceiling

Is there really little more that householders can do to save energy, than they are doing already?

Over the last two decades, the proportion of domestic energy consumption has risen to over 30% of total UK energy consumption, and continues to rise. This is despite the Energy Efficiency Commitment, and the work of the Energy Advice Centres.

In the UK, most energy advice centres work by having householders fill out a standard questionairre. The aim is to offer, on that basis, advice on saving energy both to reduce fuel poverty and stop people dying in the winter (much better now, thanks Gordon, for the winter fuel payments), and to reduce the carbon and other environmental loads.

There is one advice centre which doesn't rely on this questionairre, and that's in Brent, north London. Its director is Roger Kelly.

Roger says that instead his team go and talk to householders over the course of a year, to find out exactly how they do use energy. He says "Every household is different. A standard questionairre cannot hope to find out the details, and how progress is being made in each house."

So what has he found? Apart from the fact that most people don't give energy a second thought (or even a first one), it's that we may have reached the ceiling on what we can do to save energy.

"Every little saving we make is cancelled out by people buying more and more electrical and electronic goods," he says.

"Moreover, most people already have done the basic insulation stuff. They have 100mm of loft insulation. We've calculated that upgrading this to 250mm, the current standard, only saves £8-£10 a year. And, since they've probably nailed chipboard onto the joists, which would have to be doubled in depth to allow space for the extra insulation, and filled their lofts with junk, they don't want to do it.

"Also, much of their energy use is transport, and we don't even get around to talking about that."

"I really think we may have hit the ceiling on energy efficiency in the home."

He does say that in the last six months, the number of enquiries he gets has shot through the roof, as prices have risen and there's been more talk of climate change.

But this doesn't translate to much in the way of savings. "People are interested in solar panels and wind turbines - microgeneration - until they find out how much it costs and how little the grants are."

Is Roger pessimistic about the future then?

"I think there's little we can do about climate change until we get a really big crisis and we are absolutely forced to. But I do enjoy my job, and have natural human optimism.

"I'm a grandfather now - twice - and it really makes me think about the kind of world these children are going to be adults in."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

BP - Beyond the Publicity

BP is spending a fortune on persuading British consumers of its green credentials. But how green is it?

BP, supposedly rebranded as Beyond Petroleum, has now trademarked the term 'alternativenergy'.

The term originates in the early seventies, from the time of the first oil shortage crisis, when the so-called 'alternative society' had grown out of the sixties counter-culture, and begun to concern itself with what the 'Aquarian Age' might be like.

Peter Harper tells me that apparently in the recent Oxford English Dictionary 'alternative technology' is credited to Teddy Goldsmith and The Ecologist, but of course they got it from the socialist ecological Undercurrents magazine, which first popularised the term in 'alternative' circles.

It was Peter Harper, writing in Undercurrents, who first coined the phrase, and from it came the phrase 'alternative energy', meaning 'renewable', and the Centre for Alternative Technology, founded 1974, where Peter still works as its principal theorist.

For BP to trademark it would have been considered an act of piracy in the '70s and '80s. Now, we all breathe a sigh of cynical despair and call it a sick joke.

For the reality is, that the tv ads televised in this country, full of pretty flowers, which BP ends with the statement that they are working to promote solutions to climate change, the same ads broadcast in the States finish with a statement about how great they are at exploring for new gas fields.

And BP is in bed with ExxonMobil in Alaska.

So why does Greenpeace just single out ExxonMobil as the chief climate change villain?

The fact is that the amount BP is spending on solar power is only five percent of what it spends on prospecting for new oil and gas supplies. This is not going to lead to a target of 15% or thereabouts of total energy supply coming from renewables by 1016, or anything near it (20% by 2020 is the latest UK aim).

Despite last November pledging to invest up to $8 billion in wind, solar, hydrogen and high efficiency gas-fired power generation projects over the next 10 years, "the vast majority of BP's around $15 billion annual investment budget will remain focused on oil and gas projects, which offer much higher returns". [- Reuters, 28 Nov. 2005 - reference here].

This is because the real words those letters BP stand for are - 'Better Profits'.