Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
I would have thought it would be far better to spend the money on renewables schemes, or planting trees, or sending Goats to Chili, or on a few low energy lightbulbs - otherwise you're just lining the pockets of some market trader with no net practical outcome. In particular, a quick google for 'carbon scheme' came up with a stack of articles entitled 'carbon scheme doomed' and similar.
Our council are apparently going to replace all our wheelybins with compartmentalised ones - to help lazy people sort their rubbish. One of our neigbours always fills their bin to the brim - there's usually a wadge of paper or something recyclable or compostable preventing the lid from closing - and there's only one person in their houshold. We've got a baby (about the most un-environmental think you can do!) and we only produce a third of the rubbish - mainly just through sorting out paper, glass and cardboard. The new scheme claims to take plastic bottles as well - excellent news as there hasn't been anywhere local that could do that - and I'm not going to drive miles to the nearest plastic recycling plant!
Friday, December 15, 2006
Housing accounts for 27% of the carbon produced in the UK so this move could be a major part of the government's attempt to reduce carbon emmisions by 60% by 2050.
The BBC story can be found here.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
How annoying it this ? According to the FAQ, they are built by Lotus in the UK (thought the backend looked familiar) and shipped over to the US. They have no intention whatsoever to sell them over here *groan*. For a performance car, they're not even that expensive - $92,000 .
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
0-60 in 4.3 seconds
range about 200km
Looks, well, rather nice I think. It's the venturi fetish - costs about £300k or thereabouts. Oh, and it's electric.
Yup, you read right - someone has built a proper electric car that's road worthy, isn't just 'not slow' but actually 'really fast' and looks like a proper car. OK, it looks like a proper sports car, but the point is, it doesn't look like one of those stupid concept cars that are designed to look futuristic and end up looking like something from either thunderbirds or the teletubbies.
That's a real pet peeve of mine - just because a car uses an electric power source, why on earth should it look like anything other than a normal car ? No, the designers insist on making them look completely stupid.
There's a film coming out called who killed the electric car, looking into why GM crushed all their electric cars. Basically the public think that all electric cars are milkfloats, requiring 16 hours to charge, range 30 miles and top speed of 5 mph. The fact is, since the 1890s when the first electric cars were about, the technology has got far, far better than that. Even in the early 1900s, 20mph was quite normal for an electric vehicle, which was comparible with internal combustion driven cars at the time. Now, they are at least as good in most respects - just the cost of the batteries to sort out now !
And before anyone asks 'filling up a petrol car is really easy' - well, if you're out and about, that is true - however, you can't fill up with petrol at home, or at work. Swings and roundabouts I guess, but if I could plug the car in for a few hours and get 200 miles in the tank, well, that's as far as I really want to drive in a day so that would be enough.
On the same site is a list of electric cars which kind of proves my earlier point about how stupid people make them look. There are about three or four on there I wouldn't be ashamed to own; the rest look utterly ridiculous - imagine the smart car with all the style removed, crossed with that BMW motorbike with the roof and you'll get an inkling...
I spotted a letter in the guardian today - complaining about the 'hidden' CO2 emmissions of wind turbines. Yup, the anti wind league is now bleating on about the energy used to make the 'wretched things' - for example in the concrete bases. Funny that, what do coal fired power stations use for foundations then ? I don't think they publish the enbergy payback time for fossil fuel plants.
Friday, November 24, 2006
"To save liberty in America, Sustainable Development must be stopped."
"And I will tell you now, if you want to keep your guns, your property, your children and your God… if you love liberty… Then Sustainable Development is your enemy!"
Obviously 'Sustainable Development' could have been replaced with almost anything. Simply slot in your least favourite religious, racial or idealistic group and repeat. Still, this seems to be official American policy now. (insert favourite deity) help us all.
[ more here ]
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
"It is worth noting that a 1994 briefing note from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee identified that each unit of electricity produced from fossil fuels, such as coal, results in excess of 860g of carbon dioxide, 10g of sulphur dioxide and 3g of nitrogen oxides being produced."
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created solar panels that generate from a greater range of the EM spectrum. By doping a zinc-manganese-tellurium alloy with oxygen atoms they have produced a solar panel that responds to lower energy photons. This panel has an estimated efficiency 45%. Find out more here.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
So, what do you do with a busted smoke alarm ? Apparently the best thing to do is throw it in the rubbish bin - that seems to be the recommended practice. The radioactive material costs about £1000 per gram, so you can imagine how little of it there is in the smoke alarm (clue: about 0.0002g). Allegedly it's even safe to swallow it - it doesn't get absorbed by the gut as it's not soluble in water or fat, so apart from a few stray gamma rays passing straight through you, there should be no harm done.
Still, I'm not entirely comfortable with chucking it into landfill - or even incineration.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Click on http://www.pledgebank.com/lowenergybulbs to show your support.
Steve Jalim's pledge will close on 31st December 2006 and it currently needs the support of 60 people before it goes into action.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
2. If you sign up to Ecotricity and select the Global Action Plan link, they'll match your current supplier's rate, and donate £15 to Global Action Plan. We found out because earlier in the year we wrote a cheque to GAP and they never got round to cashing it.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Here is an artist's impression: -
The official site (mostly in italian) is here, an interview with the disigner is here and an article about it on Wired News is here.
Friday, October 20, 2006
BP are investing heavily in the Chinese solar market
Cardiff is the new home of G24 Innovations, who will be manufacturing very high efficiency solar panels
So despite the lack of interest from Westminster, the market for renewables in the UK is looking better.
I've discovered that having a 2kw electric heater in a 2.5m x 3m shed, with all the insulation I've put in, is serious overkill; it went from being freezing cold to unbearably hot inside two minutes. It seems that my PC chucking out about 150W, is more than enough to keep the room comfortably warm.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing and I applaud any effort to reduce our use carrier bags. The environmental damage caused by discarded carrier bags cannot be underestimated. While in Tenerife I heard about a turtle that had been pulled out of the ocean with 5kg of plastic bags inside it (It is surprising how many millions of carrier bags are estimated to be drifting through the worlds oceans and also how similar they appear to jellyfish if you are a hungry turtle.).
What I don't understand is why if they are so keen to reduce the use of these bags does the Tesco online groceries always arrive in carrier bags despite being in reusable crates. Why also do their shiny new self service checkouts force you to use their carrier bags. I understand that these checkouts use scales to detect when an item has been put in the bag but if the scales where tared when you press the start button you could put you own bag own the scales beforehand.
I have searched my local Tesco's as well as their website and have not found a place where I can post a suggestion to have this changed. Any ideas?
Friday, September 22, 2006
Hmmm, a group of russian researchers have come to the conclusion that we are heading for a mini ice age, and soon - good news for skiers but possibly a problem for anyone north of, say, Madrid.
Well done Richard Branson, for having the courage and the cash to make a stand on the environment. Lets hope that a few more multibillionaires have the same idea; clearly the governments aren't interested so as usual scientific progress is up to a few people with the will and the cash to do it.
Now if someone could bung an odd million or so towards equipment for the Great Ormond Street neonatal unit, I'd be really happy :-)
Monday, September 04, 2006
Here is NPower's explaination. They were trying to correct an error in the government calculations for reduced UK carbon emmisions :-0
Good afternoon Mr Payne,
Thanks for your email.
Earlier in the year all European countries published figures for reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from power stations. However, the UK Government miscalculated its figures for the basis of these reductions. As a result npower, together with other energy businesses, decided to initiate legal action against the European Commission to get approval for this major error to be corrected.
Although Greenpeace understands our position, they are completely opposed to any increase in the level of CO2 emissions. On this fundamental point of principle we have been unable to find common ground and, as a result, the formal relationship between us will end in August.
Although Greenpeace will no longer formally endorse Juice, they will be happy to recommend it as the best non-premium green electricity product.
Trust this has answered your query.
tel: 0845 166 3443
They hope to get up and running next year, producing panels at about a tenth of current prices. How long then before we can actually /afford/ (as cash stapped proles) to use solar extensively for domestic power production ?
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Cynics might say that the ski resorts are jumping on the environmental bandwagon and duping 'rich' punters into staying somewhere the wouldn't otherwise stay. Every little helps though, and it would be nice to go boarding in a mountain that doesn't smell of diesel...
That's another pet peeve of mine - why is skiing seen as a rich man's sport in the UK, whereas in countries with mountains it's just what people do in the winter to keep themselves amused ? I blame the british ski club...
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Thank you for your enquiry regarding Greenpeace's relationship
with Juice and npower.
As you know, for the past five years we have been working with
npower to promote Juice, a green electricity scheme linked to
offshore wind. Partly as a result of Juice the UK's first offshore
wind farm was built at North Hoyle off North Wales. The green
electricity market has also been transformed and now several
non-premium tariffs are available. So we can be pleased with
what we have achieved in campaign terms through the relationship
Offshore wind is now on the way to becoming established as an
energy source in the UK. Npower have plans to build a second
farm next to North Hoyle and a third, much bigger one, in the
area over the next few years. Gaining public support for
offshore wind through Juice greatly helped to get the first wind
farm under way, however such campaigning and our involvement
should not be necessary in order to get the subsequent projects
In addition, we learned recently from npower that they have
decided to join with other electricity generators to take the]
UK Government to court to try to secure an increase in their
emissions allocation under the European Emissions Trading System.
In other words, they want to be allowed to emit more carbon than
the Government wants to allow them. At a time when the UK is
off course o meet its carbon targets, and when scientific news
on climate change is becoming ever more alarming, we do
not think that this decision by npower is justifiable.
In the light of this court case we have now decided to end our
formal partnership with npower and, therefore, our pro-active
promotion of Juice. We have given npower notice of termination
of contract. This does not mean that Juice has suddenly become
a bad product. We continue to believe that it is the best non
price premium green electricity scheme on the market, and will
continue to recommend it to people contacting us to enquire
about green energy. I personally get my electricity at home
from Juice, as does our Executive Director, and we have no plans
to switch suppliers.
I hope that helps,
Supporter Services, Greenpeace UK
Monday, August 21, 2006
A company called Steorn have produced a limitless energy supply with no impact on the environment and an effective efficiency greater than 100% !!!!!! They do not explain how it works or what it looks like and they have not had it verified by any scientist whatsoever. They also undertsndibly claim that their idea "represents a significant challenge to our current understanding of the universe".
I am confident that within the next five years the worlds energy problems will be solved giving us time to abolish war, famine and disease as well as invent jetpacks and meals in pill form.
Learn more here.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
The letter also says that Greenpeace are ending their partnership with NPower and no longer formally endorse Juice (although they still recommend it). I have emailed Greenpeace to find out their reason for this decision and will post their reply when it arrives.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
"Thumbs up to Les Gets for taking steps to reduce the huge environmental impact skiing has by replacing its diesel generators with solar panels to power the ski lifts." ( from babyworld.co.uk )
Monday, August 14, 2006
I studied engineering at university and now work in the IT industry. Some people might think that this would make me a fan of advanced technology. In all fairness they would be correct, I have a very fast PC, a mobile phone, MP3 player and even a GPS. However I am also a fan of appropriate technology. By this I mean technical solutions that are no more advanced than they need to be. This philosophy can best be summed up by two well known sayings: -
The right tool for the right job.
If it's not broke, don't fix it.
Why put nails in a piece of wood with the nail-o-matic ultra 4000 when a hammer is cheaper, simpler, doesn't require batteries and if properly cared for can last a lifetime? I suppose this does tie in with my time studying engineering. Engineers like to solve problems and they usually like their solutions to be simple and elegant.
It is when market forces come into play that technology is driven forward further than is really required. I want a phone that can make calls, send text messages and has a decent battery life. As a consumer, phone manufacturers want me to be able to stream TV clips over 3G networks because if I don't they won't be able to sell me their new phone. These market forces have given us a population desperate to buy gadgets that will only have 5% of their features used.
But what about people who can in no way be called consumers. People in the developing world are among the most vulnerable in the world. For people whose main concern is getting clean water and a steady supply of food appropriate technology can have a profound effect on their lives. It can help them solve problems such as transport, agriculture, home building, energy, water supply and purification. It can help them create successful and profitable industries. Because the technology is simple it is reliable and can easily be maintained, improved and replicated by local people using locally available materials. It doesn't need to be complicated, it just needs to work and it certainly never needs to be able to stream TV clips over 3G networks.
I used to walk past a bookshop on my way to work. It was called "The Intermediate Technology Bookshop". The books in the window fascinated me, they covered such topics as wind energy, water purification, solar cookers, human and animal powered transport, hut building, agriculture and international trade on a small scale. If an asteroid hit us and civilization went back to the stone age this shop would tell the lucky finder everything they needed to know to pick up the pieces and start again. The shop closed (perhaps I should have gone inside and actually bought something) to be replaced by a down-market Italian restaurant which also closed to be replaced by an empty shop.
Fortunately the shop was just one part of the Intermediate Technology Development Group who have renamed themselves to Practical Action (Their site is even more fascinating than the bookshop was). Practical Action are a charity that design and implement a range of solutions to problems faced by people in developing nations around the world. They also make many of their designs freely available online along with a host of technical information. Go on, try making some of them, I dare you. Practical Action have provided such life changing solutions as: -
Solar powered cookers.
Improved wood burning stoves that require less fuel and produce less smoke (Excess levels of cooking smoke kills 1.5 million people a year.).
Gravity powered rope ways in Nepal.
Wind and hand powered water pumps.
Bicycle trailers and bicycle ambulances.
Small scale electricity generation from wind, hydro, and biogas.
Solar water distillation.
Practical Action was founded by a guy called E.F. Schumacher, an economist who wrote a book called "small is beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered" The book suggested that the current economic model of profit and progress that leads to large corporations was damaging both the environment and the developing world. It is hard to watch the news without at least considering that he might have a point. Schumacher attempts to befriend tree-hugging hippies and scruffy communists alike by suggesting that a better way for man to move forward is the use of intermediate technology based on communal ownership and regional workplaces using local materials. When he published the book 33 years ago it caused a sensation and although the developed world clearly didn't pay that much attention the methods he described are being used by people through the developing world (aided by many fine NGO's) to create improved resilience, prosperity and quality of life for themselves. It can put the lives and futures of people across the world into their own hands. It can help make a better world.
btw I have bought the book and may write a short review when I have finished (or not).
As you can see the vast majority of plants on the north African coast are solar and rather than using low efficiency photo-voltaic panels they are using concentrated solar power. This method uses mirrors to direct sunlight onto fluid filled tubes which heat up and are then used to boil sea water. Many of you may remember that boiling water is often considered a good starting point for generating electricity. Boiling sea water is also a major part of de-salination so these plants would produce clean water as a by-product of generating clean electricity. The system is also able to store heat in rocks to continue production at night.
The grid is intended to use high-voltage direct current transmission and it is anticipated that it could transfer energy across 3000 miles (Morocco to mid-European latitudes) with only 15% loss. at about 4p/KWh delivered.
By adopting concentrated solar power north African countries could produce energy and fresh water, two things that are in ever growing demand in that region. 90% of the world's population lives within 3000 miles of hot desert and to supply the worlds energy needs would require 0.3% of that desert. The map below shows the potential for this method of energy production.
More about the plan can be found here and the executive report can be downloaded as a pdf here.
Ref: The Big Issue no 701
Friday, August 04, 2006
However, almost all the retailers insist on selling complete bathroom suites - it is generaly more economical to buy a loo, sink and taps (and often a bath too), and then take the bits you don't want to the dump (after all, there is no market in second hand sinks) than it is to get just a toilet on special order. We were looking at toilets that were close to £200, and complete suites for less than that. This is just a crazy situation; it's so wasteful. The sellers try and lure you in with discounts on suites just to make sure consumers waste as many resources as possible.
Luckily, the new B&Q in gillingham now sells 'Toliets to go' for £50. Yup, that's what they call them. It's a complete toilet in a box, with all the cistern fittings etc. And if you just want a cistern float valve or other spares, they'll sell you that too. Amazing - the application of a bit of common sense. Now we've got the almost-as-silly situation where we need to pay a plumber probably double the cost of the loo to install it !
PC: 120W for the CRT monitor, 90W for the base unit
Upstairs Routing hardware: 40W (cable modem, wireless router, Lex PC for linking with work)
Downstairs Routing hardware: 24W (Voip phone, hub, wireless bridge)
The question is, is my 64W x 24hr energy expenditure on homeworking equipment more than what I used to use commuting by train up to london every day ?
Monday, July 31, 2006
Maybe the start of a solar revolution ? We desparately need the price of solar to come down; it's just not affordable for anyone but the very rich at the moment; from a financial point of view it's crazy installing solar panels; you're looking at £10,000 to install enough to knock say £200 per year off your electricity bill. The panels are rated to last about 30 years.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
And yes, I know ultimately the builders don't make that saving so they don't give a damn, but really, it's irresponsible.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Apparently in the USA, the averge water usage per head is 500litres - in the UK it's 200 and in places like Gambia it's less than 10.
Must get the leak fixed in the header tank...
The rather shocking Vegetarian Now!
Sunday, July 09, 2006
- It creates a lot of pollution.
- Some people are afraid of flying (although it is very safe).
- Some people feel the journey is as important as the destination and an adventure in it's own right.
- Lining up at the baggage check in followed by hours sitting in an airport then spending hours in a plane being served vile food while trying to avoid DVT and having the seat in front slowly crush your kneecaps only to have to make your way through passport control and then finding your luggage took a much more luxurious trip than you to a different continent IS NOT FUN.
Two such companies are: -
The CarbonNeutral Company
(They take part in various carbon reduction schemes and also sell a range of environmentally friendly gifts and gadgets.)
Friday, July 07, 2006
I personally feel that the best future for electricity generation is decentralised generation by homes, offices, etc across the country. However it will take a while to happen and for people to save up for roof mounted solar panels and wind turbines. In the meanwhile signing up to one of the many green electricity providers is a good alternative.
It's getting good usage now - Jamie gets through quite a lot of nappies, and even factoring the cost of the washing machine into account, we should break even inside 2 years now that we have reusable nappies.
More info can be found here and a UK supplier can be found here.
Here are some pics: -
Saving The Planet Without Costing The Earth
For those who are a little more hardcore in their environmentalism this book explains how to build a house that from building materials to energy generation and water collection and re-use will have virtually no impact on the Earth at all!
Earthship: How To Build Your Own
More info here
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I think the most acceptable way is to stop it getting hot in the first place! My shed now has foil-backed bubble wrap inside the roof and on the windows, which reflects heat back out - between the foil and the roof the temperature was about 46 degrees; in the shed it was a mere 30 degrees while the outside temperature was 27 degrees. In our baby's room I've put the same stuff on the windows (kitchen foil would do), as well as a blackout blind, plus we keep all the curtains shut on the side of the house that gets the sun. Oh, and open windows on both sides of the house to get a breeze through - even if there's no wind you should get a bit of movement through convection.
After that, paint the roof white (ideally silver), grow tall trees on the north and west sides, face the house south and have minimal size windows on the west side, use shutters and have an overhang over all the windows to reduce the heat coming in in the middle of the day. Um, not too practical for a rented house though :-)
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Tony pointed out that if you have a wind turbine, this would be a completely free way to heat your house, particularly at night when it is often a) cold, b) windy c) you don't have anything much using electricity .
Friday, June 30, 2006
Dr Matt Prescott wrote an article about them on the bbc site recently.
We started buying 'organic' veg when we got Jamie home, as we figured he'd had enough random chemicals in hospital without adding pesticides etc. In the supermarkets though, the tiny amount of organic stuff they have is typically imported from a long way away - Egypt, Israel and Argentina seem to be popular. It does seem silly to me to transport, say, butternut squash from 8000 miles away. Seeing as we live in Kent, it's even sillier to ship apples from more than 10 miles away - we accidentally bought some recently that had come from some far flung corner of Europe.
I read somewhere that Germany send as many potatoes to the UK as we ship to Germany - the bbc did a piece about it if you want to read more.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Here's the maths: for every degree temperature raised, and for every 1ml of water, you need 4.3joules of energy. So raising one litre by eighty degrees takes 1000x80x4.3=344,000 joules.
To figure a cost for that, convert to kilowatt-hours:
1 watt == one joule per second
1 kwh == 1000 joules used continuously over a period of 3600 seconds, ie, 3,600,000 joules
At about 10p/kwh, that's roughly a penny, to raise a litre of water to just under boiling point from room temperature.
Trouble is, if you actually boil the water, you use a lot of energy just to turn the water into steam - and you don't pour steam into your tea so it's just wasted.