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Burning Things Is Wasteful

Centre for Alternative Technology

Burning things wastes a lot of energy – even burning waste.

1. Plain Old Inefficiency

The systems and infrastructure for the generation and distribution of electricity in the United Kingdom is extremely poor, nigh on immorally wasteful. See the diagram above from the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report :-

There are so many things that could be done to improve on that enormous loss of energy, and save on Carbon Dioxide Emissions at the same time.

One of the best ways is to de-centralise “thermal” generation to town-local Combined Heat and Power, rather than burning Fossil Fuels in the wilds of Yorkshire and losing all that heat to the sky.

2. Old Technology

Not a lot of people know this, but most of your electricity is generated by a machine not too dissimilar to Isaac Watts’ steam engine – “not very 21st Century”, as Mark Maslin of University College London said the other evening at a Climate Change debate, held at the Frontline Club :-

Mark Maslin (of the UCL Environment Institute) and Fiona Harvey (of the Financial Times) agreed with each other that incineration of municipal and hospital waste doesn’t kill anyone, but they didn’t discuss how inefficient it is to burn biological material, compared to harvesting the gas produced by anaerobic digestion (also known as “rotting it down”) and then burning that instead :-

Biogas is even more efficient than Biodiesel :-

Thames Water both burns customer output, and anaerobically digests some for “poo power”, by way of just one example of how things are changing on this front :-

China and India have major Biogas production. Why can’t we ?

3. Deadly Fumes

Although incineration may be relatively safe in Europe, it is not universally so.

Burning Fossil Fuels in coal-fired power plants all over the world adds a huge environmental pollution burden, for example, mercury toxins in river water :-

Burning Fossil Fuels in internal combustion engines is a major health risk to the increasingly urbanised human race :-

Image Credit : Dr Mark Delucchi, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California

BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle
HFCV = Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle
E85 = 85% Bioethanol gasoline
CCS = Carbon Capture and Storage
CSP = Concentrated Solar Power (solar electric, but not photovoltaic = PV)

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