Finding A Balance

Image Credit : World Development Movement

Finding A Balance
by Jo Abbess
10th April 2008

Today is the second time I have started to read James Hansen’s report “Target Atmospheric CO2 : Where Should Humanity Aim ?” :-

http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

From the Abstract alone, I can tell that this is report is going to be very hard for some people to comprehend.

“Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, large scale glaciation occuring when CO2 fell to 425+/-75 ppm…”

CO2 = Carbon Dioxide; ppm = parts per million

Now I know exactly what the Climate Obstructionists (Deniers, Skeptics, Sceptics, Warmistas, Delayers) will say.

“Oh look ! When the CO2 levels were at 450 ppm, give or take a bit, the Earth entered an Ice Age ! So that level of CO2 is responsible for Global Cooling, then, not Global Warming !”

It’s sad, but that is exactly what they will say. They will try to sneak up on it and jump it, and try to beat it into submission, and yet they will have failed to understand.

One of the great principles of the appliance of heat is that there are a number of mechanisms for the take up of the heat by the heated object.

There’s convection. There’s conduction. There’s radiation and re-radiation and reflection. But there’s an underlying principle that has to always be considered : time lag.

If I light a fire under your seat, which I won’t, because I’m a pacifist, it will take some time for you to experience the heating effect and jump up and start stamping the flames, and throwing your expensive wool jacket on the conflagration to keep the oxygen out.

Same is true of the Earth’s warming response to the Global Warming signal from a change in Greenhouse Gases. There is a time lag between cause and effect.

There is always a delay before the heat of the sun’s rays focussed on the shard of glass in the forest litter causes the grass underneath to reach Fahrenheit 451 or whatever exact temperature, and start the burn that will wipe out the trees.

And there’s the impact of the speediness of the heating. If I’m cooking, and I turn up the electric dial to 11, then the pan really fries fast. If I have the dial on 5, it takes longer.

Increasing atmospheric Carbon Dioxide causes what is known in the Climate trade as “radiative forcing”.

It ensures that more heat from the Sun is trapped within the Earth atmosphere, by not allowing the rays to bounce back out again as easily as before. There is a net heating-up effect.

And, logically, if you decrease the atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, you create a cooling-down effect.

And it takes time for these effects to make their mark on the Earth system temperature.

Plus, over time, there is a “levelling out” process, where the Earth moves to a stable configuration, appropriate to the given level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.

So, if you rapidly increase Carbon Dioxide for a hundred or two hundred years, you will see a warming effect that will build up, after a time lag, to its peak warming, and then after that point the warming effect will diminish until the system is stable again, albeit at a higher average global temperature.

Let me try to explain it this way : you’re riding a bicycle, and trailing behind you you have a box on wheels, attached to the bike by a rope that’s a couple of metres long. You might have a large quantity of stinking manure in the trailer box, and that’s why you want to keep it far away behind you.

So, you need to turn a corner, so you turn the handlebars in the new direction, and the bike moves round. But the trailer takes time to change its course. After all, it’s not had something to push its wheels around.

And think of this : a line of rollerskaters, all linking arms, and some at one end of the line start to change direction. At first the line does not respond as one, and when it does start to change direction, it can swing wide and wild, before settling into the new direction.

There is what you might call “Climate Inertia”, and “Climate Momentum”. If something is heating or cooling the Earth, it will take some time to work up to getting hotter or colder. And when it does start heating or chilling, and the forcing effect is halted, it will take some time to stop changing.

And the correction after the swing may even take the temperatures in the opposite direction, because regaining balance depends on the exact levels of Greenhouse Gases up there.

This is what James Hansen is talking about : the Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere were very high before about 50 million years ago, and then they started to decrease, and the effect of decreasing Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere was Global Cooling of such an intense nature that it kicked off glaciation.

But it would not have ended there. The Global Cooling was an overshoot. If the CO2 levels had remained the same after their fast reduction to 450 (give or take) ppm, then after the necessary time lags, the Earth would have readjusted from that violent cooling swing to the relevant average heat for that CO2 level. And that would have been high. Higher than today.

James Hansen is saying that if you look at the change in the levels of CO2 roughly 50 million years ago, and looking at the temperature swing that the sharp dip in CO2 caused, then you can use that to work out the the temperature swing out for the sharp rise in CO2 we are now experiencing.

He says that this historical data can be used to calculate what happens at the end of the swing, as well.

Here’s what he says (with his colleagues) :-

“Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower […] feedbacks, is [of the order of] 6 degrees C for doubled CO2…”

Equilibrium, that point at which the time lags are over and the swing is finished and come back to a balanced point, appropriate to the level of CO2 in the sky.

Sensitivity, that total change of global temperature in response to the CO2 signal.

Six degrees is a very high number in Climate terms.

Increasing the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere causes the Earth to heat up. About that there is no longer any doubt, scream and rant though you may.

The speed of the increase in temperature, the wildness of the temperature swing and the eventual temperature equilibrium were thought to be hard to decide upon.

However, James Hansen and his colleagues have sought to indicate what this could be by looking at periods in the dim and distant past where they could establish the data : six degrees Centigrade higher than today.

For those North Americans who have read this far : that’s over 40 extra degrees of Fahrenheit.

That, my British friends, is the difference between average Spring and Summer temperatures in England.

Basically, with an extra six degrees, Spring will be like Summer is now, and you can expect double Summer heating. Very little will survive this.

My advice is, you better start understanding this and reacting to it.

Let Them Eat Carbon

Let Them Eat Carbon
The 3rd in the series “Let The Poor Pay For Climate Change”
by Jo Abbess
8th April 2008

Let them eat Carbon. After all, that’s all they’ll be able to afford after Carbon Pricing takes hold, whether from Carbon Trading or straight Carbon Taxation.

All things American in terms of public policy always tend to make their way over to Great Britain. Part of the special relationship seems to include adopting faulty social management thinking in all areas of public life.

The latest blow is the blowout from the bursting Property (Real Estate) Bubble. I mean, who decided in the United Kingdom that it was a good idea to push the asset value of leaky Victorian terraced houses way beyond their rebuild price ?

All the major investment houses have gone after bricks and mortar, realising that these securities are long-term and the debts they create are long-term. Commodities have always been a bit random (even though the ceiling-busting travel of most commodities of late should not be ignored), and manufacturing has all been outsourced to Asia or wherever. So the only things of any value left are (a) Land (b) Labour, (c) Services and (d) Property.

But where can growth be found ? Labour is always clamouring for indexed salary increases. Land is kind of static when the supermarkets and other big corporates and development companies are sitting on vast land banks. Services are deliberately underplayed. That leaves Property as the only growth sector.

Not any longer. Going, going, gone.

Inflation from various things like Energy price rises is chewing holes in what remains of Property asset values. The Mama of all Slumps has been announced.

And amidst all this chaos, we still have to implement Climate Change mitigation policies. And since everyone still believes that Carbon can be priced out of town, you can bet the central policies, measures and instruments that are adopted will be financial. Money for Carbon.

But, as the ordinary people are squeezed on all sides financially, there will come a time when they are spending all their disposable on Carbon.

Social (read, financial) inequality has already created the potential for massive upheaval for many people, who will face the Property Slump. And then you have to add Carbon Pricing, which will just make everything worse.

It’s true that Carbon Taxation has its positive potential. If the Treasury used the Revenue from Carbon Taxation to invest in the essential Renewable Energy infrastructure, this would de-Carbonise the Economy and take the sting out of Carbon Pricing itself, eventually.

But that presupposes that tax revenue is being used prudently. Apparently, much of the budget that is overseen by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is intended for the Decommissioning of dead Nuclear Power stations, and safely Disposing of their radioactive waste.

And it keeps getting more expensive. And the taxpayers pay.

So the ranks of the poor will increase, creating massive exclusion, increased homelessness, home-ownership-less, people burdened by old, mis-sold debts for assets that never had the value they borrowed.

This massive underclass will be easy to control. Control seems necessary, if people continue to doubt the mounting damages from Climate Change. Carbon profligacy has to be stopped, and if that means generating Poverty, I’m sure there are some who would welcome it.

Close social control is not something I ascribe to. I mean, I approve of Law and Order, but I don’t want to be a part of a Greater Serfdom under Big Brother. I would rather we had sense about Carbon, rather than drift into special measures. Make Carbon the currency, and split the pot of Carbon Shares up fairly.

The Great American Pipedream

The Great American Pipedream
How Carbon Pricing Will Deepen Social Inequality And Harm National Security
Part 2 in a series “Let The Poor Pay For Climate Change”
by Jo Abbess
8th April 2008

The Great American Dream – a well-paid job and a house in the suburbs and a nice, big throaty automobile – is rapidly becoming unattainable by even professional middle class (medium salaried) people.

It’s all going up in smoke – puffed away by some rich men’s pipes. Big Energy wants to retain control of profitmaking enterprises – and for that they’re prepared to sacrifice the American Dream by insisting on setting a Price for Carbon – a strategy that will not only burn the Economy – but also threaten Social breakdown.

The Property Bubble shouldn’t have burst. Bricks and mortar in free-standing dwelling units were supposed to be the last bastion of wealth, since the forces of globalisation removed all forms of industry to cheaper, more Carbon-intensive economies.

This citadel was kept raised by the creation of massive quantities of debt, negative digital money handed out to everyone in the food chain to support and make thrive the phantom value of Real Estate.

Putting everyone in hock to Big Money was seen as an acceptable strategy to keep the Economy rolling. Personal debt was considered a natural growth area, now that massive mounting national debt was becoming accepted as normal. The theory went : if a nation can continue economic growth with massive trade imbalances and gigantic international debt, then increasing personal debt can also be sustainable.

What the great purveyors of Capital paid no heed to can be compared to this image : once the wave has crashed on the shore it will spread more and more thinly until there is no place it can go, and then it starts to retreat.

By allowing market conditions to put people in the debt trap, there was an inevitable point at which mortgaged securities would fail. Home loan foreclosures are an inevitable consequence of continued pressure on the disposable income of the middle-wealthy and the poor.

The Credit Crunch is something that was predicted well before it happened, but banks and other lenders continued to throw virtual money at people in order to maintain growth in returns on investments, and thereby artificially inflate the supposed value of homes.

Well, the Property Bubble has now well and truly burst, and all those asset-backed securities are getting written down big time.

And now it’s the turn of Big Energy to turn the screws. As one of the last profit-making sectors of the Economy in the industrialised countries, Energy is being seen as the bedrock for economic growth. Stocks and shares in Energy have been rising, and market traders view Energy with glee. The price of crude oil has been exponentially growing since 2002 or thereabouts for example, although it could well plateau for a year until the Post-Kyoto Kyoto-Two agreement is inked and signed.

We all need Energy. We all use it every day. And most Energy is Carbon-based. So Big Energy cannot fail to make money, as we are all dependent on Carbon Energy. And when the issue of Carbon Emissions comes into the field of view, well, Big Energy can ride the storm of Carbon Control by one simple move : make the Customers pay.

If you are American, you can forget the idea of meritocracy, or the land of opportunity for all. Only a very few people have ever been made truly independently wealthy in the United States, and the number is diminishing because of the financial climate.

If you have an average salary, or less, even if you work two jobs, you will become progressively poorer because of Carbon Pricing.

No matter if you have a pension plan. All the money for pensions are invested in the stockmarkets, and all the bets are on Big Energy, because there’s nothing else left of any value, so you will be paying for your own pension when you pay your rising energy bills. So you will be less well off.

No matter if you are a small- to medium-sized business enterprise : unless your trade is entirely Carbon-free your turnover will decrease and your profits will become vanishingly small.

And those people who are now homeless because of the Credit Crunch ? You people get to become poorer as rents increase to pay your landlord’s oversized mis-sold mortgages. And as energy bills increase to cover the Carbon pricing you feel a further pinch. And your wages will not keep pace with inflation, as food and fuel and all manufactured products rise in price because of underlying increasing energy costs. And you may well be unfortunate enough to get laid off, and there will be a rapidly diminishing safety net for you, even though your compatriots are paying more in taxes. How safe will your community be ?

It is time to understand that environmental damages cannot be paid for – they need to be stopped, but money cannot buy this.

The only way forward without mass impoverishment is to institute personal Carbon Allowances – rationing of Carbon Emissions will share the burden of the Carbon Cuts required.

When you hear people praising the simplicity of Carbon Taxes, bear this in mind – you will be paying for it as Big Energy passes on the costs to you, the Consumer.

Let The Poor Pay For Climate Change

Let The Poor Pay for Climate Change
by Jo Abbess
7th April 2008

In a most extraordinary turn of events, John Hutton, the UK’s Minister of State for Business, has insisted that there should be no turning back from a change in the tax regulations, to wipe out a zero-tax income band at the bottom of the range, likely to impact negatively on the earnings of the poorest of Society.

That it will take money from the poorest he contests, but a number of Members of Parliament and concerned experts are quite certain, with calculations, that those at the bottom of the stack will lose out.

The Treasury concedes to this change in the Finance Bill, as they cannot really fight the might of BERR, the Department of State for Business and Enterprise.

It is a most callous regulatory change, given that John Hutton sits on top of a stack of briefs that he knows will deliver outcomes that make the poor pay for Climate Change.

One way or another, business and industry want to see a Carbon Price : a financial cost attached to Carbon Dioxide emissions. This way, they can pass on the costs of Carbon to their end consumers, and retain profits and their right position in the economic order of things.

The policy arguments for a Carbon Tax have been widely and strenuously discussed of late, as have the functions and dysfunctions of Carbon Trading, as currently espoused in the form of the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

Money for Carbon is a simple, decisive and incisive approach to tackle net Climate Change Emissions, but the cost will always, inevitably and invariably fall on those most financially challenged.

And here’s the rub : just as a Carbon Price starts to rain down on the poor, added costs will arrive on all fronts.

First of all there is an effective Carbon Tax that is currently being added to household utility bills, Natural Gas and Electricity, as a result of Energy companies taking advantage of the near certainty that they will have to pay for Carbon in future under Cap and Trade and raising their prices early, in a widely derided “windfall”.

Then, there will be indirect Carbon Taxes added to the weekly shopping basket in the form of increased prices for any goods that required Energy to be used to make and distribute them : that is, everything from food to fuel.

And then added to that will be costs from Climate Damages – the net costs of Climate Changes such as flooding, increasing health disadvantages from extreme and more humid weather, summer heatwaves causing bad health and other problems, drought causing infrastructural and building damages, and so on.

The fact that there is an increasing stress in Energy supply, due to a number of factors, principally a plateau in liquid fuel production and increasing demand from the developing nations, will also add to Energy costs.

That the Property Bubble has now burst, Energy inefficiencies in homes will make them harder to sell and decrease their asset value, particularly for the poorest who cannot afford to renovate them to Energy efficiency standards.

The fact is that poorest will always suffer from rising Energy prices first and hardest.

In a nation that is becoming rapidly more unfair, Carbon pricing will inflate a massive underclass in the Economy.

The British poor are experiencing continuing erosion in their incomes, and increasing costs of living. The British poor are heavily in debt. Those that are not technically poor may own properties whose asset values are going to degrade rapidly under a Carbon Pricing regime.

Fuel poverty ? People are falling into this category at a higher rate than before, and it is symptomatic of how regulatory Carbon Pricing will create greater impoverishment.

At what point will the great underclass of the poor be completely overwhelmed by Climate Change costs ? At what point will the Climate Underclass turn on their Carbon Controllers ?

Advice and Recommendations to stay out of Climate Poverty :- 1. Get rid of all your debts, including property loans and mortgages. 2. Reduce your Energy consumption as much as you can. 3. Share Carbon expenditure as far as possible.

The only future for Carbon is Personal Allowances. And it’s the only possible future for the Economy – a national Carbon Budget that’s strictly capped and shared without financial cost to the Citizens is the only policy that will assure Economic Stability.

Instituting Carbon Pricing within the Carbon Pipeline will ensure that the costs flow down to the already overburdened poor.

If you want to protect economic balance you need to treat Carbon as a currency in itself.

The rich are Carbon-profligate, they waste the most Energy. Making Carbon have an intrinsic value in itself through controlled rationing, with overuse charged through inter-personal trading will ensure that it is the polluters who will pay, and not the poor.

Energy Banquet : Glittering Prize

Energy Banquet : Glittering Prize
New Nuclear Energy is a Parasite on Effective Climate Change Solutions
by Jo Abbess
26th March 2008

While Britain’s Business Secretary, John Hutton, declares a Nuclear Power new-build bonanza, and “Nuclear Nicolas” Sarkozy of France gets a fat pact handshake from Gordon Brown at a glittering banquet, the reality for Energy in Britain is that new Nuclear will mean a skills shortage for Renewable Energy technologies, and massive delays in delivering new electricity supplies to top up the National Grid.

NOT A PRIZE : NUCLEAR IS A PITFALL

It seems like John Hutton wants to stamp on every sustainable energy project going. There is only miniscule funding (comparatively) for renewable technologies in the United Kingdom, and the projects get pushed progressively farther into the future, or gradually pushed off the agenda entirely.

Meanwhile, he’s quite eager to join the global Nuclear Power bandwagon that American has been rolling along for a while now, evangelising the great Gospel of Atom Splitting in every nation, including those of the Middle East. Except Iran, of course.

Today Mr Hutton has been appealing to the unions, apparently, promising them that New Nuclear can stimulate the Economy, create billions in business and create a hundred thousand “jobs”, that special trigger word, that gets even quite ordinary politicians salivating.

What he doesn’t bother to explain is that this Energy banquet will be very short-lived, including the “highly skilled” employment he envisions, and that most of the long-term profits will benefit foreign, private companies, and not make Britain greater (or richer) at all.

The only companies that appear to have an appetite for new Nuclear projects are those with enormous budgets who can afford the insurance on a Nuclear build going horribly wrong. These multi-billion Euro organisations are prepared to help diversify the United Kingdom’s “energy mix”, for the right price.

They were told that they could not consider public subsidy for new build, but they’ve probably been guaranteed electricity sales prices. It seems the big energy companies have been highly involved in rigging electricity prices higher over the last few years, so they know they’ll get a good return on selling the resulting electricity, even without Government guarantee.

RISKS & PROBLEMS

There are problems with selling off Nuclear Energy plant and other parts of the business, even though this is recommended, nay, pushed by World Trade Organisation rules on utilities. For example, it seems possible that all the Nuclear Waste Disposal for the UK will be done by American companies. Now, they will almost certainly be keen to avoid dumping it all at home, and they’ll probably get further contracts to process radioactive waste from other countries, too.

So, guess which country will end up as the nuclear dumping ground ? There was talk that it could be somewhere in Aboriginal Australia, or in the Yucca Mountains in the United States, but if we completely sell off all our nuclear sites and waste ponds, guess where the international radioactive waste is coming ?

WHY THE TAXPAYER WON’T COUGH UP

John Hutton says that the scale of the Nuclear Energy “rennaissance” will be “breathtaking”. He calls for “significant expansion”. The changes in planning lawhave opened up the possibilities, with new reactor designs approved before they’re seriously tested for the most part, and he’s inviting investors to believe that there is an open doorway, putting Great Britain forward as the “gateway” to a new Nuclear Europe.

But the questions still remain : if Nuclear Power is such a desirable thing, why aren’t the British Government prepared to invest in it ? Obviously, they want to keep the budget sheet clean of any infrastructural investment, including new energy provision, which they’ve been unsuccessfully not avoiding for a while now, what with their boots in deep mud over the LNG Liquid Natural Gas pipeline network spilling out all over the place. And on national parkland too.

But I think that the UK Government is unwilling to divert financial resources into Nuclear Power because they know, actually, that it’s a white elephant, a hopelessly uneconomic technology.

Plus, they also know if they look at their own figures that Nuclear Power is not really going to help with Climate Change much, since as of 2006, 23 Nuclear Power plants were only responsible for 7.5% of the UK’s total Energy needs. And it’s not even Carbon-free, especially if you have to build new ones.

And will they be to time and on budget ? Very probably not.

BUSY DOING NOTHING

The central issue is that resources will be locked down, tied up with Nuclear new build. All those skilled engineers and concrete mixers. And not a single electron in the wires for ten years, leaving us wide open to a Natural Gas crisis in that time. Who knows when Russia or whomever large Natural Gas provider will see we have a looming Energy gap – the difference between supply and demand – and start restricting or controlling delivery ?

We shall be busy doing nothing for a decade, when we could be up and twirling with Wind Farms, or down and gushing with Sea Power of one kind or another.

Nuclear new build is not actually an energy project. It’s a construction project, but it could end with a wipe-out if the reactors fail. Why can’t we do Renewables instead ?

JOBS PER BILLION IN INVESTMENT

Some have calculated that that green energy jobs are more plentiful than dirty oil recruitment or booming atom employment, so why try to sell new Nuclear build on the basis of the extra staffing required ?

Green Energy jobs last, but Nuclear build jobs will not. Hope the union people can see that.

SHORT-TERM ECONOMIC BOOST

Yes, there’s nothing like a spending drive, like new Nuclear build could be good for the Economy in the short-term, with big influxes of cash to get the ball rolling, but that boost will wear off, when the build phase is over.

And another thing that’s not in the equation is the risk of project failure. It could all go belly up, we we’d be left with no extra electrickery and heaps of joblessness overnight.

NOT JUST IN TIME : JUST TOO LATE

Climate Change is a threat multiplier acting in a timeframe of less than a decade, so offering new Nuclear Power in ten years’ time is not “just in time” to help with Carbon Cuts : it’s actually too late.

It’s like Clean Coal – possibly available in 2020 when it becomes economic. The Hydrogen Economy – available in the early 2020s when it becomes economic.

We cannot afford to wait – not for Clean Coal – not for new Nuclear.

Why do I not see a strong policy on Carbon Energy Conservation, with economic recompense on Carbon Cuts, through sales of Renewable Energy for example, and Carbon Shares ?

ENERGY PARASITISM

It’s not only the UK coupled with France that say they are pursuing New Nuclear. There’s the USA, India, China and a string of other nations. It seems quite likely that rapid, large-scale new Nuclear build on the global scale could induce Energy cannibalism, whereby the Energy from existing supplies has to be used to build new nuclear plants, and that each phase must feed the next in its turn (see below).

In addition, the full lifecycle of Nuclear Power plants is definitely not Carbon-free, and in particular the build phase is Carbon-intensive, meaning it uses a lot of “conventional” Fossil Fuel energy.

Energy Parasitism :-

http://www.inderscience.com/search/index.php?action=recor…

Thermodynamic limitations to nuclear energy deployment as a greenhouse gas mitigation technology

Author: Joshua M. Pearce

Address: Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 106 Peirce Science Center, Clarion, PA 16214–1232, USA

Journal: International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology 2008 – Vol. 2, No.1 pp. 113 – 130

DOI: 10.1504/IJNGEE.2008.017358

Abstract: To both replace fossil-fuel-energy use and meet the future energy demands, nuclear energy production would have to increase by 10.5% per year from 2010 to 2050. This large growth rate creates a cannibalistic effect, where nuclear energy must be used to supply the energy for future nuclear power plants. This study showed that the limit of ore grade to offset greenhouse gas emissions is significantly higher than the purely thermodynamic limit set by energy payback times found in the literature. In addition, any use of nuclear energy directly contributes heat to the Earth, which the Earth must radiate into space by raising its temperature to maintain thermodynamic equilibrium. This is a relatively small effect, but as energy consumption grows it must be considered for a world powered by nuclear energy. The results of this study demand modesty in claims of ’emission-free nuclear energy’ as a panacea for global climate destabilisation.

NUCLEAR INVESTMENT : NOT AN ATTRACTIVE PROPOSAL

Getting private capital to invest in new Nuclear build is going to be hard if there are other options. General Electric, for one, wants to build more and more Renewables. They are fast-to-grid and they have fabulous payback. Return is fast and sure. Private capital is not going to be too keen to lock up financial power in slow, risky projects like Nuclear Energy.

Emphasising that the UK Government expects new Nuclear build from private companies may well encourage them to invest something in it. But it’s one sure way to entirely cripple the Energy business for years to come – starting projects with long lead-times when they are expected to be unproductive, withholding these skills from speedier results, using an unpopular brand of technology.

Yes, lock up all that capital in Nuclear Fission building projects that are actually Carbon-positive (create net Carbon Emissions) for at least a decade. Sounds like a bad idea to me.

And I haven’t even started to consider Peak Uranium – the evidenced concept that good quality fissile material will begin to peter out and petrify in the very near future – just when we’ve finished building lots of spanking new atomic plants, no doubt.

Carbon Underground : Stealth Tax

Carbon Underground : Stealth Tax
by Jo Abbess
7th March 2008

The British Government are finding it hard to come out and say it. But they can’t go on holding their tongues forever.

We need effective Carbon Control legislation : rules and regulations are the only way to seriously bite into Climate Change.

It’s no good relying on hide-and-seek rearguard coverage protection, boys (and the overwhelming majority of you are boys), you have to start pushing forward and lead from the front.

You cannot go on expecting to hold your policies on Energy and Climate Change together with sticky plastic tape. You cannot say yes to action on Climate Change and still appease the big players in the Energy and Financial sectors.

You can hide for now, but not for long.

Part of the Government are persuaded of the need to use Tax to battle Carbon, but obviously, it’s a poll-loser to mention the “T” word, and really edgy to try to make it core policy.

Another section of the Government understand the economy-stabilising logic of Carbon Quotas, but they’ll never overcome the 1984, Big Brother, Animal Farm, totalitarian impression that Carbon Monitoring and Carbon Rationing evoke.

So they’re pursuing Carbon Control by the means of stealth and side-effect. At first glance you could be forgiven for not seeing it, but that’s what is happening.

DE FACTO CARBON TAX

The international markets are responding to heightened demand and energy security fears. It appears that Peak Crude is already with us in all its economy-deadening reality.

Yesterday the price went over $105 a barrel of oil, and that’s a real hike, even given that the American Dollar currency is in freefall.

There is clearly a kind of uncodified, unreported agreeement in the constant dance between the Oil Exporting countries/companies and the Oil Importing countries/companies : “Don’t Mention The War !” Don’t mention that the sand is shifting beneath your feet, that you are being sucked into a quicksand quagmire.

Governments and Business know that their abilities to control the price of the basic commodity, refined petroleum oil, are waning.

Since Energy is highly “marketised”, there is little “incentivisation” to do green energy investment, unless it’s in response to regional policies, such as the European Biofuel Directive (2003).

Big Energy is getting fat on rising prices. What care they to go green ? It’s not their function to speculate with green energy investment.

Governments are not going to re-nationalise Energy in order to build the new infrastructure required for green energy. They’ve taken Carbon off the accounting books, apart from the continued subsidies they make to keep Big Oil ticking over.

Electricity and Gas Energy Corporates have responded to measures such as the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), and calls for new green infrastructure spending under the European Renewables Directive (2001), by raising utility prices.

They claim their hands are tied because of rising wholesale prices, and of course, they are legally bound to try to stay afloat financially.

The big picture is : we have a Carbon Tax in operation.

DE FACTO CARBON ALLOWANCE

Fuel Poverty policy dictates support for the financially impoverished, who are also Carbon Poor, as Carbon Emissions are highly correlated to income.

Those with widening gaps between disposable income and utility energy expenditure are already getting handouts, as befits our social security system.

And now the Big Energy companies have been called to Government HQ for a dressing down from Gordon Brown for their opportunistic price rises, and threatened with a windfall tax.

There is talk of potentially issuing fuel and home energy tokens, effectively a free Carbon Ration.

The same idea has been promoted by the Cap and Share campaign from FEASTA, the Irish/British think tank, seeking to implement a vehicle fuel ration in Ireland, via a compensatory measure of issuing free Carbon Allowance certificates that can be traded, when capping of fuel is introduced.

And in British Columbia, the recent announcement for a Carbon Tax included legislation for issuing an allowance to citizens to compensate for projected utility bill increases – an “energy tax windfall”.

The big picture is, this is paving the way to a universal Carbon Allowance system.

The problem with relying on Stealth Taxes or Stealth Rationing is that is it not to be known how long these measures will take to be effective in any significant way.

Taxes are unpopular with the electorate. A tax on individuals and their personal household consumption is quite a radically vote-losing idea.

Taxing Energy companies on Carbons means the cost is pushed down the food chain, the Carbon Chain to customers, effectively a blanket Carbon Tax, on end consumers.

Just like VAT, the poor householder pays. Having a testbed in the ETS showed that “virtual” costs are loaded onto bills, even before Energy corporates will actually have to pay for Carbon Allowances.

There is of course the obvious bleed and creep from a blanket price increase in energy.

The looping effect of oil price inflation into the general economy, particularly through other commodities is already showing. It’s called inflation. It’s basically equivalent to a Carbon Tax.

It’s not easy to replace petroleum overnight, it’s the main road transport energy. You need to replace all the vehicles to take another fuel before you can stop relying on refined petroleum.

Technologies such as Coal-To-Liquid (CTL) and Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) cannot scale up very quickly.

European Commissioners and other elected and non-elected European high-ups are musing about where the oil price could go.

Andris Piebalgs says $200 dollars a barrel by 2011 cannot be ruled out.

People don’t want to be taxed. Corporates want to know exactly how much Carbon will cost so that they can budget and invest. This is a real conflict of interests.

It’s a large quandry. Markets probably can’t fix this. A Carbon Tax, of its own, cannot possibly sort all the problems.

It’s time to stop looking at putting a price on Carbon, and start considering Carbon as a currency in its own right, one that can be traded to a certain extent, but a currency that must develop less currency, tending to zero, in the near- to medium-term.

CARBON GAMBIT

There’s a Budget coming up in the United Kingdom on 12th March.

A chance to pierce the gloom, wipe away the cobwebs, and start talking clearly about the Carbon Roadmap.

Which way is the cookie going to crumble ? Which side of the parting will the coiffure fall ? You can’t cover the bald patch forever. Why not be more open about it ? You’re going to price Carbon. Or you’re going to ration Carbon. Or you’re going to offer a mix-and-match approach.

Tell us the measures you are going to implement to control Carbon, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer. And while you’re at it, tell us how you’re going to make sure we have renewable and sustainable energy, going forward.

You can use words like “world-class” (a la Malcolm Wicks), or “good for British business”, or the “need for competitiveness”, or “green collar jobs” (a la Hillary Clinton), but you do need to speak to Carbon. And do it openly and comprehensively.

CCS : Dropping The Fig Leaf

CCS : Dropping The Fig Leaf
by Jo Abbess
1st February 2008

In the beginning was a grand engineering dream. We could carry on burning coal if we could safely and cheaply pump the waste gas into a deep dark hole in the ground, never to return.

Big Energy companies paid lots of researchers to tell them it could be done, and done cost-effectively. Governments overcame their suspicions of manipulation. Engineers overcame their incredulity at such a stupid idea.

Scientific magazines carried graphs, tables and artist-imagined mock-ups of how Carbon Capture and Storage would look and cost. Newspapers, ever searching for an optimistic story about technology, told us that CCS was a wonderful future.

Peer-reviewed research papers were published. Books on Climate Change and Energy policy looked favourably on the nascent technology.

Applications for new coal-fired power plants were made in the United Kingdom, plants that would be “capture ready”, ready for the new technology (although it was not already with us).

Assurances were made that, even though coal is the most dirty Fossil Fuel to burn, CCS would deal with that, so there was no need to worry.

No need to invest in Renewable Energy technologies, just burn coal with added CCS to mop up the mess.

However, we now know that the Future is Naked Coal, without filters.

There is not, and possibly never has been, an actual plan to use CCS at new coal power stations. After all, it’s quite expensive and untested.

It is reported in today’s Guardian Newspaper that the Big Energy firm E.On are demanding that they can build a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth without any promise to use CCS :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/feb/01/fossilf…

“”[Eon is] reluctant to specifically reference carbon capture and storage as a consideration without legislation. The secretary of state has no right to withhold approval for a conventional plant,” Land wrote to Mohamed.”

The fig leaf is well and truly off, not E.On.

They cannot continue to claim that they’re doing “Clean Coal”, as they’re not prepared to clean up their coal.

CCS was just a ruse, a red herring, a side alley packed with empty boxes to stop the cop car getting through.

Now, Al Gore has been reported as saying something like he doesn’t understand why groups of thousands and thousands of young people are not chaining themselves to coal power plants in protest at the continued use of this dirty fuel.

It is responsible for half of the electricity of the United States, apparently, so it’s a good target for direct action on Climate Change.

Trouble is, most people are just not interested in travelling to power plants and locking on to the tarmac with bolts and braces.

You can expect a certain number of hardcore greenies, like George Monbiot, to do it, but most of us others would rather stay at home/work/club.

Here’s an idea though : refuse to have anything to do with E.On.

As an organisation they are acting in a way that could get a person labelled cynical and hypocritical. They are building wind turbines, but they are also wanting Fossil Fuelled power from Kent.

E.On are sponsoring, of all things, a Climate Change Conference at Bournemouth University on 2nd April 2008, hosted by the Poole and Bournemouth local governments. Meanwhile they expect approval on their Kent Coal enterprise in May.

Zero Carbon Britain http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com have been asked if they want to have a stand at the conference exhibition. Err, maybe not.

I’m thinking I might go to the conference. I’m thinking of making myself a tee-shirt that says in large black letters “E.Off !”

If you feel passionately that you need to do something, change your electricity account, stop using power, write letters, do whatever you can reasonably do to make E.On know they’re on the wrong seat on the wrong train, going to the wrong destination.

Or maybe demand that your Government change the rules and regulations to bar new coal burning. After all, there are European laws about emissions targets, and targets for Renewable Energy…

E.Off to the Coal Salers !

CCS Is Not An Energy Policy

Image Credit : coconino

CCS Is Not An Energy Policy
by Jo Abbess
15th January 2008

Carbon Capture and Storage can never be a Big Hitter in the efforts to mitigate Climate Change.

It’s always going to remain costly relative to other technologies and geoengineering projects and it poses a significant risk of failure.

It may not be possible to keep Carbon Dioxide locked away safely underground.

Plus, the geological formations required to keep it reliably contained in great quantities may not be very widespread.

It may end up as a niche pursuit. It might not be possible to scale it up.

It looks like it could be yet another Big White Elephant – a lemon – a money pit.

What the Government themselves say :-

http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/sources/sustainable/carbon-…

“The processes involved in CCS are not novel, but have yet to

be demonstrated together at scale. The Government made clear

in the Energy Review in 2006 that the next logical step for CCS

would therefore be building a full-scale demonstration plant subject

to this being cost effective. The PBR (Pre-Budget Report) in

December 2006 announced the appointment of consulting engineers

“to ensure that our understanding of the costs of a CCS plant based

in the UK is robust”, and the 2007 Energy white paper

“meeting the energy challenge” subsequently announced that a

competition would be launched in November 2007 to build the

world’s first full scale CCS power plant in the UK…Analysis of

carbon capture and storage cost-supply curves for the UK :-

http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file36782.pdf

Energy Review 2006 :-http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/review/page31995.html

2007 Energy White Paper :-

http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/whitepaper/page39534.html

After the original piece on CCS :-

http://www.changecollege.org.uk/html/dead_end_carbon_capt…

we received the expert feedback below…

E-Mail Transcript (Edited)

from: Jo Abbess

to: Colin Forrest

date: Jan 15, 2008 1:56 PM

Dear Colin,

…You believe I am making a faux pas, wrongfooting myself, and I appreciate the fact that you consider this important enough to get in touch, with your correction.

On technical and engineering grounds, I’m happy to defer to greater knowledge. However, in terms of looking at politics and the economics, I think I have some valid points to make, and I believe that these considerations will actually outweigh the potential benefits of CCS.

The Big Picture

With CCS, like all Climate Change mitigation technologies, it’s important not to get carried away by a good idea, or get stuck in the engineering or technical detail.

We need to scope out the landscape and take a look at where CCS fits into the bigger picture.

High Relative Cost : How Ever The Market Changes

Look at the context in which it is emerging. We already know it’s (going to be) expensive, and that’s going to cover operational costs as well as infrastructural costs.

It’s true that you have to invest “embodied energy” into new plant for Renewable Energy technologies, but then the day-to-day operational costs of generation, maintenance and decommissioning of, say, Wind Turbines, are really low.

CCS however, in addition to the energy costs of investment will need continual “energy input” for routine operation of the plant – pumping gas underground will only be a part of that.

For any given Climate Change technology, more input energy implies more Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions and their consequential economic burden.

In one way or another, we will start to price Carbon in the near-term. As the Carbon Price rises, so will the cost of CCS. It will stay expensive relative to the rest of the energy economy, and so the uptake of CCS on a large scale is in doubt.

The Climate Change technician at the Global Garage looks over the Energy Automobile which is producing too much smoke, and says with a sharp intake of breath, “Well, we can put the filter it out – but it’s going to cost ya !” The question is : who’s gonna pay that ?

Different Target : Wrong Tools

The principal reason for pursuing CCS at the present time is to do “energy recovery” – that is – pumping Carbon Dioxide into depleted oil and gas wells to enable the remaining hydrocarbons to be expelled.

There’s money in that, but not in a CCS project that produces no energy or other profit.

People are saying that when the cost of Carbon rises, CCS will look more viable. However, as the price of Carbon rises, the costs of CCS will rise with it. It will stay relatively expensive compared to other costs of Climate Change technologies.

And can we see the actual costs so far, rather than projections ? And what about the Energy Return on Energy Invested ?

Absent Data

Of the plants currently in operation, what is the sum total of the volumes of gas injected ? And is this at all commensurate with the emissions created to set the plant up in the first place ?

Has the Carbon Accounting even been done yet ? And what about full lifecycle Carbon Accounting – taking into account any continued monitoring required and decommissioning of plant ?

And why are companies agreeing to start CCS projects and then abandoning them ?

The Proposed Technology versus The Actual Technology

The downside to the idea about using saline aquifers, as far as I understand it, is that there are conditions inherent in the geological formations which could mean limits on the quantities that they can store, and vulnerable to even minor changes in the strata that could cause seepage, both laterally and vertically, even if the Carbon Dioxide is under sufficient pressure to be liquid at point of burial.

I’m not a geophysicist, so I cannot validate all the information I have read about this, but they seem to be key problematics.

The point is that for the most part the use of saline aquifers remains on the drawing board. What people are actually doing is pumping CO2 into depleted or disused hydrocarbon wells and mines.

And it is within that frame of reference that I talk about the infrastructure problems and the fact that CO2 will not fit back into the holes the Fossil Fuel came from.

There are people with deep research qualifications who scorn CCS for the two arguments I have outlined. I am not being disparaging for some ideological reason, but for an ultimately pragmatic one.

High-Tech Red Herring

CCS is a sop as far as I’m concerned – a token high engineering gesture to get people to accept the continued burning of coal.

In the current public “debate” about the new Nuclear Power decision, up pops Tom Burke to give an expert opinion on Nuclear. He’s against.

But what is not pointed out is what he is for. He is a leading light in the campaign to promote Carbon Capture and Storage. He is Mr Clean Coal himself.

Chinese Developments

And when I had the opportunity to corner someone who shall remain nameless who works with the Department of BERR (formerly known as the DTi), he confirmed that the CCS project being proposed is merely a “demonstration” project.

Not even he was confident that it will be successful by any measure, whether financial, emissions-wise, energy-wise or geologically stable.

He said that the CCS project is being pursued in order to convince the Chinese to do it.

The point is : the Chinese won’t do it. It’s too costly. And we’re being typically patriarchal if we think we can “lead” the Chinese on energy and emissions policy.

Policy of Polite Provocation

Part of my role seems to remain an irritant – it’s a bit part in the Climate Change theatre that suits me just fine.

I need to provoke discussion on policy and the directions that various technology could lead us to.

I want people to read things that shake them up – out of their armchairs.

All is not right, and we need to change some points of view and the illogical positions held by those who are in charge of national policy.

Do I want to be taken seriously ? Yes, sometimes. I don’t mind. Do I care about being completely knowledgable ? No – I can rely on painting a sufficiently clear enough picture for people to be able to understand the traps we keep getting sucked into.

Simple Is Best : Complex Is Beast

I’m trying to make it basic enough for people to get through to the core issues. They’re mostly very simple.

Let’s take one little example : traffic congestion. About a third of the

entire Climate Change problem is transport. But what’s on offer ? “We’ll build you some big new roads. There. That helped. It cost you, though. Oops. It didn’t help actually. Well, how about these new, low emissions cars with high embodied energy from the production process ?”

It would be more effective to step up enforcement on the law – stopping and searching every car on a few key roads in every town and stripping people from their driving licences if they don’t have car insurance.

That would take about 1 in 5 drivers off the road.

The basic problem is that there are too many cars, not that there are too few roads. Not even downsizing the actual physical dimensions of the cars will help much.

I do write nicely sometimes and if you carry on reading you may find something agreeable. Some of it might even change your mind.

Well-Founded Suspicions

I’m deeply suspicious of CCS – not only the actual technology but also why it is being promoted.

Some CCS may turn out to be safe and permanently stable – but it won’t ever add up to much. It won’t go far enough to clean up coal in my opinion.

My central bone of contention is that it hasn’t been seriously field tested and yet we are concentrating on it to the exclusion of other known quantities – and I don’t mean Atomic Energy.

Nobody can honestly truthfully say whether CCS will work or not on the scales required to permit the continued burning of coal.

Political Shenanigans

I read George Monbiot’s excellent book “Heat”, outlining the possible benefits of CCS, probably informed and inspired by your own knowledge and opinions – and I was left thinking that CCS might be useful.

I started to read more about it and saw some limitations.

The thing that solidified my opposition to CCS was this : when I was reading the proposals for a new coal-fired power station in Kent, the marketing blurb said that the plant was to be built “capture ready”.

In other words, the plant was going to be built without CCS technology from the outset – trusting that the technology will become cheap enough and effective enough to add later on. When will it ever ?

This was an obvious and complete cop out – a cheat to validate the new coal plant proposal.

(Plus, how could one get the CO2 from the Isle of Grain into a suitable well or aquifer ? Nobody discussed that. )

Technofix Trap

Offering large-scale engineering technologies as if they are solutions is a game that’s been played for decades.

Brilliant minds have made good livings in the Space, MilTech and Nuclear Power programs – keeping their noses out of the dirty stink of the politics behind these programs.

The practical case for CCS is so vaguely rooted in common sense.

It’s very, very cheap to do Energy Conservation – and various forms of Energy Efficiency – as long as it’s well-regulated it will have enormous and serious impact. In addition, it can be done quickly.

This is the best way to handle the Energy Crunch – use less of it.

But the centrist “Predict and Provide” paradigm still rules at the departments of government. “We shall generate for you dear citizens, and keep the lights on with dirty, filthy coal, and we shall bury the emissions gas. All of it. Honest.”

I don’t believe a word of it.

CCS is a big guns technology, developed for energy recovery, but which was reasoned could have some Climate Change mitigation potential, and therefore was promoted on that basis.

Just like Nuclear.

Put A Number On It

Atomic Energy ? Lovely theory. Wasteful and messy fact. Exactly how much energy input is required to generate how much energy output ? 50% of the output ? 80% of the output ?

Nobody really knows.

CCS : saline aquifers under the North Sea could hold 300 years of European emissions waste. 300 years ? If the emissions are held steady and do not increase exponentially as predicted by the International Energy Agency ? And what about the emissions from other sources than fossil fuels, increasing from positive feedbacks ? Could they go in the hole as well ? How long before mini local earthquakes are caused that spill all the gas out again ?

Nobody really knows.

It is clear from talking to various people and reading various reports that the main target respositories for CO2 emissions will remain the depleted hydrocarbon cavities – naturally self-contained bubbles that previously held oil and liquid and gas in a stable and safe way.

It could turn out that these are the only reliable locations for CCS.

Nobody really knows.

Carbon Crunch : Risk Of Failure

Of course, CCS in oil fields can persuade the last crude to come gushing out – or in the case of the North Sea – dribbling out – so it has gain – even if it only increases production by a few percentage.

The problem as I see it is the “Carbon Crunch” – that there will come a time when there is a seriously decrease in Oil and Natural Gas supply, and we won’t be able to justify using these remaining Fossil Fuels for kickstarting the Renewables Energy program that we need for the long-term. Then we’ll be in trouble.

CCS is a high energy input Carbon “offset”. The best thing to do would be to not burn the coal in the first place.

With all the uncertainty of the actual economics and take-up of CCS, and even the success of using various geological formations, I think that CCS fails in the same way that the Biofuels proposal failed.

With Biofuels, negative outcomes were put forward, but the technology was followed up anyway. And the negative predictions turned out to be true.

There is a significant risk of failure with CCS.

Barmy Army

The promotion of CCS falls victim to the “Promise of Future Joy” syndrome. “We’ll lay out the case – the problems – and make you anxious enough, for long enough until you accept the solutions we propose.”

It’s rather like selling life insurance.

This is a propaganda war.

CCS is not an energy policy. It’s not even a Climate Change mitigation policy. It’s an energy recovery technology.

It’s not even properly scoped yet. How long will we have to wait to know if it can help or not ? Why are we being made to wait to find out ?

The big wins with Climate Change are in immediate action. In Energy Conservation and various forms of Energy Efficiency.

Damaging Delays

Let’s not delay any more by following potentially false roads.

Agreeing to more Research and Development programs (R&D) is allowing delay. Allowing the development of a technology and seeing if it works or not is a delaying tactic. Commissioning committees and reports – all makes for a waste of precious time. Don’t make me wait for CCS.

Of special note : trials are to be conducted by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (the DBERR that replaces the former DTi Department of Trade and Industry).

We can conclude that CCS is being proposed for the business potential – attracting huge state funding for private engineering projects. Is this an effective policy ? Why not just use less energy in the first place, avoiding the need for burying emissions ?

Sensible Footwear

Why aren’t we going down the road of Carbon Cuts, then ? Is it that Energy Conservation just cannot offer big industrial subsidies ?

We already have most of the technology tools we need to beat Climate Change. We cannot afford to wait. We cannot afford to wait for the development of risky ventures.

jo.

The E-Mail Feedback (Edited)

from: Colin Forrest

to: Jo Abbess

date: Jan 14, 2008 7:28 PM

Dear Jo,

…You may be shooting yourself in the foot a bit with your recent post about CCS.

Salt Water Caverns

Most of the storage potential for CO2 is in saline aquifers, not old oil and gas wells, and there is immense capacity worldwide. Under the North Sea there is room for 300 years of Europe’s emissions.

All Kinds Of New Infrastructure Will Cost

Yes there is a carbon/energy cost for new infrastructure, and globally, for the amount of infrastucure required globally to build a low carbon economy, this will be substantial. I call these “backlash ” emissions. This applies not only to CCS, but also applies to windmills, wave machines, solar panels, nuclear power stations, insulation in buildings, energy efficient vehivcles and machinery, etc, and the pipelines are relatively energy efficient ways to transport fluids.

Using Heat

Yes there is a lot of low grade waste heat from power stations, whether nuclear, concentrated solar thermal, geothermal, nuclear, fossil or biomass. The solution is to “cascade” the low grade waste heat (heating buildings, greenhouses, etc.)

Transmission Costs

Regarding transport of energy, again the transmission losses that you attribute to CCS are equally problems for other concentrated power sources, particularly wind, wave and tidal in the UK, concentrated solar thermal in deserts and biomass in remote boreal forests in the US, Canada and Asian Russia.

Again, the solution to this is equally useful to all remote energy generating technologies…High voltage DC power lines are the new thing…less transmission losses.

Up And Running

You also state that CCS is “flashy toy technologies, untried, untested and unlikely to scale up.” Unfortunately many people in the field know that about a dozen plants currently bury CO2 in the ground, with the nearest, Sleipner, in the North Sea, burying 0.5 million tons a year.

Get It Checked

These glaring factual errors, and lack of understanding of energy systems will weaken anything else that you or the Climate College produce. No one will take you seriously.

I recommend that…at least get your writing screened by someone who knows a little about the subject before you put it in the public domain, otherwise your efforts will be undermined by these inaccuracies.

Best Wishes,

Colin

Greening Houses

Greening Houses
Slashing Domestic Emissions in a Decade of Recession
by Jo Abbess
8th January 2008

Electricity is Not All There Is

Despite the national obsession with the Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Electricity Generation, it only constitutes a fifth of the problem.

How do you solve a problem like Heat ? Direct household Greenhouse Gas Emissions from space and water heating and cooling are roughly a third of the UK total, roughly neck and neck with Transport emissions.

Despite Government promises about new homes being Carbon Neutral, an overwhelming majority of properties remain energy wasteful – those already built and in use.

Curiously enough, a change in the economic outlook for Property Investment could be used as leverage to increase energy performance in a large number of homes.

State of Play

Mortgage defaults and Reposessions are increasing, as the financial environment of the Property sector takes hits from all sides, including rising energy prices, badly managed debt and irresponsible home loans.

You would have thought that spending on home improvements for reasons of energy efficiency would be the last thing on anyone’s mind. However, the situation could be used to advantage.

We still have to green up housing, and actually this can be done despite the financial environment. We could attack a whole raft of problems at the same time.

Social Housing

Local Authorities gave up large swathes of social housing stock in the Privatisation Years to landlord investors and homeowners. The Buy-To-Let entrepreneurs are now facing a curious impasse.

Rental income on property investment is levelling off, as a high proportion of dwellings become available to let with every multi-unit development.

The future growth in the capital value of housing stock is also levelling off – as the bubble collapses inwards – there might even be a drop in house prices before a much slower growth emerges.

A slowdown in conveyancing indicates a strong desire for private landlords to shed their loss-making assets that is unmatched by purchases, as mortgages are refused and a general reluctance to move is seen.

Increasingly there is a seeping away of disposable rental income that could have been made available for making rented homes more energy efficient. Already, many tenants complain that their landlords are unwilling to make energy efficiency renovations and repairs.

Yet with the HIPS pack now mandatory for all property sales it will be in the owner’s interests to green up.

Social Housing Bond

Here’s where a Local Authority Social Housing Bond could work on this nexus of problems.

Here’s how it could work : a Local Authority issues a Bond to a private landlord, buying a fixed proportion of the asset from the owner in exchange for the legal right to the same percentage on the final Sale of the property.

They would also agree a fixed percentage of the rental income to be apportioned.

As part of the Bond conditions, the owner must spend around £5,000 on a greening package – to add the best and cheapest means to green – energy efficient biomass burners, solar thermal for hot water, draught proofing, full insulation, secondary glazing options (or shutters) and electrical heat pumps in the wall.

The capital value of the property will be retained in the mid- to long- term, so the Local Authority does not lose. The private landlord can continue to pay the mortgage and maybe even make a profit.

Paying for repairs and maintenance should be by mutual agreement.

Matching Up To The Nottingham Declaration

So, a Local Authority can (a) Increase the availability of Affordable Homes even in a downturn of Property Development; (b) Invest in sound energy efficient stock without losing capital, thereby greening up housing.

For those Local Authorities that have signed the Nottingham Declaration, this could be a useful mechanism to satisfy part of their commitment on Climate Change.

Nuclear Bung : Nuclear Bungle

Nuclear Bung : Nuclear Bungle
by Jo Abbess
7th January 2008

Possibly Underhand : Possible Backhanders

The tiny little story is finally out and proud : the little town of Drigg in Cumbria will accept all forms of nasty Nuclear Waste in return for a bung of humungous proportions – a regular tidbit of public funding.

So, when will that allowance be terminated ? At the average half-life of the radionucleides ? Like, ten thousand years or something ?

Surprisingly, no other community has volunteered to Adopt-an-Old-Atom.

Dressing Up A Complete Mess

The Nuclear Energy story is looking increasingly fumbled – or even completely bungled – the so-called privatisation of an industry in terminal decline – followed by massive bailings out – followed by endless tales of leaks and cracks and outages.

And still a gloss is painted on the dream of cheap, atomic power.

Let us pass over the fact that British Energy has not been tasked with cleaning up the waste from the business it runs.

Let us skirt swiftly around the fact that the people will effectively have to pay twice over for the Atomic Energy they have burned at home powering their endless tellies, kettles and PCs.

We didn’t pay enough for safe permanent disposal of depleted Nuclear Waste the first time round when we paid our utility bills, so now the public purse has to be raided to fund it – behind the scenes.

Let’s repeat that enormous Norman (Baker) of a fact : the disposal of the last 50 years of nuclear waste is still to be completed at taxpayers’ expense – and the sums are looking so large it will be like paying our nuclear electricity bills all over again.

Clearly, the power was underpriced when it was originally sold.

So, we have an energy industry that doesn’t perform economically, leaving continued environmental mess, plus, it’s got cracked reactors, seeping ponds, allegedly roughneck contractor practices, apparently safety money squeezes, unconfirmed reports of upsetting redundancies and an advertised lack of potential engineers.

You know, they even called me to ask if I’d like to be a Nuclear Engineer. Clearly, they haven’t read my latest work.

New “clean”, “safer” systems are quite possibly oversold as being genuinely “safer” or even “cleaner”. Have you seen the Uranium mines in Australia ?

Private, successful energy companies are willing to built more of the fissile monstrosities, but as long as they have guaranteed prices, or guaranteed public funds to underwrite them. Not exactly a free market, then.

Let’s see ? Does this sound like a successful industry ? No ? I thought not.

And can it actually do something about Climate Change ?

A few mere percentage points.

So, no Energy Security there really, nor serious Climate Mitigation prospects.

Bit of a limp, furry cucumber, actually.


PRESS RELEASE

7th January 2008

Nuclear Power – Resources from Scientists for Global Responsibility

With the government due to make an announcement on the future of nuclear power in the UK, Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) reiterates its opposition to the building of new nuclear power stations. Below are links to a selection of SGR’s recent resources on this issue, laying out our case.

Nuclear power: the security dimension

Powerpoint presentation (October 2007)

http://www.sgr.org.uk/climate/NucPower_Kendal07.ppt

The future of nuclear power

SGR response to government’s consultation document (October 2007)

http://www.sgr.org.uk/climate/response_nuclearcons_oct07….

Nuclear power: yes or no ?

Powerpoint presentation (September 2007)

http://www.sgr.org.uk/climate/NucPower_manc07.ppt

Not enough skilled workers to build new UK nuclear power stations ?

Comment article (July 2006)

http://www.sgr.org.uk/climate/article_NuclearScientists_3…

Open Letter to Prime Minister

regarding opposition to a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK from 40 climate and energy experts (April 2006)

http://www.sgr.org.uk/climate/letter_TonyBlair_NucPower_1…

For more information, please contact:

Dr Stuart Parkinson

stuartp [at] sgr.org.uk

mobile UK: 07 941 953 640

Note

SGR is an independent UK organisation of approximately 900 members across the natural and social sciences, engineering, IT, architecture and design. Its main aim is to promote ethical science, design and technology based on the principles of openness, accountability, peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability. For more information, see http://www.sgr.org.uk/


Other Atomic Resources

Nuclear Consultation Working Group Report

http://www.nuclearconsult.com

http://www.nuclearconsult.com/NUCLEAR_REPORT_COMPLETE_HIG…

Christian Ecology Link : “Faith and Power”

Calling for a Low Consumption, Non-Nuclear Energy Strategy http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/pr-n.htm

http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/fp.pdf

The Sustainable Development Commission : Energy Review Consultation Response

“The role of nuclear power in a low carbon economy” :-

http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/060306.html

http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/publications.php?id=344

“Secure Energy? Civil Nuclear Power, Security and Global Warming”

Oxford Research Group

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefi…

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefi…

“The Economics of Nuclear Power”

Greenpeace USA

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/press-center/reports4/the-e…

http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/usa/press-center/re…

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/nuclear/nuclear-r…

Greenpeace UK : Nuclear Reports

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/reports/the-economics-…

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/nuclear

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/nuclear/problems

http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press…

New Scientist : Nuclear Pages

http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/nuclear/

The Wilson Quarterly : “Nuclear is Not the Way”

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=wq.essay…

Change College (College of Global Change) : Nuclear Nuisance

http://www.changecollege.org.uk/img/Nuclear_Essay_2007060…

No 2 Nuclear Power : “Nuclear is not the answer to Climate Change”

http://www.nuclearspin.org/index.php/Nuclear_is_not_the_A…

http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/

The Union of Concerned Scientists (USA)

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/nuclearand…

RSA Submission on Energy Review
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file31308.pdf

Dead End UK : Killing Time instead of Cracking Carbon

Dead End UK : Killing Time instead of Cracking Carbon
by Jo Abbess
6th January 2008

Wasting Time on Carbon Capture

Illuminating conversation at a New Year’s party this week : I found out that the British Government is killing time over Climate Change, by chasing dead-end technologies.

Instead of concentrating on delivering significant Carbon cuts, the United Kingdom is following up low-value, low-performance options because they can be made attractive to private investment.

In order to fulfill the national commitment of a 60% cut in Carbon Dioxide emissions by 2050 under the Climate Change Bill, thinking clearly in the cold light of dawn brought me to the realisation that there needs to be serious investment in sustainable energy.

Not this tinkering-at-the-edges approach, trying to stimulate business response with flashy toy technologies, untried, untested and unlikely to scale up.

Carbon Capture and Storage is unlikely to deliver anything like the benefits that are being advertised. It may even be a clever way to falsify our national Carbon accounting.

We are genuinely wasting our time with Carbon Capture and Storage – yet the UK Government is committed to spending precious public funds in pursuing it.

Two simple thought experiments explain why it is a non-starter for the prize for big hitters.

Pipeline Litter

The infrastructure argument : it is likely that most of the geological locations suitable for Carbon Dioxide underground storage will be those where Fossil Fuels have been extracted.

So literally, here is what would happen : gas and oil (and coal) are removed from the ground in Location A. They are then transported to Location B to be burned for electrical generation. Then the Carbon Dioxide from Location B is taken back to Location A to be sequestered underground by pumping and capping off (sealing it underground).

Now, this requires considerable built infrastructure to achieve : pipelines, roads, containers, pumping equipment, you name it. And infrastructure requires energy to build it. So Carbon is spent in order to save Carbon.

If Location A and Location B are proximate, things are still not good. If Location B is far from where the electricity is to be used then there will be not only be high inefficiencies in energy distribution, there will also be new infrastructure necessary to deliver that energy : new pylons, transformers, sub-stations and so on.

And besides the infrastructure needed to deliver Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), there is a further demand. When CCS wells are full, the the CCS plants needs to be re-located.

So a power plant over a Carbon Well would need to be dismantled and re-positioned – all of which requires financial investment, energy investment, labour investment, resource investment and the resulting Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Back of the envelope calculations show that the kind of infrastructure required by CCS would be like that for the oil refinery industry.

It is highly likely that the amount of energy used to sequester Carbon will match the amount of energy delivered by mining and burning the Carbon fuels in the first place.

It will be a no-win situation as the emissions used to sequester will match the emissions sequestered.

Chemical Bounds : It Just Won’t Fit Back In The Hole

The second thought experiment requires a basic understanding of chemistry. It doesn’t need to be accurate to be valid, so here goes.

Coal is composed mostly of Carbon. When it is burned, it is oxidised, that is, Oxygen from the air is chemically attached to the individual Carbon atoms. Now the size of the resulting gas molecules of Carbon Dioxide is roughly three times larger than the original Carbon.

If the most suitable locations for sequestering Carbon Dioxide are the wells and mines from which the original Carbon was extracted, then after around a third of it has been pumped back down, the well will be full.

Mixed Approach, Good : Skewed Spending, Bad

The Government Departments that handle the management of technologies rightly call for a mixed approach to both energy supply and Carbon Dioxide, but by putting a large number of the available eggs in the CCS basket, they are risking national emissions targets.

Given the pragmatic problems associated with the scaling up and delivery of CCS, it is unlikely that it can reduce overall emissions in a meaningfully significant way.

False Accounting ?

However, it could be that CCS will be used as a Carbon Accounting smokescreen : if we continue to burn barnloads of coal for electricity generation, roughly 50% of the total power supplied, then CCS could be used as a means to cover up the amount of the emissions.

It could be said that the total emissions to air have been reduced because CCS has put the Carbon Dioxide back in the ground.

But this would just cover up the naked and horrible truth that we have been unable to contain and cap our Carbon Dioxide emissions, that we have been unable to progress from the Carbon Economy to the Green Economy.

Protection of Wasteful Practices

CCS is a kind of sticking plaster over a large gaping wound : the Government still expects the United Kingdom to have remote coal-fired power stations, where two thirds of the energy is wasted cooling off the plant, and a further tenth is lost in transmission along the wires.

The thing is : it won’t help heal. It’s just too small.

Not Listening to Sense

One of the problems that the UK Government continues to have is that it isn’t listening to sense : it’s easy to dismiss people with a wave of a hand and accuse them of being “environmentalists”, that is, “ideologically challenged”, when they point out the illogical use of public funds.

Shouldn’t we be aiming for actual implementation of new sustainable energy infrastructure (with short lead times to production) rather than running “demonstration” projects for Carbon Capture and Storage, which can’t possibly scale up to the size we need and will deliver far too little in terms of emissions reductions ?

Further Reading

Vaclav Smil on Volumes to Sequester :-

http://vacoalblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/australian-bet-on-…

The OECD on Vaclav Smil :-

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~vsmil/pdf_pubs/oecd.pdf

“Canadian energy researcher Vaclav Smil calculates that if just 10% of global CO2 emissions were to be sequestered, this would mean burying annually about 6,000 million cubic metres of compressed CO2 gas. This is larger than the annual volume of oil extracted globally – a bit less than 5,000 million cubic metres in 2005. This means creating an industry that would, every year, force underground a volume of compressed gas larger than the volume of crude oil extracted globally by the petroleum industry. Noting that the oil industry’s infrastructure and capacity has been put in place over a century, Smil concludes that ‘such a technical feat could not be accomplished within a single generation.'” Reference : SMIL, V. (2006) Energy at the Crossroads: Background notes for a presentation at the Global Science Forum Conference on Scientific Challenges for Energy Research, OECD Conference on Scientific Challenges for Energy Research, Paris, 2006, [Online], Available: [11 December 2006]

FutureGen and other Follies :-

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/the-energy-f…

“There are plenty of experts who still doubt that capturing carbon dioxide and putting it in cold storage will ever work at a meaningful scale. Vaclav Smil at the University of Manitoba has calculated that capturing, compressing and storing just 10 percent of current CO2 emissions — here and now — would require as much pipeline and plant infrastructure as are now used worldwide to extract oil from the ground. And oil is a pricey commodity while carbon dioxide is a waste gas.”

Who’s Dangerous ?

Image Credit : Will Rose

Who’s Dangerous ?
by Jo Abbess
12th December 2007

This week, angry protesters have threatened to close down the whole UK economy by blockading energy supplies. And where’s the official response ? Where are the vanloads of police with dogs and legal warrants to stop these people ? These anarchists did this in 2000, and nobody stopped them then, either. Aren’t these people dangerous ?

The fuel protesters know, as we all know, somewhere deep inside, that the supply of Fossil Fuels is the lifeblood of the country’s business and trade. They intend to block distribution of fuel, and have helpfully threatened the public into panic-buying to fill up their tanks. These road hauliers, I mean, they have good reason to be annoyed, but why are they allowed to put the country to ransom ?

By contrast, a small group of people bringing the scourge of the European Biofuel obligation to the public eye have been manhandled and penned up, whilst protesting outside Tesco during the day of international action on Climate Change on 8th December. Virtually arrested for saying in public that we need to protect the world’s forests from destruction, and give up the ridiculous global trade in plant fuels, which causes more Carbon emissions than petrol, well-to-wheels.

Even the European Union are beginning to doubt the Biofuel policy is helping, as reported this week. But the protesters ? Treated like criminals. Why are these colleagues of mine so much more dangerous than fuel protesters with trucks, that they attract police attention and require state control ?

George Monbiot dressed up in a polar bear suit just the other week, and blocked the work of a coal digger, asserting later in the pages of the Guardian Newspaper that we need to keep Fossil Fuels in the ground to stand a chance of combatting Climate Change. He rightly analyses that supply-side management of Carbon Energy is crucial and critical, so in theory, the fuel protesters are helping. The net effect of a fuel protest will be less burning, but this “crude resistance” is not democratic.

I do not support the methods or the reasoning of the projected fuel blockades. The reason oil prices are rising has got nothing to do with fuel duty being too high, or Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling being too greedy, and it has everything to do with the world petroleum supply crunch. Peak Oil and sharply rising demand are chewing into refinery capacity and fuel stocks badly. Protesting by stopping delivery of fuel will not stop the inexorable rise in the cost of road fuel.

I support the opposite view : that adding to the demand-driven inflationary pressure on the price of petrol and diesel is something I can support as a means to stem demand – but it does have an evil side-effect. Those Big Oil companies that would previously be trying to put a green face on things, will give up and go back to peddling Fossil Fuels because they know they can make bigger money than ever on refined petroleum.

More dangerously, in addition, they will establish their use of tar sands and coal – as even coal can be made into a liquid fuel. There is no supply crunch on coal or tar sands, but they are the most highly Carbon-emitting fossil sources of fuel. I know Shell is running an algae Biodiesel trial as a kind of token to fling to the greenies, but this would only improve Carbon Intensity, not reduce net Carbon Emissions from the fuel chain (the AlgaeDiesel gets burned, remember), so will be effectively a tiny sideshow.

Wind power aside, Green Energy will be discarded in favour of good old dirty, oily money as its ability to make profit gets more handsome.

This is highly dangerous, as the large Fossil Fuel companies are the only organisations that have the free capital to shell out on Renewable Energy investment, and if they focus on Fossil Fuels, or even expensive nuclear power plants, we’re lost – unless Governments start state Renewable Energy investment of their own – which is unlikely given they’re all sold on the privatisation of utilities.

George Monbiot puts on a polar bear suit and climbs on the cab of a coal digger to stop Fossil Fuels being taken out of the ground. In the end, apparently insignificant, quirky protests may come to be seen as iconic and prophetic, and not a risk to national security.

The only solution to both world energy problems and the Climate crisis is supply-side quotas and demand-side rationing in order to balance the Carbon flow at both the upstream and downstream ends of the distribution pipeline. Price rises would happen initially, but eventually these would level off. The size of Big Oil companies would be constrained from growth, but that would satisfy the need to stop carving up virgin territories for coal, oil, tar sands or natural gas.

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is effectively a supply-side quota system that has been dressed up and labelled as a trading system – designed to look like it could operate under a globalised, liberalised framework of Carbon Credit business – palatable to the Americans as well as everybody else.

But so much is wrong with the creation and monitoring of Carbon Credits. Maybe we should just ditch the trading element and stick to the National Allocations Plans on Carbon Emissions – effectively national quotas for Carbon Energy production. That is – ration supply with a licence to sell.

Carbon Trading can probably only stop around 10% to 15% of Carbon Emissions. A Carbon Tax could in theory slow down consumption – for a while – but in the end the “cost deficit” will be adapted to and more Fossil Fuels will be burned again. Look what’s happening with the Congestion Charge in London – people are starting to drive again – adapting to the need to pay.

Environmental policymakers have debated Carbon Trading and Taxation and Rationing and concluded that only the twin strategy of reduction of supply and reduction of demand could have a large enough impact to be commensurate with the problems. The only issues are whether Fossil Fuel producers and resellers should be made to haggle over the quotas at auction.

What is so dangerous about Carbon Rationing ? It’s a tried and tested method in every application of living. All the Carbon Rationing people I know are humble, peaceloving folk. The mild-mannered David Fleming who ably designed Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) is most gentlemanly, intelligent and considered. Mayer Hillman continues to ride a bike at an age of over 70. Tim Helweg-Larsen of CAT is a Zen-like rockclimbing proficonado. Aubrey Meyer is a ponytailed musician. The Carbon Rationing Action Groups (CRAGgers) are level-headed, hardworking engineers and social activists. Even George Monbiot is a quiet, family man. Come on into the ocean of Carbon Rationing – the Carbon Energy Quotas are lovely !

If we don’t start rationing Carbon, pretty soon we’ll have to start rationing fresh water and food. We might even have to start rationing utilities anyway – just like drought-conquered Atlanta, Georgia. The summer hosepipe ban is the tip of the melting iceberg as far as restrictions are concerned. It’s time to ration Carbon – at least it’ll give us some practice for the other privations we’ll have to deal with from Climate Change.

http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com

http://www.teqs.net

http://www.blackoutbritain.org.uk

http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk

http://www.gci.org.uk/contconv/cc.html

http://www.carbonrationing.org.uk

http://www.capandshare.org.uk

Lending Interest

Lending Interest
by Jo Abbess
11th November 2007

Having had the benefit of an Evangelical Christian upbringing, with plenty of Bible teaching at Sunday School, I have always been aware that the Jewish Scriptures contain an injunction against lending money for profit.

To be obedient to God, you should not charge your brother or countryman interest when you make him a loan – that would be indecent and oppressive. Neither should you charge the poor for loans – and you should return their cloaks at sundown if they used them as security for a debt.

In Islam, it is forbidden to lend or borrow money at interest, haram under Sharia Law. Those Muslims wanting a halal mortgage from a Western bank often have to pay an agreed but fixed charge for the loan.

Imagine what the world would be like without percentage rates on loan repayments.

Economic models assume that the way that Capital works most effectively is to incentivise labour and production through debt, with interest added on to the repayments.

You borrow and pay back more, in the case of house loans, roughly three times what you borrowed.

And this interest, charged on every single lend, whilst it could be considered to be a valid financial charge, implies that the money supply has to continue to increase, as all trade and industry rely on debt.

Whether the new money is minted, printed or exists only as electronic signals, it has to emerge to keep the whole system of debt creation working.

And as the money pool increases, the supply of products expands to soak up that pool of money.

Increased provision of goods and services imply increased consumption of natural resources and increased use of energy and fuel.

So in effect, charging interest on loans is causing Climate Change.

There are checks and balances on economic growth – one of the levers is to reduce interest rates when there is inflationary pressure on prices.

Interest charged should tend to zero if there were to be a continued stress on natural resources and energy supplies.

And that is very well what we may see : with Peak Oil upon us, and Peak Energy not far behind.

With the exponential rates of increase in commodities and minerals prices due to a combination of Peak Oil and Climate Change damages, there is every chance that prices of all goods and services will rise wildly.

An environmental price for Carbon, and Carbon Energy prices continuing to be subject to high demand and decreasing supply, will inevitably have a knock-on effect on the rest of the Economy.

As costs spiral, interest will need to be reduced for the Economy to survive.

It seems like this could be the end of the line for Usury.

When this idol topples, what else will it drag down with it ?

Carbon Intervention

Carbon Intervention
by Jo Abbess
9th November 2007

The UK Government’s draft Climate Change Bill proposes a 60% cut in national net Carbon Dioxide emissions by the year 2050. The big question is : how are we going to do that ?

Just imagine that we keep the level of home heating, transport, manufacturing, construction, and public facilities where they are now : no new airports, no new roads, no new libraries, hospitals, supermarkets or schools, no new high-energy homes.

Even then, it still means that almost 60% of our current energy consumption needs to be dropped, because over 90% of our energy comes from Carbon sources : fossil fuels.

It’s no good asking cows and sheep to stop passing gas. Over 80% of our Carbon Dioxide emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels.

But what about Carbon Trading, people will ask ? Can’t we ask people in other countries to make the Carbon cuts, and receive Carbon Credits for that and trade with us so that we don’t need to make any changes to our own energy consumption ?

In fact, the European level policy is a system of Carbon Trading between high energy nations and low energy nations. VERs (Voluntary Emissions Reductions) and CERs (Certified Emissions Reductions) are being worked up in various countries under the auspices/aegis of the United Nations Kyoto Protocol and other international efforts, in anticipation of a global Carbon Market.

There are problems with this however. Recent news shows that alarmingly, Carbon Credits are being held back from the “pipeline” to the Carbon Market, and in some cases, Carbon Credit schemes are being officially rejected.

We will see the full scenario emerging within a few years, but it seems likely that that there will not be enough bananas in the banana market for the people that need to buy bananas.

Although the United Kingdom directly produces only around 2% of global Carbon Dioxide emissions, it is indirectly responsible for roughly 15%, through imports of foreign manufactured goods and food, and foreign investments.

Add in the effects of air travel and shipping, which are excluded from official Carbon accounts of the nation, and it seems that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is responsible for around 20% of global Carbon Dioxide emissions through trade, transport, manufacture and domestic energy consumption.

Which countries are going to have to make which emissions reductions in order to trade with us for our 60% Carbon cuts ?

Let’s see now…the United States is directly responsible for roughly 25% of global Carbon Dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, and China, Russia, Europe, Brazil, Japan, Russia and Mexico are responsible for most of the rest.

So, which country will we be able to persuade to cut their emissions in order to feed our need for Carbon Credits if we make no reductions ourselves ?

We can ask Indonesia and Brazil and other countries rich with forest to stop deforestation, even pay them to do so, but after the first bans on logging and agricultural incursion, there will be no extra Carbon Credits to come out of preserving forests and peat bogs.

The bananas are getting a bit thin on the ground here. Clearly, we need to be making Carbon cuts in our own back yard.

Which leads me back to my original question : if we are committed to a 60% cut by 2050, how are we going to do that ?

We can imagine that through complex accounting and quite a lot of cost, we could Carbon Trade about 10% of our Carbon emissions away.

But what about that 50% of our current Carbon Dioxide emissions that we cannot trade away ? How are we going to tackle that ?

Can we ask one sector of our national energy life to reduce by 90% to allow the other sectors to stay as they are ? Or do we need to consider a 50% cut in emissions in all sectors ?

The sector of energy consumption that creates the most Carbon Dioxide emissions is space and water heating : how can we make a 50% cut in our heating requirements, given the current state of the UK’s housing stock ?

With calls to take voluntary action to cut Carbon, only about 20% of people have made changes to their home energy consumption, affecting only about 20% of their total. Are voluntary changes going to be enough ?

And how are we going to reduce our transport needs by 50% ? About 20% of the nation have taken steps to reduce their travel by choice. Can we rely on more people making the change for themselves, or are we going to need social direction ?

Will we have to ban air travel advertising ? Are we going to have to stop advertising cars because nobody is driving them any more ? Are we going to have to stop selling cars ?

Are we going to have to ban shopping trips, the school run, family visits, work travel ?

How are we going to stop buying half of all the gadgets and machines we currently purchase each year ?

How are we going to stop heating our public buildings for half the time, or half the heating ?

How are we going to stop half of all retail and half of all construction of homes, roads and schools ?

The plain fact is that despite the rapid increase in Renewable Energy in the United Kingdom, it still only accounts for about 10% of the electricity sector, which is only 20% of total energy demand.

Most of the rest is provided for by the burning of fossil fuels, which causes new Carbon Dioxide to be released to air, where it can float for a thousand years, adding to the Global Warming greenhouse effect.

We haven’t yet heard from the Government about how they intend us to de-carbonise all the energy sectors of our lives, although we have heard a lot about them answering the call for electricity Carbon cuts.

If the majority of current energy use cannot have the carbon taken out of it, we had better start asking serious questions.

Are we going to have to have a massive increase in Renewable Energy and use the extra electricity for electric cars and electric home heating ?

Are we going to have to abandon centralised electricity generation ? These old thermal power plants are so energy wasteful. Will we need to have to invest in town-scale combined heat and power stations in order to cut the Carbon ?

Are we going to have to insulate all homes, by law, to a certain standard ?

Will local councils be obliged to remove central heating systems from people’s homes as citizens prove they cannot control their use of Natural Gas supplies ?

And how are we going to re-generate community and local employment for people when centralised Carbon-hungry businesses start toppling ?

And how are we going to eat if the Supermarkets are told to stop emitting half of their greenhouse gases and have to close half their stores ?

The Climate Change Bill makes provision for a Committee on Climate Change, and a series of graduated phases of Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions targets, with reporting and the power to regulate and issue measures for Carbon cuts.

But is the Government going to raise a Carbon Tax to pay for all the alterations that are necessary to the energy infrastructure ?

And which companies will get the contracts ? And will they be British ones ?

Is the UK Government planning a radical shake-up in the way that public transport services are provided, to compensate for the private vehicle transport that will have to be shed ?

Do the UK Government envisage massive green services employment creation programmes to make the Carbon cuts happen ?

When will the UK Government admit that they need a total stop, a moratorium, on high energy public spending, including transport, and legally halt energy-hungry private property development ?

Are you ready for 60% Carbon cuts ? Have you any idea how we’re going to do it or how much it’s going to cost ?

Whose Economy ?

Whose Economy ?
by Jo Abbess
30th September 2007

Setting the scene for international cooperation over Global Warming in New York this week, the President of the United States of America said :-

“For many years, those who worried about climate change and those who worried about energy security were on opposite ends of the debate…It was said that we faced a choice between protecting the environment and producing enough energy. Today we know better. These challenges share a common solution: technology…”

“Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technology to achieve results that are measurable and environmentally effective…We must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people…”

George W. Bush, September 2007

Economic growth…economic prosperity…But, I ask you, whose economy is this ?

It’s certainly not an economy that works for the poor, even in the United States. Citizens of the United States are commonly working too long for too little each day, and many are suffering social deprivation, health problems and unrepayable debt.

The fact is, that despite uttering what appear to be lofty aspirations about putting in place policies to contain and reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions, voluntary measures will not protect the economy, or the climate.

Climate Change will continue unabated unless clear global regulations are put in place, and the damages from Climate Change will exacerbate poverty around the world, both the poverty of incomes and the impoverishment of the environment.

Climate Change is already crippling food production, trade systems and the basis of the “economy” beloved of the US President.

It is no good to believe that free trade policies can continue to promote development, when the environmental foundation of production is being destroyed, and the trade with it.

It is no good saying that the American Economy must not be compromised by efforts to tackle Climate Change, because if the Americans do not accept a certain cost to their measures, and a certain cap on their emissions, then the Climate Change damages will wreck their economy, in their own country.

At some point, the paradigm of economic growth will break down.

What will the Americans do when their balance of imports to exports is permanently negative and they have no means to reverse it ? As they squander their resources of fossil fuels, and burn more and more of the global supply as well, their wealth is being eroded.

As their fields of grain and corn turn to dust because of excessive heat, lack of water and disease, how will they feed themselves ?

As they have to divert ever-increasing sums into homeland disaster recovery, and fulfil their international obligations in Climate Change emergencies, how will they continue to afford the development of energy-efficient technologies ?

Need I mention that these things are happening already ?

Technological research is being squeezed, food production is in danger, problems with oil supply are regular news and imports have overtaken exports in many sectors for the last few years.

The US President thinks he presides over a healthy economy, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is ridiculous to continue to assert that Climate Change must be tackled without some cost – all that technology he proposes will require a good deal of investment, diverted from economic production.

By talking about energy efficiency and new technology, the President of the United States is denying the science – that we must not merely have better machines : actually we must run less of them.

The Americans, just like the rest of us, must start to accept that they need to ration their consumption. This means a contraction of the energy-dependent economy, including industrial manufacture, good transport, personal transport, high-energy home equipment.

It means using less fossil fuels.

If they do not, there will be no economy left to speak of in a very short time.

Economic insurance policy ? Renewable energy, energy demand reduction measures, re-localising public life, small food production lots in every town, home insulation, electric cars, natural building ventilation, regional and not national companies.