Manifesto for the Little People

Image Credit : erin designr

Manifesto for the Little People
by Jo Abbess
27th May 2008

Feeling the Carbon Crunch yet ?

Like the Protesting Anarchic Lorry Drivers of Great Britain, I bet you are.

New Labour top-rankers would do well not to grimace or curl their lips back. The poor and desperate are always slightly disgusting, but they are fellow citizens, and voters as well.

Now would be a good time to seize a huge advantage from the Conservative Party by advancing both the cause of the increasingly impoverished and the State of the Environment, in a tax reform so bold it would shine your boots before breakfast.

Yes, New Labour can offer tax cuts and Climate Change policy, all rolled into one fat cigar, stealing back support at a most pertinent moment.

Here’s how it goes :-

(a) Accept the fact that the supply of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels has reached a flat plateau, a crest of production, and that from here on in, the supply will fall. [ PEAK OIL, PEAK NATURAL GAS ]

(b) Accept that, automatically, and quite naturally, the prices of all energy, manufactured and agricultural products are being forced to rise dizzyingly by the economics of scarcity.

(c) Determine that the poorest in Society will be affected the most deeply by this new pricing regime for food, fuel and home energy.

(d) Project that any form of Green Taxation will be resisted as people will be already struggling to cope with inflation.

(e) Accept the grim reality that the notion of taxing polluting activities in order to curb them cannot be made to work with Carbon Dioxide, as everything we do in our Society is dependent on Carbon Dioxide Emissions.

(f) Calculate how the squeeze on the pockets of the poorest from rising energy prices will strip away the profit-base of many businesses, both small and large. Projecting “demand destruction” away from goods and services as the customers become too poor to buy should focus attention on how businesses could be hobbled or crippled.

(g) Determine that the best kind of re-arrangement would incorporate a “safety margin” for those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid.

Here’s the proposal :-

(1) Completely remove Income Tax obligations (and Family Tax Credit topups rights) from those earning less than the Median wage – the largest number of people earning the same amount – at roughly £15,000 per annum. This should cut out a massive amount of administration and focus the tax authorities on collecting where the amounts of tax revenue possible are more significant. The poorest will then be able to absorb inflationary costs on household spending, and this will serve to stabilise the Economy.

(2) Take a Green Fund Windfall Tax from the big energy companies, transparently used to purchase nationally-owned Renewable Energy stations.

(3) Set up a Green Corps, an engineering group managed in the way that the Army is, that will do home insulation, construct community-scale Renewable Energy infrastructure and assist in flood prevention and environmental-disaster rescue. This group would be very useful in creating employment.

(4) Give each person paying National Insurance (Social Security) the option to also pay a little extra into the Green Corps funding.

(5) Issue each Citizen, working or not, with an Energy Quota certificate, effectively an annual guarantee of being permitted to purchase energy and fuel without any extra tax or charge, up to the quota level.

Those with special needs will of course need Energy Credits to compensate them and make their quota larger.

(6) Set a price for buying Energy Permits over and above the Quota, and use this revenue also to pay for Renewable Energy Technology infrastructure.

The future for Energy is Low Carbon, and the path to Low Carbon must be financed somehow, even as inflationary pressures on the cost of living keep mounting.

(7) As time goes by, and de-Carbonisation of industry, electricity generation and transport is delivered, Energy Quotas will come to mean all forms of energy, not just Carbon-based. Any exceedence of the national quota will generate revnue to put further Low Carbon energy production infrastructure in place.

It’s a bold green vision, and would get us out of the stagnant dependency on mined energy. If New Labour can begin to grasp the problem with Carbon, they will see that tinkering with vehicle and fuel taxation will not solve the rapidly unstable Economy.

We need radical forms of pricing and taxation, for energy and fuel, and we need to protect the poorest from destitution, blackouts and cold lives.


Of Flying and Lying

Of Flying And Lying
by Jo Abbess
24th May 2008

(Report from 22nd May 2008 Evening Standard Influentials Debate “DOES LONDON NEED A BIGGER HEATHROW ?”)

It’s rather grand upstairs at the RSA (*). All that weight of history, very old oil paintings on panels, a frieze on the wall, Jupitan in heaviness. We’re waiting for the start of the debate. Late, already.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, I can see him on the frieze, in 17th Century costume, with the Quaker brimmed hat, and napkin cravat, completely in the wrong time zone for the rest of his painting. He is reading a scroll.

The motto above the stage seems to read “Patria Cara, Elexior Libertas”, or at least that’s what I noted. I suppose it means something like “Beloved Country, Freedom by Choice”, but I can’t remember much of the Latin I tried to learn, so I’m not sure.

I glance at the free copy of the Evening Standard newspaper with it’s frontpage headline “PETROL CRISIS ? YES, MINISTER”.

The panellists file in. The camera clicks and flashes. Veronica, Editor of the Evening Standard stands up and talks of cordiality. She’s wearing vintage Jackie Kennedy, all 1960s short trim white frock. We learn of the Rules of Engagement.

Welcome to the great Heathrow debate.

“The woman in the hot seat” is the first to be asked to speak. Ruth Kelly admits that Heathrow is a subject that arouses passionate feelings. That air travel has afforded us unprecedented opportunities to see the world. Children expect to be able to travel. 50% of us have friend or family abroad. “I don’t think that as a matter of principle [we should] set out to ration flights.”

She went on to claim economic benefits. Financial Services people fly 6 times as much. International businesses locate near a good airport… that raises a question for me : if Heathrow is so universally acknowledged to be bad, why do so many businesses reside in London ?

Ruth Kelly claimed that the reality is that Heathrow is bursting at the seams, and that this damages Britain’s reputation. Sweetheart, I wanted to say, Britain’s reputation is in tatters, and the fact that Heathrow is rubbish is only a small part of that. Shall we talk about Iraq ?

Ruth Kelly talked about how fog can through out Heathrow’s operations for a whole day, and I felt like rejoindering : well, if you run an airport with such little slack, it should be expected that a little bit of adverse weather will snarl things up.

Ruth Kelly said there is a problem with runway capacity. She is clearly a “glass-half-empty” person, always analysing in terms of what she thinks is missing. I mean, when there are less cheap flights going through Heathrow it will definitely become more streamlined.

Ruth Kelly said she wants to increase capacity in a “sustainable way”, at which point I would have walked out of the room, were it not for the fact that I was hemmed in on all sides. How can increasing business at Heathrow be sustainable ? I mean, already a little fog virtually closes it down. Sooner or later the amount of traffic at Heathrow will create a crisis or a disaster. The whole system is unsustainable.

Ruth Kelly wants to see “sustainable” development at Heathrow as long as local environmental conditions are met.

Then, Ruth Kelly started to pay fat lip-service to Global Climate Change.

“If we don’t take action the results [will be] catastrophic.” We must take action on Climate Change. We are the first country to commit to a legally binding agreement on Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions.

Ruth Kelly pointed out that in many energy sectors, fuels can be substituted for, but that aviation is a much tougher nut to crack. There’s no real way to fly planes apart from using kerosene jet fuel. She said it was unbelievable that it would be possible to fly in a significantly different way.

At which point, I looked at George Monbiot and thought : hasn’t Ruth Kelly read what George Monbiot has written recently about lighter-than-air craft ? Yes, it would be possible to fly in a different way, very much different, with hugely less Carbon impact. Ruth Kelly is clearly under-informed.

Ruth Kelly talked about how aviation has to be dealt with in a slightly different way that other emissions sectors. Under the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme aviation will be set an absolute limit of emissions, the base level of 2005. These emissions would be paid for by airlines buying Carbon Permits from other sectors in the EU, probably in electricity generation.

One obvious conundrum springs to mind : so, what if the electricity generators say they don’t want to de-carbonise simply to allow aeroplanes to continue to take off ?

What if the electricity generation businesses say that it is not fair, not a level playing field for aviation to carry on flying, carry on increasing emissions, while the power generation sector are forced to invest to reduce emissions by their own factor plus the aviation factor ?

Paying for someone’s lunch is one thing. Paying for another business sector’s rising emissions is another.

Ruth Kelly admitted that there would be local impacts to having a Third Runway at Heathrow. Goodbye to Sipson. Noise – worse for some, better for others (pretty universal audible sneering from the audience at that comment). Any development has to adhere to strict local environmental assessment – on noise, air quality, local surface transport access.

Ruth Kelly said “I have to weigh the evidence. I won’t shirk in taking a decision. Any decision will not be universally popular… [that decision must be] in the long-term interests of the country…”

Well, the long-term interests of the country, as defined by the Ministry of Defence, for one, include massive reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions to air, and buying Carbon Permits from across Europe under the current National Allocation Plans do not amount to a massive reduction in emissions.

I did clap Ruth Kelly, out of general politeness, but I was not thankful.

George Monbiot stood up to the microphone and said that he had a “subtly different view” to the Minister, which raised a tickle of a giggle.

George Monbiot explained that if anyone were asked to design a scheme, a system designed to cause misery, you couldn’t do better than build a new runway at Heathrow.

Building what effectively would be a new airport, causing a 300% rise in flights over South East London, and bringing and end to the “alternating agreement” whereby flightpaths over West London change at 3pm every day to give folk a rest from the noise, and then spread that misery as far as you can.

George Monbiot wanted to know from the Minister Ruth Kelly how she’s assessed the evidence. The decision has to be based on evidence, so why was it rigged by BAA (the British Airways Authority) ?

George Monbiot claimed that the evidence had been “reverse-engineered” to give the numbers that would satisfy BAA and had no basis in reality, whatsoever.

George Monbiot went on to claim that this was not the first lie on which Runway Three is to be hung. There is a history of lies. Then Terminal 4 T4 was built we were promised there would be no T5. There was a promise to cap flights at 480,000 [but R3 would operate to provide 750,000 daily flights].

“Where’s this going to end, Minister ?” he quizzed, “You say this is for our benefit…prosperity. What is this prosperity for ?” He went on to project that Ruth Kelly’s position was effectively saying “humanity exists only to serve the Economy”. And he asked, quite reasonably, why business people can’t use videoconferencing ?

George Monbiot argued that Ruth Kelly was assuming the way things are done is the only way of doing them. Why do we have to be subordinated to the demands to fly more and more ? Other countries in the European Union are facing the same issues, so it’s of no consequence to claim that if we don’t expand Heathrow, flights will go to other airports (gasp !) in other countries (phew !).

This is using the argument that if we don’t do it, someone else will, so we might as well do it ourselves. This is morally questionable. George Monbiot went on to ask, “Why don’t I steal the Minister’s handbag ?”, as an example of using this same logic – if he doesn’t do it, then somebody else will.

George Monbiot asked us to consider that using the Government’s own figures, aviation will constitute 91% of all emissions under the regime of the Climate Change Bill where Britain’s emissions have to reduce by 60% by 2050.

He said that if you take another way of calculating, that could well be 258% of the Carbon Budget. How are we going to purchase enough permits to buy our way out of that ?

In summary, George Monbiot emphasised that Heathrow development was a string of broken promises, and would enhance the sum of human misery. “It is an abomination, Minister, and you should be ashamed of it.”

Of course, we had to get the “business” perspective after this obvious attempt at emotional manipulation…

(To be continued…)

(*) The full title of the RSA is the “Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce”, and is commonly known as “Royal Society of Arts”.


The War For Oil

The War For Oil
by Jo Abbess
22nd May 2008

The Metro newspaper, delivered for free to commuters in London carried this astonishing news report today :-

“Burma rejects US aid offer over fears for oil : Burma has shunned a proposal for US ships to deliver aid for its cyclone survivors over fears America may steal oil reserves. The country’s ruling junta claims the offer ‘comes with strings attached’ that are ‘not acceptable’ to Burmese people, according to reports. Aid flown on US planes with military personnel on board has been accepted but the junta would not allow warships and helicopters to deliver relief supplies.”

If this report is accurate, this would go some way to explaining the astonishing refusal of the Burmese leadership to refuse aid, which has been baffling me ever since Nargis blew the country to smithereens.

Surely, I thought, no ruling classes could refuse international aid in the case of a weather-based catastrophe. I didn’t quite go along with the much-repeated accusation that the Burmese junta must be so very evil to refuse aid for their people. I just could not believe that.

Now it seems I have hit upon the underlying reason for this apparently bizarre restriction : the Burmese rulers fear losing their birthright : the value of petroleum found in their national territory.

Now that quite puts the boot on the other hoof. If, as the report suggests, the Americans are offering aid with conditions, presumably conditions about access to “mineral” resources, then who, in fact, are the callous administration ?

More on this from USA Today :-….

“Burma’s state-controlled media said that U.S. helicopters or naval ships were not welcome to join the relief effort. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said accepting military assistance “comes with strings attached” that are “not acceptable to the people of Myanmar.” The report cited fears of an American invasion aimed at grabbing the country’s oil reserves. Burma’s xenophobic leaders appear to have long feared an invasion by the United States, a concern that some analysts believe prompted the junta’s abrupt decision in 2005 to move the capital from Rangoon to the remote city of Naypyitaw, which is equipped with bunkers.”


24th May 2008

Cautious response to Burma pledge : Aid agencies have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that Burma’s leaders will allow all foreign relief workers into cyclone-hit areas…The change in the Burmese generals’ hardline position on access came after a meeting on Friday between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Burma’s senior general, Than Shwe. After talks in Burma’s remote capital, Nay Pyi Daw, Mr Ban said Burma would now allow the delivery of aid “via civilian ships and small boats”. But his wording suggested that the US, British and French warships waiting off the coast with supplies may not be able to dock.


The USA versus OPEC

The USA Versus OPEC
by Jo Abbess
22nd May 2008

This is 2008, International Polar Year.

But if you thought all those scientific trips to the Arctic were purely about the Environment, think again.

According to the American publication Foreign Affairs, the melting ice on the Arctic Ocean is noted with glee by Big Energy, who view the seabed Up North as prime prospecting territory.

Arctic Meltdown

The Economic and Security Implications of Global Warming

Scott G. Borgerson

The Arctic Ocean is melting, and it is melting fast. This past summer, the area covered by sea ice shrank by more than one million square miles, reducing the Arctic icecap to only half the size it was 50 years ago. For the first time, the Northwest Passage – a fabled sea route to Asia that European explorers sought in vain for centuries – opened for shipping.

Even if the international community manages to slow the pace of climate change immediately and dramatically, a certain amount of warming is irreversible. It is no longer a matter of if, but when, the Arctic Ocean will open to regular marine transportation and exploration of its lucrative natural-resource deposits…

Ironically, the great melt is likely to yield more of the very commodities that precipitated it: fossil fuels. As oil prices exceed $100 a barrel, geologists are scrambling to determine exactly how much oil and gas lies beneath the melting icecap.

More is known about the surface of Mars than about the Arctic Ocean’s deep, but early returns indicate that the Arctic could hold the last remaining undiscovered hydrocarbon resources on earth. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Norwegian company StatoilHydro estimate that the Arctic holds as much as one-quarter of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas deposits.

News from the United States of America in the last two weeks regarding fuel supplies has been interesting, to say the least.

George W. Bush has signed into law a halt to topping up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The aim : to allow more oil into the domestic market, to cool the price.

At around the same time, it was found that the stockpiles were surprisingly lower than expected.

Plus, OPEC says it will not (or cannot) increase petroleum supplies.

The result : general market panic.

The American administration blame it all on OPEC, and Gordon Brown in the United Kingdom has reflected that position, to his shame, in my opinion.

Could it be that, despite several years of testing in the Arctic, no huge lakes of oil under the seabed have been sounded out ?

It’s funny. I’ve compared notes with people who were at Primary School as the same time as I was. We learned in Geography lessons that the main petroleum deposits are to be found near the Equator.

Oh yes, there’s tar sands and oil shales further North and South, and coal practically everywhere. But even though there’s been quite a lot of Tectonic Plate movement of the continents between various oil-producing periods in Earth history, the main high-energy liquid hydrocarbons that are readily accessible are close to 0 degrees latitude.

Could it be that the idea of finding oil in the formerly frozen North was used as a gambit to keep the oil industry running ? And that now we see clearly that there’s no significant oil at the Poles, we are starting to run wild with what we do have ?

There is now clear evidence that all of the major oil-producing regions of the world have experienced a plateau in production. This is known as Peak Oil.

The Saudis cannot make it flow out of the ground as fast as it did before. They cannot be blamed. But that does not stop the United States from doing so.

I’m afraid to say it, but this could be part of the next assault on the Middle East. Not just Iran, but the whole region. The same sort of game about national oil reserves was played out just prior to the Incursion on Iraq.

The fact that American Strategic Petroleum Reserve has dropped its reported stocks is possibly because they have already been diverted to the War on Terror Effort.

For American tank machinery, the next stop could be Tehran, or Riyadh, or both at the same time. You have been warned. From now on, do not believe the hype about OPEC.

Drop your own Energy and Fuel consumption to halt the War for Oil.


Kelly Don’t Get Carbon

Image Credit : Andrew Boswell, Biofuelwatch

Kelly Don’t Get Carbon
by Jo Abbess
22nd May 2008

I’ve just come back home from the Evening Standard’s London Influentials Debate “DOES LONDON NEED A BIGGER HEATHROW ?” I’m in need of a stiff drink, in fact, a very hot cup of tea.

The Right Honourable Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State for the UK’s Department for Transport, Baroness Jo Valentine, George Monbiot and broadcaster Julian O’Halloran were ably guided through the debate by Ann McElvoy of the Standard.

The whole debate was, I admit, a clash of the giant paradigms, and I came away rather stunned. In chatting to a couple of people I know vaguely and intimately after the show, one thing rang true : she just doesn’t get it.

Ruth Kelly does not understand Carbon. She doesn’t get how Carbon Trading cannot reduce Carbon Emissions, because it just sweeps Carbon naughtiness under someone else’s carpet (at best), yet doesn’t restrict the total amount.

She doesn’t understand Carbon Numbers, how aviation emissions are more significant because they’re emitted high off the ground, how a lot of British flying is simply gratuitous, how the changes in the electricity generation sector cannot Carbon-Offset aviation, and in which ways aviation cannot comply with the Climate Change Bill.

She doesn’t understand Carbon Subsidies, how successive Governments have supported Aviation as a pillar of the Economy, how airline jet fuel is never taxed, how cheap the airlines can make the tickets.

And worst of all, she doesn’t understand recent Climate Science, how the target of 60% cuts in Carbon by 2050 proposed under the Climate Change Bill cannot address the problem of Climate Stabilisation, how knowledge has moved on since the last IPCC report was first scoped.

If she were to understand Carbon, that at least would be a first step to her understanding the threat that expansion of Heathrow poses.

As it is, she has to limit herself to discussions on local environmental impact of a Third Runway at Heathrow, and there she gets it entirely wrong. She doesn’t understand just how many and in what ways people suffer from aeroplane noise and pollution on the ground, how many, many people across London are totally against Heathrow expansion on the grounds of added congestion and disturbance.

As George Monbiot put it, “Expansion…of Heathrow…would enhance the sum of human misery. It is an abomination, Minister, and you should be ashamed of it !”


Carbon Chaos : Economic Stagnation

Carbon Chaos : Economic Stagnation
End of the Trendline for Growth : Start of a Major Security Panic
by Jo Abbess
21st May 2008

I stopped reading the Financial Times before I was 21, sick to the core with its completely falsifiable theories on the operation of Economy and Trade, continually stunned by the misinterpretation of natural resource exploitation as a corporate right, and the mantra that cheap labour was good.

I started to read the Financial Times again in 2003, to try to follow the emerging markets in Renewable Energy. There are still times when I put the pink pages down in disgust.

Yet there are days when my visceral relationship with this newspaper is more jubliant. Today, I have to cheer. Well, two cheers, anyway, not the full three.

The Leader : “The Oil Conundrum” “The economy will adjust. If only we knew when and how : When oil was $10 a barrel, the idea that the stuff was running out seemed demented…It is not possible to make the case that global crude oil production has nowhere to go but down…The question is whether prices will eventually fall because of a substantial expansion of oil supply, a switch to alternative fuels, or a collapse in energy demand…Yet the flood of oil has not been forthcoming…The gloomiest explanation is that all the big fields have been discovered and most are in decline…While the world waits and waits…oil prices will only fall if we burn less oil…”

This is probably the moment that the Financial Times recognises the real possibility of Peak Oil.

I don’t know what’s taken them so long (I do, actually). I mean, Chevron has been on about it in large full-page, full-colour advertisements for over a year.

And major opinion-formers have locked their jaws into position on the Media to keep up the message : there is a finite supply of Brent and West Texas Intermediate, and there will come a point where demand broaches supply as the crude gush plateaus and starts to decline.

Getting past the point of denial is just the first step down a long, hard road. There are several, very obvious, quite possibly very dangerous outcomes to Peak Oil becoming generally accepted. The responses to Peak Oil could be highly chaotic, and risky for many people around the world.

Let’s look at just a few.


There is a genuine possiblity of rapid inflation in all elemental sectors due to price overloading coming out of the predictable “scarcity” value of hydrocarbons.

Large percentages of agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, and quite almost all of transport in the developed world are dependent on petroleum by-products.

If rapid inflation is allowed in the price of hydrocarbon fuels, then the staging value of every product in all these sectors will rise, with more weight being put on the final cost than at the moment, as businesses try to future-protect their profit margins.

This is the scramble up the banks of the river in flood.

The sensible way to stop speculation and high gradients in pricing is to quit grabbing for the biscuits on the tray at the children’s party. One biscuit at a time. One at a time.

This is rationing, and will cause immediate capping of market growth. Some may squabble and say the market will correct itself. But they must admit that the volume, the flow of the central products that drive the economies cannot increase, so it will never correct.

In many countries of the world, rationing is already in operation for things such as water, food and fuel. This measure needs to be applied to everything energy-wise, everywhere in the world.

I believe that Economies need to be kept as stable as possible – sufficiently stable to permit continuing trade and provision of goods and services.

A market environment where prices are not highly volatile – an “operation window” that allows for gradual adjustment to new resource conditions along whole trading chains.

Already, some actors have seemed to capitalise on the scarcity situation and rising base prices, and have passed on more cost that they need to. Some regulatory measures have already been implemented on prices, particularly of food, around the world.

The Oil Giants have to be propped up at the moment, as many funding streams are invested in petroleum, including Pensions, Government Bonds and so on.

There are very few actors in the supply of hydrocarbon fuels, so they act effectively as a cartel, and levelling this accusation could restrict untoward profit-taking on their part, just like the domestic energy companies have been outed as a cartel today in the UK.

If profit-making on the part of the Energy companies and the oil-producing countries can be controlled, then it will be possible to stabilise the Economies and protect us from Social Collapse due to high inflation.


The idea goes like this : so, Mexico produces X barrels of oil a day, and it exports from that, using the intermediaries of the Oil Giants.

But, Mexico’s Economy has bubbled, and although it is only using Y barrels of oil a day, this figure is approaching X, and it can be seen that clearly one day, it will be X.

When will it choose to be more monetarily efficient and close down its contracts with the international Oil Giant companies, and start direct internal oil distribution ?

Buying oil at home is going to be cheaper for most Mexicans than buying from the Oil Giants. The “foreign expertise” will be sent packing. Sovereign control will be asserted.

And if Mexico plays protectionist games, will other countries refuse to trade other products with Mexico ?

Where does this story end ? With the collapse of various markets of food, fuel, and manufactured goods. Nobody benefits.


Iraqi oil production isn’t going too well, what with the in-fighting in the country. No amount of American Surge is going to rectify this, so transnational oil corporates can just stop licking their lips.

In fact, if Iraqi oil production stays as poor as it is now, it will not matter that its reserves are now figured to be the national highest in the world. If it’s not coming out of the ground and into a refinery, it can’t help international supply.

What if Iraq gets repeated elsewhere ? Not necessarily literally in the form of an incursion to correct some perceived regime error.

What happens if other oil-producing nations start to break down, maybe as a direct consequence of Climate Change, or an unstable international Economy ?

The Middle Eastern countries, where most of the remaining oil reserves are in the world, are also prone to the exacerbated air temperatures and drought of recent years.

The Middle East will be running out of drinking water faster than oil. Then what of native agriculture ? What of local labour ? Who can stand to live in 50 degree C heat for several months with no access to air conditioning ? Will national energy supplies be restricted ?


Panic could well set in if honesty is employed as a tactic to get the Americans off the backs of the Saudis.

The Americans beg for more oil. The Saudis say they can do a little, but not much. Then the Americans come back asking for more.

“Look at your reserve figures”, they say, “you’re good to supply.”

But, honesty will come out of all of this : the Saudis want to keep a hold of their precious oil, for future use and for future gain. So they will begin to reduce the imaginary figures on their reserves. I’m sure of it.

But this could produce a good deal of panic, as the truth settles in and makes its nest in your mind. So, actually, the Saudis haven’t got as much crude as they said they had. So, Peak Oil has been with us for months in fact, maybe years.


If there is a limited supply of any product, there must be shares in that product – rations or allowances – whatever you want to call them.

If not, then this risks general collapse of many different supply chains to a greater or less degree. What follows will be not so much “demand destruction” as “demand puncture”.

I believe that we need to avoid breakdowns in trading circuits and market sectors.

I think the way to do that is to move over to using Carbon as the underlying currency.

The financial price of Carbon should be forced to become relatively stable, pegged in order to stabilise the economics.

The supply of Carbon will needs become the value marker, as its flow needs to be regulated.

If the price of Carbon is held relatively stable, it will give us a chance to invest in Alternative Energy technologies, including Energy Efficiency-producing processes, Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Wastage Reduction systems.

If the price of Carbon is allowed to rocket, everything will destabilise.

I overheard several people in my office discussing oil prices today, making the links between food and fuel and food and fertiliser.

The problems of today are not a result of over-population, as there is still enough food produced to feed the world. But if the costs of petrochemical-based fertiliser is going to rise exponentially, then real hunger will come.

And, even if the Carbon Price is pegged to stabilise Trade, and Carbon is Rationed, there is a serious risk of famine anyway. Fertiliser will be rationed, but harvests will continue to be damaged by Climate Change, with its poor and different rainfalls, flooding, warm nights and drought.

What we need is to curb Carbon growth by rationing, to stabilise the Economies as Carbon declines.

And then we need to apply Contraction and Convergence to protect the Climate and save Civilisation.

Contraction & Convergence :-

Short C & C Briefing :-

Latest C & C Animation :-


Congested Thinking

Congested Thinking
by Jo Abbess
9th May 2008

Here is the problem : the growth of the British Economy is based on five holy pillars : transport, property, finance, engineering and energy. And each one of these pillars is crumbling and under threat from rising and violent storm surge.

The property bubble has almost certainly burst as people are starting to realise that debt is for life and not just for First-Time-Buys.

Engineering has become more and more specialist, but highly at risk of outsourcing to any trading partner nation with cheap labour.

Finance : well, it’s taken a beating in the last year or so, largely from the property pimple-busting splurge. You can no longer really guarantee that you’ll have a liveable pension, after all the investment funds have hit the wall, because they sunk it all into bricks and mortar.

And Energy, well, there are cracks in the reactors and the Liquid Natural Gas supplies are not quite fulfilling, and the Natural Gas pipelines from mainland Europe are not full.

There are deep impacts from Climate Change in each sector, as all of them are highly dependent on Fossil Fuels. And there are cycles of idiocy in each.

Let’s focus on transport, shall we ? More to the point : cars.

Well, in order to stimulate the Economy, the selling of cars is so well encouraged, you’d think there was a law against walking or taking the bus.

In every newspaper, magazine, in betwixt every slice of television, in every telly programme, in every cinema, on every roadside hoarding, just about everywhere are advertisements for cars.

Cars as objects of desire, cars bedecked with women, cars made to look like parts of the natural world, cars on open roads, cars moving at speed. It’s enough to make you feel vomitious if you stop to think about it.

The reality of car driving in the United Kingdom is jam and grind, bumper to bumper. And all that idling in motors is puffing more and more pollution into the air.

The effects include Global Warming, road rage, RTA hospitalisations, asthma (check), quite possibly brain damage, sinusitis, autism (possibly connected), noise stress, and general toxic poisoning to anything that’s near a road.

So we sell the cars, and the taxman gets his slice. Then we tax and insure the cars, and the taxman gets his slice. Then we drive the cars on taxable fuels, and we park on highly taxed strips of tarmac.

Oh yes, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, formerly known as the Inland Revenue, are certainly raking in the revenue. It’s all part of keeping the Economy rolling.

It gets spent on poorly servicing the Military, almost adequately servicing Education, just about propping up the Health Service, averagely supporting the socially disadvantaged, and brilliantly financing road building.

But what about the implications of more and more cars on the roads ? It impacts negatively on the functioning of the Economy as a whole.

And what about the targets on congestion ?

The Times reveals today the story of missed targets. Behind the statistics, a massive increase in car ownership.

Can you get anywhere fast in a car ? Nope. So why do people buy them exactly ? The story goes on : more advertising, more selling, more congestion.

A radical road-pricing scheme : dropped. Probably a good thing too.

History repeats itself : inefficient machines, sold in increasing numbers, creating pollution and distress. It’s high time we called time on congestion.

There is a way to stop congestion. Stop selling cars.

It’s simple. It’s bold. Some will call it economic madness. But it’s the only policy that can touch congestion and stop the waste of fuel energy burned while people leave their engines running,

With the hot weather, everyone will be stuck in holiday jams, with the engines ticking over, to keep the wasteful air conditioning on.

The Government promised to meet targets on reducting congestion, but have failed to meet them because they haven’t addressed the root cause.

How likely are they to be able to deliver Climate Change Emissions reductions if they have no policy, only targets ? If they can’t even fix congestion, how are they going to fix Carbon Emissions ?

People continue to struggle to travel in Britain. All forms of transport suffer from congestion and delay. Every day, more fuel is wasted in longer journeys and traffic hold-ups.

And meanwhile, the price of petrol/diesel continues to climb…

From The Times

May 9, 2008

Drivers in worse jam as traffic plan fails

Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

Motorists are wasting more time sitting in queues on motorways and A-roads because the Government has failed to meet its key target for reducing congestion.

Delays have increased on the 100 key routes on which ministers promised three years ago to make journeys more reliable.

The Department for Transport attempted to bury its failure to meet the target by quietly releasing the figures yesterday in a large batch of reports on congestion.

The motorways pledge is the most important target because delays affect the entire population, either directly or through the cost to the economy of lost working time.

The failure is particularly embarrassing for ministers because the target was criticised for being too weak when it was announced. A fall in journey times by a single second could have been trumpeted as a success.

The revelation comes as new figures show that the number of cars owned by British households has increased by five million to 27.8 million in the past decade.

All regions have had an increase in car registration, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. But the North East and East Midlands have had the biggest growth, of up 30 per cent each. In the past two years alone, there has been a 3 per cent increase in distance travelled by car to 5,900 miles per person per year.

The congestion failure originates from 2005, when the Government announced a target, known as a public service agreement, to “make journeys more reliable on the strategic road network” — the country’s 100 most important motorways and A-roads.

It said that the target would be achieved if the average vehicle delay on the slowest 10 per cent of journeys were less in the 12 months to April 2008 than in the 12 months ending in July 2005.

The average driver was delayed by 3 minutes 47 seconds for every ten miles travelled on the slowest 10 per cent of trips in 2005. But figures for the last 12-month period, ending on March 31, show that the average delay had risen by 4.4 per cent to 3 minutes 57 seconds. The worst delays were on the A556, the M26; the A453 from Kegworth to Nottingham; the M25; the M60; and the M1 from junction 13 to 6a.

The target was less challenging than a previous target, set in 2000, to reduce congestion by 6 per cent by 2010. That goal was abandoned in 2003 when the Government admitted that rising traffic levels would make it unachievable.

The new target was expected to be much easier to meet because it disregarded 90 per cent of journeys and allowed the Government to claim success if the time lost in traffic jams on the remaining 10 per cent had fallen by only one second.

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said that it had failed to predict the impact of long-running roadworks, such as the widening of the M1. Last summer’s flooding contributed a quarter of the increase in total delays.

Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said that the main reason for the failure to meet the target was the Government’s slow progress in delivering extra capacity. “They were likely to fail from Day 1 because traffic was growing each year but they were putting in almost no new capacity. The only measures that will relieve congestion are road pricing or building more roads.”

Professor Glaister published a report last November which proposed a combination of road pricing and road building, with some of the proceeds from tolls being reinvested to relieve the network’s worst bottlenecks. Using DfT forecasts and data, the report predicted that the number of cars would rise to 38 million by 2041. It recommended that 373 miles (600km) of new lanes be added to the strategic road network every year — equal to 100km of motorway with three lanes in each direction. The Government has approved an average of just over 100km of new lanes a year until 2015.

Eight years ago, the Highways Agency proposed using the hard shoulder as a cheap and rapid solution to motorway congestion. But to date it has enabled this on only 11 miles of the M42 near Birmingham.

In March, the Government said that hard shoulders would be turned into running lanes on hundreds of miles of congested motorways, with users paying tolls. The first of these lanes will not open until 2010 at the earliest.

Car traffic fell by 1 per cent last year compared with 2006. But traffic rose overall by 0.6 per cent; the boom in home deliveries has contributed to a 9 per cent increase in mileage by vans.

Car costs soar

— It will cost £600 more to run a family car this year because of rising fuel prices, road tax and insurance

— Mondeo Man, who paid £5,611 for 10,000 miles last year, now needs £6,256

— The 11.5 per cent increase in running costs has added 6.45p a mile for running a family car

— Farmers and rural drivers who need a larger 4×4 will be worst affected, with their costs rising by almost a fifth, or more than £2,000

— Even the most efficient cars, such as the VW Polo or Ford Fiesta, cost £300 a year more

— Petrol has gone up by 18.4 per cent in the past year, with the average price of a litre of unleaded now at 111p and diesel at 121p a litre. It now costs more than £8 extra to fill a 50-litre petrol tank

Source: AA

What the Department for Transport has to say :-


Wendy Wot Won It

Wendy Wot Won It
by Jo Abbess
8th May 2008

My, my, Wendy Alexander is having fun at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood just now.

Before you ask, I’m in England, but having fun watching her gleeful high-octane antics on BBC Parliament, the freeview television channel.

Yes, I have to admit it. When I’m visiting people I do occasionally watch TV. I turn to BBC Parliament to avoid having to suffer the non-news Sports News.

Wendy’s regular implosional-explosional style at First Minister’s Questions has been burning a fire with increasingly higher ire as time goes by.

She just can’t put up with the Opposition. She’s paid not to. But on this one thing they agree : the people of Scotland should have the right to decide on independent governance.

This week she ratcheted up the stakes by seeming to join the call from the ruling Scottish National Party for an early Referendum.

When asked about a vote, she said in broad daylight on a public television broadcast : “Bring it on.”

And if, in years to come, Scotland regains its economic freedom, it could become obscenely wealthy from the supply of sustainable energy : power from the wind and the waves and tides.

This would be the payback for the theft and waste of North Sea oil and Natural Gas, long appropriated and piped south for the pleasure and prosperity of the English.

Scotland has double the wind profile of England, and Scottish marine engineers could make the National Grid hum with green electricity.

There are oceans of opportunities for Renewable Energy north of the Scottish-English border.

Just as long as large foreign companies don’t impose unworkable schemes on local communities.

Just as long as long as the English naturalist societies are sent packing back south, organisations that have been meddling in Scottish environmental affairs, such as the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and the CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England).

Wendy Alexander, William Wallace would have been proud of you, seeking to protect the rights of the Scottish people to economic security and political sovereignty, by encouraging secession from Westminster.

Gordon Brown may frown, but I’m smiling.


Climate Smash & Climate Squish

Image Credit : James Hansen, NASA GISS

Climate Smash & Climate Squish
by Jo Abbess
25th April 2008

* Energy Balance

* Fast and Slow Responses to Global Warming

* Global Warming Time Lag

* The Saving Polar Ice Caps

* Self-Reinforcing Effects

* It’s Happened Before But For Different Reasons

* Better Back Down Fast


In the last few minutes I have heard a handbell being rung outside in the street. A large white open-backed van has thrumbled and purred past, chock-full of large metal equipment, wiring and furniture, and the passenger was shaking his hand up and down to clang and clang.

This being East London, some people reading this will know what this means. No, it’s not the Medieval call of the priests with handcarts calling to take away the bodies of the victims of Yersinia Pestis.

It’s not “Bring out your dead !”, it’s “Bring out your dead white goods !” as this is the Big Trash service of the Local Authority.

This activity used to be undertaken privately by people known as rag-and-bone-men, but it’s been brought bang-up-to-date as a modern expression of mandatory public service recycling.


In the last weeks, the scholarly 18th and 19th Century studies into Geology and the 20th Century enquiries into Geophysics have been brought sharply into relief as the European Geosciences Union in Vienna acted as a platform for the unveiling of startling new data on Global Warming.

It’s suddenly fashionable once more to be interested in rocks and things that died many years ago. Astonishing facts, figures and theoretical projections have been presented, and although journalists have not always understood the implications of what is being said, they have understood the general tone.

The stability of that part of the Earth system we call home is highly at risk from Global Warming and Climate Change, and the Geographers and related professionals are yanking the cat out of the bag (or the rabbit out of the hat, if you prefer) for all to see. It’s high time that people started to pay serious attention.


I’ve been reflecting over the last month upon several research papers, principally that from James Hansen et alia :-

I wanted to try and get a feeling for all the processes and effects they talk about, as I wanted to be able to describe them properly, without using numbers or graphs.

I want to pick out what here what I consider to be the most important concepts to hold on to, descriptions that I hope will have a pictorial effect in your minds. If you can hold onto these ideas, you may be able to make sense of what unfolds, and help you to take appropriate action.


What Hansen and his colleagues have tried to demonstate is that any change in Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere causes a Global Warming or Global Cooling effect.

This they did by considering different geological time periods, looking at all the available proxy and real data from the physical records.

One period in pre-history shows that at the time that the Antarctic Ice Sheet formed, the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere was dropping sharply, cooling the Earth.

The picture I have in my mind is this : imagine a long line of coaches moving at the same speed along an inter-city high-speed road (a motorway, an autoroute…) Imagine that one coach brakes sharply. All the other coaches behind it will crash into it.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter which speed they start out at. If they are travelling fast or slow, any change in speed of one of them will cause bunching.

This is the same with the warming effect of Carbon Dioxide. At approximately 34 million years ago, the level of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere plummeted, and massive glaciation took place as a result of the Global Cooling that ensued.

The count of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere was higher than it is today, but reducing it caused Global Cooling.

Today, Carbon Dioxide levels are rising sharply, so we can expect Global Warming.

Because Carbon Dioxide has a warming effct, changes in the levels of Carbon Dioxide put the Earth system out of Energy balance, and it must adjust to the new conditions.


Imagine if you will a lump of dough, made with flour, water, sugar and yeast, that has been left to prove and aerate and expand for a little while. Picture tearing a piece of the dough and putting it on a floured table, and then punching down on it with a clenched fist. The dough will collapse instantly in the shape of your fist.

But what happens if you continue to keep pressing down on the dough ? Over the period of a minute or so, it will start to squelch out at the edges around your fist, bulbing and bulging out of the pressure zone.

This is a representation of what James Hansen refers to as “fast” and “slow” feedback Climate Sensitivity.

In other words, it can be understood that there is a relatively rapid response of the Earth system to Global Warming, but it is clear from the data from ancient history that there are also slower processes that occur during a Global Warming or Global Cooling episode, over a longer timescale.

Hansens’ team take the data from drilled ice cores and other sources, and show that the Fast Feedback is somewhere in the region of 3 degrees Celsius (roughly 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit), on average, globally.

They use the same series of data to deduce that Slow Feedbacks can ammount to somewhere in the region of 6 degrees Celsius (roughly 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

The concern is that although Life on Earth might be able to survive the Fast Feedback, it might not be able to survive Slow Feedback.


There are many factors at work in Global Warming, one of the major ones being that the Earth system does not warm uniformly.

Ocean and Atmosphere warm at different rates and with different trends and cycles. Various elements of the Earth system have both Global Warming and Global Cooling impacts, and it takes time for these effects to resolve one way or another.

One thing is clear : the near-surface land temperatures have not caught up with the implied amount of warming calculated from the known Carbon Dioxide Emissions.

This means there is a time lag between known “radiative forcing” and the full warming effect.

Imagine this : drop an icecube into a cup of hot water. The icecube does not melt in an instant. It takes time to equilibrate. This is the time lag of Global Warming.

We have experienced a rise of 0.7 or 0.8 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, but there is another 1.4 degrees Celsius “in the pipeline” coming to us from the Emissions we have already made.


What comes across clearly from the Hansen paper is that were it not for the polar ice caps, the total warming feedback would be much faster than it is.

The polar ice caps are in fact protecting us from catastrophic Climate Change at the present time.

However, the most recent news is that massive changes are afoot in the Arctic, which could mean and ice-free northern Arctic Ocean within 10 to 20 years.

As the Arctic sea ice melts away, so will one of our defences against dangerous warming.


Carbon Dioxide Emissions cause Global Warming which causes Carbon Dioxide Emissions and other Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

There are other mutually self-reinforcing effects that are becoming possible.

The news in the last 48 hours is about how global airborne Methane levels have started to rise again, after stabilising for several years. These increases are not due to increases in farming livestock, so they must be due to other effects. The most likely ones include the melting of the permafrost and the warming of underwater shallow continental shelves, both of which could presage increased Methane Emissions.


Yes, Global Warming has happened before in Earth history, but it is clear from the geophysical and biophysical record that those phases were caused by different reasons than today.

The tectonic movement of the India plate which resulted in it joining with Asia, most likely caused a massive outgassing of Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases, as indicated by the geological records.

The warming effects were fast and furious, but eventually the Earth recovered its balance.


We need to reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions into the Atmosphere, caused by the burning of Fossil Fuels and deforestation, peat-burning and other man-made change.

The Hansen paper makes the point that if we reduce emissions rapidly, we may be able to avoid the full force of the slow feedback warming, as the “Climate Inertia” or time lag allows us time to get cooling again before the slow feedbacks melt all of the ice on Earth.

The picture is this : I put a teaspoon into a very hot cup of coffee. If I’m quick, I can stir the coffee and take the spoon out of the cup before the heat transport through the metal of the spoon causes me to burn my fingers !


Take It From Me

Take It From Me
by Jo Abbess
24th April 2008

You should listen to the experts. If all decisions made by our governments were made on the sole basis of public debate, this country would collapse. Honest.

Do you honestly think that people who believe in the healing power of diluted water (for example) should be able to influence health services provision ?

I don’t claim to be an expert on Climate Change. I’m not a Climate Scientist. But I have studied enough Science to be able to understand some of the research into Global Warming and Climate Change.

Although I cannot spell out the whole story, I do want you to take it from me : Climate Change is real, it’s happening now, and mankind’s activities are the largest factor in causing it.

I can also convey to you, with relayed authority, that there are high risks to the natural world, and all Life on Earth, from the progressive and emerging changes to the Climate that are taking place.

The evidence from events that are already happening confirms that the risks are not only real, but are becoming reality.

We have no option but to rein in and cap our use of Fossil Fuels, and dramatically reduce deforestation in the tropical regions of the Planet, amongst other vital measures, including the installation of Renewable Energy technologies, and changes in the use of land, food provision and water management.

This is a message of Life-saving environmental control. It is not, however, a message of austerity. If we properly address the Climate Change problem, and succeed, we will continue to enjoy the great riches and abundance of the natural world.

I want to explain a little about why I feel confident in asserting this message.

My university studies were in the Science of Natural Philosopy : otherwise known as Physics. I did rather well in (Micro) Electronics and Electromagnetics. For my final year project I built briefcase-sized equipment for the purpose of detecting magnetic resonance (you know, like those great big body scanners in hospitals).

During the work placement that was part of my course, I made alloys of various metals and constructed Thermoelectric devices. Amongst other things, I followed studies into Energy (including Nuclear Power), Thermodynamics and Materials Science.

The only reason I am not building high technology weapons for the Military is that I consider that making machines to kill people is unethical and I don’t want to be a part of it.

I won’t work in the Nuclear Engineering sector, either, for reasons of Entropy, which can be summarised as “the larger the mess, the larger the budget”. I don’t really believe that Nuclear Power can ever be economic, or clean. So, to all those headhunter agencies out there, please stop sending me text messages about Nuclear Engineer vacancies.

When I joined the workforce, I was initially working on a “civilian” project (i.e. not making equipment to kill people for a living), but when I was invited to worked on weapons technology, I had to desist from that employ. I suppose I could have oriented myself towards a career in Medical Technology, but instead I diverted into Information Technology.

One of the greatest things I learned from my studies was that it is important to try to understand the underlying physical processes in the forces and flows of Nature. I am no longer able to do the Mathematics to construct and solve the equations, but I am still able to work through in my mind the way things move and change and influence each other.

From the basic principles regarding the powers of the electromagnetic spectrum, I have to stop myself laughing out loud at people that claim that the invisible waves from cordless digital phone systems can harm them. It also explains why I pooh-pooh the quaint and frankly anti-technology notion that the signals from mobile phone masts might be killing bees.

I have been reading James Hansen et al.’s recent paper on Carbon Dioxide targets :-

It’s been taking me a long time to absorb, and not only because I can’t remember all the names for the geological periods of ancient history.

I have been trying to get a handle on the basic underlying processes of Global Warming that Hansen is attempting to describe. These are formed from deductions and inferences and calculations, from the empirical data from the distant past, data that has come from ice core sampling and other sources.

Hansen’s team have concluded from their enquiries that the Climate signal from Global Warming, that is, the sensitivity of temperatures on Earth to changes in the chemical composition of the Atmosphere, is an average of SIX DEGREES CELSIUS or Centigrade of Earth Heating for a DOUBLING of Carbon Dioxide in the air.

For any Americans or old British fuddy-duddies, that equates to a little bit under ELEVEN DEGREES FAHRENHEIT of Earth Heating, as a global average, for DOUBLE Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere.

You must remember that easily verifiable models show that the Earth’s Polar regions can warm much higher than at the Equator, which means if you’re at mid-latitudes the heating may not as high as the whole six degrees, but even so, it could be a significant jump

Considering that before the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric Carbon Dioxide was at around 282 parts per million by volume, and that now it is close on 386 ppmv, a rise of nearly 40%, I think we should be paying attention :-

Don’t give in to the smear tactics of sceptics/skeptics. Most of them are not scientists, and even those that are don’t have any up-to-date expertise in Climate or Geophysical Science :-…


Putting It In Context

Putting It In Context
by Jo Abbess
23rd April 2008

* Intelligent young people fail to acknowledge risks because of relativism

* Government Minister called a “murderer” to his face

Yesterday, I was on the train, reading James Hansen’s latest research paper on Climate Sensitivity “Target Atmospheric CO2 : Where Should Humanity Aim?” :-

Some young people joined me in the carriage and sat nearby, talking freely.

They touched on CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, and what their company was doing about it, as a large player. They discussed that they had been fishing around for projects. They mentioned recycling, the waste of resources, personal and social development.

They discussed a project that some of their colleagues had been engaged in in Africa, and how it had failed to produce the results they needed, and how the reports had been manipulated to meet criteria.

Not once did they mention Energy. Or Climate.

I noticed that one of the young men had been glancing at the paper I was reading, so when we were all about to get off the train, I showed it to him. I said, “This is really frightening. See the parts I have marked in the margin.” He asked “Do you mean really scary, or just scaremonger-y scary ?”

I said, “Do you believe the work of a NASA scientist ?”. He thought a few seconds about this and then said “Not necessarily. You have to take it in context.” He turned his hand over and back as a gesture to accompany this statement. A this-or-that gesture.

He read a few lines of the paper and seemed to be involved by it, but he handed it back quite quickly. If this was his only exposure to the horrifying risks of Global Warming, of course he wouldn’t take it in. He has been taught to think in relative terms, not absolute.

From their conversation, I knew this young man was married and had a child. It seems he cared about people, but his attention to what is going on in the physical world was clearing lacking.

I noticed that as the young, professional, well-paid, well-trained people got off the train, they left their food and drink rubbish on the table instead of putting it in the waste bins.

That, my friends, is the context in which we are all living. A world of waste and relative values.

Fast-forward in time by about an hour to the large hall of Friends’ House at Euston in central London. A debate around the Climate Change Bill. This was another context in which to assess the words of James Hansen.

On the stage, Tony Juniper, Hilary Benn Minister of State for the Environment, Peter Ainsworth, Steven Webb and a reporter from the Evening Standard called Anne McElvoy.

Tony Juniper said that the Big Ask campaign had stimulated the “emergence of cross-party support”, an “appetite for radical action”.

He said that there are moral but also economic arguments for the United Kingdom to go first with Carbon legislation.

“If we take action on Carbon Dioxide we shall be fit for purpose”. He said there is still much to do if we want to show leadership, and that the Climate Change Bill still needs strengthening.

The Climate Change Bill as currently presented will commit us to a 60% cut in Carbon Dioxide Emissions, he said, but that “60% is out of date”, according to the most recent science.

He said that there was no point in setting the direction of the Bill later on. “We need a clear target”. And aviation and shipping need to be included in the Bill, as they are a major source of emissions.

International emissions trading should not be a “major plank” of the Bill. It could be “useful”, but our actions should be above and beyond merely trading.

Tony Juniper said that he believes that the Prime Minister should head the “50 years of implementation” of the Climate Change Bill, as it can’t be done by any one Government Department.

He said we have to get it right at the start, as the future chair of the Climate Change Committee might not be as strong as Adair Turner.

Hilary Benn then stood up to the microphone, but did not get the front-loaded applause that Tony Juniper had received.

Yes, he had written in the Evening Standard about his acceptance that the Climate Change Bill Carbon Targets will need to get tougher :-

“Global warming is even worse than realised”, the article said, and quoted Hilary Benn as saying “We have less time to act than was thought to be the case.”

But he reiterated that greens should accept nuclear power. Mistake.

In the Friends’ House meeting, he said that the Big Ask campaign was “politics at its best”, moving from dream to idea to the Bill.

“Let us not forget how radical the Bill is”, he urged, reminding us it is unique, legally binding, setting a Carbon Budget for the next 50 years. And all information about progress will be published.

He said that we all instinctively understand the idea of “living within your means”. He said that all future policy decisions, at all levels of government, will have to be judged against their Carbon cost.

The important facts are that our response to our Kyoto commitment have shown that we can send figures in the right direction, he explained. “It is possible.”

“We read the changing science”, he assured the audience, and explained that the decision about targets would be made by the Climate Change Committee, following a clear process. “Of course we have to respond.” It was not clear from his words when the response would be forthcoming.

He said it was obvious that we had to deal with aviation, but he did not explain if this was to be included in the Bill from the start.

“Some people are sceptical about emissions trading” he launched, but told us we would not get any progress unless trading is part of the solution.

He repeated that famous greasy penny “It doesn’t matter where the emissions are made” (or reduced). He did not address the matter of whether the low-emissions countries can sufficiently reduce their emissions further to feed our need for Carbon credits. Or whether they want to.

He then went on to slide through another great gambit – thereby contradicting himself entirely. He mentioned that Developing Countries should not necessarily be asked to make emissions reductions. He quoted the current Carbon consumption of a bunch of countries and asked “Is that fair ?”

Of course, it’s not. It’s not fair to force India to reduce their Carbon Emissions so that they can trade Carbon credits with us.

He spoke boldly of “global social justice”, but I don’t know anyone who reasons that Carbon Trading will provide any justice, or re-distribution of stolen or coerced wealth.

Carbon Trading is all about wealth protection for the already wealthy.

Hilary Benn said that the biggest risk we face is people saying “it’s too hard” to do anything about Global Warming. That does appear to be the new excuse from the skeptics (see bottom of page).

Peter Ainsworth took the stage with “I sometimes think I’m a bigger supporter of this Bill than the Government is.”

He said we have to avoid a weakened, watered-down Bill.

He said that the Climate Change Committee has a new duty to engage with the public, consult the experts and publish all their work. If the Government rejects their findings, they will have to state why.

Lots of things are promised. Sectoral targets. Annual reports. Assessments of progress…

As for overseas Carbon payments, Peter Ainsworth saw Carbon Trading as “medieval…buying indulgences.”

He said that Hilary Benn was “charming”, but that he is not in charge of most of the emissions of the country.

He said that he could see an enormous low-hanging succulent fruit – that the Conservatives should vote for an 80% emissions cut to be in the Bill. “We’re already on the case.”

He said “The target should be set according to the science. I want targets to be science-based and not on the opinion of politicians.”

The real test, he said, is going to be changing the mindset of the Government, who are giving speech after speech about Climate Change and then signing in expansion of airports (loud cheers).

Steven Webb of the Liberal Democrats came to the microphone. He said he respects the work Hilary Benn is doing, even with the reduced budget of the Department. “DEFRA is a minnow among wolves” he dangled, apologising for his mixed metaphor.

Regarding Peter Ainsworth, (real value for money), who knows what lines will get us clapping, he said that he heard a lot of confusion from within the Conservative party. In his other capacities shadowing Energy policy he even heard someone from the Conservative party talking about “Renewable Nuclear” (gasps of disbelief from audience).

Steven Webb says there are risks in the way the Bill is being managed, “Hoping that Adair gets it right by Christmas”.

He undermined confidence in Carbon Trading as a system of offsetting responsibility for Carbon reductions : “let someone else do it in an unverifiable way.”

Steven Webb asked, “How are we going to do it ?” Energy efficiency wasn’t even mentioned in the Energy Bill (presumably because it can’t be achieved by centralised profit-making organisations). “We need Energy efficiency, now, not Nuclear in 15 years’ time.” he said.

He said we need a green tax switch, and we need to public opinion to emphasise that politicians’ jobs are on the line if they don’t adopt the right angle.

Questions from the floor were eventful.

#1 Any law can only be good if it’s enforced…Will I be fined for over-use of electricity ? Will I be cut off ?

#2 for Peter Ainsworth : if we are to have massive investment in Renewable Energy, so that Britannia can rule the waves, will you be educating sceptics, such as [Lord Lawson] his lordship ?

#3 If the Climate Change Committee says 80% or higher, will you accept it ?

The panellists responded : if the Government is not delivering on the target, it will need public response. The public will be “screaming” if this is not delivered (oh, will we now ?)

Hilary Benn asked how the Carbon Budget could be made a “deliverable”.

Peter Ainsworth said that it had been suggested that the Climate Change Committee would be responsible or setting targets, but that this was not seen as democratic.

Peter Ainsworth remarked on sceptics, that “a lot of these people seem to be in the extended Lawson family”. Anne McElvoy clarified that this was “Lord Lawson of Blah-by”, but she was instantly corrected, although “Blah” might be more accurate.

Peter Ainsworth said that Climate Change was the economic opportunity of the 21st Century, and that he thought “frankly, it’s illiterate to portray it as anything else.”

Steven Webb commented on the fact that fuel poverty has risen.

He also said that we should watch out for the problem of setting NIMTO Targets : “Not In My Term of Office”. Of course, this encompasses any number of delaying tactics, as the audience pointed out later on.

Leaving decisions until later, and outsourcing information gathering to those charged with a period of public consultation, does smack of delaying. Deliberate delaying.

More questions from the floor :-

#4 Jim Scott asking about individual carbon allowances.

#5 Metro readers : Neale Upstone asking about actually meeting targets; and another reader asking if they are being asked to give things up, or whether there is a positive view they could hold onto.

Steven Webb said that heating old people’s homes that weren’t insulated was madness. That measures such as showroom taxes were marginal, that manufacturers needed to have the right incentives.

Nobody could have predicted that in less than 5 to 10 years we would all be converted to using unleaded petrol in cars.

Peter Ainsworth commented on personal carbon allowances. “We have got to take the people with us”, he cautioned. If we move too fast, the response will “make the Poll Tax riots look like a vicarage tea party”.

Personal Carbon Allowances : a “Great Idea”, he said, “whose time has not yet come.” He said we need “clear signals” in the tax system, and other measures.

“I got a round of applause at the Conservative Party conference for introducing Feed In Tariffs. I didn’t know what they were at the time…” (much laughter from the audience)

Hilary Benn said we should judge people by what they do (“Like you” was the call from Soo who was sitting next to me). Hilary Benn said we should watch which Local Authority Councils are approving or denying permision for on-shore wind farm plans.

As for stronger measures, he said that the “public is not currently there”. Although, we should note that things have happened that we had not thought possible.

He gave the example of DEFRA Neighbourhood Schemes – where a sum of money is made available for a community to spend on green measures. He noted that as soon as it became a collective community issue, people talked about it.

Tony Juniper said that a consensus has broken out, but that debate should be accelerated. There are “really scary stories” about the near-term future, he said.

However, he said regarding public messaging that it was not so much an issue of “painting a picture of urgency”, but a picture of what could work.

He says there are obvious pitfalls to avoid, like the fact that taxation is viewed as revenue generation schemes, and he gave examples of how not to do this, and how to do this.

Hilary Benn said that we have to pay for things, and that this requires taxation. He said that if we are paying for new schools and hospitals, and that included in that are Carbon reduction measures, then paying for improvements in Energy use seems like a good thing.

More questions :

#6 Sarah Mukherjee from the BBC : Regarding “using less stuff.” Fewer flights, even fewer children. But from the political parties, no one seems to have got on the “use less stuff” bandwagon.

Peter Ainsworth answered : he recalled the early 1990s conference on Sustainable Development, out of which came a strategy on Sustainable Consumption. He wanted to know where this strategy was with the current Government.

He said “the Earth is a finite place” but that we have been “behaving as if it’s infinite. We have got to start using less stuff !” (applause from the audience).

Steven Webb said that there was an inherent problem with the underlying message of “Vote for me and you’ll have less stuff.” He said that message would have to wait until the second term in office probably.

He indicated that it is too easy to make a wrong turning, pointing to the up and coming Energy policy “complete dead end of nuclear”

Hilary Benn then casually ignited rage over plastic bags. “We will legislate” he promised. Members of the audience called out rejoinders “Why not now ?” “When ?” “Get on with it !”

We are, of course, probably the last country in Europe to have a proper policy on plastic bags. Someone called out “The Power of Now !” I don’t think Hilary Benn heard it.

He went on to describe how there are practical problems with counting how aviation and shipping emissions should have their contributions attributed to Britain.

A member of the audience quibbled loudly : after all, they called out, we have a tax service that does amazingly complicated calculations, why can’t we handle transport emissions accounting ?

Tony Juniper chipped in saying that having more stuff is a sign of achievement. But that this cultural belief is shaped. “Turning the tide on consumption”, he explained will mean we have to consider our approach to advertising (whoops from the audience).

Maybe we should have signs stuck on the sides of new Porsche cars “Warning : this car is damaging the Climate”.

As regards Carbon measures, maybe we should choose names carefully, naming “Feed In Tariffs” as “Renewable Energy Rewards” was one suggestion.

More questions from the floor :-

#7 Nicky Gavron from the London Assembly asked about the urban contribution to the Climate problem, as 75% of the total, and whether this should determine the choice of London’s Mayor.

#8 Lucy Pearce from Stop Climate Chaos and I Count : asked about all the e-mails, letters and postcards that the campaign have been sending. She said that SCC has a clear campaign policy to demand 80% Carbon Cuts, and said that campaigners had made many demands, but : “HOW MANY IS ENOUGH ?”

Steven Webb said that the best way to start a letter was the phrase “I’ve always voted for you, until now…”

More questions were raised : about demands for aviation and shipping to be included in the Climate Change Bill from the very start. Ali Abbas had come all the way from Manchester to ask this question.

Hilary Benn waffled on about amounts and questions about how to divide them. He said that the Climate Change Committee had to follow the process to come up with the results. That it was important to follow the process…

Clearly, the man is subject to delays. Like the train service.

Someone in the gallery in a business suit, neat haircut and a yellow tie lost his patience and yelled out “You’re a murderer !” and went on to splutter that many thousands of people in Bangladesh are going to die because of Hilary Benn. Quite extraordinary outburst.

Hilary Benn gave a curt retort, but it was ignored. The meeting was irrecoverable. It was over.

Anne McElvoy held up information about a new “green card” for readers of the Evening Standard : deals on the newspaper costs and “a very good Carbon offsetting scheme”. The whole place erupted in booes.

On Delayers

As Ray Ladbury has said on RealClimate :-…

“I enthusiastically agree that professional courtesy is essential to progress in science. However, scientific progress also requires sincerity of the participants, and when it comes to all the wannabe scientists, trolls and shills, I’m not sure how much civility is humanly possible. It is sad that politics have so poisoned the debate that people refuse to look at the evidence.”

On Impossibilists

Myth #10 : “It’s So Bad We Can’t Do Anything About It”

Nature throws one-two punch at global warming : 20 Apr 08 : The Nature article says the climate problem is much greater than forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change due to rising use of coal in Asian nations, especially China and India, where energy use is projected to double by 2030 :-…

“We’ve gotten this hopelessly wrong,” said Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the authors of the Nature article. The trio also included Tom Wigley of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and Economics professor Christopher Green of McGill University in Montreal.

“If we approach this from reducing emissions we get nowhere,” Pielke said. “The message is, let’s change light bulbs and let’s be more efficient. But let’s do more than that. The solution lies in transformational technologies.”


Arg it’s the Pielke paper!

Submitted by David Ahlport (not verified) on Sun, 2008-04-20 12:08.

The issue isn’t so much about the science put forward itself, it’s the rhetoric.

Pielke is basically saying that global warming is SO BAD, that we can’t do anything about it.

And the only thing we can do is sit on our asses and wait for some super duluexe “breakthrough technology” to geoengineer the planet back to normal.

It’s the predictable next step along the denialist stonewall approach.

1. It’s not happening!

-So lets not deploy current technology, shape policy, or build markets.

2. It is happening, but it’s not us doing it!

-So lets not deploy current technology, shape policy, or build markets.

3. It is happening, we are doing it, but maybe warming is a good thing!

-So lets not deploy current technology, shape policy, or build markets.

4. It is happening, we are doing it, warming very Very VERY bad thing, so bad infact that:

-So lets not deploy current technology, shape policy, or build markets. *Lets instead focus on adaptation.*

The rhetorical argument may change, but the bottomline position always stays the same.


Catatonis Petrificatum : Paralysing Fear

Image Credit : Hadley Centre, UK Meteorological Office

Catatonis Petrificatum : Paralysing Fear
Turned to Stone by the News on Climate Change
by Jo Abbess
17th April 2008

Sir Nicholas Stern’s opinions as reported today in the British and Australian Press : The Financial Times, The Independent and others could genuinely shock you rigid if you understood their implications.

Is it right for the Media to print this kind of disastrous truth ? Is it right to alarm people with news of catastrophe ? Should we be alarmed by the Press ?

Since by all reasonable accounts we’re staring into the jaws of a massive crisis monster, yes, I think we should be allowed to read the facts and feel the fear.

Self-preservation is only possible when you have awareness of your environment. Look at the Environment now, and think through the implied risks.…

Stern takes bleaker view on warming By Fiona Harvey and Jim Pickard Published : April 17 2008

Climate expert Stern ‘underestimated problem’ : April 17, 2008

Stern warns that climate change is far worse than 2006 estimate…

Climate expert says he underestimated threat : Wed Apr 16, 2008…

Stern review author paints bleaker picture on climate change,25197,235535…

Stern ‘underestimated’ climate problem

Some people continue to advise emotional caution : Professor Mike Hulme for one :-….

Dominic Lawson: As they tackle climate change, governments are starving the people they set out to help Friday, 11 April 2008 “There are many people – including some scientists – who present climate change as an existential threat to the planet and to human civilisation. That is not what the science itself is telling us.”

Phil Thornhill of the Campaign against Climate Change has said (and he said it in public, and there were thousands who heard him say it, so he can’t deny it) :-

“What we need is more screaming panic !”

And yet, as warnings accumulate, a certain proportion of civil society urge us to remain calm. Certain journalists seem to want to best each other in pronouncing warnings “alarmist”. Trying to appear the most mature in a bunch of scandal-hungry schoolboys seems somewhat at odds with their normal behaviour. If you smell a rat, you could well be on the money.

Should we be more circumspect in our reporting of the unfolding Climate Change disaster ?…

Comment: Climate apocalypse when? : 17 November 2007 : Michael Hanlon : Magazine issue 2630 Disastrous images of climate change are everywhere. Such images are increasingly used to portray a global catastrophe that is not just imminent but happening now. The narrative is compelling… There is a big problem here…the effects of climate change mostly haven’t happened yet …Reporters shouldn’t [write] silly scare stories that can be blown away by the slightest breeze of scepticism.”

There seems to be some success in delivering Soma to the people.

The Populace remain transfixed by Advertising and Terror-Vision, relaying an underlying feeling of security to those observing war zones from the comfort of their living rooms, and showing images of the satisfaction of material consumption.

Bread and circus might be failing in some countries as a policy, as drought and mismanagement are causing crop failures, and trade issues, but not in the comfortable United Kingdom.

A few flagrantly flout the tone of serene control, raising their hands, voices, writing, placards, to shout about the risks we are facing from major Climate chaos.

We get beaten to the floor by sceptics, skeptics, deniers, denialists, discussionists, delayers, obstructionists. Their message is : “There’s no need to panic. We don’t believe it.”

If only it were possible to wave a magic wand for Global Warming to be stopped in its tracks. “Expecto Petronum !” Harry Potter shouts to cast a spell to freeze the attack of his enemies.

The only emotions being roused currently seem to be from those denying Global Warming. But the risks of Global Warming should ellicit attention, even a certain level of heightened fear from all of us.

The recent science is genuinely awful. And this week’s European Geology Science conference in Vienna, Austria raises the bar on predictions from the IPCC’s 20 or 70 centimetres, to a much more damaging 80 to 150 centimetres by the year 2100.

Plus the figures on Global Land Temperatures for March and April 2008 are beginning to look like the entrance to Hell.

We could be in for six degrees of Global Warming, possibly in less than 200 years :-

“Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim ? Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and icefree Antarctica…If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.”

You can expect to be petrified. But don’t let it scare you into catatonia. Your response is crucial to managing the problems of global Climate Change.

Looking at it can make you afraid. But you need to look at it. Face your fears, and then do something about it.


Down Poole Harbour Way

Image Credit : pixel boy

Down Poole Harbour Way
by Jo Abbess
16th April 2008

A report on rising sea levels has been presented today at the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, showing that improved models have been able to accurately mimic sea level rises, as reliably observed by tide gauges over the last 300 years :-

This work from the the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory near Liverpool in England confirms projections from ice sheet melt measurements, that sea levels could rise somewhere between 0.8m and 1.5m by the year 2100.

Down Poole Harbour way, we take news like this very seriously. Or rather, we ought to. The 1 metre and 2 metre land contours above sea levels around the historic port of Poole take in major points of infrastructure.

Development for the area includes thousands of new affordably housing “dwelling units”, massive retail renovation and expansion, a new railway station, moving the train station from a bend to the straight, a new road bridge over the Harbour and investment in tourism in the area, including the famous Quay.

Poole is set to become famous in the next few years, as it is on the railway from London to Weymouth where the water sports for the 2012 Olympics will take place.

A part of Poole has been made famous over the last year with the televising of a documentary about Sandbanks, a zone of large properties where the very wealthy people of South England like to live.

A lot of the town is low-lying, as befits a Harbour and coastal town, so what could the impacts be if sea levels rise at twice the rate of current IPCC projections ?

Every day, boats the size of several hundred large elephants chug slowly in and out of the Main Channel at Poole, bound for or returning from the Channel Islands, and St Malo and Cherbourg in France.

The Main Channel is very narrow and has a rapid flow of very large volumes of water, gushing back and forth with the tides.

Massive quantities of sediment are carried from the rivers that feed the Harbour, and from silt in the Harbour itself, in and out of the Harbour mouth.

Every year there is dredging of thousands of tonnes of material from the Main Channel, to keep it seaworthy and protect the Harbour.

With the rainfall change predicted for Climate Change, it is likely that the amount of run-off from the land around the Harbour will increase, bringing more sediment into play.

What would happen if economic recession and escalating sedimentary deposition were to strain the dredging budget to breaking point ?

The new road bridge, “Twin Sails” has been designed and planned for a while now, and should be a triumph of engineering, and very beautiful too, and will permit increasing volumes of road traffic over the Harbour at quite some cost.

Looking into the engineering designs, the bridge span has been designed to rise over 4.5 metres above the current water flow. Why this high ? Is it that the good engineers anticipate not only small watercraft making their way under the bridge, but also want to ensure the road stays above any storm surge and flooding ?

What height could the flood waters and storm surge reach ?

The railway system around Poole is already easily compromised. Despite works to protect the tracks, they are actually roughly at sea level, and so any increase in average sea level, and any major storm turbulence would threaten passage beyond the town.

What would happen if Weymouth became inaccessible by railway during the Olympics, and all the major roadways were inundated as well ?

Local Sustainable Development group Poole Agenda 21 has had oversight of some of the plans for the new North Poole retail and car parking area.

Millions of Pounds Sterling is going to be sunk into this project, to provide more retail, more car parking facilities, and of course, some affordable housing.

PA21 couldn’t see anything in the designs for new style “flood basements” that provide protection from storm surge by bulwarking.

Given that the North Poole area is within the 2 metre above sea level contour lines for the town, how will this new development fare ?

Why is sea level rise so invisible to planners in Poole ? Someone in Poole Agenda 21 has suggested the Developers of Poole could follow the example of those inventive folks over the North Sea Channel in Holland and go for amphibious housing in areas such as Hamworthy.

Amphibious houses either float up and down according to water levels, or are designed to withstand serious flooding, with design measures such as having all electrical wiring and points halfway up the walls :-…

The railway station has suffered from being “on the curve”, but a new plan to re-locate it on a straight section of the track and add new facilities (including the inevitable car parking) will just add to the risk of the train station being flooded, as the straight section of track is below 2 metres above current sea level.

The Quay, where many a fishing trip has started, where people take pleasure boats to tourist destinations such as Brownsea Island (Baden Powell, Be Prepared), and have many a boozy night outside the public houses that line the waterfront.

A sea level rise of 1 metre will completely compromise the safe public use of this area of town.

And if sea levels rise anywhere near a metre in the near future, and dredging of the Main Channel is curtailed, you can forget about living on Sandbanks.

It will be cut off from the mainland, and properties worth hundreds of millions of pounds will be storm-damaged on a regular basis, even be permanently flooded on the ground floor.

There is cause for optimism. Most of the plans for the re-development of Poole are still at the drawing board stage. There could be changes made.

For example, it’s not too late to get the “Twin Sails” bridge re-designed to incorporate tidal turbines underneath it to generate power, and get a bicycle lane on top. But who with any planning influence is going to propose it ?

People still seem oblivious of changes going on around them, even though they are widely reported in the general media.

Town planning and renovation developments are still based on standards and guidance that are over ten years’ old in some cases.

New Government-led frameworks on, for example, Sustainable Development, have not yet been implemented down to planning level. A lot of new codes are “voluntary”.

The story of the drowning of Poole could be repeated hundreds of times over around the British Isles.

It’s time to wake up.”> SRC=”” WIDTH=”450″ BORDER=”0″>”> SRC=”” WIDTH=”450″ BORDER=”0″>”> SRC=”” WIDTH=”450″ BORDER=”0″>


Global Warming Carries On

Global Warming Carries On
by Jo Abbess
15th April 2008

Today, Oisin from Climate Change News Digest pointed me in the direction of the NASA data for all the years 1880 to the present :-

I did a simple experiment. I imported the data into © Microsoft ® Excel ™ and did two things :-

1. Charted the data line for each month and year superimposed (see chart above).

2. Charted a trendline for each month (left as an exercise for the reader).

I found four clear results, which you are encouraged to see for yourselves :-

a. The trendline for the period 1880 to 2008 for each month is rising.

b. The trendlines are diverging : the Winter months of January, February and March are getting hotter, faster.

c. There have been a couple of cold months in the past that are outliers, just like January and February were for 2008.

d. As of March 2008, the cooling effect of La Nina ENSO appears to be over.

This is very serious stuff.

So, why is Gordon Brown following the money crisis, when the Climate Change is so critical ?

Why does he think that any intervention can keep the Economy growing, given the global problems with food, Climate and Energy ?

And why does he think that OPEC can increase oil production, when they have most likely hit peak production ?

7th April 2008

James Hansen et alia.

Humanity today, collectively, must face the uncomfortable fact that industrial civilization itself has become the principal driver of global climate. If we stay our present course, using fossil fuels to feed a growing appetite for energy-intensive life styles, we will soon leave the climate of the Holocene, the world of prior human history. The eventual response to doubling preindustrial atmospheric CO2 likely would be a nearly ice-free planet. A rising price on carbon emissions and payment for carbon sequestration is surely needed to make drawdown of airborne CO2 a reality.

14th April 2008

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he understands people’s fears over the economy and insisted that keeping it on track was his “sole focus”. “We are on the side of home owners, business and individuals,” he said. As in past crises, ministers would do “everything in our power to keep the economy moving forward”, he said.…

15th April 2008

Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday called on the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost production to counter rapidly rising oil prices, adding his voice to similar requests from the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. “We are not producing enough oil … and we can take collective action to persuade OPEC and others to get the oil price down,” Brown said in an interview on Sky Television.


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 ?” :-

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.


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.


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 ?


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.


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 ?


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.


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.


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 ?


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 :-…

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 :-…

“”[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 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 :-…

“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 :-

Energy Review 2006 :-

2007 Energy White Paper :-

After the original piece on CCS :-…

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.


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,



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.


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)

The future of nuclear power

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

Nuclear power: yes or no ?

Powerpoint presentation (September 2007)

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

Comment article (July 2006)…

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)…

For more information, please contact:

Dr Stuart Parkinson

stuartp [at]

mobile UK: 07 941 953 640


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

Other Atomic Resources

Nuclear Consultation Working Group Report…

Christian Ecology Link : “Faith and Power”

Calling for a Low Consumption, Non-Nuclear Energy Strategy

The Sustainable Development Commission : Energy Review Consultation Response

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

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

Oxford Research Group……

“The Economics of Nuclear Power”

Greenpeace USA………

Greenpeace UK : Nuclear Reports……

New Scientist : Nuclear Pages

The Wilson Quarterly : “Nuclear is Not the Way”…

Change College (College of Global Change) : Nuclear Nuisance…

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

The Union of Concerned Scientists (USA)…

RSA Submission on Energy Review


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 :-…

The OECD on Vaclav Smil :-

“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 :-…

“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.”