Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Road to ???

Interesting report from Her Majesty's Government today claiming that "the road, rail and air networks of Britain can all be greatly expanded without undermining Britain's commitment to reducing climate change emissions". Transport secretary, Ruth Kelly is launching a "pro-green, pro-growth" discussion paper today which will demonstrate how all this can be done.

So more travel, less carbon. Hmmm - Looks like another call for business as usual with a light green wash applied sloppily on its front cover to me. If this climate change business was that easy, why the heck hasn't it been sorted already?

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Organic Food "Better For You"

I'm a big fan of organic food, mainly because it causes less environmental damage rather than human health benefits such as not having pesticide residues. Now a study carried out by Newcastle University, backs claims that organic food is intrinsically better for you.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise - nature is full of very complex processes and working with it is much more likely to produce a better outcome than the quick fixes of intensive agriculture. Man-made fertilisers consist of just three components: Nitrogen (N), Phosphates (P) and Potassium (K) as these minerals boost plant growth - does anyone really think that such an unbalanced diet will result in healthier crops?

BTW: Someone once told me that a certain household plant food, despite having the letters 'bio' in its name, is just a solution of N, P and K with some caramel to give it a brown, more "organic" colour. Just goes to show you can't trust anyone!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The UK's Climate is Gloomy

I'm an angry man. I've just brought up the Guardian's Environment webpage, and it makes depressing reading. Three headlines:

- Labour's plan to abandon renewable energy targets
- Energy efficiency funds withdrawn
- Carbon output rising faster, study says

In other words, we're producing more carbon and the Government is more interested in ducking their targets than addressing the issue. The Germans have shown that renewables can be boosted using the right incentives, such as a feed-in tariff which guarantees a price for all for excess energy exported to the grid. So why are we stuck with a terrible grant scheme?

And it's Energy Awareness Week...

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's... Energy Awareness Week!

After shamefully letting Green Blog Day pass me by last Monday, I'm determined to try to keep abreast of all these days, weeks, millenia etc of environmental action.

Well, this week, starting tomorrow, is the Energy Savings Trust's Energy Awareness Week - with themed days throughout. Good stuff, although I'm a little baffled about the difference between Women's Day and Men's Day - do the sexes have wildly different carbon footprints?

But, anyway, the effective things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint are the old faves:
And, I know, I'll get flamed for this, but I still think is worth offsetting the rest!

Update 22/10/07: I've managed to penetrate a bit further into the EAW site and found the list of what's happening on the different days of this week. Women's day is being sponsored by Cafe Direct and involves Women's Institute coffee mornings, and Men's day is 'gadget day' sponsored by Curry's. Now I'm not the most PC of people, but is that not outdated stereotyping? Most young women I see on the bus/train have their iPod Nano in one hand and ultra-high-spec phone in the other. I've been told men drink coffee too...

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Supermarkets Go Greener

Earlier this year, you couldn't open a newspaper without one supermarket supremo or another launching a programme to make their chain more sustainable. Well the National Consumer Council (NCC)'s annual study of supermarkets' environmental performance has found that many of the UK's top food retailers have improved their environmental performance since last year's study.

Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer moved up a grade to join Waitrose at the head of the league table with a B rating. Asda and Tesco have both moved from a D in last year's table to a C, while Morrisons and Somerfield improved their scores from an E to a D. The Co-op retained its D rating. None of the eight top food retailers achieved an A, or excellent, rating. The full report can be found here.

So why is this sector so important? Well the food we eat is responsible for one third of our impact on climate change. It's not just air miles either - in the UK, supermarket lorries travel the equivalent distance of going to the moon and back every day.

But what is encouraging is the shift from plans to action. Maybe next year one of the big sheds will hit the 'A' grade.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Green Challenge Launched

If your community wants to show what it can do to cut its carbon emissions, then check out the Big Green Challenge - there's a whopping millionsquid to split between the winners.

UK only m'afraid- apologies to our overseas readers.

Another environmental "day" passes me by...

According to the Guardian Online, Monday was Blog Action Day and the theme this year was "The Environment". The Grauniad has a summary of what was blogged here.

Oops. I'm not very good at knowing when such "days" are happening. Every so often someone will ask me "What are you doing for 'world solidarity with the lesser spotted dograt day'?" and I have to shrug and shuffle my feet.

Who decides which is which? And where do you find out? Harrumph etc.

Anyway, if any readers did take part, then please let us know in the comments.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lexus SUV Hybrid - "Green" or "Less Evil"?

I've been puzzling this week over the newspaper adverts for the new Lexus hybrid range. If you take the SUV, the hybrid does 35mpg and emits 192g/km* compared to the standard SUV performance of 25mpg and 264g/km. On carbon, that's a 27% saving - not bad, but the Toyota Prius does 104g/km...

There are two ways of looking at this:

1. there will always be a market for huge luxury vehicles, so it is better to be able to offer a substantially more efficient model to cut carbon emissions.

2. These guys are fooling themselves, if they really want to be green, they're going to have to compete with the best - luxury marque or not.

I'm tending towards 2. myself - it is very misleading to tell people that having a luxury vehicle with emissions no better than a family saloon is somehow "green". Manufacturers would probably say I'm not comparing like with like, to which I would reply "Exactly!"

* apologies for the mix of imperial and metric units -us Brits have never worked this metrification through!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chinese emissions ARE down to us

Just over a year ago, I was pontificating that China's massive carbon footprint was due to the fact that we've exported our dirty industries there - in fact those who know me will tell you I've been like a cracked record on this one. Well, a report from the New Economics Foundation backs up my theory.

NEF has also pointed out that much international trade is wasteful - we often export similar amounts of certain goods as we import. An intelligent carbon tax might be able to sort this out - although could be accused of trying to close poor countries out of trade - always a moral dilemma.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

George Bush - Prodigal Son?

I've been mulling all week about GWB's conversion to climate change believer, nay, self-appointed global leading light on the topic. While I got really angry about being lectured by a sanctimonious halfwit on what we all knew 15 years ago, a nagging feeling persisted - "he doesn't HAVE to do this". He's in the later stages of his presidency, some oil baron or other will line his pockets for the rest of his life, and more people will hate him for the War on Turr than for his lack of action on climate change. So why bother?

Maybe, just maybe, the man does have a brain after all.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Renewables grants "now too difficult"

I reported some time ago that the UK's "Low Carbon Buildings Programme" grant programme for domestic renewables was to be relaunched with tighter restrictions to stop the flood of applications on the first of each month. Well, guess what, according to the Guardian, the flood of applications has dwindled to a trickle as home owners have found the conditions too onerous.

There are now mounting calls to introduce a so called 'feed in' tariff for local generation - this would give householders a big incentive to export electricity to the grid. This has been very popular in Germany, but of course it only applies to electricity - users of solar hot water generators and biomass heating would not benefit.

Whatever is done, the LCBP programme has not done itself any favours and may well have put genuinely concerned citizens off the whole idea of generating their own energy.

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