What a 19th Century Philosopher can tell us about energy conservation

Posted July 11th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

Back in the 19th century, philosopher William Hazlitt stated we are only “imaginatively connected” to our future self whereas we are naturally connected to our past and present self. But what does a deep thinker like Hazlitt have to tell us about today’s energy debate?

It has something to do with the fact we unconsciously believe that our future self is someone else, not us; that our grasp on the future is tenuous at best and our motivations are totally rooted in the present: My gas bill is going up by 20 per cent so I am going to switch provider rather than save energy; I have just had a new lawn laid so will use as much tap water as I need to make sure it survives despite the ridiculously dry spring we have just experienced.

Our present self finds it hard to make decisions based on anything other than our immediate needs and wants. In Australia, scientists receive death threats because they advocate a carbon tax; China threatens financial retaliation if the EU includes foreign airlines in its Emissions Trading Scheme…countries, not just individuals, find it hard to look beyond the immediate.

Monday Morning
It is the classic Monday Morning Syndrome: I know I should have ironed a shirt on Sunday evening as I have a busy start to the week, I had plenty of time but couldn’t be bothered. Future Me will deal with the problem. On Monday morning I rush around dealing with the issue, making myself late cursing my lack of attention to the problem on Sunday night.

We are collectively leaving the problems on climate change to our future selves. That is bad enough, but we are also leaving them to future generations. Saving a few pounds now to meet the build budget, stores up problems for the future when the building rapidly becomes unfit for purpose. We know what will happen, but leave Future Self to deal with it.
A plumber leaves out an 80p isolating valve and a few years later his successor has to spend three hours trying to isolate the water supply in order to change the washer on a dripping tap. Everything we do now has consequences in the future and those consequences are increasingly frightening.

Germany has announced it will abandon nuclear power and go all out for renewables…but in the meantime that is bound to lead to a significant increase in gas consumption. The UK is decommissioning its nuclear capacity, but nimbyism means every proposed wind or solar farm gets held up by planning red tape.

If you don’t want nuclear; or wind; or to pay more; and you don’t want the hassle…what do you want? You can’t leave everything to Future You and expect to keep the lights on.

David Frise is head of sustainability at the HVCA whose members are committed to delivering high quality, responsible and sustainable building services solutions. dfrise@hvca.org.uk

Read more at www.hvca.org.uk

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Challenges of Recruitment in the Waste Management Sector

Posted May 19th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

The challenges facing waste and resource management over the next five years can be encapsulated within three convenient categories of economic, sustainability and technological issues.

 

The UK Government has a 2020 vision of resource efficiency, pollution reduction and atmospheric clean up.

 

International Sustainability Recruitment Consultants, Allen & York explore current challenges and the future of recruitment within the waste industry, including identifying the skill shortages; current recruitment trends and how recruitment will be affected but also have a positive impact on addressing these challenges.

 

Addressing the Economic Challenge

The pressure within the UK to provide cost-effective environmentally sustainable waste management has never been so great.  Traditionally local authorities have relied on landfill as a cheap and local way of getting rid of waste but the supply of landfill sites is finite and unsustainable in the long-term. Due to increasing pressure from the European Union and targets set by the new Waste Framework Directive, an economical and sustainable waste management policy is needed to avoid heavy penalties for not complying with these EU Directives.  The Waste Framework Directive requires that 50% of all household waste is recycled and in order to achieve this target the UK needs to build and operate specific large-scale recycling units and update its waste management infrastructure.

Significant inroads have been made into this recycling and waste reduction already, as every household with curbside collection will confirm, however more initiatives are required to hit these ambitious targets.  The launch of a multi-million pound waste infrastructure fund was announced by Boris Johnson at the beginning of climate week on March 21st and is one of many pioneering schemes that will help make London and the UK as a whole, a world leader in finding new ways to manage waste.

The fund aims to provide investment for projects that will help utilise the massive value of the UK’s waste through initiatives such as power plants to convert waste biomass to clean energy and facilities for recycling waste products such as food and plastics.  Interestingly this initiative focuses particularly on how to exploit the cash value of waste and use it to generate green energy whilst creating jobs and developing valuable exportable skills.

With this move towards more economic ways to deal with the worlds waste, comes a heightened demand for waste management and energy from waste professionals (EfW).

‘There is a £2 billion-a-year building boom in EfW plants nationally over the next 15 years’[1]

In terms of the effect that this move will have on the recruitment sector – International Sustainability Recruitment Consultancy, Allen & York witness an increase in candidates with transferable skills gaining successful employment.

For example, experience and skills gained from landfill, power plant and engineering projects are able to be put to use within these newly created EfW opportunities including EfW Project Management roles. Whilst chemical engineering and chemical processing skills can be transferred to Bioenergy roles, providing the candidate with a move towards the sustainable, renewable energy area of waste management.

Energy from waste could provide a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs

It is crucial that the UK invest in alternatives to fossil fuels. Using waste as fuel can have important environmental benefits.  It can not only provide a safe and cost-effective way of waste disposal but can also help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

As waste management climbs the political and environmental agenda, industry experts respond with other innovative ways of processing waste, for example anaerobic digestion, the latest method of in-vessel treatment of waste.  One of the most recent commissions is the farm-scale anaerobic digestion plant at Reaseheath College Cheshire, which is based on two small scale, low capital systems and can be replicated commercially on farms or in horticultural businesses.

Waste professionals with a plant design, construction or an operations background may be able to benefit from these new opportunities says Irfan Lohiya, Waste Recruitment Specialist at Allen & York. In addition, waste management opportunities within the clean tech and clean energy areas are also likely to increase as the UK becomes armed with the funds that can greatly increase the move to a low carbon economy.   Simon Brooks, European Investment Bank Vice President for the United Kingdom said: ‘Using waste to generate clean energy can be an important element to the contribution to climate action.’

The management of waste is one of the key themes of ‘sustainable development’[2]

The UK is making significant steps towards making the waste industry more sustainable.  Major improvements have occurred in the UK; in 1997 only 7% of England’s household waste was recycled. It has almost quadrupled to 27% in 2010 – a tremendous achievement by the public and local authorities.  94% of households now receive a doorstep collection service from their local council for recyclable materials and there has been a 50% expansion in kerbside recycling services in just one year, from 2009 to 2010. The UK EfW sector is undergoing unprecedented changes, with stakeholders having to constantly adapt to new legislation and evolving market forces. The concept “zero waste” is gaining prominence as the Government seeks to encourage waste prevention.

 

The Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) claims that the sector is expected to almost double its workforce by 2017 in recycling alone.

Employment opportunities in waste management have traditionally been within the public sector at local and national government, regulation within the Environment Agency, and the industrial land fill sector within waste disposal companies, says Lohiya.  However, with the development of sustainable waste management strategies, focusing on better uses for resources by collecting, sorting, recycling, remanufacturing and refurbishing materials, new opportunities have arisen for employment in the recycling and consulting arena. Research undertaken by the Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory (WAMITAB) identified a total of 65,000 jobs in waste management, and recycling is one of the main sub divisions continuing to show growth.

Reflecting the waste management industry’s drive to enhance standards of skill and training across the sector, a major initiative is already under way at WINTO – Waste Industry National Training Organisation, with the development of a workforce development plan for the waste sector.  It highlights relevant priorities for the area and specifies how to achieve greater success for employees and employers.

 

Future Opportunities in Waste

 

Europe maintains a strong position in the global recycling market. The UK’s first fully integrated plastic packaging sorting and recycling facility has launched this February 2011, which demonstrates not only the environmental benefits, but also the commercial and technological viability for mixed plastics recycling.

Germany has also been a key contributor to Europe’s strong position due to its technological leadership as well as strong commitment to addressing environmental concerns such as waste management through active legislation, it is anticipated that recycling in the region will get a boost from 2011 onwards.

The next three to five years is a critical period in the evolution of waste and resource management and if you are looking for a new role with this industry, Allen & York are ideally placed to help.

Our aim is to provide all those seeking to work within the waste management industry with as many options as possible, by partnering with international waste management contractors and waste consultancies, as well as local authority departments concerned with waste and recycling activities.

You will discover a selection of waste jobs within; Recycling, Landfill, Energy from Waste (EfW), Waste Management and Wastewater.

By Vicky Kenrick from Sustainability Recruitment Specialists, Allen & York.


[1] http://www.newlondonarchitecture.org/event.php?id=228&name=energy_from_waste

[2] Williams P, 1998. Waste Treatment and Disposal. John Wiley and Sons, Chichester

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CEO’s Embrace Sustainability

Posted May 10th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

This article presents a vision for corporate sustainability and highlights how organisations can add value to not only their bottom line but also to the environment and society at large. With current examples of organisations putting their corporate sustainability strategy into action, this article provides a run down of who’s doing what and the skills and people required to initiate and maintain the drive to a low carbon economy.  Highlighting the increase in auditing and tighter sustainability regulation, this article also provides some useful advice on how to avoid the association with ‘green washing’ and ways in which an organisation can really embed sustainability within the heart of their corporate culture.

Investors are becoming increasingly receptive to sustainability.

Corporate sustainability is coming of age.  An overwhelming majority of FTSE 500 companies now voluntarily measure, manage, and publicly disclose their carbon emissions; and a collection of hi-tech solutions, clean technologies, and market tools have evolved in recent years to meet these demands.  Examples of successful corporate sustainability reporting can be attributed to Siemens and GE, recording environmental revenues of £16bn and £11bn respectively, and M&S showing how a CEO-led sustainability strategy can account for 10% of profit at a FTSE100 retailer.

The Co-Operative Group has also launched an ambitious sustainability plan at the beginning of March 2011, which promises to cut carbon emissions by 35% by 2017 and deploy over £1 billion of green energy finance by 2013.  By 2017, the Co-op wants to generate an equivalent of a quarter of its energy needs from renewables but aims to be carbon neutral in its operations by next year. The Group also pledges to reduce its water consumption by 10% over the next three years.

Driving change to a corporate sustainability strategy is a constant challenge, however an impressive 81% of the CEOs surveyed by The Guardian [1] stated that sustainability issues are now ‘fully embedded’ into their companies’ strategy and operations, with many extending this focus to their subsidiaries and supply chains.  It is clear that sustainability is no longer seen as a marketing fad and is now embraced at Board Level within leading corporations. This is also reflected in recruitment trends witnessed by Allen & York, leading international sustainability Recruiters.

Boardroom commitment to sustainability helps build a framework for robust corporate governance.

Writing in Ethical Corporation, Raffaello Raimondi, Principal Search Consultant at Allen & York comments on the rise of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), “The first job on a CSO’s list is often to challenge accepted norms and radically change a corporation’s culture”.  Describing the ideal CSO’s background, Raimondi highlights that several years industry experience coupled with a MBA/Masters Degree and quite possibly experience in a leading strategic or environmental position features high on his check list.

By employing a dedicated CSO, Sustainability Director or Head of Sustainability, organisations can ensure the corporate sustainability strategy is not only overseen and managed accordingly but is also implemented to the highest standard so that oversights are not made.  When discussing his role at UPS, Scott Wicker, CSO at UPS highlights that:   “The long-term success of our company absolutely requires a balance of the environmental, economic and social aspects of the business. Sustainability encompasses all of those areas.”

Sustainability offers a proven and legitimate framework for exploiting new avenues for innovation and growth.

Initiatives such as the Carbon Plan, Green Investment Bank and the Electricity Market Reform demonstrate how the UK coalition government is well on the way up the regulatory escalator towards encouraging zero-carbon emissions within business.  The Carbon Plan, being a Government-wide plan of action on climate change and the Green Investment Bank are primed to invest in low-carbon infrastructure such as renewable energy and the development of new, clean technologies. Both, along with the Electricity Market Reform point towards a movement to monitor and regulate sustainability within business.

In addition, the UK government’s CRC Energy Efficiency scheme which came into effect in 2010 is a mandatory carbon emissions reporting and pricing scheme, with the first report due from organisations, which use more than 6,000MWh per year of electricity, in July 2011.  Whilst there has been some controversy about the scheme, it still remains that from 2012, participants will be required to buy allowances from the Government, each year, to cover their emissions in the previous year.

This means that organisations that decrease their emissions can lower their costs under the CRC. Companies better positioned to improve their energy efficiency, and save on CRC costs, will be those with a CSO or Head of Sustainability in place, who is able to oversee energy management, sustainable procurement and corporate social responsibility issues, coupled with implementing accurate carbon reporting.

A severe management deficit exists in the governance of climate change and sustainability risks and opportunities.

Being a key driver to corporate innovation and growth, a top down approach to corporate sustainability is required. Regulation, the role of the CSO and embedding sustainability into business practices also ensures that ‘green washing’ is avoided. Green washing is the team used for the deceptive use of green PR to embellish a company’s green credentials.  With a firm policy and strategy in place run by a dedicated CSO or Head of Sustainability, the company is able to produce clear and transparent evidence of their sustainable measures.

Further trends that Allen & York predict for 2011 include:

  • The embedding of sustainability as a core business strategy
  • Establishment of a consensus on the role of the sustainable development professional
  • The rise of the Chief Sustainability Officer
  • Increased transparency, an open society and a decrease in green washing
  • Supply chain engagement, where supplier’s performance is also monitored and reported on, forming part of the corporate sustainability strategy.
  • IT for green purposes growing at an exponential rate

Allen & York are a leading international Sustainability Recruitment consultancy, offering jobs and candidates in; Energy & Environmental Management, CSR & Sustainability, Low Carbon and Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Health and Safety Management.  For further information, please visit: www.allen-york.com

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog/corporate-sustainability-are-we-really-cruising-fifth-gear

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/4660620030/sizes/t/

Save the planet – burn gas!

Posted May 3rd, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

Despite the billions of pounds spent promoting, subsidizing and developing renewables they still produce just 6.5 per cent of our energy needs.
According to the Renewable Energy Foundation, the UK has spent £5bn subsidizing wind farms, but we still missed the target, announced in 2001, of generating 10 per cent of our electricity from renewables by the end of the last decade. We are now supposed to be moving towards a 30 per cent target by 2020. That now looks like a long shot.

The present Government policy is to de-carbonise the electricity network through renewables and nuclear energy. However, the big fallout from the Japanese disaster is likely to be a series of delays caused by new safety reviews for that whole industry. Our first new reactor was scheduled to open in 2018 with others to follow over the ensuing decade. That was already way too late to plug our growing energy gap and now looks almost certain to be delayed further. It will also inevitably lead to additional cost.

So, solution: Burn gas. There is hundreds of years worth of ‘shale gas’ available from the US and Northern Europe as well as a healthy supply of liquefied natural gas from slightly less reliable sources, such as Russia and the Middle East, but it is there nonetheless. It is cheap (although Germany turning off its nuclear reactors will lead to price pressures) and we understand how to use it.

Cheaper
Switching direction back in favour of a, largely, gas-based system would be quick and far cheaper than trying to stimulate more renewables and build nuclear power stations. Expedience – financial and political – will probably be the winner in the race for energy security and climate change, so don’t be surprised if the ‘New Age of Gas’ could soon be upon us.

It would have to be accompanied by the already planned programme of energy efficiency upgrades of existing homes and offices to reduce consumption and so limit carbon emissions. Although gas is not a zero carbon, or even a low carbon solution – it is less carbon intensive than where we are now and it has the distinct advantage of keeping the lights on. It would be a stop gap solution.

By improving insulation levels via the Green Deal funding and using more high efficiency conventional technologies, such as condensing boilers and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, we can make massive strides towards lower carbon emissions while still preserving our energy security. Renewables like solar thermal and PV can still play a role where they are possible, appropriate and cost-effective; and all of this needs to be linked together by effective and intelligent building controls.

From an HVCA perspective members using their already considerable knowledge of conventional gas-fired building services systems in tandem with better controls and more thermally efficient buildings have a far better chance of reducing the nation’s carbon emissions than anything else currently proposed; and, more importantly, we will help to keep the lights on!

However, it is not totally straightforward. With shale gas, we have to overcome the small problem of extraction, known as ‘fracking’, which uses vast amounts of water and can lead to gas coming out of your kitchen tap. There is also the requirement for carbon capture and we know how difficult and expensive that is proving to be.

And, of course, all this leads us to the inevitable conclusion that energy efficiency measures are still the best investment of all.

David Frise is head of sustainability at the HVCA whose members are committed to delivering high quality, responsible and sustainable building services solutions. dfrise@hvca.org.uk

Read more at www.hvca.org.uk

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Nuclear panic adds fuel to energy efficiency

Posted April 28th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

The ongoing drama unfolding at the Fukushima reactor in Japan should actually strengthen the argument of those proposing an expansion of the world’s nuclear energy programmes. The fact that it has had the opposite effect defies logic.

An outdated plant, built in the early 60s, almost survived a direct hit from an earthquake thousands of times more powerful than anything experienced ever in most parts of the world and the subsequent loss of power caused by a tsunami. All the modern plants did survive unscathed and Fukushima did not go into total meltdown – the situation is bad there, but it could have been very considerably worse.

The worldwide panic that ensued is nuts. Germany shut down ALL of its nuclear reactors – why? It even led to a new word permeating websites: “Angst-lust”, which captures the sense of panic beautifully. Are they expecting an earthquake and tsunami? Also, we no longer build nuclear reactors like those of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima.

If this isolated and exceptional incident delays or cancels planned nuclear energy developments – what is the likely outcome? China will abandon its nuclear programme and build more coal-fired power stations instead. There is plenty of coal around, it is just very bad for the environment and 3,000 Chinese coal miners die every year – that makes it a lot more dangerous than nuclear.

Risks
How do we weigh these risks? Thousands of dead miners; catastrophic global warming and/or the lights going out – against continued nuclear expansion. How about a third way: A truly global programme of energy efficiency? Governments must go further and faster to tackle our energy waste as that is the only option that is technologically easy, risk free and cheap. It also means a key role for the building services engineering industry and HVCA members in particular.

Fukushima might create the right strategy for the wrong reasons. It is almost impossible for the general public to judge just how risky nuclear is – we don’t have the facts and we don’t live in an earthquake zone. We do know, however, how astonishingly expensive nuclear power is. We probably can justify nuclear on safety grounds, but that probably means we can’t justify it on cost – the only alternative is a massive programme of energy efficiency. It is the only thing that we can start now and afford to finish.

David Frise is head of sustainability at the HVCA whose members are committed to delivering high quality, responsible and sustainable building services solutions. dfrise@hvca.org.uk

Read more at www.hvca.org.uk

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Externalities: costs passed on to the outside

Posted April 14th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

Externalities is a term that economist use to reference costs and benefits which are not directly carried by the company involved. They are usually passed on to the consumer, government or the environment. As with many things, they can be good or bad. The trouble is that sometimes you cannot tell until later.

You can find examples of passed on externalities in many areas. The chemical industry, the coal industry, the automotive industry, the alcohol industry and just about any business which seeks profit above all. They operate in a manner which mandates finding ways to shed costs and put them on the shoulders of those outside their system. The entire fossil fuel machine would not survive if they did not follow this principle.

There are two kinds of externalities. Economist call them positive/negative externalities or costs. Positive benefits are those that improve the lives outside the system. A prime example of a positive externality is the school system. The general goal is the creation of a smarter worker, but educating the populace is the hidden benefit or externality. The examples of negative benefits are so numerous as to be unlistable. The corporations will quickly lay claim to the positive, but will completely deny the negative.

The biggest guilty party is the fossil fuel industry. They completely avoid taking any responsibility for the current global situation and will go any extreme to deny their part. To see a perfect example look into mountaintop removal for mining coal. Across the country big coal companies are simply blowing the tops of the mountains off to get the coal underneath. They fill the valleys with waste products from the process which leaches into streams and water tables. This leads to increased health problems for those living in the area which someone else has to pay for. This is just one of multitude of costs that are passed to other people so companies can claim that coal is cheap.

If you want a bigger picture just go to any search engine and type in pollution, fossil fuels and health problems together. The external costs of oil production, coal production, combustion engine and many other things we take for granted are dumped into someone else’s lap.

Further References:
Wikipedia: Externalities
Environmental Externalities and Air Pollution
Harvard study: Coal costs US public up to $500 billion annually

Dee Neely is an avid technologist, writer and green activist. She is the Knoxville Green Activism Examiner for Examiner.com. You can follow her on Twitter as cayceedeeneely.

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The End of Thinking Ahead

Posted March 31st, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

We, as a species, have definitely lost something. We have lost the ability to plan ahead. All we seem to be able to do anymore is immediate and short term thinking . We have reached the point where five years is an eternity to us and anything farther down the road is a miracle. Do not even pretend to think about something 20 years or 40 years down the road. We are definitely living in the NOW era of human evolution and it is costing us gravely.

In our history we have built some of the greatest projects seen by humanity. In the distant past we find Stonehenge, the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. In the more recent past we find the Panama Canal and the Hoover Damn. All of these projects took long term planning and concentrated effort. Of course, many things such as the Great Wall and the Pyramids cost a lot in terms of life and human suffering but, the immensity of their longevity is incredible.

Things are much different now. If you try to talk to someone about global warming or climate change they simply cannot, or will, not look at something that far into the future.  All you hear is now, now and once again, now. If you try to discuss the phasing out of fossil fuels they will tell you that it cannot work because it will not work now. If you talk to them about the degradation of the aquifers they will tell you that it doesn’t matter because they are not empty today. These kinds of discussions are beyond most people today.
Any discussion you have about energy will run into this problem.

The problems with petroleum products are well known but if you try to suggest alternate methods the answer will always be some version of that will not work because everything we do NOW uses petroleum. Those who will argue against you will insist that any problem with oil is not immediate because there is enough and there has been enough. They cannot look down the road of time and see what will happen with projected usage.

Coal is the current magic bullet of the anti-environmental crowd.  The power is produced immediately and the supply seems plentiful. What they do not see, and will not see, is the pile of toxins and waste left behind. We produce a massive amount of coal ash. In 2009 we produced about 75,000,000 tons of coal ash and guess what we did with it. We dumped it into collection ponds for someone else to deal with later. This means we have produced about two pounds of coal ash for every man, woman and child in the United States for every single day of the year. So much for the solution to all our energy demands.

There is a sad flip-side to this inability to think ahead. The ugly and opposite face is the ability of people to put off dealing with something to later generations. Many people are perfectly willing to keep creating waste and leaving for our descendant to deal with. They are willing to do this with coal by-products, greenhouse gases and nuclear waste. Every landfill is a testament to this ability. Do not worry about it. They want to stick it in the ground somewhere and let someone else deal with it later. We do this with our household trash. We do this with our coal waste and we are willing to do this with our nuclear waste, too. How is that for an ability to delay reality and delay answers for later?

 

Further References

Stonehenge
Great Pyramids
Great Wall of China
Secret Costs Of Coal
Sourcewatch: Existing U.S. Coal Plants

 

Dee Neely is a freelance writer, avid technologist and a member of The Zeitgeist Movement.

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BP Sustainability Review 2010: Do you bother to read this report?

Posted March 30th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

Here is a difficult question for you: What do you think about the latest BP Sustainability Review? (Downloadable PDF version: PDF version.)

TheEnvironmentSite.org is a site focusing on sustainability and environmental topics. The BP oil spill has been discussed in our forum at length and the opinion is pretty clear to us stakeholders: BP messed up big-time.

What is your view about the new review?

What did you think about the BP Sustainability Review 2010? Is this just window-dressing by BP? Do you think it is good that they continue to report annually about their sustainability activities despite this huge environmental catastrophe? Or are you simply not bothered to read this report? What is your view. We would love to know what you think about this topic.

Additional Reading: If you are interested in interesting additional reading why not also look at the blog post about this report from our friends at Futerra. Very good post!

Scarcity: The Big Lie

Posted March 25th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

The entire economic system has its basis in scarcity, which is the idea that there simply are not enough of  things to go around.  Scarcity is defined by Investopedia as “The basic economic problem that arises because people have unlimited wants but resources are limited. Because of scarcity, various economic decisions must be made to allocate resources efficiently” There was a time when this was true but the scarcity which we see today is mostly an artificial construct. The problem is that with the increased ability of humanity to produce items through technology, the only way to effectively maintain scarcity is through manipulation.
We are told constantly that there isn’t enough energy to go around, but what this really means is that the companies which control the energy don’t want to lose control. While there are multiple means to provide energy the  arguments are all centered on cost; we are told that the cost of switching to renewable and accessible energy is simply too high. Of course, this is not true. There was a recent plan to remake the roads of America into solar power collectors. The critics answered that the thirty-five trillion dollars it would cost was prohibitive. How much do the transportation departments around the nation spend to maintain the roads we have? Forty trillion dollars every year.
The supply of crude oil is most definitely an example of manipulated scarcity. What does OPEC do when the price of oil goes too low? They cut back production and cause an artificial scarcity so they can keep their profit margins up. If you can keep the production up and you can cut it back to increase profits that is a direct manipulation of the market. This artificial method affects multiple other areas of supposed scarcity such as food.
The availability of food is manipulated all the time. In the United States we even pay farmers to maintain a scarcity of certain foodstuffs to keep from glutting the market and driving the price down.  In addition, the manipulation of fossil fuels leaves its mark on prices, for as the price of oil and energy is raised, the price of production and distribution goes up.  The price and availability of fossil fuels are also changing the availability of food in another way: in an attempt to find something to replace oil countries have turned to Ethanol. The main source of Ethanol is corn and as more corn goes towards replacing oil, the price and availability of many foods are affected.
However, none of this is really necessary because we have experienced an explosion of science and technology in the last century. Our machines are more efficient and we have the means to create limitless amounts of energy. We simply don’t. We don’t because the profit mongers and power brokers don’t want us to. It is up to us to force them to change their ways.

Further References:
Investopedia: Scarcity
Solar Roadways: A fantastic but, futile idea
OPEC Will Increase Oil Production
Wikipedia: OPEC : Economics
Wikipedia: Agricultural Subsidies
Wikipedia: Corn Ethanol

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/4881843809

 

Dee Neely is a freelance writer, avid technologist and a member of The Zeitgeist Movement.

Being grateful for small mercies

Posted March 23rd, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has received a less than ecstatic welcome from many quarters – the tariffs are widely regarded as too small to deliver the dramatic market shift the Government is looking for.

Come on – let’s get real for a minute.

Look at what has just happened to Feed-in Tariffs. The sound of squealing brakes is almost deafening as PV projects over 50kW are being pulled up short. Small residential projects are unaffected, but the big investments were pouring into solar farms and large ‘rent your roof’ schemes, suddenly, sustainability doesn’t look quite so appealing to the financial sector.

The FiTs powering large PV projects were offering an annual return of over 10 per cent – it looked to good to be true and it was. It is not hard to see why venture capitalists were pouring into this market and why they are now turning tail and stampeding back out again. This is all to do with economics and nothing to do with saving the planet – we need to be clear about this.

And, against that backdrop, take a look at the RHI. The Government needs to cut the deficit; there is nothing left in the public coffers and, yet, it is proposing to spend £860m of public money to try and create a £4.5bn market in solar thermal, biomass and heat pumps.

We should be grateful for small mercies and we also need to respond. Air source heat pumps are not included in the first round of RHI tariffs, but that is only because a perfectly good technology has not been delivering on its promise. Only 13 per cent of the systems trialled by the Energy Saving Trust matched expectations – due partly to poor commissioning; incorrect sizing; bad installation and confused user operation.

If we can get this sort of thing right, the RHI offers a huge opportunity for our sector. Let’s take the carrot, say ‘thank you’ and make it work for us, our businesses and our customers.

For full details of the RHI click here.

David Frise is head of sustainability at the HVCA whose members are committed to delivering high quality, responsible and sustainable building services solutions. dfrise@hvca.org.uk

Read more at www.hvca.org.uk

 

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/4366334742

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