Getting rid of fossil fuels…

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As news of weather stations reading beyond the 400 parts per million of Carbon Dioxide comes in, I ask when and how will we be able to leave fossil fuels behind and therefore be able to avoid runaway global climate … Continue reading

Incineration considerations…

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The Gloucester incinerator (AKA: energy from waste facility). Well, my heart says ‘no’ but my head says ‘maybe’. It’s useful sometimes to analyse each part of the argument, rather than focussing on any single area. I’m reading the Complete Works … Continue reading

The Gloucester incinerator: public consultation event…

A small group of us cycled over to the second consultation event at Javelin park on Sunday, for some first hand information from the two remaining bidders and the representatives from the County Council.

The Complete Circle website

The Urbaser Balfour Beatty website

There were three Portakabins just by the car park, with the two bidders on either side. I went into the Complete Circle cabin first as I had already viewed all their factsheets and website material, so felt I knew the most about their scheme.

Well, after 10 minutes in there, I was pretty sure I knew more about their scheme than they did! I lost track of the number of times a couple of them said ‘i’ll have to ask someone else’. Their design is bland and bulky and at around 45 metres in height over most of the building, this presents a large intrusion in the local landscape. There were very few answers to some of my only slightly probing questions and I honestly felt like the object was to just display their website information without the ability to expand on it.

Next was the Urbaser & Balfour Beatty cabin, which was a marked improvement on the first bidders efforts, in a number of ways. The UBB team were technically better prepared and able to comment on and explain both the principles involved and their own scheme design + why they had altered some of the elements from the first consultation.

Their efforts were greatly helped by an interesting overall design, a real model of the facility and a computer fly-through. Their design is broken up into distinct sections, which fall in height along the building, giving a lower overall mass, also broken up by large green sections. Their technical people were able to answer all my questions and the overall impression was far more convincing and reliable.

The County cabin was last and was in many ways the important one, considering they are in charge of the tendering process. They were able to answer my questions and they seemed fully aware of the many issues involved, particularly surrounding the problem of getting to the magic 70% recycling rate (which only Austria have hit in Europe).

The next stage for them is to seek to co-mingle all the recyclable materials in a single bin (much like other districts), which would certainly boost the present 48% rate. Their example of Tewkesbury Borough Council going from 32% to 54% in a year, after introducing this type of scheme, is a good indicator. 48% could go to 60% in a year and get to 70% based on continuing to support and promote recycling.

My questions and issues:

1) Why no pre-incineration sorting of the ‘rubbish’? This was the main issue, given that so much of what people put into their black bins can be recycled.

2) What are the overall emissions, in terms of particles and CO2?

3) Will the emissions data be fed live onto the website?

4) What frequency of bin lorries will be required and will their be any non-local deliveries?

5) How will the ash be disposed of?

6) What is the CO2 output per tonne of waste?

7) What is the visual impact of the proposals? This was particularly interesting, given CABE’s response included the quote, ‘…fits seemlessly into the countryside.’!

I’ve also just sent off a query to UBB concerning wanting information on the WRATE system information which they are submitting. This will hopefully give an overall comparison figure for the NET emissions issue.

‘WRATE (Waste and Resources Assessment Tool for the Environment) software compares the environmental impacts of different municipal waste management systems.’

One of the main conclusions from the process that day was picking up on both bidders assertion that NET CO2 emissions would be reduced by more than 20,000 tonnes per year, when compared to landfill. I did ask if this included all the linked processes, such as all delivery vehicle movements, but neither bidder had this information with them, but this was included in their environmental assessment package.

The other major plus for the incinerator approach is the production of electricity. I forgot to ask about the proposed solar panels on the roofs, but energy production is certainly a very important element of the package.

So, the overall winners by some way were Urbaser Balfour Beatty. I’m going to have to look into the NET emissions figures further, partly because of the Methane issue – methane as a green house gas in more than 20 times more powerful than Carbon and is released in huge amounts from landfill.

I’m certainly not as opposed as I was and accept that landfill is not a good approach to waste management. My main concern is still the burning of waste which could otherwise be recycled, therefore making more efficient use of what are valuable and limited resources.

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Lower carbon economy – exit stage left…

This article just about sums up the state of play for the lower-carbon economy.

Guardian article: Green issues

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World Carbon emissions go down…!

Finally, world carbon emissions have gone down (2008-2009)!! It’s only 0.1% but it’s a solid start (particularly looking at the European countries). Everything has been shifted towards China and India, but the western industrialised countries are showing some significant shifts.

Of course, all of these countries have just been effectively exporting their carbon footprints to China for years, which is why we see the shifts, but there is now a global focus on the issue.

China is greening fast in some ways and now has a massive alternative energy industry. If more political and social pressure can be directed towards China, things might shift some more. But, China is industrialising at a time of awareness of global warming, whereas Europe has already done this.

To expect the people of China and India to not want to take advantage of all the benefits of industrialisation is not just unrealistic, it’s unfair. They want all the things which we take for granted, but which are also carbon heavy (cars, gadgets, holidays abroad, central heating, supermarket food, power, fridge-freezers, sewers and treatment facilities etc etc). Advanced renewable technologies will be the route to a cleaner world.

See the full size pdf image of the graphic: US Energy Information Administration 2008-09

See also a Guardian article about lowering of emissions. It’s looking quite positive, even if all the countries can’t agree on a solid way forward! There’s more data and knowledge on the issues than ever before and the renewable energy sector is starting to finally establish itself.

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New climate study – confused…?

The whole issue of carbon footprints seemed complicated, and that was before I read the following article…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/sep/09/carbon-emissions-planes-shipping

I knew the impacts of flying was big but now there is more detail on why, and over what timeframes.

As an aside, one of the comments was quite good.

Smogbound

9 September 2010 12:41PM

Personally I have always felt that if you need to fly ‘to get away from it all’ then its your entire lifestyle that you need to be changing, not your holiday destination.

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Sustainability challenge!

Up to this point, i’ve been working under the assumption that as part of the whole house renovation project, we would at some point get solar panels (photovoltaic panels – PV), which would generate electricity. This was one of the reasons for switching to the electric rads.

We’re now in a position to be able to go for a small solar PV system, located on the rear roof (above Jamie’s room, which faces just west of due south). I’ve got figures and costs from a PV company which one of our work colleagues used and there are a range of feed-in tariffs and grants running now, which means we can sell the electric we generate back to the grid (at roughly 30p a unit – it costs roughly 12p a unit to buy normally), and get a grant from a government sustainability programme.

Ok, so far so good, but what’s the SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE??

Well, the whole point of doing this is to become more sustainable, but there are other ways of achieving this aim. The challenge here is to work out what options there are, and then to compare them to see what the best overall option is. I suppose the point is not about ‘protecting the environment’, or ‘saving the planet’ – it’s more about the massive impact which climate change will have on people (and also all the other species).

The other thing i’ve noticed is how insulated we are against climate change, with the main impacts being economic, rather than physical. In the developing world, it’s both economic and physical (or even life-threatening – if your crops fail, you die). If the developed world has no need to change, it won’t, but it’s the developed and fast-developing countries (USA, Europe, India, China etc), which have the most power to change things). These types of countries will soon have to change, as there will be mounting economic pressure to do so, but I feel it will have to get pretty bad before it really kicks in (notice how the recent world recession has not really led to any sweeping policy changes). If we’re not seeing major changes during the worst global recession for 60+ years, what will it take?

I’ll be posting a series of updates about what info we’ve found out and some of the background issues. This might also give other people ideas and start an ECO REVOLUTION!!

Well, maybe not, but I might find out some interesting things and as a result, give us a way forward.