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Friday, 31 October 2014

Arguments against FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles)

I've just encountered this interesting article on Clean Technica which presents a number of arguments against Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs).

First, it seems that companies are using natural gas to source hydrogen. That obviously goes against the principle of providing a 'green' vehicle in the first place, and negates it. This is what Julian Cox says on the issue:

There are no such environmental benefits attributable to hydrogen either now or in any foreseeable future economic reality. On the contrary, hydrogen is a gross threat to efforts to tackle emissions as a result of public policies based on a false environmental premise and by grossly misleading advertising combined with incentives targeting consumers most at risk of deception by messaging citing the alleviation of environmental concerns as a value proposition.

The Ford Motor Company says this:

“Currently, the most state-of-the-art procedure is a distributed [on-site] natural gas steam reforming process. However, when FCVs are run on hydrogen reformed from natural gas using this process, they do not provide significant environmental benefits on a well-to-wheels basis (due to GHG emissions from the natural gas reformation process).”

And Tesla says this:

“Fuel Cell is so bullshit, it’s a load of rubbish. The only reason they do fuel cell is because…, they don’t really believe it, it’s something that they can…, it is like a marketing thing – but the reality is that if you took a fuel cell vehicle and you take the best case for a fuel cell vehicle in terms of the mass and volume required to go a particular range as well as the cost of the fuel cell system, and then you know, if you took the best case of that, it does not even equal the current state of the art of lithium ion batteries and so there is no way for it to become a workable technology.”

The alternative to obtaining hydrogen from natural gas is obtaining it from steam methane reforming:

Will hydrogen also become cleaner over time? No. EVs and FCVs are a fork in the road. One leads to renewables owing to direct compatibility and the other leads to natural gas. Natural gas is a cheap and abundant resource that comes out of the ground with energy potential for self-disassembly into hydrogen and CO2. Steam methane reforming is economically unassailable as a method of hydrogen production by clean but more complex methods.  

It seems to me there is enough evidence here to cast serious doubt on FCEVs, if not opting for complete rejection of them, at least those that use hydrogen sourced from gas.

But what do you think?  


Friday, 5 September 2014

Establishment Eco-Crimes

The Establishment’s greatest crime is to bring our planet to the brink of environmental disaster

Earlier this week The Guardian reported that two secret funders of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), former chancellor Nigel Lawson’s climate-sceptic think-tank, are also linked to the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Neil Record is founder of a currency management company and an IEA trustee. Industrialist Lord Nigel Vinson is the life Vice-President. According to the Charity Commission, Vinson has given the GWPF £15,000. Record meanwhile refused to comment, stating that it was a private matter.

This isn’t much of a surprise, and in fact lays bare, again, the Establishment’s greatest crime – pushing our planet ever onwards to the brink of planetary disaster.

According to the article by Damien Carrington, the IEA has admitted accepting funding from fossil fuel companies and has also argued against climate change mitigation. It promotes climate change denial and has a history of attacking climate science. It’s stance on climate change is brazenly announced in the article by Robert L. Bradley Climate Alarmism Reconsidered which it featured on its website in 2004, in which Bradley states:

“Government intervention in the name of energy sustainability is the major threat to real energy sustainability and the provision of affordable, reliable energy to growing economies worldwide. Free-market structures and the wealth generated by markets help communities to best adapt to climate change.”

According to ExxonSecrets, the American Friends of the Institute for Economic Affairs has received $50,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

So, no surprise to find either that the IEA is in cahoots with other right-wing think tanks and lobby groups when it comes to attacking climate science. In July this year, the IEA featured on its website a short article written by Ryan Bourne who is the Head of Public Policy at the IEA but also the Head of Economic Research at the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS).

The article argued against silencing Lord Lawson stating that he had much to contribute with regard to an economic response to climate change and that we shouldn’t leave climate change to the scientists.

The IEA website has also hosted the arguments of economist Professor Colin Robinson, of the University of Surrey, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, worked for many years in the oil industry. There have been many others appearing on the site taking the same or a similar stance. You can read all about them on Denierlist. Professor Michael Beanstock, for example, has accused climate scientists of misusing statistics, describing the greenhouse effect as an illusion and arguing that climate change is really down to the sun.

Interestingly enough, according to George Monbiot, not once has the BBC challenged the IEA about its claim to be an independent organisation. Given that the media is among those institutions identified by Owen Jones as part of The Establishment, this, to my mind, supports his view that it is basically a racket, not just with regard to preserving privilege from the rich but also with regard to preventing and obstructing real action on climate change.

Additional notes:

Friday, 15 August 2014

How Denmark prioritised wind energy

This article on the Danish wind energy sector is fascinating. The Danes made a success of it with three simple steps: make wind energy a priority, subsidise it so the market can grow and finally help consumers to pay for it.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Global onshore wind heading for install of 53GW per year (RENeweconomy)
Bloomberg New Energy Finance has estimated that the world will add an average of 50-53 gigawatts of new onshore wind energy capacity a year out to 2020.

How far away is grid parity for residential battery storage? (RENeweconomy)
It is now generally recognised that rooftop solar has reached “socket parity” – meaning it is comparable or cheaper than grid prices – in many countries over the last few years. The big question for consumers and utilities is when will socket parity arrive for solar and battery storage?

Citigroup says global solar prospects getting brighter
Leading investment bank Citigroup has painted an incredibly bright future for solar energy across the globe, arguing that its rapid expansion will be driven by “pure economics” and the growing need for diversity.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Germany set for record wind energy installation

Policy changes are driving record levels of German wind energy installation

You can't trust Graham Lloyd on climate change reporting

According to this piece by Roz Pidcock in RE New Economy (originally sourced from Carbon Brief), an article in The Australian newspaper on deep ocean cooling is misleading because it misses out numerous important aspects of the research upon which it was based (conducted by Carl Wunsch of Harvard University).

The article was written by Graham Lloyd who surmises that:

“The deep oceans have been cooling for the past two decades and [so] it is not possible to say whether changes in ocean heat adequately explain the “pause” in global warming”.

Wunsch has now taken The Australian and Graham Lloyd to task on this saying that Lloyd 'cherrypicked' the research and missed key points. In essence, Wunsch's research finds that although some parts of the ocean are cooling, not all of it is. The cooling signal in fact is very weak, while other parts of the ocean provide strong warming indications. The research is therefore very clear: the ocean, overall, is warming. 

Graham Lloyd is The Australian's Environmental Editor based in Sydney, so you might expect him to know better, however, it is clear that his view on climate change cannot really be trusted because this is not the only article he's written that questions man-made climate change. As you scroll down the list of articles on his bio on The Australian, you come across an article suggesting there are doubts on the climate consensus, and then another one stating that Australia's peak body of earth scientists can't come to a position on climate change.

Lloyd is also highly critical of wind turbines as evidenced by his piece warning of the (non-existent actually) dangers of low-frequency noise from wind turbines. Ketan Joshi, however, takes this nonsense apart fairly effectively.

My opinion is that this piece in Hot Whopper very accurate describes Lloyds, and The Australian's, attitude to environmental issues - spinning Big Fat Lies.

Monday, 2 June 2014

WHOA!! Solar freakin roadways!! - Seriously though, this is a brilliant idea. Let's do this!!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Thursday 20th February 2014

More than Three Quarters of the Public Back Renewable Energy

Guest post by Eve Pearce

New Government figures show solid support in Britain for renewables despite green efforts coming in for recent tongue-lashings from politicians and sections of the media. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has just released the results of its latest quarterly survey of public attitudes, which showed that 77% of adults support the use of renewable energy sources. This new data is more welcome news after previous figures issued last summer showed growth in the UK's green market, with renewables being the strongest sector.

It might have been expected that public backing would have slumped, following claims from energy giants that green subsidies add to their costs, together with negative comments from ministers. However, the Energy Department's latest summary of key findings, drawn from “wave 8” interviews carried out in December 2013, found the opposite. In fact there was a tiny rise in support from the previous quarter, wave 7, where 76% of people responding said they backed use of renewable energy to supply electricity, fuel and heat.

Support for Solar and Wind
The detail of the latest DECC findings showed that solar power had the greatest public support of any type of renewable energy, with 81% of people expressing backing and just 5% opposing the technology. These figures aren't all that surprising when you consider that around half a million homes in the UK have so far installed solar panels, cutting their own bills and selling surplus energy produced to the grid. In addition, unlike other green power sources, solar energy has recently been talked up by Government – with energy minister Greg Barker going so far as to claim that installing panels can beat pensions as an investment. Green energy firms such as Ecotricity are also using solar power on a more ambitious scale, by creating large sun parks to power homes and businesses.

Solar wasn't the only technology backed by survey respondents, as 64% of people supported onshore wind. While slightly down from 66% in the previous quarter, this is still a high figure, coming at a time when wind power has been subjected to an onslaught of criticism. Offshore wind achieved an even higher approval rating, at 72% of respondents. Wave and tidal power won 71% backing, while biomass held steady at 60% support, as in the previous quarter.

Energy Efficiency
As well as showing support for green energy sources, a large majority of respondents were interested in saving energy in their homes, with 75% saying they gave either “a lot” or “a fair amount” of attention to this issue. The topic of insulation wasn't included in the latest DECC survey, but previous questionnaires found that the majority of people had either already installed loft insulation or were intending to do so, as well as installing double glazing. There are hopes that more homes will carry out energy-saving improvements via the Government's Green Deal, which is being supported locally by Bristol City Council. It has launched a multi-million pound drive to save energy in the city during 2014 before it becomes European Green Capital in 2015. This includes insulating blocks of flats. Energy efficiency is also something which individual householders increasingly bear in mind when carrying out all types of improvements and repairs to homes in the Bristol area and across the UK.

Lack of Enthusiasm for Fracking
By contrast with the high levels of backing for renewables and energy-saving in the DECC survey, fracking was given an unenthusiastic response. As you'd expect after all the media coverage in recent months, there has been a rise in awareness of the issue – with 52% of people now aware of shale gas, compared to just 32% back in July 2012. However, only 27% of people supported fracking, while 21% opposed it – with almost half of respondents, 48%, saying they were undecided on the issue. This was the first time the questionnaire had included a question about levels of support. The low level of approval came despite David Cameron's backing for the technology and claims that it could cut energy bills. This is something he has stepped up in recent weeks since the research was carried out.

All in all, the survey showed that, despite all the much-publicised claims of public disillusionment with green issues, there is still a general support for renewables and energy-saving measures, but that fracking does not enjoy the same level of enthusiasm.

Monday, 20 January 2014

CSP in Saudi Arabia

An interview with Michelle Davies, head lawyer for all things renewable at the British law firm Eversheds. Michelle has worked with governments and companies across the Middle East on their solar and wind power

Friday, 11 April 2014

Residents Parking Zones - No real other choice

Congestion in Bristol has been atrocious for decades, and it has been one of the issues on which the present Bristol Mayor, George Ferguson, stood for office at the Mayoral elections. Before his election, transport policy in Bristol with regard to measures to reduce congestion was characterised by constant party-political bickering which basically got the city nowhere.

The Mayor has chosen to act fast and decisively with regard to cutting congestion. A central plank of his policy approach has been Residents Parking Zones (RPZs) which aims to cut parking for free in residential streets, which has the effect of clogging Bristol streets with cars thereby adding to congestion and which is also a menace to cyclists and pedestrians alike.

However, the response has been angry and vitriolic with certain districts of the city, particularly Ashley, coming out in open rebellion.

Ideologically driven

The debate quickly became very nasty, leading me to suspect that it was being ideologically driven by persons unknown. At one point recently a World War 2 Sherman tank was brought out on to the streets of Clifton as a publicity stunt.

An ideologically driven campaign against Bristol Mayor George Ferguson? Who would be behind such a tactic? One group, Bristol News (known on their Twitter account as Real Bristol News) is clearly in the vanguard with almost every Tweet and Facebook Group post presenting an onslaught against the Mayor.

My suspicions are directed against Bristol’s ‘far left’ community (I should at this point assert my centre left political stance – I am opposed to both the far left and, very definitely, the far right, political positions), particularly the Trotskyist members of the Social Equality Party and the Socialist Workers Party. My reasons for doing so are drawn from a very visible attempt to dominate the debate at Occupy Bristol’s camp on College Green in 2012 where various speakers in debating circles tried to push a 1970’s style far left agenda. This included at the time, a quite aggressive onslaught against Bristol Green Party (and the Green Party in general) of which I was, until just recently, a member. That onslaught was continued over subsequent years following the Occupy Bristol campaign and continues still, particularly in response to the Green Party’s decision to enter George Ferguson’s Mayoral cabinet and thus to work with him as far as possible rather than choosing not to have a voice inside the cabinet. The debate has steadily grown nastier, characterised by quite dirty politics.

This then is the background to the present debate on the issue of RPZs. I am not saying that all the critics of George Ferguson’s policies are potentially Trotskyists, or even of the far left. Far from it in fact. There are some very legitimate concerns with regard to the issue, but the more vitriolic statements against the Mayor appear to be ideologically driven in my view.

Consider this statement, on Twitter, put out today by Real Bristol News:

“@OldMarket @GeorgeFergusonx We will challenge him on each and every thing he does until he’s thrown out by the electorate”

In essence, this statement is basically an admission of a targeted hate campaign against the Bristol Mayor.

So, lets now get on to the issue of RPZs directly, particularly with regard to why the Mayor is resorting to such a strategy. In an explanatory letter within the Bristol Post, Mr Ferguson had this to say:

“WE all need to ask what sort of city we want? Congestion has been threatening business, tourism, health and our quality of life at the heart of this city for 20 years or so. Bristol's transport woes have dominated local headlines with calls to action from every quarter. The residents' parking zones are one part of a big picture including the spending of hundreds of millions on improved public transport across the city region. If we fail to bite the bullet with this relatively straight-forward demand management, we shall be faced with increased congestion and worsening air quality resulting in major fines to the city.

Headlines of 'Gridlock!' or 'Worst congestion in the UK!' will eventually drive business out of Bristol. It is currently estimated that congestion already costs the city region around £400 million a year. To put it bluntly, if we don't sort it out we are stuffed! From the beginning of this debate I have made it clear that we need a flexible approach that is tailored to local conditions, but that the principle, which is a strategic one, is not up for negotiation.

Bristol is now the last city in the UK without an effective network of residents parking schemes, and most cities in Europe have taken a much more radical approach. In Bristol we do virtually nothing to discourage car-borne commuters from treating the city's central residential areas as a free car park. The result is a growing swathe of the city with little or no room for customers and visitors to park during the day. It is dead space that is holding back our local economy.”


“In the few areas of Bristol where schemes have been implemented the worst fears have not been realised, adjustments have or are being made as a result of experience and businesses have generally found that residents parking does not kill business. I understand that in Cotham Hill, pay and display is so successful that some businesses there have asked for it to be extended to Saturdays! There is clearly a need for more flexible arrangements when residents' parking applies to 18 more neighbourhood areas, some with very different characteristics. I have studied the initial proposals put forward by officers, which some people seem to think are set in stone, and expect the revised cabinet report to include more measures to support business movement and to resolve boundary issues, among others. If I could muster up a solution that allows unlimited free parking and freedom of movement AND resolves parking congestion, traffic congestion and air quality, I would. But I'm afraid that such an approach simply does not wash.”

And finally:

“We have to accept that road space is at a premium, that the citizens of Bristol, young and old, are owed a healthier and safer future, and that if we don't start reclaiming our streets for the local community, we shall watch Bristol fall into decline. I shall simply not let that happen.

George Ferguson
Mayor of Bristol”

The question is, did the Mayor REALLY have any other option?

I posted a question on the Bristol Cyclists Facebook Group asking people what they thought of RPZs. Out of a sample of 17 replies on the thread (there are more than that now as it’s a continuing debate) four were against RPZs and five were in favour with seven other general comments about buses and other transport issues. I would have expected a cyclists group to be overwhelmingly in favour of RPZs this didn’t seem to be the case, but neither were they overwhelmingly opposed either, the point being is that responses seemed to be fairly balanced, as I believe is the general opinion on this issue throughout Bristol. However, to read the debates online you would think that most people are opposed, and I simply don’t think that is the case. Even amongst the opposition, it is simply more admirable to conduct the debate in a reasonable and polite manner rather than indulging in personal attacks and vitriol.

Looking at the bigger picture however, what is really going on is a big game of ‘divide and rule’ on the part of central government. It works like this.

Central government is basically biased towards the gigantic global motor industry and is also subjected to lobbying by pro-car motoring groups such as the RAC and the AA. The deregulated, privatised bus companies are businesses, which means they have to make a profit which in turn generates dividends for their shareholders. Bristol City Council, like other local authorities across the country, suffers from the fact that its hands are tied by central government legislation and also that it’s subjected to cuts in local transport funding. This means that it can only do so much to improve local public transport. The rest is up to the bus company (First) and central government.

So, what happens, in effect, is that the the bus company and the government, push the matter of congestion on to local government and local communities, and then watch as council versus cyclist versus motorist indulge in seemingly endless squabbles with no perceivable end thereby enabling the bus company and the government to maintain business as usual.

Some people accuse the Mayor of being a dictator. Perhaps he is. Perhaps he has to be in order to get something done.


Because there are a certain proportion of motorists, outside those who can’t change their travel behaviour for legitimate and understandable reasons, who WON’T change their travel behaviour.

And then, when there are efforts to improve the situation by council or government legislation, they are all too willing to dehumanise other road users, particularly cyclists, and whine about ‘a war against the motorist’. Some motorists, thankfully a minority, are also apparently all too willing to indulge in personal attacks, even occasionally physical violence, against cyclists. This has got to stop.

I think the Mayor is choosing RPZs and other tactics simply because the government and the bus company have left him with very little other choice, other to just let things carry on as they have been and let Bristol stagnate further into a mass mess of congestion, the adverse effect on business that results from that and the continuing war between motorist and cyclist.

Let’s actually have a closer look at the constraints under which Bristol City Council has to operate with regard to its public transport policy.

The government’s spending review in 2010 cut funding to local authorities for transport spending by 28 percent. It was also announced that the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) would be cut by 20 percent from 2012-13. Furthermore, the Department for Transport (DfT) changed the formula for funding local authorities for the statutory free travel scheme for older people and for those with the disabilities. According to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) this has resulted in an overall cut in transport funding for local authorites of £60 million.

These cuts in turn mean that local authorities have to implement cuts in services in their local area.

According to the Campaign for Better Transport, in Bristol there have been overall cuts to bus services of around 4 percent since 2011. In general Bristol has maintained a good and constant level of spending on bus services without cutting services. The Mayor did look into making cuts at one point but changed his mind following campaigns by local groups. Nevertheless the budget for bus services in Bristol has fallen from £3,169,770 in 2011/12 to 3,040,430 in 2013/14.

What do the bus operators themselves say?

Simon Posner, Chief Executive of CPT, had this to say:

“Local bus services are simply the lifeblood of communities up and down the country, and account for over 60 per cent of all public transport journeys. As well as access to work and leisure activities, the bus is often the only way for people to reach vital public services such as health and education. And the benefits of a vibrant, healthy bus industry don’t stop there. Buses make a significant contribution of more than £2 billion to the economy, and provide 124,000 direct jobs whilst supporting many more through the supply chain.

The difficult economic climate has taken its toll on the local bus market. The industry continues to foster partnership working with local authorities believing that this is the key to delivering the very best services for the local area.

However it is a fact of life that the commercial sector simply cannot provide a bus service to every corner of the country. It is very regrettable therefore that local authority budgets have been squeezed to the point where support for some socially necessary bus services has to be cut or withdrawn altogether.”

So in essence, alongside the cuts in funding passed to local authorities, the bus companies themselves are suffering economically from the recession. Robert Montgomery, Managing Director of Stagecoach UK, has also made the point that significantly less public investment goes into buses compared with other transport modes. You can read that as meaning that central government still places road transport as its highest priority.

A recent report by the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) added that although buses are the backbone of public transport in regional cities they are largely ignored in the national policy debate.

This sets the background for what is happening in Bristol with RPZ’s. In essence, local authorities are having to do more with less. This, understandably, affects the type of policies they attempt to implement.

Critics of RPZs in Bristol have regularly stated that there can be no attempt to restrain car use without better public transport. In one sense they have a point, however Bristol is actually doing better than many cities judging by the Campaign for Better Transport’s Car Dependency Scorecard 2012 in which Bristol local transport planning with regards to schools scored highest. Accessibility to primary schools is actually better by walking or by public transport than be car. If that is true, we then have to look at how many parents actually DO take their children to primary school by car. If is a high number, then, given the findings of the Scorecard, we might then have to look at other factors, such as the issue of time in correlation with work pressures, or perhaps, the issue of laziness. Or in other words, how many parents know that it’s easier to walk or take the bus but choose to drive anyway, regardless? And if so, why?

This same question also applies to commuters travelling into work and to shoppers travelling into Bristol city centre to shop. How many of you genuinely have no other option and how many actually use the car because it is the easier or more fashionable option?

With regard to measures to counter driving and car use, according to the Car Dependency Scoreboard, Bristol is currently (2012) doing relatively poorly, coming in the bottom third (17 out of a total 26) with regard to measures to reduce car use. London, understandably, comes out top with its congestion charge and other measures.

I suspect that is why the Mayor is choosing to adopt the policies he is trying to implement. At a basic level, I think maybe the Mayor may have thought to himself "right, I've had enough of this shit, I am going to do something", and actually, you know what, I am inclined to applaud him for that, particularly as he has, in effect, willing to step into no-mans land and draw some of the fire that is constantly pitched against cyclists. The Mayor has now become a target, and that takes guts.

RPZs might not actually be the right method, time will tell on that, but it might actually work. However, trying to sabotage such measures before they've even been tried out, is, in my opinion, a request to return to business as usual, and it’s quite clear that business as usual is not an option anymore if people want to see Bristol move on and improve.

I also think that the rebellion against RPZs can be seen, in part, as an attempt by some motorists to preserve the dominance of the motor car in Bristol (the measures, be they an RPZ or a congestion charge are basically seen as threats to motorists privileged position which must be eliminated).

The answer is to wait and see. Give the mayor some slack. Allow the RPZs a trial period at the very least. If it doesn't work, we can try something else. But in the face of people not wanting at least to try it out, my rather reluctant response, and it is reluctant because I would much prefer for people in Bristol to work together on transport issues, can be expressed succinctly in a simple word.



Buses in Crisis Campaign for Better TransportCar Dependency Scoreboard 2012 Campaign for Better Transport

Energy & Environment Dates 2012