A recurring theme of mine is that policies aimed at “dealing with” or preventing climate change (as if we could) have a tendency to cause more harm than good, certainly overall, and often in their own terms. Anger on my part at the willingness of “greens” to damage and even destroy the environment in the name of climate change was on display when I wrote, inter alia, “Saving the Planet By Trashing It”i and “For Peat’s Sake”ii.

It is also my view that many of the problems experienced by the UK (and elsewhere) with regard to energy prices have been caused by the rush to renewables in the name of “net zero”. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many who are in favour of renewables and “net zero” seek to argue that what is needed to solve the energy crisis (shorthand for both dramatically rising prices and uncertainty of supply) is to step up our reliance on (inherently unreliable) renewables. I gave this argument short shrift in “Energy Through The Looking Glass”iii.

What follows is a summary of news articles in the mainstream media over the last few days, which seem to my jaundiced eye to support my belief that “green” policies often suffer from unintended consequences and usually end up making things worse.

Rewilding, or just a greenwashed land grab? It all depends on who benefits

This was the title to an articleiv which appeared on the Guardian website on 28th May 2022. I am pleased to see that writers at the Guardian are, perhaps, starting to recognise that “green” policies can have negative consequences. Rewilding is a case in point. Beloved of many at the Guardian or who share the Guardian mindset, it seems that it comes with its own particular set of problems, largely because “rewilding” can in reality be a form of “greenwashing” around “carbon” offsets:

The race for land to use for this kind of offsetting has been supercharged by a combination of government green subsidies such as environmental land management schemes, which pay farmers and landowners to rewild, and a global appetite for carbon markets. As the researchers Laurie Macfarlane and Miriam Brett point out, land markets in the UK are lightly regulated, and tax breaks encourage investment in both land and property. This system fast-tracks sales of large areas of the UK with little scrutiny.

In the UK, Scotland is the most affected: the average price of land, according to research by the estate agent Strutt & Parker, jumped by 87% in the last year. Some estates have seen a 333% price increase since 2018. Many of the landowners are colloquially and pejoratively titled “green lairds”, echoing the Highland clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries. The new Somerset-based venture Real Wild Estates recently said its business model was “making nature pay, by delivering sustainable business returns” for investors.

Part of the issue lies in offsets themselves. Many activists demand the UK reaches negative, not net zero, emissions – which will require significant domestic rewilding as well as huge financial flows to the global south. Offsets should be a last resort for residual emissions, reserved only to offset so-called hard to decarbonise sectors such as the steel industry. The current system provides impunity to corporations and the super-rich who can emit as much as they like so long as they plant enough trees later.

No doubt much of this criticism is justified. I share some at least of the Guardian’s anguish. Where I differ is that it strikes me as inevitable that rich people and corporations will seek out subsidies, tax breaks and all the rest of it, if they are made available by misguided and naive politicians. The Guardian’s conclusion strikes me as idealistic and equally naïve:

Rewilding should not be about profit and offsets, remote and alien from rural communities. The value of a real, democratic rewilding is that it doesn’t just secure a home for beavers and sequestered carbon dioxide – but for people too.

Secret sales: Community fears as land prices rocket for carbon offsetting forests

Speaking of naïve politicians, the Sunday Post website contains an articlev under the above heading, which develops the story, and makes the point more forcefully. It seems that there are many issues indeed resulting from “efforts to combat climate change”:

A planned forest backed by £3 million of public money has already been sold off market, we can reveal, as the secret sale of swathes of Scotland provokes rising concern.

Ministers hailed the proposed woodland in Sutherland as a landmark in the efforts to combat climate change when it was announced in December 2020, but the land has already been sold once and part of it is on the market again, with the public funds available a key selling part of the pitch to potential buyers seeking to offset their carbon footprint.

The so-called green rush by billionaires, investment firms, and big charities to buy thousands of acres of rural Scotland to create so-called carbon credits, to offset their own emissions or to sell, has triggered a booming market, with land prices spiralling upwards.

Communities and land reform campaigners warn Scotland is being sold in secret as buyers rush to secure Scottish Government grants aimed at securing net zero emissions by 2045.

Demand is unprecedented as prices of farmland in Scotland rose by 31% last year – compared to 6% in England – with a third of sales being carried out “off market” without publicity, while two thirds of estates sold were also bought in private deals.

How and why has this ridiculous and damaging state of affairs come to pass? According to the Sunday Post:

The Scottish Government aims to plant 18,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025 and forestry grants totalling around £72m will have to be handed out to wealthy landowners every year to ensure this happens.

The Forestry Grants Scheme has already awarded grants totalling £172m since it was set up in 2015. Ministers have also set aside £250m for grants aimed at restoring 250,000 hectares of degraded peat by 2030…

…The impacts on the land market are really the symptoms of a dysfunctional climate policy and relationship to natural capital, symptoms that are exacerbating land inequalities.

Dysfunctional climate policy, indeed. There seems to be a lot of it about.

COP26: ‘Serious lessons’ to be learned as Glasgow summit proves to be the most polluting COP in history

Sticking with Scotland, the Scotsman breaks the newsvi (funnily enough, news that I haven’t yet spotted on the websites of either the BBC or the Guardian) that COP 26 in Glasgow has emitted levels of greenhouse gases which have smashed the emissions records set by all the previous COPs. Residual greenhouse gas emissions apparently totalled 131,556 tonnes of CO2e. The opening paragraph sums up, in short order, so much that is wrong with policy:

Greenhouse gas emissions from the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow were nearly 30 per cent higher than first forecast, with the UK government using a firm in an offshore tax haven to buy carbon offsets in the wake of last November’s gathering of world leaders.

Higher than forecast, higher than previous COPs (205% more than the Paris COP), use of “carbon” offsets, offshore tax haven involvement – what a shambles. Extraordinarily, emissions are estimated to have totalled approximately 2.7 tonnes for each of the 38,462 delegates. Compare and contrast – the average person in the UK is, we are told, responsible for emissions of around seven tonnes of CO2e a year. And what did all these COP-related emissions achieve?

It comes amid mounting scrutiny of COP26’s legacy. Six months on, there is little progress on climate finance, and emerging evidence of countries turning back towards coal, sparked in part by the war in Ukraine and the resultant energy crisis.

The Government claims that COP26 achieved “carbon neutrality”, but some are sceptical as to how that was accomplished. Those pesky offsets again:

[A] major carbon offset strategy was pursued, with the government purchasing 136,720 tCO2 equivalent of carbon offsets across projects around the world…

…There are also concerns over how the UK government bought its offsets. While some carbon offsets were purchased at projects in Vietnam, Laos, Honduras, and the Pacific Ocean island nation of New Caledonia, Arup’s report notes that more than 40 per cent of the total – 58,839 units – went to a clean cookstove initiative in the West African country of Ghana…

However, the UK government purchased the units via ClimateCare Limited, a company based in the offshore tax haven of Jersey.

And it seems a lot of the organisation of the event leaves much to be desired:

The decision to sail a cruise ship up the River Clyde and use it to provide accommodation near to the Scottish Event Campus venue had a major environmental impact, generating approximately 7,350 tCO2e of emissions.

It also shows that despite vows in the COP26 event strategy to “effectively manage waste by repurposing or recycling wherever possible”, just 53 per cent of waste – nearly 61 tonnes – in the summit’s prominent blue zone was recycled.

It all reads as though it would have been far, far better, both for the environment and for the long-suffering UK taxpayer if the event had never taken place, or at the very least if all the hype and the ridiculously disruptive scale of it had been massively reduced.

Do wood burners add to air pollution in cities? Yes, say citizen scientists

This was the heading to an articlevii on the Guardian website on 29th May 2022. The sub-heading tells us: “Pioneering Bristol study blames the solid-fuel burners in people’s homes for breaches of World Health Organisation guidelines”.

The article actually makes the sort of points that we sceptics tend to make whenever we are confronted with near-hysterical reports and articles about supposedly appalling air quality in UK cities, given that our cities’ air has probably not been cleaner for decades if not centuries:

We’ve forgotten the journey we’ve been on with clean air. In the 1950s at least 4,000 people died in the smog in London in five days,” said Crawshaw. “That led to the clean air act, then natural gas started to get piped into homes in the 1960s…”

So what’s the problem? This:

The number of solid fuel appliances such as log burners installed in Bristol increased sevenfold in the decade after 2007, with just over 900 installations recorded in 2017…

…Crawshaw said: “Even if people burn clean, dry wood, those stoves are still grossly polluting compared with gas and electric.”

The smoke in the ward is not just coming from middle-class homes. There is a van-dwelling community in the area, with some burning wood to stay warm. Soaring energy costs are also driving some struggling families to use open fires again.

When we moved from our last home (which had a log burner) we made it a priority to replace the gas fire in our current home with another log burner. Part of our thinking was that apart from being very pleasant on miserable winter days and evenings, it also enables us to heat just one room, rather than the whole house. Given rising gas and electricity prices, it appears that others have arrived at the same conclusion. Our other reason for installing a log burner was in anticipation of this:

Millions warned of power cuts this winter

The articleviii with this heading also appeared on the Times website on 29th May 2022. For me, this was the key paragraph:

A minister said the briefing suggested that electricity could have to be rationed for up to six million homes at the start of next year, mostly at peaks in the morning and evening.

The report was prompted by a letter sent on 25th May 2022 by Kwasi Kwarteng, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, to National Grid ESO, in which he explained that he has written to the owners of the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations to ask them to stay open longer than planned. The sub-heading to the Times article was “Ministers delay closure of coal-fired generators over fear of gas shortages caused by Ukraine war”, but the reality is that the UK’s energy strategy is increasingly dysfunctional. That much is evident from the contents of Mr Kwarteng’s letter, which first of all states that his department has identified certain coal plant [sic] which could be considered as part of any potential solution to the risk of lack of capacity in the system next winter. Then he says that any frameworks agreed with the operators of such plants must ensure system stability, enable them to be reliably available over the winter and have the potential to generate significant amounts of electricity. Of course, this is the very desirable state of affairs that over-reliance on renewable energy has been sabotaging over the past few years. But then he goes on to reaffirm the recently published (and ironically named) British Energy Security Strategy, which includes reducing our dependency on imported fossil fuels, accelerate the transition away from oil and gas, yet “recognising the critical role fossil fuels will play as we deploy low carbon alternatives”. He concludes by saying that he remains committed to the government’s coal generation closure deadline of September 2024 and the government’s deadline for the phasing out of imports of Russian coal by the end of the year. What a shambolic and disgraceful state of affairs.

Anyone wanting to read the letter can find it reproduced at Paul Homewood’s websiteix.

Is nitrous oxide a climate risk? Yes, but doctors say effective pain relief in childbirth should be the priority

This is the heading to an articlex on the Guardian website on 31st May, the first of two articles on the same topic. The otherxi has the heading: “Experts have queried a report urging women against ‘laughing gas’ as pain relief during labour due to its environmental impact”.

Both articles are a response to a paper within the latest edition of Australasian Anaesthesia 2021xii, which arguably puts climate change ahead of pain relief. It tells us:

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG); it absorbs atmospheric infrared radiation, trapping heat with a cumulative global warming effect and resultant climate change. This has several adverse health implications including heatwave-related cardiovascular compromise, respiratory disease related to air pollution and altered patterns of infectious diseases.

It makes no mention of the fact that recent warming has reduced, rather than increased, the numbers of deaths worldwide from extreme temperatures. It concludes:

Nitrous oxide is used widely for the management of labour pain in Australia and New Zealand. While the medical literature acknowledges the lack of good quality evidence for its effectiveness, a common theme is that it is safe and convenient, and its use should therefore be continued. While it may be innocuous for the pregnant woman and unborn baby, that is certainly not the case for the environment. ANZCA’s statement on environmental sustainability illustrates that as anaesthetists we are “uniquely placed in that the choices we make at work can have an impact on our carbon footprint many times greater than that of our other day-to-day activities”. This sentiment is echoed by ASA25, ESA26 and the Royal College of Anaesthetists statements on environmentally-responsible anaesthetic practice. By educating medical staff and pregnant women about the carbon impact of N2O, ensuring that it is delivered and used as efficiently as possible and considering the use of more carbon-friendly [sic] alternatives, we can reduce GHG emissions from labour ward and help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

It takes a lot to bring Greenpeace and the Guardian (twice in a day) out against anything that might reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but this story has achieved that. I particularly liked this response:

Associate Prof Gino Pecoraro, president of Australia’s National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that while some pregnant women might be concerned about the environmental impact of their childbirth, alternative pain relief such as epidurals are not available at every hospital, especially outside of capital cities.

He added that nitrous oxide can be a more attractive pain relief option as it doesn’t restrict walking or movement ability to the extent epidurals do.

If you’re in rip-roaring pain during labour, carbon footprint might not be the thing you most want to discuss,” Pecoraro said. “During childbirth, some women wouldn’t care how many coal-fired power stations are needed to reduce their pain.”

Well, quite.

Conclusion

Never mind the pain. Just think of the climate.

Endnotes

i https://cliscep.com/2021/04/11/saving-the-planet-by-trashing-it/

ii https://cliscep.com/2021/06/29/for-peats-sake/

iii https://cliscep.com/2021/09/21/energy-through-the-looking-glass/

iv https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/may/28/rewilding-greenwash-land-schemes

v https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/community-fears-carbon-offsetting/

vi https://www.scotsman.com/news/national/cop26-serious-lessons-to-be-learned-as-glasgow-summit-proves-to-be-the-most-polluting-cop-in-history-3711928

vii https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/29/do-wood-burners-add-to-air-pollution-in-cities-yes-say-citizen-scientists

viii https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/millions-warned-of-power-cuts-this-winter-b7gl2ckx9

ix https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2022/05/29/fire-up-those-coal-plants-please/

x https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/31/is-nitrous-oxide-a-climate-risk-yes-but-doctors-say-effective-pain-relief-in-childbirth-should-be-the-priority

xi https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/may/31/linking-nitrous-oxide-to-climate-risk-is-yet-another-example-of-the-disdain-shown-to-womens-pain

xii https://www.anzca.edu.au/getattachment/a48de2f6-9591-4334-a06f-67d978b302ff/Australasian-Anaesthesia-2021

24 Comments

  1. ‘…policies aimed at “dealing with” or preventing climate change (as if we could) have a tendency to cause more harm than good, certainly overall, and often in their own terms.’

    Cultures favour the emergence of policies that benefit the culture, and are blind to any downside consequences. The ideal ‘solution’ to the apparent problem posed by any cultural narrative, is one that can never possibly solve the problem anyhow (which would kill the culture), and which pours money and resource forever into the culture’s icons and expansion and social influence. In the case of climate catastrophism, renewables fulfil this function brilliantly, and nuclear is shunned by so many adherents exactly because it actually has some practical value in reducing emissions while keeping the lights on. But the resulting damage from such ‘solutions’ is of the collateral kind, it is not deliberate, although no more acceptable for that. In a similar manner, the ‘solutions’ for the problem posed by the cultural narrative of critical race theory, are causing more racial tension and inequity than existed prior to its rise. And the ‘solutions’ for the problem posed by the cultural narratives around extreme trans rights, are not only failing to help trans people overall, they are causing far more sex-based inequity, indeed are pretty much geared to erasing lesbians and even women.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “The report was prompted by a letter sent on 25th May 2022 by Kwasi Kwarteng, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, to National Grid ESO, in which he explained that he has written to the owners of the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations to ask them to stay open longer than planned.”

    Kwasi ought to have words with fellow politicians.

    Air-Miles Alok for starters:

    Followed by Queen Nicola:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe Public, I was tempted to mention both of those incidents in the body of the article, but I felt it was already long enough. However, thanks for mentioning them – it’s well worth drawing attention to the virtue-signalling madness. I wonder how much CO2 was emitted as part of those explosions?

    Like

  4. I have always been dubious about the merits of rewilding. The very name sends a shiver down my spine. It implies that human agency is required in the process, when in reality abandonment is all that is required. If rewilding means planting trees, shooting deer and putting up miles of fences, it is misnamed.

    I also react viscerally to the notion that the public should in effect pay landowners to stop damaging their land. Again all that is required is abandonment. If no-one ever went to these places, they could more accurately be described as “wild” than if men and machines are managing it.

    Far too often schemes are of short duration, and are made to repair the damage of previous subsidies. A good example is the cutting of drains (“grips”) on the moors, which was subsidised for forty years, in order to increase productivity. Now the landowners of those same places are paid to fill in or block those drains in order to re-wet the peat. But if nothing had been done from the start, the peat would be in a better state now.

    I haven’t looked to see how long these agreements are. They might be as long as 25 years. But wild means abandoned in perpetuity. In some respects the very concept of “owning” wild land is a curious one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The first person I heard of recommending rewilding was George Monbiot. His was a radical version of the scheme, since it involved introducing rhinosceros into Wales. He’d already moved out of Wales when he made the proposal, so he may have had some ulterior motive.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Geoff – your Monbiot comment reminded me – https://www.monbiot.com/2009/01/09/skating-on-thin-ice/

    partial quote – “When heatwaves strike, climate scientists and environmentalists tend towards caution, explaining that though such events may be consistent with predictions they cannot be used as proof that climate change is taking place: only the long-running global trend is a reliable guide. If anyone is foolish enough to present a heatwave as clear evidence of manmade climate change, the deniers jump all over them. The same critics then use every snow flurry or frozen puddle as evidence of the collapse of global warming theory.

    The thought that I might never skate outdoors again feels like a bereavement. I pray for another cold snap, even though I know it will bring all the nincompoops in Britain out of their holes, yapping about a new ice age.”

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  7. Good to be reminded that once Monbiot was a reasonable and even-handed writer and commentator of the climate scene. Unfortunately not so much now.

    I presume it would have to have been the woolly rhinoceros that would have been reintroduced into Wales. Wonder where they would have got one? Would have made ascending Snowdon more exciting!

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  8. Introducing beavers seems to get UK advocates of rewilding shaking at the knees with excitement.

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2014/mar/23/weatherwatch-beavers-flood-control

    The benefits of beavers providing downstream flood reduction are often cited in the UK. Monbiot is particularly keen even making a presentation on Rewilding and Flooding to MPs if you can bear watching:

    Here in Canada, arguably the spiritual home of the beaver, they are considered a flood hazard and removal of beaver dams is common practice. Not only do beavers plug up culverts but they create upstream flooding by their extensive beaver ponds. But the largest hazard is failure of the beaver dams during large flood events. Despite beavers being lauded as clever builders, their dams are not engineered structures. The dams may reduce small flood events by the upstream ponding but when the dam fails, the downstream flood is more severe because of the sudden release of the ponded water. A classic be careful what you wish for!

    There are lots of examples on Google e.g.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270274585_Catastrophic_beaver_dam_failure_at_Chudnuslida_Lake_northeastern_British_Columbia

    Like

  9. potentilla,

    Thanks for that. I have often wondered about the wisdom (or otherwise) of reintroducing beavers to the UK. It seems like a nice idea, at a vague pie-in-the-sky sort of level – after all, we used to have beavers here, so reintroducing them seems like a nice thing to do. However, flooding problems struck me as the obvious problem potentially stemming from this new enthusiasm, and yet I couldn’t find anyone in the UK pushing back regarding this possible issue. So, thank you for confirming that my fears are not unfounded.

    Like

  10. On the subject of beavers potentially causing more problems than they solve:

    “Shoots of hope in Appalachian swamp as US larch tree is rescued from beavers”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/03/shoots-of-hope-in-an-appalachian-swamp-saving-marylands-last-american-larch-trees-aoe

    “Though protected in a cool, damp ‘frost pocket’, beaver dams are restricting water flow, threatening Maryland’s deciduous conifers…

    …Standing water was killing the larch, but repeated attempts to clear beaver dams from culverts under the road had been unsuccessful….

    …Natural water flow was restored through the swamp, but the beavers began to build dams underneath the bridges. While the benefits of beavers as a keystone species are well-known, their dams can prove problematic…

    …“We regularly visit the swamp to do maintenance on our beaver baffles,” says Landau. Baffles are long pipes used to mitigate the negative effects of beaver dams, such as flooded roads, damage to property and, in Finzel, preventing larch regeneration. The pipes divert some water to flow through the dam without breaching it and maintain the natural ecology of the wetland. Dams built under the bridges, however, must be removed. “Otherwise, the beaver dams cause the water to back up and flood the larch,” says Landau….”.

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  11. As I may have mentioned once or twice in these pages, paying landowners to plant trees is something I find incredibly annoying, principally because it’s unnecessary. Trees will establish themselves in suitable habitats, which will grow up as secondary forest, rather than plantation.

    In unsuitable habitats, on the other hand, planting trees is sometimes seen as a good idea, when it really isn’t. I speak particularly of planting trees on deep peat. My opinion of this is that it’s obvious that putting a plantation on a peat bog will not only wipe out the specialist species that make up the peat bog, it will also lead to net carbon dioxide emissions, if that is something you care about. This may seem counterintuitive, but there is much more carbon in the necromass of Sphagnum moss than there is in the biomass of a forest stand.

    I raise this matter because JK Rowling’s Scottish estate was reported to be planting trees on peat in a recent story: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-61672867

    The story was mostly about how local walkers had been fenced out, but one of the accompanying photos showed an old method of establishing trees on peat:

    It seems that although the net cost of planting trees is “obvious”, that the evidence base for that conclusion is fairly thin. There’s a fairly recent discussion at Mires and Peat: http://mires-and-peat.net/media/map23/map_23_01.pdf

    [Your browser might warn you that the pdf is unsafe, I think entirely due to the http: rather than https: at the front.]

    Like

  12. Thanks for the Rowling story, Jit. I’ve done some digging. She and her husband have received at least £970k in Scottish taxpayer-funded CAP payments for their Shepherdscleuch and Wardlaw estates since 2018, almost all of it related to forestry.

    When they bought the estates in 2016 they were almost treeless. Google Earth Pro has a satpic from 2009: bald uplands criss-crossed by sheep tracks. The current satpic at Google Maps is from 2020:

    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@55.4443019,-3.1514083,2141m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Hundreds of thousands of conifers planted in straight lines.

    I’m not a fan of sheep-munched moorland but such conifer plantations are even worse. Hardly anything lives in them. There might be a few finches in the treetops but down below it’s all darkness, silence and dense mats of dead needles.

    Harry Potter and the Bottomless Pit of Stupid Subsidies?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thanks Vinny. You really know how to cheer me up. Why get people to buy your books, when you can have the government take money off them and pass it to you directly?

    Like

  14. JK Rowling’s an interesting cross-over case for lefties. The new woke left hates her with a passion for her interventions against extreme transgender activism. I’ve loved her, for the first time, for that. My pinned tweet (the one that appears at the top of my Twitter profile, which I’ve not added to for 16 months) points to a subtle video of support for her, made soon after she made that stand:

    So there’s a leftie I love, despite what she probably believes about the imaginary climate crisis as she pockets stupid subsidies. But then there are lefties closer to hand here who I also love, despite this and that! The woke culture wars to my mind definitely overlap with climate but it’s never been a simple mapping.

    Like

  15. Extracts from Eric Reguly in the Globe and Mail (paywalled):
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-crops-for-ethanol-not-food-driving-hunger-crisis/
    “Sometime next year, as the food-price crisis evolves into a food-availability crisis, we may have to choose between feeding our cars and feeding the world’s poor.
    So far, feeding cars, SUVs and trucks is winning. Canada, the United States, Europe and other agriculture-rich regions are devoting ever-increasing amounts of their crop land to the feedstock that produces ethanol (made from corn or sugar cane) and biodiesel (generally from canola, soy, sunflower oils and animal fats).
    Turning food into fuel was always a morally dubious proposition; now it is a crime against humanity, as the war in Ukraine and the sanctions, embargoes and Black Sea blockades that accompany it raise food prices to unaffordable levels and create shortages in some poor countries. Basic economics says that grinding up food to make fuel both decreases the amount of food that can be exported and raises its price.
    Ethanol and biodiesel are nothing new. They came on strong in the U.S. about two decades ago and played a role in the food-price crisis of 2007 and 2008 that triggered political and economic instability, including riots, in many countries. The Arab Spring revolutions that began in Tunisia were partly due to rising prices. Droughts – climate change – and soaring oil, which peaked at US$147 a barrel in early 2008, took a bad situation and made it far worse.
    Today, 40 per cent of the U.S. food (**probably just corn) crop is devoted to making ethanol. Most gasoline in the U.S. contains 10 per cent ethanol, and President Joe Biden is setting new requirements that would increase that amount. Never mind that the environmental benefits of ethanol-laden gasoline are dubious at best, partly because corn-based ethanol has a lower heat value, so a car’s fuel economy suffers. But ethanol refineries create jobs and reduce the overall dependence on oil. In the Corn Belt of the Midwest, promoting ethanol is a vote-winner.
    Canada is charging ahead with biofuels, too. Last year, Imperial Oil, the country’s largest refiner, announced it will build a renewable diesel refinery at its Strathcona site near Edmonton. The new refinery will be fed by locally grown vegetable oils and “blue” hydrogen (made from natural gas with carbon capture and storage). The goal is to decrease the overall carbon intensity of Imperial’s fuel. The refinery will produce about one billion litres of biofuel a year.
    The midst of a food crisis – one with no end in sight – is no time for the West to boost biofuel mandates. The world needs less ethanol and other biofuels for cars and more food for humans. Any government that thinks otherwise is morally bankrupt.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I never thought I’d see a headline like this at the Guardian:

    “Net-zero rules set to send cost of new homes and extensions soaring”

    Inevitably (I suppose) watered-down by the secondary headline:

    “They came into force in England last week to help the UK hit environmental goals by 2050, but this means short-term pain for long-term gain”

    https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/jun/20/net-zero-rules-set-to-send-cost-of-new-homes-and-extensions-soaring

    “New building regulations aimed at improving energy efficiency are set to increase the price of new homes, as well as those of extensions and loft conversions on existing ones.

    The rules, which came into effect on Wednesday in England, are part of government plans to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. They set new standards for ventilation, energy efficiency and heating, and state that new residential buildings must have charging points for electric vehicles.

    The moves are the most significant change to building regulations in years, and industry experts say they will inevitably lead to higher prices at a time when a shortage of materials and high labour costs is already driving up bills.

    Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, a trade group for small and medium-sized builders, says the measures will require new materials, testing methods, products and systems to be installed. “All this comes at an increased cost during a time when prices are already sky high. Inevitably, consumers will have to pay more,” he says.

    Gareth Belsham, of surveyors Naismiths, says people who are upgrading, or extending their home, will be directly affected.

    “The biggest changes relate to heating and insulation,” he says. “There are new rules concerning the amount of glazing used in extensions, and any new windows or doors must be highly insulated.”

    The changes could mean an extra £3,000 added to the bill of an average home extension, according to Jonathan Rolande of the National Association of Property Buyers, a group of professionals aimed at raising construction standards.

    Homeowners extending may see the amount of space they have decrease, as walls will have to be thicker in order to comply with requirements for better insulation.

    Andrew Mellor, of PRP architects, says external walls will need to be about 7cm thicker than previously.”

    And much more in similar vein.

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  17. Well, it probably makes sense if you are wearing blinkers, have something holding your head rigidly facing front, and have something terrifying behind you.

    I presume someone has calculated the additional energy embodied in the extra insulation and that it is paid back by reduced energy loss (note: not in terms of dosh, but energy) within the lifetime of the asset.

    I also presume that people will be willing to live in these new houses, where the windows are so small that artificial light is required on a midsummer’s day, and which obstinately refuse to allow the merest draught of air in absent the judicious use of a half brick.

    Oh well.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “US to proceed with production of biofuels despite global food crisis
    Campaigners call to prioritise grain for human consumption over its use as a fuel”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/24/us-to-proceed-with-production-of-biofuels-despite-global-food-crisis

    “The US will press ahead with biofuels production, the deputy secretary for agriculture has said, despite increasing concerns over a global food crisis, and calls from campaigners to prioritise grain for human consumption over its use as a fuel.

    Jewel Bronaugh, the deputy secretary of agriculture, said US farmers could continue to produce biofuels without harming food production. “We are keeping food security top of mind, but at the same time we also want to remain steadfast in the support and promotion of biofuel,” she told journalists in London, where she met the UK government to discuss a possible trade deal and cooperation on food issues.

    She said biofuels could help to reduce the need for fossil fuels, and thus help to tackle the climate crisis, and were important in keeping down the price of fossil fuels. “We know they [biofuels] have a significant positive impact, not only on climate change, but on the affordability of gas [petrol], which is very important for the world economy,” she said.

    “There are also opportunities for increasing jobs – a lot of significant benefits there, which we feel are important. We will continue to promote biofuels as a sustainable fuel, especially at a time when gas prices are so high,” she added.

    The US has for years been the world’s biggest producer of ethanol for use as a transport fuel, usually blended with petrol and distilled from maize, and one of the biggest producers of biodiesel, from oils including soya.

    Joe Biden is facing a tough set of mid-term elections for the US Congress this autumn. The rising cost of living, higher fuel prices and concerns over the economy are causing his team disquiet as they try to avoid a pummelling in the polls.

    Many US farmers benefit from biofuel production, which offers them an increased market for their corn and oil. Removing or reducing that market would be highly controversial in many key farming states….

    …Bronaugh’s robust defence of biofuels came as experts and green campaigners raised the alarm over the diversion of food resources into fuel capacity at a time when many developing countries are facing widespread hunger, and in developed countries food prices are rising sharply. The causes of the food price rises are complex, including the depletion of reserves during the pandemic, rising fuel costs as a result of the Ukraine war, and the impact of extreme weather, driven by the climate crisis.

    But biofuels are also having an impact, according to two studies published this week. One, by the Transport and Environment campaign group, found that the EU and the UK were pouring 19m bottles of cooking oil into petrol engines each day, despite severe constraints on production owing to the Ukraine war.

    The other, by the Green Alliance thinktank, found that if the land abroad used to grow bioethanol for use in the UK alone were given over to food crops instead, an extra 3.5 million people a year could be fed, lowering the impact on undernourishment caused by the Ukraine war by about 25%-40%….”.

    Like

  19. “Japan urges 37 million people to switch off lights”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-61947315

    “Japan’s government has urged people in Tokyo and its surrounding area to use less electricity on Monday, as it warned that supplies will be strained as the country faces a heatwave.

    The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry expects demand for power to be “severe” this afternoon local time.

    It said people should switch off unnecessary lights but still use air conditioning to avoid heatstroke.

    For weeks, officials have warned of a power crunch as temperatures rise….

    …In a statement on Sunday, the ministry said that excess generating capacity for electricity was expected to drop to 3.7% on Monday afternoon in Tokyo and eight surrounding prefectures. It views a buffer of 3% as necessary for stable power supply.

    The government asked people to turn off unnecessary lights for three hours from 15:00 Tokyo time (07:00 BST) while “properly using air conditioning and hydrating during hot hours”….

    …Japan’s power supply has been tight since an earthquake in its northeastern region in March forced some nuclear power plants to suspend operations.

    Officials have also closed several aging fossil fuel plants in an attempt to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

    These issues, along with a surge in demand for electricity, have resulted in a power squeeze…

    …The news comes after Australian officials urged households in New South Wales – a state which includes the country’s biggest city Sydney – to switch off their lights in the face of an energy crisis….”

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  20. Why indeed?

    “Why are we feeding crops to our cars when people are starving?
    George Monbiot
    Modern biofuels are touted as a boon for the climate. But, used on a large scale, they are no more sustainable than whale oil”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/30/crops-cars-starving-biofuels-climate-sustainable

    “What can you say about governments that, in the midst of a global food crisis, choose instead to feed machines? You might say they were crazy, uncaring or cruel. But these words scarcely suffice when you seek to describe the burning of food while millions starve.

    There’s nothing complicated about the effects of turning crops into biofuel. If food is used to power cars or generate electricity or heat homes, either it must be snatched from human mouths, or ecosystems must be snatched from the planet’s surface, as arable lands expand to accommodate the extra demand. But governments and the industries that they favour obscure this obvious truth. They distract and confuse us about an evidently false solution to climate breakdown.

    From inception, the incentives and rules promoting biofuels on both sides of the Atlantic had little to do with saving the planet and everything to do with political expediency. Angela Merkel pushed for an EU biofuels mandate as a means of avoiding stronger fuel economy standards for German motor manufacturers. In the US, they have long been used to prop up the price of grain and provide farmers with a guaranteed market. That’s why the Biden administration, as the midterm elections loom, remains committed to this cruelty.”

    True, but overly-simplistic. “Green” pressure groups and charities pushed for it. An ultra-quick internet search this morning produced this in no time at all:

    https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_offices/zimbabwe/our_work/sustainable_bio_fuels_development_project/

    “The WWF-Zimbabwe Country Office with financial support from the European Commission (EC) is implementing a four and a half year bioenergy project entitled, “Biofuels Policies and Practices for the Sustainable Socio-economic Development of Zimbabwe”. The project is working with communities in Mutoko and Mudzi districts in the Mashonaland East province of Zimbabwe. Partners and associates on the project include; Environment Africa, University of Zimbabwe, Department of Research and Specialist Services, the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Mutoko Rural District Council and Mudzi Rural District Council.”

    Greenpeace has used biodiesel in the past:

    https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2012/11/19/greenpeace-supplying-power-via-biodiesel-powered-mobile-pv-hubs/

    And, as George writes in his article, self-styled environmentalists are still pushing for biofuels:

    “…Now the energy company Ecotricity has relaunched a plan to turn 6.4m hectares of the UK – over one quarter of our land area – into feedstock for biogas plants. Ecotricity’s founder, Dale Vince, has made the astonishing claim that “it’s a plan with no downsides”. But, as critics have been trying to point out to him, this scheme would incur enormous ecological, carbon and food opportunity costs. In other words, the land could either be used for growing food; or, if it ceased to be used for food production, would draw down more carbon and harbour more wildlife if it were rewilded. Biogas production has also triggered severe pollution events, caused by spreading the residue back on to the land, which is a crucial part of Ecotricity’s plan, or by leaks and ruptures. It’s the worst land use proposal I’ve ever seen in the UK.

    When I challenged Vince about these issues, he told me: “We’re not the big bad corporate. We’re environmentalists that get things done, and often enough when we start something new we upset the settled view of things.”…”.

    The reality is that it was sceptics who first cried foul when the “green” rush to biofuels first started, and we watched, aghast, the environmental damage it was causing. However, well done “greens” for catching up. Better late than never. George’s conclusion is worrying though:

    “But we can’t use such fixes to solve our climate crisis. To leave fossil fuels in the ground, we should change our energy system: our need to travel, our modes of transport, the fuel economy of our homes and the means by which we heat them.”

    Those comforts we enjoy, and which our grandparents aspired to but could largely only dream of? Forget them. They’re history if some people get their way. Our grandchildren may have to suffer the same blighted lives as our grandparents.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Like

  22. funny how years ago us ignorant few thought Drax & biofuels were mad.
    but now the MSM/Press seem to think they are the first to highlight the problems.

    Like

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