We’re ruled by idiots aren’t we?

Asked about the “major challenges” of his role advising the Government, Prof Mackay told a Department of Energy and Climate Change newsletter: “One difficult challenge is the way in which economic activity and growth currently is coupled to buying lots of stuff and then throwing it away.

“When a fridge, clothes-washer, or microwave develops a fault we throw it away instead of repairing it. Car manufacturers love us to buy a new car every few years.”

Prof MacKay, who wrote the book “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air” and teaches at Cambridge University, claimed that products could be taken apart at the end of their lifetimes so that parts can be recycled.


We already do this
.

Generally known as the “scrap metal market”.

Fool.

76 comments on “We’re ruled by idiots aren’t we?

  1. “Car manufacturers love us to buy a new car every few years”

    Well, yeah, they would. But according to the EPA in the US, the average life of a car on the road is 200,000 miles compared to 100,000 miles in the 1960s and 1970s.

    So, what’s he on about?

  2. My last washing machine died due to a failed spider. Not economically repairable and all that; needed a whole new basket and spider, and a new drum because that was damaged too. Looking around the internets, there does seem to be a consistent problem with this; the spiders are made out of cheap’n’nasty pot metal that corrodes too easily in various combinations of chemicals likely to be encountered in a washing machine.

    I can’t help but feel the manufacturers could do better with this.

  3. @Tim A is that right? Would love to see a link (not doubting you, just would be interested, and can’t see it immediately at the EPA site).

    I thought it was the case that modern cars, being more complex, tend to break down earlier and more finally (economically speaking) than old?

    You still see Morris Minors on the road with 300k on the clock, and farmers driving Toyota Hilux with similar mileage (my dad’s is still going strong).

    Not least because there’s relatively simple stuff under the bonnet like an engine the average bloke can take apart with spanners, a carburettor, some tubing, a clutch and so on.

    Modern equivalent vehicles with their catalytic convertors, EMS, fuel injection, anti-skid etc … so much more to go wrong, surely?

  4. The slats on our washboard broke, we soldiered on for a while but it really wasn’t efficient, our underwear was still smelly and we were getting splinters. With the wife approaching my manhood with tweezers, I decided to get it fixed, however, we were assured it was cheaper to replace it than to send it away for repair. You try to be green, etc., etc.

  5. “You still see Morris Minors on the road with 300k”

    Well…yes.
    There was a woman I met at a Miner’s benefit gig. ‘A’ the raving leftie but her & her twin Cher were separated at birth. Drove a 68 Moggie, frighteningly badly. Was still driving a 68 Moggie until recently. That car had 3 engines to my knowledge (one of them I put in). About the only thing original when it went was the clock..

    She now drives a Ford Ka. But she drives a 5 foot wide Ford Ka in exactly the same manner as a 4 foot wide Moggie. Being in the passenger seat passing parked cars is…rivetting.

  6. The major reason modern cars far outlast older cars is better rust proofing. Rust is what killed 50s-70s cars long before it became uneconomic to fix the mechanics.

  7. As wages rise labour gets more expensive; more expensive labour=greater cost to repair.
    More expensive labour+technology= more automation=cheaper to make new.
    So a result of increased living standards and more technology will surely be a shift from repair to replace.
    it’s only a problem if you have a) limited physical resources and b) you don’t recycle.
    We don’t really have a), and we do recycle quite a bit.
    So not a problem, then.
    How many people do the taxpayers of this country employ to create the endless flood of nonsense ‘things to worry about today’ stories in the media? 10,000? 20,000?

  8. Don’t think modern cars break down more, but it is perhaps more final when they do. Certainly crash damage is less likely to be repaired – if you blow a couple of airbags that can add thousands to the repair cost resulting in a write off. As I discovered when some arsehole wrote off my precious Alfa GT last year. I’ll never forgive him. Still grateful for the airbags though.

  9. @Harry Lime
    Yes, the rust thing is a fair point.

    Also JamesV, that modern cars maybe break down more catastrophically when they do.

    My brother in law is about to change his BMW 5 series estate and has been told (by his mechanic, not a new vendor) that the mileage it has done (120kish) is about the tops he’s likely to get before it starts to go expensively wrong. ‘The old days of 200,000 miles out of a diesel are gone’, apparently. The guy has a vested interest in this not being the case, of course.

    But still interested in the EPA data.

  10. OT but one for the wonderful numerate media file.
    SKY News, currently.
    Re helicopter crash:
    “Police have closed off 400 square meters of a Norfolk beach, an area the size of a football pitch…”

  11. Interested,

    “I thought it was the case that modern cars, being more complex, tend to break down earlier and more finally (economically speaking) than old?

    You still see Morris Minors on the road with 300k on the clock, and farmers driving Toyota Hilux with similar mileage (my dad’s is still going strong).”

    But that complexity is part of what’s given us the benefits. Engine management systems and electronic fuel injection make the engine run better and prolong the life of them.

    Morris Minors are being kept on the road by lovers of classics, not people wanting a sensible, reliable car.

  12. Well if strong tariffs were placed on certain consumer goods then it would probably force people to try to keep things working longer, and would encourage people to buy less but more durable goods. Of course this could start a trade war, and would negate a lot of the benefits that have been reaped from globalization.

  13. If you see an ancient car on the road with 300k on the clock, isn’t this like those stories about the 100 year old smoker? Doesn’t mean smokers live longer. You are seeing the outliers (us as mentioned above, many are kept going way past the point where the average person would just give up).

  14. “Well if strong tariffs were placed on certain consumer goods then it would probably force people to try to keep things working longer”

    That’s good. They’ll exactly match the tariffs on energy imposed to encourage changing to energy saving appliances.

    Return to the status quo but lots of luvverly taxes.

  15. “You still see Morris Minors on the road with 300k on the clock”

    Yes, but not many. They apparently made 1,619,857 of them.

    And if you’re using Morris as your example, how many Marinas do you see these days? They built 807,000 of them, it was one of the biggest selling cars in the UK for 10 years.

  16. And to add to the blog title, we are ruled by idiots, who are guided/manipulated by fanatics and extremists.

  17. And the good Prof isn’t going to accept the scrap metal market as part of an environmental recycling system. It’s run by common people, not Cambridge environmental graduates.

  18. To be honest,Richard, a Marina was little more than a re-bodied Moggie. British Leyland & the white heat of the technological revolution

  19. Tim

    I am surprised you haven’t read his book – he is anything but an idiot, I think you’d be impressed by his approach.

    I’m inclined to blame shoddy reporting of his views, I am sure he is aware that metal is recycled.

  20. The Morris was really just an example, though I guess the same is probably true of all other models of yesteryear.

    I take the point about modern engine management, too.

    The 120,000 mile diesel thing – that’s what the guy said (and as I say he makes money repairing cars).

    He didn’t say it wouldn’t run, or would go wrong, just that at that stage it statistically starts to get expensive.

    I suppose what I really mean – having refined my thoughts a bit – is that simple, well-built engines, maintained and serviced properly, should run longer (?) than modern engines where the tolerances are perhaps much finer, the potential for non-trad stuff to go wrong much greater (because it exists, where it didn’t), and the ability of the average joe to fix it much less.

    This may also all be bollocks, of course.

  21. @Luis ‘I’m inclined to blame shoddy reporting of his views, I am sure he is aware that metal is recycled.’

    I was going to say this too – I file it in a similar place to Mail reporters ‘not knowing water freezes at 0C’ ie it’s shoddily written, or sensationalised, or something. He probably means that recycling could and should be made easier and done better, which is a reasonable pov.

  22. @Richard ‘Yes, but not many. They apparently made 1,619,857 of them.’

    Well, the MM club people say there are over 25,000 of them still on the road. They stopped making them in 1972. It’s not insignificant, given all the reasons to change cars. I wonder how many Nissan Micras will be around 40+ years after they were last built?

    But then I accept someone else’s point that a lot of the Moggies are probably rebuilt/lookedafter by enthusiasts.

    Marinas were truly terrible, but wasn’t the main problem a bodywork and electrics thing?

  23. I guess ‘bag for life’ shopping bags were the thin end of the wedge. They want us to have fridge for life, washing machine for life, car for life too.

  24. Survival rate for the Minor is remarkable: http://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/?utf8=✓&q=minor

    I suggest comparing it with that for the Ford Cortina or other best sellers.

    If I was participating in a Top Gear style challenge, I’d be torn between picking a modernish diesel with a few hard to fix elements, or a less reliable but simpler car. For everyday UK motoring you can’t beat a low mileage popular model for which somebody else has paid the upfront depreciation…

  25. “simple, well-built engines, maintained and serviced properly, should run longer (?) than modern engines where the tolerances are perhaps much finer”
    By & large it’s the close tolerances in modern builds makes them last longer. If you start with ill fitting pistons slapping around in poorly machined bores, fuel systems delivering non-optimum combustion mixes etc etc etc the wear factor is a lot higher. Why it’s the thoroughbred end of the market lasted & lasted. They were better built in the first place. But that cost money. Later manufacturing methods brought better engineering to cheaper cars.

  26. “For everyday UK motoring you can’t beat a low mileage popular model …”

    Some advice i got from a motor engineer.
    DON’T ever buy that low mileage car belonged to a little old lady, just used it for shopping. Most of the wear to.an engine occurs in the first few minutes when it’s cold.
    And
    For example:
    When the piston reaches the top of the stroke, the deceleration forces cause the con-rod to stretch. The stretch depend on the speed of the engine. if the engine is lowly stressed, the wear in the bore extends to a comparatively low point. Now run that engine at a higher stress. The con-rod stretches further & the compression rings hit the ridge in the bore the previous low stress use has left. Bang. The ring breaks up.
    There’s a lot of components in cars are sensitive to previous use.
    The best car to buy has high mileage, had constant use & regular servicing.

  27. I long ago had the idea for a modular car (alright it’s not a one wheel motorcycle but…).
    You start out at the cheap end with a small but adamantine chassis and the engine and body of a small car are fitted on it like Lego –standard but your (prob limited) choice in body, style, colour etc.
    As time passes, you gain a family, then the engine/body etc can easily be taken off and replaced with a bigger and better model–the chassis, which is good for a couple of hundred years of heavy wear can be extended/ augmented by other equally durable add-on pieces so that what was a small car can end up as a Chelsea tractor or a people mover for your 8 kids. Because of the modular format and standardisation it should be cheaper than buying a new car every time–although each upgrade leaves you with an all new car apart from some innards.
    It must compete in the free market of course and sink or swim–no subsidy let alone eco-freak decree but I think it might have a chance.
    And the extra-tough chassis would be helpful every time you run over one of those fucking one wheel motorcycles.-

  28. Mr Ecks
    It’s been tried a few times.
    There was a design, back end of the eighties(?). Basic was a 2 seat open fun/utility. Add roof. Add doors Add second row seats, luggage compartment. Add roof. Add van/estate style back section. Or rear flat-bed.
    I’d imagine it’d be a nightmare with current homolgation/type approval legislation. Changing the configuration would possibly require an expensive engineering report & re-registration every time you did it. That’s theoretically required to change even things like door mirrors now.

  29. “Return to the status quo but lots of luvverly taxes.”

    Not quit the status quo sense everyone would be forced to use a lot less. If your goal is maximizing utility then it’s definitely not a good idea. If your goal is making people use less then maybe it’s a good idea. I suppose it might even allow people to use less without destroying jobs because the economic inefficiency it creates would make room for more labor (at very crappy wages). I guess it all depends on what kind of society you want to live in. Personally I kind of like the idea of a society where people have more freedom of choice. I don’t really trust the government to always choose what in people’s best interests because in a democracy the government makes choices based of what is most popular not what is truly feasible.

    I’ve read “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”. It’s actually really good. It talks about power density which one of the two biggest problems with wind and solar. The other problem is intermittency (Note: sometimes people use different words to describe these two things).

    I wrote some blog posts about them recently. I’m not an expert on this stuff so maybe they’re no good, but I did put in a lot of effort.

    The Hidden Costs of Wind and Solar: Part I Power Density
    http://ratdog-justbecause.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-hidden-costs-of-wind-and-solar-part.html

    The Hidden Costs of Wind and Solar: Part II intermittency
    http://ratdog-justbecause.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-hidden-costs-of-wind-and-solar-part.html

  30. “The best car to buy has high mileage, had constant use & regular servicing.”

    In order to reach high mileage, a car has to pass through the low mileage stage… A high mileage car may have been used for lots of start-stop short journeys, cold weather running etc, which will cause the same problems as for the low mileage, little old lady example but with a lot more incidence. And it’s not just the major mechanical components that wear out. Sagging seats, clapped out switch gear and so on can make a high mileage car impractical to run/fix.

    Sometimes we fail to notice when old rules of thumb no longer apply. Improvements in metallurgy, tribology and manufacturing process mean that cars can often take a lot more abuse than in the past.

    I suspect that a similar failure applies when considering whether it is appropriate to reuse, refurbish or recycle devices. The last study I read comparing energy/oil inputs to car manufacture versus energy use whilst motoring fell into the category “rubbish”. It’s difficult finding relevant and accurate reports that might guide decision making. How many washing cycles do you need to make to justify replacing a reliable 15 year old washing machine with a new model?

  31. Our fridge & cooker are both 14 years old, our two chest freezers are both 18 years old, our washing machine is 6 years old and microwave is 7 years old. Car is a 14 year old renault megane petrol engine, most years the servicing and MOT cost under £300, wear and tear has been as high as £200 in one year on top. And doing 100+ miles a week within 3 miles of the house.

  32. Charlieman,

    “In order to reach high mileage, a car has to pass through the low mileage stage… A high mileage car may have been used for lots of start-stop short journeys, cold weather running etc, which will cause the same problems as for the low mileage, little old lady example but with a lot more incidence.”

    If a rep is driving 120 miles in a day and sees 4 clients, he’s starting it 4 times. a little old lady who goes to her sister’s and then the shops and goes 5 miles is starting it 3 times. If a little old lady car has 10,000 on the clock, it’s had more starts than a rep car with 60,000 on the clock.

    If nothing else, paying more for “little old lady” car is probably a bad deal.

    The other thing is that reps generally drive cars with larger engines and larger engines generally last longer as they operate at lower RPMs. Little old ladies drive tiny engined cars that generally die before they hit 100K.

  33. “David MacKay is a professor in the Department of Physics at Cambridge University.”

    Not Engineering, nor even Economics: so what do you expect?

  34. Hmmm.

    Not convinced that Moggies etc stack up on whole lifecycle costs any more.

    Moggie 1L normal MPG: 30mpg or so.
    Modern equivalent MPG – say VW Polo 2009 version: around 50 mpg.

  35. I don’t see a discussion of second hand cars or fridges as being particularly useful. The market is distorted by asymmetric information. (See The Market for Lemons.)

    More relevant would be the market for passenger jets. Both buyers and sellers are extremely clued up about the economics, quality, maintainance cost, regulation, etc. New jets are eye-wateringly expensive, yet sales are going gang busters. Meanwhile hundreds of second hand examples sit on desert airstrips with no buyers.

    Ever wondered why?

  36. “Car manufacturers love us to buy a new car every few years”

    Which is surely fine, environmentally, because the second-hand car is used by someone else.

    20% of drivers buying a new car ever two years is the same as 100% of drivers buying a new car every ten years.

  37. @BIF
    ‘More relevant would be the market for passenger jets. Both buyers and sellers are extremely clued up about the economics, quality, maintainance cost, regulation, etc. New jets are eye-wateringly expensive, yet sales are going gang busters. Meanwhile hundreds of second hand examples sit on desert airstrips with no buyers.

    Ever wondered why?’

    Not personally, BIF.

    If a jet stops working it falls out of the sky, rather than coasts to the side of the road.

    Plus, people just don’t like flying in old jets, and carriers don’t like operating them for reasons of economy. A TriStar uses a lot more fuel than a Dreamliner.

    Are jets actually all that expensive? I mean, they cost more than cars but you make more than cars, too.

  38. Both my fridge and my cooker are second hand, acquired from a friend who was moving. Both are about 12 years old. The fridge looks horrendous but runs fine; the cooker looks fine but is a bag of shite and is next on the list to be replaced. Neither is easily recyclable except as true scrap i.e. none of the sub-assemblies is worth anything. My washing machine was bought new, is 13 years old and has nothing whatever wrong with it. But it’s one of those bombproof top-loaders that can do an entire family wash in one go, works on timing cams and is made from 16 gauge steel. My mother’s been through 3 machines in the same time but she likes front loaders with controls like the flight deck of Concorde.

  39. ‘The fridge looks horrendous but runs fine’

    I wonder what its energy use is like? And the cooker, if leccy?

    (At risk of sounding like I really care about the environment.)

  40. Ian B,

    Looking around the internets, there does seem to be a consistent problem with this; the spiders are made out of cheap’n’nasty pot metal that corrodes too easily in various combinations of chemicals likely to be encountered in a washing machine.

    I can’t help but feel the manufacturers could do better with this.

    Little secret I know: all the detergent companies use Miele machines for their testing, because they don’t want to be spending their time buying and installing new machines, and Miele machines are tested to last around 20 years (and they generally throw in 5 or 10 years of cover).

  41. ‘Little secret I know: all the detergent companies use Miele machines for their testing’

    This is why I love the comments on this blog.

  42. Has anyone properly costed the UK gov’s banning of old-fashioned gas boilers in favour of condensing boilers? The old boiler would last 20 years or more with minimal servicing, whereas most condensing boilers last around 5 years or so without major repairs being required. They use less fuel in operation but probably required vastly more fuel to manufacture. These are my thoughts but has anyone actually done the sums?

    This comes down to what exactly does Mackay do? His books might suggest he is a rational bloke but his talks and public pronouncements seem to suggest he is a grinning lickspittle without any influence whatsoever over what the political arm of Greenpeace – DECC – gets up to. We could surely save his salary and all those other so-called advisors.

    In other news, I heard on the BBC this morning that there is an “outcry” over the government moving away from minimal alcohol pricing, despite the “proven benefits” of such a policy. Obviously the fools at the Beeb did not see fit to mention that the proven benefits would either flow to the drink manufacturers or to the supermarkets.

    We are ruled by fools and those not in government work at the Beeb.

  43. Interested:
    Those second hand jets include 747s etc. Paint them in your colours and no passenger would be able to tell the difference from a new one.

    Diogenes:
    I love it! “Proven benefits” of something which hasn’t existed yet!
    There are “proven benefits” in my ownership of a champagne house, a private army and a gold mine.
    There are also proven benefits of one of IanB’s one wheel motorcycles, but in that case the benefits would accrue to others, not me, I suspect.

  44. For white goods the problem with bomb proof long lived items is that compared to modern ones they are horribly inefficient. Back in 2004 the German equivalent of Which did some tests and found that not only cycle for cycle 35 year old machines used 2 and half times as much energy but modern machines washed better at lower temperatures, so much so that 2004 washing machines used a quarter of the energy for the same cleaning compared to a 30 year old one and half as much against 15 year old ones.

    Much greener to scrap old machines and replace with efficient new ones.

    http://www.landtechnik-alt.uni-bonn.de/ifl_research/ht_7/huw3_2005124_131_oldwm.pdf

  45. @BIF

    ‘Paint them in your colours and no passenger would be able to tell the difference from a new one.’

    Not sure I agree – unless you also rip out the orange seats and bulky cream sidewalls, and instal seat-back tellies.

    Cheaper than buying a new plane, but to get better fuel efficiency you also need new wings, engines and FMS…

  46. ‘Proven benefits’

    Increasing the cost of drink *would* reduce consumption, and you don’t need to see it happen to know that.

    That’s the proven benefit – if you’re an interfering type.

    But to me, this – whether or not it would work – is the wrong ground to fight them on.

    The only ground to hold is, what fucking business is it of yours how much I drink?

  47. Interested – I think you would have to increase the price a lot to reduce consumption of alcoholic drinks noticeably.

  48. Diogenes – sure, but you can do it via price (with all except hardcore alcoholics, who will beg, borrow or steal I guess).

    My own consumption of beer has decreased since they started chanrging £3.50 a pint for it, and I’ve got oodles of disposable income.

    (You also increase black market etc too of course.)

    But the real point is: what fucking business is it of (theirs) how much I drink?

  49. There comes a moment with an machine where the ongoing cost, even where it still works, is higher than the expected daily cost of a new machine.
    (So you buy a new car /washing machine / toaster)
    hence the professor’s interest in “whole life” energy cost.
    However, doing this calculation would show oil and gas as the big winners (getting much more energy out than you put in) and windmills (once you count all the ancillary costs including environmental clean up of the Chinese rare earth mines) as a dead loss, probably.

    Which is why we’re not allowed to see the calculations.

  50. I’m sure my gadgets are not as efficient as they could be, but my water’s free and my electricity is 10p a kWh so there’s not much fat to trim. On the other hand a new cooker is $1000, so even if I cut my bill by 25% that”s a five year pay-off.

  51. bif – I would love to see those calcs for condensing boilers as against the cast-iron monsters…..What price would gas have to be before the condesning boilers costed in? And yet, such practical concerns are not even on the agenda….We are forced, thanks to the mighty intellect of John Prescott (!), to use them.

  52. David Mackay is not an idiot. His point is that “the biggest item in the average British person’s energy footprint is the energy cost of making imported stuff”. (See Chapter 15 of his very sensible free book)

    I’d guess that the published interview Tim highlights is just a few snippets of what he actually said. It appeared in the DECC review newsletter. (You won’t like it: skip to page 10.)

  53. Cheap motoring for the 21st century is indeed a morris minor – but with the fairly thirsty a series engine replaced by a 1.9l turbo diesel from a scrapped Pugeot 405.
    Dead cheap to run; insurance is <£100 (when cover on a 1.9 Skoda of no great value this year for the same driver was ~£800), it should have incredible performance (power to weight rato is rather better than most of BMW current range), and I'm expecting fuel consumption of 60-70mpg depending how aggressively it's driven. Road tax is free, the car and bits were about 1k, and when it's done (it's nearly finished!) I'll have put another 1k of labor in there. Oh, and it will run on cooking, misfuel (provided is diluted to not more than about 30% petrol), and most other oily substances I can get hold of.

    Incidentally, a standard a series moggie will do about 40mpg on petrol – you would be surprised how many modern cars won't (although equally some modem cars are very impressive – my dad has a 07 reg Yaris that claims 82mpg on its internal counter when driven gently on a long run)

    As for cheap long lasting mirroring for the masses – that boat is currently sailing. Cars from the mid 90s to the early 2000s were probably the ultimate from the point of view of longevity. They largely had decent rustproofing (that's what mainly killed earlier generations of cars), were pretty mechanically reliable, and tend to also be cheap to fix. They are currently at rock bottom prices (e.g. until I finish the Minor build, I'm running a V reg skoda diesel that cost me £300 with six months mot. I've put a set of front brakes on it (£25 parts, £20 labour), and other wise its pretty much been fine so far).

    The situation of cheap cars being readily available looks unlikely to continue as newer cars tend to develop terminal sized bills much sooner – for example one of my mates at work has just had the clutch go on a 2004 ford mondaeo. Duel mass flywheel etc – £1000 sized bill to fix – or he scraps it – it's only worth £1500 or so in working order. Chances of it lasting long enough for me to use it as a £300 ride round look limited – it's more likely to get traded in to knock £500 off its replacement, and the dealer will probably just weigh it in to get rid of it (they won't much want it).

  54. Diogenes
    Have to agree that the whole life efficiency of a condensing boiler is nowhere near the claims (70%+) made for them.

    David Gillies
    You water is free? Mine costs €3.50 /m3
    90% of the price is in the sewage farm.
    Externalities, dear boy, externalities.

    The prole
    Good for you, working for less than minimum wage.

  55. Where! Trust me, I’m not that slow at repairing cars – 1k of my labour was based on about £10 an hour, which is what I have to pay the man who spanners on my modern motors for me. (Can’t be bothered modern tat myself).
    If I can do the sills and install an engine in a Morris Minor in 100 hours, I don’t deserve the bally minimum wage. (Also note, that £10 an hour doesn’t see the tax man if I do the job myself – if I pay a lad that, the tax man runs off with about £2 an hour of it!)

  56. Where the fuck do you get a mechanic for £10 an hour?

    Going rate here (ALFA dealer admittedly) is north of €80 plus tax.

    But they take an engine out and put it back in the same day.

  57. I’m based in the Derbyshire Peak district, and use a lad based just over the border in the Staffordshire Moorlands for any work I need doing on modern motors. He charges £10 an hour, you bring him the motor and bits, he fits them, usually get your car back same day. Black economy probably – I don’t much care.

    Even “proper” garages round here aren’t anything like 80euros an hour – I’d not expect to be billed over £25 an hour anywhere in town (except dealerships obviously).

    I charge myself out at £10 an hour to work on other people’s classic cars when I do odds and ends (mostly welding) – I earn fractionally less than that (but via PAYE) during my day job in heavy engineering (and no point me whining for a pay rise there – there isn’t much margin on what we specialise in, and there are plenty of other people out there in the jobs market with similar skills to me).

  58. Well, bif, water’s not free free, but it’s covered by the rent and anyway is a few quid a month at most. I do live in one of the rainiest countries on the planet, however.

  59. “There are plenty of other people out there in the jobs market with similar skills to me”

    Not as many as there used to be, and getting less. Don’t under sell yourself. Love the concept of the Peugeot diesel engined Morris Minor!

    Incidentally Land Rover used to claim that 70% of the vehicles they ever built are still in use. Perhaps we should all drive them instead?

  60. I long ago had the idea for a modular car

    You’ve just invented the Land Rover. :) A lot of the Series IIIs are real “Trigger’s brooms”.

    And in my experience of expensive car repairs, it’s not so much the engines that fail as all the wear and tear parts like bushings and bearings, and engine mounts and other bits and pieces. The engines an gearboxes seem to do okay.

  61. I doubt Landrover claim that any more! There are still a LOT of series and 90/110 motors about,but the rate folks like me have been gassing rotten disco 1s and Range Rovers up at suggests that figure is now well out of date. (At least most of the engines from these have gone on to better uses – recycling in action).

    I’ve three Series motors scattered about at the moment – and had a 1972 109″ with a 200tdi and five speed box as a daily driver till recently. it was a great motor if you can get free fuel (cooking oil, old hydraulic oil, misfuel, even ran a 205L drum of granite polish through it,) but my supply of free fuel wasn’t keeping pace with the rate I was burning it, and I couldn’t stomach £80 a week in DERV to get to work…

  62. The whole system could use significantly less energy if we designed things to last, if we only bought things we need to use, if we used them for their full life, repairing them when necessary, and then disassembled them carefully so that components could be re-used. How can we get there from here?”

    You don’t without a massive expansion of state control of our lives. After a decade or so of governments, the media and activists relentlessly declaring that disaster is only a few years away and that the opportunity for action is fast disappearing, the numbers who believe there is a serious problem are diminishing and even among those who do accept there may be a problem, the majority are only prepared to make minor adjustments to their lifestyles.

    I suspect, even for the supine British public, having to get a permit to buy a new car / appliance would be a step too far. Of course, this would include filling out the following section:

    “Explain why your current appliance cannot be repaired. (Note: this should be supported by at least two opinions from government licensed technicians).

    Cannot imagine getting approval for the wine and beer fridges. Or MrsBud might struggle with trying to justify a new kettle and toaster because she’s redecorated the kitchen.

  63. Well as the owner of a 25 year old german sports car I can say with confidence that with proper servicing and maintenance most cars can last a very long time.

    Of course remember that it would be impossible to make a Morris Minor or VW Beetle in Europe today. The reason being is that they would fail to meet emissions, noise, and crash safety standards. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a an open question. Personally I see good reasons for managing emissions and making cars safe for passengers. Most of the electronic gizmos that are attached to modern cars are necessary to meet those sort of regulatory standards.

    There are plenty of cars out there that have done 200,000 plus miles and are still kicking along being well maintained with frequent oil changes. As far as the BMW story is concerned sure maybe after 120,000 miles the maintenance costs will start to increase as parts wear out and need replacing, but if you like the car you need to compare those costs with the depreciation suffered on a new BMW, which will be pretty fierce. From a financial point of view there may be little in it either way.

    On the aircraft thing, it is important to note that in the US (at least and probably elsewhere) the life of aircraft is regulated. They can only perform a certain number of take off – landing cycles before they must be replaced.

    As an aircraft maintenance engineer will tell you mileage isn’t the issue its take off and landing cycles which wear out aircraft. The same goes for cars, it is the stop – start – change gear cycle that causes wear and tear. A car in the city wears out faster than a car that cruises along the motorway its entire life.

    Now what was the point of this blog again, oh yes recycling. Yep scrap metal and breaking for spares is a big industry and great for recycling. However in future with the advent of 3D printing it will probably be possible to keep cars on the road even longer as eventually all spares run out and it can be fiendishly expensive to get parts manufactures on small production run basis.

  64. On the combination boiler issue, I know quite a few heating engineers. They love them. They’re dearer to fit because customers think they’re harder to fit. They need frequent call outs. And the very best of all. They last about a third the time of the ones they replaced.
    Best thing since vintage champagne or being a BMW main agent.

  65. whole life costs and embedded energy…everything that Govts inflict on us seems to work against those points….Discuss!

  66. PaulB January 8, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    “David McKay is not an idiot.”

    No, obviously not: but he is a fool.

    This man believes that there is a serious problem with the “energy cost” of imported goods, which is greater than that of homegrown. He also believes that there is a serious problem with energy consumption (by people less important than him) per se.

    His solutions to the latter problem all jack up energy costs at home – so that imported goods will be more and more attractive. His solution to that problem is to ban us from buying them (that’s implicit in his comments).

  67. “For white goods the problem with bomb proof long lived items is that compared to modern ones they are horribly inefficient.”

    I’m not so sure. Our old dishwasher used water from our tank, which had been efficiently heated by gas. Our new one takes only cold water and heats it inefficiently with electricity. Presumably the EU is to blame.

  68. You can still get 200K miles out of a diesel, probably much more.

    But what you won’t get is more than about 80K out of a timing belt (££) or about 120K out of an EGR valve (££) or a DPF (£££) or God help you a dual-mass flywheel (££££). ALL of which are fitted to most modern small diesel cars for various regulatory reasons.

    Combine that with grossly complex electronic control systems that nobody but nobody can repair (replace while parts are available, after which you’re shafted (hor hor)), and you end with a realistic life of about eight years or 150K miles for a modern car.

    Which suits the manufacturers just fine.

    The Minister – as so often – is talking out of his hat.

  69. Someone asked “has anyone done the sums?”
    There is a very good book “Sustainable Materials” by Julian Allwood and Jon Cullen which is available free online
    http://www.withbotheyesopen.com/ .
    Someone else said that I am recommending “banning buying things”. That’s not true. As several other readers noted, you can’t trust some journalists, and in this case the Telegraph made up most of the headline quotes. See http://www.inference.eng.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/book/tex/repair2.html .
    And finally, someone said “He’s a Professor in Physics”, but actually David MacKay is now Regius Professor of Engineering in Cambridge University Engineering Department.
    Have a nice day!

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