This is fascinating from George Monbiot

One study in Britain suggests that, if we stopped using animal products, everyone in Britain could be fed on just 3m of our 18.5m hectares of current farmland (or on 7m hectares if all our farming were organic).

I’ve never seen it put quite so bluntly. Organic requires more than twice the land of industrial farming.

Oh, and if we’re not using animal products then where the hell do we get the shit for fertiliser from?

The logic here is not strong

Honey from across the world is contaminated with potent pesticides known to harm bees, new research shows, clearly revealing the global exposure of vital pollinators for the first time.

Almost 200 samples of honey were analysed for neonicotinoid insecticides and 75% contained the chemicals, with most contaminated with multiple types.

If 75% of honey is contaminated then we might well assume that 75% of bees are.

Neonicotinoids aren’t very damaging, are they?

Nonsense is nonsense

Industrial farming is inherently inefficient; it squanders precious land and water, poisons and pollutes with pesticides and fertilisers and causes significant welfare issues for the animals.

It’s even possible that industrial farming does all those things but that doesn’t make it inefficient.

We get more kilos of animal protein from the use of those inputs – that’s a measure of efficiency, not inefficiency.

An area the size of the EU is devoted to growing industrial animal feed yet we know that the world’s soils have only 60 harvests left.

What? Where in buggery does that come from? Ah, here:

Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said on Friday.
About a third of the world’s soil has already been degraded, Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day.

That’s not a source I would trust to be honest.

“We are losing 30 soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming,” Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements told the forum at the FAO’s headquarters in Rome.

“Organic (farming) may not be the only solution but it’s the single best (option) I can think of.”

Not using fertiliser doesn’t sound like a good way to deal with a reduced availability of farmland. This is interesting.

OK, seems sensible

Electric car owners will be paid for letting an energy company use their vehicle’s battery in a pioneering scheme to increase take-up of the cleaner vehicles and help power grids manage the growth in green energy.

Nissan and one of the UK’s biggest challenger energy suppliers, Ovo, will offer the “vehicle-to-grid” service to buyers of the Japanese carmaker’s new Leaf from next year.

After installing a special charger in a customer’s home, the supplier will take over the management of the car’s battery, with owners able to set a minimum amount of charge they want for driving the next day. Ovo will then automatically trade electricity from the battery, topping it up during off-peak periods when power costs about 4p per kilowatt hour (kWh), and selling it at peak times for about four times as much.

At a small scale at least. But what happens at larger scale? People who know more than I around here have been saying that this sort of thing needs a considerable upgrade to the local at least grid doesn’t it?

Quite right too

Wood burning could be banned in some urban areas in a bid to improve air quality.

We banned coal burning in urban areas for a reason:

It is estimated that a quarter and a third of all fine particle pollution in the capital comes from people burning wood to heat homes.

You know, all that stuff they’re blaming on the cars?

This is actually important

BP has started production at the Khazzan project in Oman, the largest of the new projects it has scheduled for this year, as the oil major attempts to export its US fracking experience around the world.

The $16bn gas project uses the same controversial drilling technique that has unleashed an energy revolution in the US. Fracking has been used to prepare around 200 wells that will tap gas three miles below the earth’s surface in extremely hard, dense rock.

Yeah, yeah, BP, engineering excellence etc.

And yes, I know, they’ve been fracking for oil in the UK for decades now.

However, there’s an important point about advances in extraction technology. Say that we’ve got a field or a well (Macondo? Sure, went wrong but….) in 5,000 feet of water and then deep under that. We work out how to drill and extract all the same. This does not then mean that we’ve got that extra oil from that one field or well. It means that we’ve, at least potentially, got all the oil that lies deep under the seabed in 5,000 feet of water.

Being able to frack gas in Pennsylvania does not just mean that the Henry Hub price goes down and the US chemicals industry booms. It means that we’ve the whole world to go explore again for gas deposits that can be fracked. Being able to process nickel laterites (something only worked out in the past couple of decades) does not mean that we’ve the nickel and cobalt output from Murrin Murrin. It means that all nickel laterites around the world are now potential sources of nickel and cobalt.

This is the bit about resource availability that the exhaustionists aren’t getting. Technical advance doesn’t just mean opening up the one deposit, it gives us a whole new world, another Earth, to go explore.

We can now hard rock frack three miles down? Great, so that’s the entire planet we can explore again for gas deposits in hard rock three miles down.

Or, as we might put it, technology creates new worlds for us.

Sadly, this isn’t going to work, is it?

National Grid will be able to tell people the cheapest time to turn on a washing machine up to two days in advance.

New software, developed with conservation charity WWF, breaks the day down into two-hour segments, warning users when energy is at peak demand and informing them when demand is low.

It combines historical data from the grid with weather information from the Met Office to predict times of high and low demand.

The National Grid said it expected energy companies to use the information to produce their own apps encouraging customers to use energy when demand was at its lowest and turn appliances off when there was pressure on the system.

Because it is the balance of supply and demand which matters. And we can’t forecast wind and solar 48 hours ahead…..

The Guardian’s found another wibbler about chemicals

Charles Massy grew up here, on the sweeping Monaro plateau that runs off the eastern flank of Mount Kosciuszko, an only child enveloped by the natural world, running barefoot, accompanied by dogs and orphaned lambs. Fifth generation, he has spent his adult life farming this tough, lean, tussock country; he is of this place and it of him. But when his friend and Aboriginal Ngarigo elder Rod Mason came to visit he discovered that a lifetime of intimately knowing the birds, trees and animals of this land wasn’t significant at all.

Super, OK, Abo elder, ancient wisdom. Then the Woo:

“Most of our cereal crops, the soybeans, the corn, are all predicated now on the world’s most widely used chemical which is glyphosate [Roundup],” Massy says. “There is mounting evidence that it is one of the most destructive chemicals ever to get into the system. Its main effect is on the human gut and our entire immune system.

“When you look at the As – autism, ADHD, all the other auto-immune diseases – their take off is a 95% correlation to these chemicals being introduced. The evidence is that it affects the gut and the immune system, though it is not the sole factor, and it is a complex thing. But it is that gut that drives our whole immune system, it is our second brain.”

Sigh. That he’s calling autism an auto-immune disease is just one of those signs, isn’t it?

We have lost touch with the land, we manipulate the Earth to our own ends, we dominate it and are ultimately destroying it. Aboriginal people, he says, saw it differently, as something to be nurtured and nourished, a living entity. He calls their custodianship “one of the greatest ever sustainable partnerships between humankind and the ecosystems they occupied”.

Then white Australians brought what he calls the mechanical mind and the European mind. “It is a totally different continent to anywhere else in the world. It works totally differently to that young landscape of Europe with humidity and rich soils. Until we throw off the European mechanical mind we are going to continue to stuff the joint. It is not something inanimate that you can belt. It is almost like being with a lover, you have got to nurture it and care for it.”

Oooooh, yes, that’ll have the snowflakes screaming for more, won’t it? The Abos nourished the land by regularly setting fire to it of course.

Sigh.

If the Green Party actually meant this even I’d vote for them

People should have decent, well-paid work, yes, but that’s not ambitious enough. We believe people should have more time off, and be liberated from the shackles of wage labour.

Liberate all from the shackles of wage labour, yes, most certainly.

Let’s have a thoroughly haute bourgeois society then. The proper inheritance of acquired asserts so as to free people from both wages and the State.

Going a bit far on the hippy dippy thing here

Big picture aside, most of what afflicts us today – cancer, obesity, mental illness, diabetes, stress, auto-immune disorders, heart disease, along with those slow killers: meaninglessness, clock-watching and loneliness – are industrial ailments. We create stressful, toxic, unhealthy lifestyles fuelled by sugar, caffeine, tobacco, antidepressants, adrenaline, discontent, energy drinks and fast food, and then defend the political ideology that got us hooked on these things in the first place. Our sedentary jobs further deplete our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, but instead of honestly addressing the root cause of the illness we exert ever more effort, energy, genius and money trying to treat the symptoms and contain the epidemics.

Which is to entirely miss the point. We get all these diseases because that very industrial capitalism means that we don’t all die of smallpox, diarrhea, dystenry, whopping cough, scralett fever and the rest before we are 5. And we tend to live past the 35 at which those who lived wild and ate only organic lived.

And no, it’s not just conquering those killer childhood diseases which has expanded lifespans. Expected lifespan at 15, at 30, is very much higher now than it was 300 or 1000 years ago.

Monbiot does have a way with evidence, doesn’t he?

The EU decision to replace petrol engines with diesel, though driven by German car manufacturers, predates her premiership. It was a classic European fudge, a means of averting systemic change while creating an impression of action, based on the claim (which now turns out to be false) that diesel engines produce less carbon dioxide than petrol.

Wait, what? Diesel produces more CO2 than petrol? What aberration of physics is this? All is explained in the report George references:

The main argument of the car industry to continue with diesel is its lower CO2 emissions. But the report analyses
evidence and concludes an average diesel car produces over 3 tonnes more CO2 than petrol over its lifetime.
This is due to:
● higher mileage (4% more due to cheaper diesel fuel, or rebound effect)
● More intensive refinery processes for diesel fuel
● heavier engines
● High GHG emissions of biodiesel substitutes when ILUC emissions are factored in.

This analysis does NOT take into account all of the additional km s diesels are driven.
New direct injection gasoline engines are now significantly more efficient closing the gap with diesel. The average
CO2 emissions of new diesel cars (119g/km) are only a few grams/km lower than an average (often less powerful)
petrol car (123g/km). If the Euro 2,000 cost premium of diesel over petrol car is taken into account gasoline cars
already outstrip their diesel counterparts. For example hybrid systems are now no more expensive than diesels (and
cheaper in some markets) but average 89g/km. In the medium term the opportunities to lower CO2 emissions from
cars are primarily from gasoline and electric solutions. To 2050 electric is the most cost effective technology. Since
diesel is not better for the climate than petrol there is no justification for its preferential treatment.

Because the Greenies insist that diesel have biodiesel in it, and biodiesel is higher emission than fossil fuel, therefore diesel has higher emissions. Plus, either people who have cheaper fuel drive more or, people who drive more choose the option with cheaper fuel.

This is not the same as saying that diesel emits more than petrol.

Oh, and, other technologies are now becoming more efficient. Which is great, but presumably they’ll suffer from the same rebound effects etc?

But this could be the least of the environmental disasters she has engineered. For this lethal concession to German car companies was predated by an even worse one, in 2007. In that case, her blunt refusal – supported by the usual diplomatic bullying – to accept proposed improvements in engine standards forced the European commission to find another means of reducing greenhouse gases. It chose, disastrously, to replace fossil fuel with biofuels, a switch Merkel has vociferously defended.

Merkel and the European commission ignored repeated warnings that the likely consequences would include malnutrition and massive environmental destruction, as land was converted from forests or food crops to fuel production.

As I recall that was egged on by every environmental organisation on the planet. It was only very late in the process, even afterwards, that the likes of FoE and Greenpeace woke up to the idiocy they were insisting upon.

Is this the worst? It is hard to rank such crimes against the biosphere, but perhaps the most embarrassing is Germany’s shocking failure, despite investing hundreds of billions of euros, to decarbonise its electricity system. While greenhouse gas emissions in other European nations have fallen sharply, in Germany they have plateaued.

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The reason is, once more, Merkel’s surrender to industrial lobbyists. Her office has repeatedly blocked the environment ministry’s efforts to set a deadline for an end to coal power.

Well, no, not really, It was the idiot decision to rule out nukes at the same time….again egged on by every environmental organisation on the planet. George himself being an honourable exception I seem to recall.

Eco-fascism isn’t just an insult

“Facing the ruin of their environment, the Chinese looked hard and amended their constitution. This core document now calls for the building of an ecological civilisation,” he says. “We built an agricultural, then an industrial, and now must build an ecological civilisation.”

“I have no cynicism about whether they mean to do it. My job is to try and clean up the environment for future generations. The Chinese really want to do that.” This task, apparently insurmountable for the west, is made possible by China’s 2,500-year tradition of centralised government.

Highly authoritarian, centralised government that is.

Thornton says that when he first went to China, he’d only read the western media about it and had many of the same notions he’s often challenged with, especially concerning democracy and human rights. “And I understand where they come from. But I also know that the western democracies that we prize so much aren’t doing very well with respect to the environment. We’ve elected somebody in the United States who seems really dedicated to the notion of contempt for the environment.”

In the west, efforts to address environmental problems are fragmentary and not well funded. “Whereas in China,” he says, “suddenly you have this direction from the top on down asking all of these top people over the course of the next few decades: How does everything have to change to deliver this?”

There’s a certain relish there, isn’t there? That licking of the lips at the State’s power to force everyone to do as he wants.

Just watch War on Want here

This doesn’t bode well for reporting standards:

An enormous solar park in the Sahara could soon be exporting electricity to Europe if Tunisia’s government approves an energy company’s request to build it.

The 4.5GW mega-project planned by TuNur would pipe electricity to Malta, Italy and France using submarine cables in the grandest energy export project since the abandoned Desertec initiative.

That’s all fine of course, we should be getting solar energy from where there’s lots of solar energy. I have no idea about the engineering or economics here but I do sorta expect that trade is going to work, as it does with all other scarce resources.

However:

The resulting solar complex would sprawl over an area three times the size of Manhattan, harnessing the power of the Saharan sun with several towers up to 200m tall.

These would reflect sun rays on to hundreds of thousands of parabolic mirrors, heating molten salts that would in turn broil water, generating enough steam to power turbines that could electrify two million European homes.

No, the mirrors reflect onto the towers. Well done Grauniad journo there. And this is the really fun part:

“It seems that a familiar ‘colonial’ scheme is being rolled out in front of our eyes,” said Hamza Hamouchene, War on Want’s North Africa and West Asia officer.

“Projects like TuNur deny local people control and access to their land, rob them of resources and concentrate the value created in the hands of domestic and foreign predatory elites and private companies.”

More interested in Trot politics than economic development then, are we? Now there’s a surprise from War on Want, isn’t there?

A very stupid thought

So, the various copies of the Lotus 7, Caterham, Westfield, LoCost and so on. Go like shit off a hot shovel, acceleration is superb given low weight of the total machine. Motorbike on 4 wheels sorta stuff.

Electric cars accelerate very well indeed. Battery weight a bit of a problem.

Hybrids, when on their batteries, accelerate like electric cars, actually better given low battery weight.

So, when does someone put a hybrid into a Lotus 7 copy to gain the acceleration? Umm, yes, I know, different drive train and all but when does this start to happen?

Can you imagine the furore?

China has successfully produced natural gas from methane hydrate, also known as “flammable ice”, in an experimental project in the South China Sea, the land and resources ministry said on Saturday.

Fracking for methane hydrates?

Still, look at the good side, Swampy will end up getting a wash as he tries to picket the site.

No, really, just no

Wet springs hamper battle to save capercaillie from fate of the dodo

The dodo became, as we know, extinct. There is no risk of this for the capercaillie. what could happen is that there are no capercaillies in Scotland. As has happened before and then they were reintroduced. Because, you know, there are other populations out there.

Quelle surprise

EDF has reignited fears over its troubled new nuclear project at Hinkley Point C after admitting it will cost the French energy giant over £20bn and could be delayed by almost two years to 2027.

An internal review of the project by senior executives at EDF confirmed fears that the state-backed group will not be able to deliver Hinkley in line with the protracted timeline or its multi-billion pound budget.

It revealed that the cost of building the UK’s first new nuclear plant in a generation had climbed by £1.5bn in two years to £19.6bn after a string of delays to the project. A further delay of fifteen months could add a further £700m to the spiralling costs to push them over £20bn.

The real problem with this being not actually the cost of this one plant. It’s that it’s so damn expensive that it gives every other barking mad idea – Swansea Barrage, we’re lookin’ at you – the ability to say “But we’re only a little more expensive than Hinkley Point.”

This is an interesting question

Some of his customers appear less happy. For Mr Vince’s company is accused of hiking up prices at electric car charging points while at the same time ploughing millions of pounds into his football club.

On Monday, Ecotricity, which has the monopoly on motorway service station electric charging points, will introduce a new pricing scheme for electric vehicles.

Critics claim the new charges will make it as expensive to charge up an electric car as put petrol in a conventional, fuel-efficient vehicle.

I have absolutely no idea what the cost of filling up an electric vehicle should be. Not a scoobie as to even magnitude.

‘Leccie is 10 p a kW? So, how many kWs are they trying to stuff into a battery?

And how much cheaper than petrol should this be? If it should be at all?

Ecotricity, which used to offer free charging to encourage the take up of electric cars, will change to its new tariff from tomorrow. Motorists will have to pay £3 connection fee and then a further 17 pence for every unit of electricity used (kWh). Previously the company charged a flat fee of £6 for 30 minutes of charge.

OK, bit more than that but doesn’t seem like an outrageous price at all.

Erm, maybe electric cars just do actually cost as much as petrol? You know, even after all he tax petrol pays?

Hmm

The government’s building safety experts warned last year that the drive for greater energy efficiency meant more and more buildings are being wrapped in materials that could go up in flames.

In a report compiled before the Grenfell Tower disaster on Wednesday, the Building Research Establishment, which works for the Department of Communities and Local Government on fire investigations, said attempts to innovate with insulation were leading to an “increase in the volume of potentially combustible materials being applied” to buildings.

Don’t think that’s going to be part of the left’s general story about this, is it?