Let's face it - we are fossil fuel junkies!
By the time you read this the madness of COP26 will be almost upon us. We will hear more gushing rhetoric of aspirational nonsense – promises which will never happen in a civilisation which is doomed by its love affair with fossil fuels. The Earth herself will not care one jot. For most of her blooming and prosperous existence there has been much much more carbon dioxide in her atmosphere. Humans have brought this crisis on their own heads – partly through short-sighted greed and partly because they are unable to escape the unintended consequences of systems of government and commerce which are long beyond their sell-by dates.
To make a start on our journey into global fossil fuel madness let's look at some important figures – and ignore the hype and propaganda pumped out by politicians and activists. I am just going to set these down – then comment. You can, of course, draw your own conclusions.
Wind and Water Water is 800 times heavier than air – you can replace a huge wind turbine with 50m long blades with a small water turbine which has blades of just 1.5m
Wind is NOT reliable! On the other hand, the tides are perfectly reliable and a river like the Severn could produce 5 percent of total UK electrical needs. There used to be thousands of small water mills on rivers all over the UK. Norway produces 94 percent of its electrical power from water.
Current Energy consumption Average per capita electricity use in the USA is 30 KwH per day. In UK the figure is about 12 KwH per day. In Tanzania (for example) the figure is 100 times less that the USA at 0.3 KwH per day. Generating 1 KwH of electricity produces about 1 Kg of carbon dioxide.
Energy used to drive cars in UK and US is about 35 KwH per day – much the greatest source of CO2 emissions. 1 gallon of petrol contains about 35 KwH of energy.
An electric car battery stores about 70 KwH of energy – equivalent to 2 gallons of petrol.
Electric Cars Each car battery requires about 75Kg of lithium. Best estimates are that the total global reserves of lithium amount to 10,000 million Kg. If all this lithium were mined (at great environmental and energy cost) we could make just 133 million cars. Batteries would need replacement after 10 years – clearly impossible. There are now about 1 million electric cars in use compared to 1000 million conventional cars.
A lithium battery can be recharged 300-500 times – giving the potential mileage before replacement of between 60,000- 100,000 miles. So new batteries are needed about every 6 to 10 years – after this most batteries (and their lithium) are dumped in landfill. Recycling the lithium is difficult and expensive. The car owners do not pay for disposal or recycling.
The electricity required to power electric cars comes (70 percent) from thermal power stations which are at best 30 percent efficient in converting fossil fuel energy into electrical power – so two thirds of available fossil fuel power is simply lost into the ecosystem. A modern diesel engine is almost twice as efficient.
Food and Methane Every green growing plant is constantly capturing carbon from the air. When the plant (usually grass) is eaten, this carbon from the air is converted into meat and bone whilst some is returned to the air as methane from digestion. Where plants are not eaten they are broken down by fungi and bacteria so their carbon becomes part of the soil. Methane is part of a natural cycle – it is rapidly broken down into carbon dioxide and water by sunlight so its carbon can be recycled again by growing plants.
When meat is eaten it is digested and passed out into the sewage system where it finds its way into rivers, lakes and seas. Here it becomes food for algae and plankton which effectively capture the carbon and release most of the planet's oxygen, which we need to breathe. In this way, eating meat actually serves to remove carbon from the air.
The scare stories about methane produced by ruminant digestion (and human digestion) are a complete fiction except where forests are cut down to make fields. Modern industrial farming and land reclamation is constantly depleting the carbon which is stored in healthy soils.
Food Waste In most “advanced” economies, food wastes are simply dumped in rubbish bins and finally landfill. This probably amounts to 10 million tons per year in the UK – nobody actually knows how much! This “waste” decays anaerobically producing large quantities of methane. If the so-called “waste” was properly composted (or put through a bio-digester) its carbon would either be released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (which was taken in by growing plants in the first place) or returned to the soil as highly beneficial food for plants.
What did the UK Citizen's Assembly on Climate Change have to say?
This Assembly was set up by Parliament with great hopes. 108 people were selected at random to reflect the age, gender and race pattern of society. They had access to advice from various professors and experts. They met over 6 weekends. This is a summary of what they said.
Transport More electric cars and more cheap public transport. More bicycles and less travelling (working from home)
Air People must still be able to fly but they should be heavily taxed for doing so.
Food Less meat and better support for local small farmers. More woodland.
What we buy People must realise the energy cost of making all the things they buy.
Electricity More wind and solar – and maybe nuclear.
Removing carbon More trees and wetlands, better farming – no support for technical engineering solutions
Leadership Strong leadership required to show public a new vision of how lifestyles should change – especially post-covid.
So what do we think now? The Climate Change Assembly has been hugely disappointing.
Transport Big powerful heavy steel cars are mankind's biggest plaything – and the major source of carbon pollution. Governments should put a limit on their weight, a limit on their maximum power (say 20 Kw) and require them to be made of carbon fibre (lighter and stronger than steel, a valuable carbon sink and it does not rust). Electric bicycles and tricycles should be strongly encouraged with a maximum power of 1Kw. Constant travelling and commuting should be replaced by remote working.
Air Flying for fun is simply not viable – modern sailing ships are the best way forward.
Food All food “waste” and organic matter should be composted and returned to the soil. The development of bio-digesters of all sizes should be a priority. Industrial farming which is based on large units, chemical fertilisers and powerful machines (both fossil fuel powered) must be replaced by labour-intensive organic small units. We must stop pouring sewage (and drugs) into our rivers and seas.
What we buy All goods should carry a label showing their energy content. Advertising (the drug which powers consumerism) should be strictly controlled. Built-in obsolescence should be outlawed. Self-help groups should be set up to empower people to escape their addiction to consumerism and find healthier more planet-friendly ways to achieve satisfaction.
Electricity Centrally generated electricity from thermal power stations is the most wasteful use of fossil fuel one can imagine. They are very inefficient (34 percent maximum) because of the laws of thermo-dynamics. More than 10 percent is lost in transmission. Use of electricity for any form of heating is doubly wasteful – every home should be required to install solar water heating panels. Every home should be required to install at least 10 KwH of electrical storage (as in the Tesla powerwall) so that peak loads can be avoided and wind power stored when necessary. Our homes should be much better insulated. Bio-digesters are a great potential source of “clean” electricity. Developing water/tidal power is key to a carbon free future – when combined with sensible home storage batteries. Nuclear fission is ABSOLUTELY DANGEROUS (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima are the world's worst industrial accidents – there is no safe way to dispose of radio-active waste). Nuclear fusion is the promised holy grail of virtually limitless, almost pollution-free energy production – see https://www.iter.org
Removing carbon Trees are good if their wood is not burned but used in construction. Carbon fibre is good. Mechanical extraction is crazy technological tomfoolery.
Leadership We don't have any now and never will have with modern populist democracy. Our politicians are driven only by personal ambition with no concern whatever for the common good. There is much to be said in favour of Rudolf Steiner's idea that culture, politics and economics should be kept independent. There is much to be said in favour of replacing populist elections with advanced sortition. Combining political and executive power in one place is always likely to be dangerous and self-serving.
Covid Nonsense continues.....
The bizarre global hysteria continues and big pharma rubs its hands in glee.
How can the Whitty creature sleep at night now he has condemned (probably) more than 200 healthy innocent children to die from covid vaccination between now and Christmas. Statistics from US and Israel indicate that serious heart problems affect about 1 in 10,000 children after vaccination. This is 25 times greater than a child's risk of death from covid. The madness continues......