Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Funny if it got better ratings than most we watch

World's most boring TV show to measure energy use

Actually, I find this pretty fascinating: 'The power needed by a television for the images varies according to the type of programme broadcast.'

So maybe we get taxed on whether it's EastEnders or X Factor?

Now, I'd switch off were it not for this darned laziness.

Arctic ice thaw may represent a 'tipping point'

There's that word again, may, it occurs an awful lot in anything where climate change is being discussed, so, at least for now, let's stick to the facts that we actually know.

We do know that this summer a record for the melting of the Arctic ice cap occurred; well, at least as far as accurate human modern records go back; "The Arctic summer sea ice shrank by more than 20 percent below the previous 2005 record low in mid-September to 4.13 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles), according to a 30-year satellite record."

We do know that the albedo effect can be scientifically measured; the white ice cover reflects an awful lot of solar energy back into space, whilst open sea water absorbs a lot more heat energy; therefore the less Arctic ice cover exists, the more heat energy is absorbed by the sea, thereby contributing to warming.

What we don't know is if there is any sort of 'tipping point', beyond which the ice will disappear far more rapidly, allowing far more heat into the Arctic Ocean and contributing significantly to global warming.

However, there is a lot of talk about theoretical tipping points, so when some 'experts' are suggesting that we are already past, at, or at least rapidly reaching the 'tipping point' for the Arctic Ice cap, then perhaps its time to start worrying. This, from PlanetArk, reports on the comments of the 'experts' involved.

"The reason so much (of the Arctic ice) went suddenly is that it is hitting a tipping point that we have been warning about for the past few years"

"In Germany, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says Arctic sea ice has 'already tipped'."

"I'd say we are reaching a tipping point or are past it for the ice. This is a strong indication that there is an amplifying mechanism here"

Three different 'experts', three slightly different conclusions, but all enough, perhaps, to give us all some cause for concern.

The thing is, the disappearing Arctic ice will barely affect sea levels at all, but if the Greenland ice sheet follows in the steps of the Arctic ice cap at anything like the same pace, and there are some initial indications that this is happening, as we have already mentioned, then mankind is going to be facing some very serious problems over the coming decades.

"It is a very good lesson, because the ice sheets (on Greenland and Antarctica) have their own tipping points, somewhat harder to get started but far more dangerous for humanity around the globe"

The Greenland ice sheet holds enough fresh water to raise sea levels by about 7 metres if it all melts; that, I read somewhere recently, would do for over half of this planet's major cities.

Anyone fancy a trip to Arks'R'Us?

Cameron could have a bit of a tough time on the subject of climate change; it looks like the Tories' Freedom Association thinks that climate change is all a load of bull. See
'Tory climate change sceptics' from the Guardian.

Mr. Deeds and Mr. SME go to town

Small firms’ strategies include going green

At least they qualified the 85% figure with the rather necessary word...'claim'.

My faith in research of this sort is well-known, and this is one of those where you wonder who of the remaining 15% , on being asked 'are you going to go more enviro-friendly?' decided on a 'nah'.

More worthy of note is that qualitatively, the majority of these firms do not feel they are being supported by the government in their efforts. They want government advice on best practice. That would be advice... from our government... on the best way to handle this? Hmmn.

Hot 'n 'Am I bovvered?'

This just in from HMG - Homeowners to get green boiler rating

The link didn't work, again, so I'm afraid it's a full print of the PR... again

On balance this seems like a welcome opportunity to improve one's green awareness, though for some there may be a less than welcome sting in the tail (I'm guessing most of those old , inefficient boilers may be owned by those ill-equipped to do much about an upgrade - maybe a better source for funds blown on box-ticking comms efforts? One wonders how much this bit of news will be shared around to those most able to benefit). And, these days, what you know soon gets known by who else? HIP, hip... who levies rate charges again?

Here's the full piece, without the talking head puff, but do go through to the end as there are links to some useful bits and bobs:

From today homeowners can ask for a free A-G energy rating for their boiler with advice to help cut fuel bills, when the engineer visits.

Heating and hot water bills are the biggest energy costs households face each month, yet many people are unaware the average boiler is 'E' rated and could produce over 50 per cent more heat - making the recommended improvements could cut fuel bills by hundreds of pounds and reduce carbon emissions.

The energy assessment includes a checklist of efficiency improvements. For example, a family could save nearly £100 a year just by taking a few a simple steps like getting a 75mm water cylinder jacket, installing heating controls and insulating the hot water pipes.

Longer term measures such as changing from a low G rated boiler to an A rated one could save over £200 a year and cut up to 2.7 tonnes of carbon off a household's carbon footprint.

According to the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council there are still around 4 million old, very inefficient boilers in use in homes, most of which will still be operating in 2010. Replacing these would save two and half a million tonnes of C02 each year by 2010.

Most businesses have rising energy costs. The Carbon Trust estimates that hot water accounts for about 60% of total energy bills for commercial and industrial buildings. [I was surprised at this].

Four year energy efficiency loans of up to £100,000 pounds are available to eligible small and medium companies (SMEs) to help them make changes sooner rather than later. It is also possible to apply for tax relief via enhanced capital allowances - if a business invests in energy-saving machinery it can write off the whole cost of the equipment against taxable profits in the year of purchase.

Only 20% of new gas boilers installed in 2003 were A or B rated. The Government has raised the energy performance standards for new and replacement central-heating boilers - now 95% of new gas boilers installed now are A or B rated condensing boilers.

Peter Thom, President IDHEE said:

"The Institute of Domestic Heating and Environmental Engineers fully support this initiative to raise awareness of how inefficient and wasteful old boilers are. Faithful boilers can last longer than 15 years, but they have a detrimental effect on the environment. Installing a modern condensing boiler with new controls can save up to 40% on fuel bills and carbon dioxide emissions and don't forget that over 80% of energy used in the home is for heating and hot water" [Which seems to make it very sensible to look at getting government and loan bodies' heads together on an even greater, and better publicised (to those below) package where all who can benefit do so asap].

More information on Enhanced Capital Grants

More information on interest free energy - efficiency loans

'Dere was dese tree fella's...

Amazon jungle could be lost in 40 years, say campaigners

OK, there's 'could' and 'campaigners' in there to add a slight eyebrow kink, but really, can we ignore this at the expense of some of the petty nonsense that usually gets obsessed about?

Trust me, I'm in (green) advertising

'False' green ad complaints rise

I cannot for the life of me understand why it gets done or what is in the heads of those who think they can get away with it.,

Do they not realise that by creating a near automatic aura of doubt on anything conveying a green message by such actions, far from leading us (the public, authorities and commercial world) towards a mutually rewarding era of environmentally (and financially) rewarding relationships, these cynical efforts are simply making it more difficult and stealing time that is already precious to effect changes in public behaviour?

There are clear guidelines out there, but a weekly read of the ASA adjudications makes depressing reading as to the motives and/or competence of those involved.

I'm not big on negativity, but I'm seriously thinking of creating a 'wall of sLime' on Junkk.com where these examples get hung up for all to see, along with the names of those involved in their creation.

Joel Makover - The Greening of P.R.: Read All About It

'The world of public relations has discovered green with a vengeance, and the big global firms seem locked, loaded, and ready to fire up their drum beating.'

Consider a just-released survey by Ipsos Reid, which found that "Consumers appear to be wary of companies who label their products as being 'green', or environmentally friendly." The study found that seven in ten (70%) Americans either "strongly" (12%) or "somewhat" agree (58%) that "when companies call a product 'green' (meaning better for the environment), it is usually just a marketing tactic."

These P.R. firms will have their work cut out for them.

I'm not the only one with a watching brief, it seems.


Indy - Innocent found guilty of making false health claims - Why on earth would they do it? Great product. Great brand. Great reputation. But then they have grown to a size where there are scores of levels of munchkins vying for their place in the corporate pie. I had high hopes of getting something meaningful going with both Junkk.com and RE:tie vis a vis their commitment to re-everything, but hit a wall of trendy young things in the 'marketing' dept. who seemed unable to take a message let alone pass it on. Sad.

Brand republic - Smoothies ad pulled up over detox claims

Guardian - Innocent found guilty over smoothie health claims - well, there's no such thing as ...

Indy - Can you not know that you are using forced labour? - Not really my usual cuppa this guy, but he kinda nails it. And OK, it isn't really right for this post, either.

Mad - Lost innocence

I think all it does is show how size can create all sorts of problems.

It is hard to imagine that in leaner times those running the show would not be on top of such things. But now there will be layer upon layer of departmental munchkins (just try getting past the bananaphone to talk to a sensible decision maker without getting all sorts of folk running turf interference these days) jockeying to make their mark, so such things creep in.

As to the McDonalds hook up... what is the problem? Surely getting something healthy...ier in there is better than nothing? And if one is of a campaigning bent, better to work from within than standing outside shouting all or nothing impracticalities. And who, beyond the media, are these excitable folk who can get so turned off by such commercial decisions? I felt the same way over the hoo-haa that Anita Roddick had flogged off Body Shop. It was hers to do with as she felt. And if feeling generous (if change was her aim) was the risk of comprising the Body Shop brand not worth elevated the aspirations of the parent ?

Mind you, it can create some fun. I suspect those who bought out Ben & Jerry's haven't a clue what is going on sometimes: link

Brand Republic - NOT SO INNOCENT

I was going to post but it was more question so forgive me taking the more direct route.

Having had a rather frustrating time of late with innocent (there are aspects of our businesses that suggest(ed) synergy), which I have pretty much identified with their growth curve out-stripping their original (and, I believe, sincerely held) stated desire to not be like the rest, your comment resonated.

However, as I blogged (link above), I laid this more at the door corporate B*****cks and gatekeeper culture. But you seem to be suggesting that there is something more predictable than even this. You would not have written what you did had you not believed it, but I must say I am surprised that marketing gurus, much less those whose hunger has pushed them to darker places, could simply feel the risk of such a strategy could be worth it.

Look how much damage this one small thing has created for the brand, versus what minute % increase they may have generated overstated the benefits of this product.

I truly hope you are wrong. But fear you may be right.

Guardian - Hot air

I'm holding my breath.

Just as a precaution, mind.

Build it, and...

I'm always a tad confused as to what is mandatory and what is advisory when it comes to officail enagegemnt, especially with matters enviro. So I found this interesting: Guidance to help industry respond to the zero carbon challenge

There's no link to the PR, so I'll pop most down here verbatim (sans 'Minster says Yay' puff, which was most of it).

Communities and Local Government published revised guidance to help the construction industry respond to the challenge of meeting the zero carbon homes target.

It responds to comments and feedback from industry, and provides greater clarity in a number of areas including the future eligibility of different energy sources and the method for calculating anticipated water consumption.

HM Treasury will shortly lay draft regulations before Parliament setting out definition of a zero carbon home for stamp duty land tax purposes. An exemption on stamp duty land tax for new zero carbon homes was announced by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown last December.

The Budget 2007 stated: "that from 1 October 2007 all new homes meeting the zero carbon standard costing up to £500,000 will pay no stamp duty, and zero-carbon homes costing in excess of £500,000 will receive a reduction in their stamp duty bill of £15,000. The exemption will be time limited for 5 years until 30 September 2012, but before the end of the time limit the Government will review the effectiveness of the relief and consider the case for an extension".

The key changes are:

* The way energy efficiencies for flats with and without renewables are calculated;
* The way water efficiencies are calculated; and
* The use of off-site renewable energy sources. In future, these will not be eligible unless directly connected to the development concerned. The Code continues to allow connection to gas and electricity grids as long as the home produces net zero carbon emissions over the year.

The Code Technical Guidance, including definition of zero carbon, will be kept under review as new evidence emerges about costs and practicalities, and as technologies develop

Key features of a zero carbon development could include technologies such as:

Combined heat and power
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is a fuel-efficient energy technology that, unlike conventional forms of power generation, puts to use the by-product heat that is normally wasted to the environment. CHP can increase the overall efficiency of fuel use to more than 75 per cent, compared with around 50 per cent or less from conventional electricity generation.

District heating and cooling systems
District heating is a system for distributing heat generated in a centralized location for residential and/or commercial heating
requirements. District heating systems (DHS) distribute steam or hot water to multiple buildings. The heat can be provided from a variety of sources, including geothermal, CHP plants, waste heat from industry, and purpose-built heating plants.

Aquifer Thermal Energy
Aquifer thermal energy storage uses underground water reserves called aquifers. There are two wells (typically) on either side with hydraulic coupling. One well is for the warm water and the other one is for the cold.
In the winter, warm water is cooled and passed to the cold well. Energy is extracted by a heat exchanger for heating purposes. In summer, the process is reversed and cold water is used for cooling. Once heated, the water is stored in the cold well. The advantage about this system is that it is environmentally safe; the water which circulates from underground to the heat exchangers and back can not be contaminated as it always remains in the system.

Ground Source Heat Pumps
Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) transfer heat from the ground into a building to provide space heating and, in some cases, to pre-heat domestic hot water.

Passive Heating
Passive heating systems are used in buildings which are insulated to a very high standard and make use of solar thermal gain and heat exchanges on ventilation systems, so that no external energy source (other than perhaps background heat generated by people living there and appliances) is required to keep the building warm.

Solar and Wind Energy
Solar energy can be used in a number of ways to provide energy. Passive solar energy is the use of sunlight to keep buildings warm through the direct warming effect of the sun on a building, eg via walls and glazing. Thermal solar panels which provide space heating and hot water. Another method is to convert solar energy to electricity in photovoltaic cells.