Monday, February 04, 2008

Limiting food choice to cut carbon emissions?

I don't recollect anybody actually saying this, other than on the ultra green, vegan fringes, but it seems to be exercising the mind of one of Sainsbury's directors as reported by First4Farming.

"Managing needs versus demand seems like a form of communism, he said. It's something the world we are living in isn't ready for."

The thing is, if climate change does tick past any of the theoretical tipping points some time in the future, we all may have no option but to eat only what is available locally (if amongst the lucky ones). However, in the meantime, the idea of a 'meat tax' might just have our erstwhile chancellor licking his lips in anticipation of yet another way to fill the coffers!

PROF'S POSER - Burning questions

As a result of this blog post, and subsequent comments, I was wondering if anyone knew what the rules on burning domestic waste actually were?

More grist to the mill?

I've always been fascinated with water mills and have never really understood why so many disappeared during my younger days. I guess that cheap electricity made them largely uneconomic to run.

But, water mills themselves can, and do, in a few instances, generate electricity in their own right. However, the DBERR's (it used to be the simple to understand DTI) rules on awarding double ROC's (Renewable Obligation Certificates) on all micro-generation projects appear to be pushing many water mills out of the equation as reported in CarbonFree.

"For example at Tellisford, with Declared Net Capacity (DNC) of 55kW, the site will generate about 280,000 kWh per year, on which the income including its single ROC will be about £26,600. Yet a slightly smaller site with DNC of 50kW would generate about 231,000 kWh per year, on which including double ROCs it would earn about £33,500. Thus a mill generating 17% less electricity would receive 26% more money."

Now that is simply insane. Yet another example of rules being ill thought out, poorly implemented and actually forcing the opposite of what they were intended to do in the first place.

Well done (extremely sarcastically, of course) DBERR.

I meant to include this too. It rather reminds me of the retired engineer who rebuilt a derelict old water mill into a highly desirable property somewhere in Derbyshire some 15 to 20 years ago. He didn't want the mill wheel working and doing nothing, so he adapted it to generate enough power for his own benefit. All was going well until Severn Trent Water Authority decided that it would charge him thousands of pounds a year for using their water to generate electricity!

Of course, he simply shut down the mill wheel.

Understatement of the Year

Pickles voices concern over possible ‘bin bailiffs’

Claims that councils will be able to employ bailiffs to collect unpaid bills from save-as-you-throw pilots have not been denied by Defra and the Local Government Association (LGA)

The latest 'Nu-speak' is it? 'Does not deny’ means what, exactly? Is that a yes, or a no? Or is it the latest fudge in a whole candy store of sickly treats to see what can be got away with, obfuscated or plausibly denied later. At least it used to be 'Yes, Minister'. Now it's 'That is clearly not acceptable, and does need looking at...maybe' Minister'.

Bearing in mind that politicians of all hues, and from every area that requires a vote to stay in power seek public support, I am amazed that such things get floated at all in this way, and then when they do to such muted responses from the opposition. Are such sources of revenue really so attractive as to blind these people to how this is playing out in the real world?

No wants to see unnecessary waste or litter, and hence the punitive options may well still need to be considered. But not as a first resort. And not in such a blanket manner. And not in the hands of the folk who currently seem to be being given the keys to the baton cupboard.

I the other day watched a YouTube video of an bailiff assaulting an old boy trying to gain access to his home to 'enforce' the BBC license fee. And these are the kind of thoroughly discredited individuals that it is proposed to let loose as agents of a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ culture that is developing today, by increasingly over-staffed, overpaid, yet responsibility and accountability-shy public servants who like to hide behind quangos, consultants and other 3rd parties to try and distance themselves from the possible (!) negative consequences of their decisions and/or actions.

Before addressing all ways to impose and profit from public compliance, I'd suggest a lot more effort goes first into ensuring every possible way had been established to ensure they can, and preferably WANT to comply. So there’s a lot of joined up thinking needed... and waaaay before one demands anything of the public!

As to using one's vote I could not agree more. But it is also a rather disingenuous argument. How many can really claim to be able to pinpoint the individual numpties messing our lives up at local or national level with sufficient accuracy any more (they all change so much it's hard to even keep up with who carries what responsibility) to target one's electoral protest?

I'm sorry, as with the road pricing, this is one environmental campaigner who will be fighting a potentially highly enviROI+ measure simply because in its current form I have zero trust in the reasons behind and competencies of those trying to instigate it.

Animal welfare more important than climate change

That's one of the quite surprising (well, at least to me) outcomes of a poll conducted by the Co-op of 100,000 members as reported in Money Observer.

Now I don't normally like surveys, but 100,000 completed questionnaires has got to represent a reasonable statistical sample, even if only of Co-op members and customers.

"Only 4% rate climate change as their top ethical priority, compared with 21% who think animal welfare is the most important issue and 14% who rate fair trade as their key concern."

"Shoppers' worries about the environment are focused on issues other than climate change. Twice as many are concerned about the amount of packaging on their food as think global warming is the most important issue."

So there you have it. Climate change is a minor issue amongst consumers. Packaging, animal welfare and ethical trading are far more important.

What does this tell us? Well, I reckon that this result is clearly an indication of just how consumers have switched off from the debate on climate change as a result of the constant tis/tisn't arguments, the obfuscation coming from our own gov (and its appointed quangos etc.), the general feeling that our gov sees it as a way of sanctioning various additional taxes and the generally media led opinion that there's nothing we can do about it anyway.

Now all that is simply going to make moving forward on tackling climate change even more difficult. We are going to need some very strong leadership. Anybody see any sign of that about at the moment?