Monday, March 10, 2008

Even renewables may have their environmental downsides

As this article from the Washington Post highlights.

Polysilicon is a core component in any photovoltaic cell, and its manufacture is quite a toxic process, with one of the major by-products being silicon tetrachloride, an extremely noxious and poisonous chemical that is difficult to handle, and even more difficult to recycle back into the manufacturing process. The capital equipment costs simply to handle this one chemical is one of the main reasons why the production of polysilicon is so expensive in the Western world.

Now many manufacturers source their polysilicon from China. I hope, if they read this, they may think again.

See, by trying to manufacture as cheaply as possible, even something as green as a photovoltaic cell can be highly toxic to the environment.

We are committed to tackling climate change

Oh, really? You could have fooled me.

That post heading is the response by a spokesman from the DBERR (it used to be the DTI), to an accusation that the government itself places hurdles in the way of simple, and relatively cheap, energy saving domestic solar hot water installations, as reported in the Telegraph.

A few years back, you could easily get a grant of £400 towards the installation of solar water heating, providing the chosen kit was on the approved list (tested and checked out for free) and you used an approved installer (simple capabilities assessment). The grant is still available, but nowadays you have to be equivalently as lucky as to have won the national lottery jackpot to have a chance of getting it. Contrast that with Northern Ireland, where under the control of the assembly, the grant is £1100, and is very easily available.

"we have been disappointed, indeed astonished, to find that we face a host of obstacles from government, despite the rhetoric on combating climate change and the commitment to renewable energy". That's a comment from Hugh Synge, founder of a solar water heating business. And he's quite correct, the grant system is now an utter shambles; now the installers have to pay £1800 to be registered as approved (a lot for any small business); and now to get any solar water heating model approved by the BRE costs some £6000+ (a hurdle my own business simply cannot afford to get over as yet). And we haven't even mentioned the dog's breakfast of obstacles that planning permission puts in the way of any installation, despite multiple promises that planning permission requirements will be waived for renewable energy installations.

This would be so simple to sort out, and the savings for the consumer, and the planet, would be extremely significant. But, of course, that would require some real action, not just 'commitment', and a load of sickly green bullsh*t. Let's face it, there is so much more mileage, kudos and good publicity in jumping on easy things like the banning plastic bags bandwagon, isn't there? And all this at a time when we see headlines like 'Climate change could spark war' from Metro, and 'Millions of climate change migrants will overwhelm Europe', from the Mail on Sunday.

Committed? If you ask me, the whole lot of them ought to be!

Recycle or go to hell!

A sign of the times perhaps? Or a bit of oddball religious CSR? The headline is taken from the Telegraph reporting on the Vatican's modern reassessment of the seven deadly sins.

Gone are sloth, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath and pride; these are said to have a "rather individualistic dimension". (Strange, I always thought they were supposed to apply to the individual?) The new list includes "genetic modification, carrying out experiments on humans, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, causing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy and taking drugs".

You have been warned - reuse or recycle your plastic bags - if not be prepared for eternal damnation!

In case you can't afford to go Galactic

Branson Helps You Hire a Private Jet - Virgin Charter

Maybe one engine flies on bio-fuel?

I am road-testing a new acronym: HI-AW (Pronounced 'Hee-aw', like a donkey braying).

It means 'Having It All Ways'.


Should have started this before now.

To kick off:

Indy Letters - It's time to adopt national road pricing

let the debate begi... hit gridlock!

Science vs. Media. And the losers are...

Us! (Planet will do fine)

Reporters feel the heat over climate change

No.. really?

Travellers ignore pleas to curb air travel amid growing stampede for long-haul mini-breaks

It's worth mentioning to remind 'us' that 'we' are pretty selective about what major enviro-issues will get 'us' excited, but I had to laugh at this po-faced first sentence:

'Holidaymakers are ignoring environmentalists' calls to limit their air travel and are taking more "indulgent" long-haul mini-breaks than ever before.'

Closely followed by this:

'Despite recommendations that they holiday closer to home...'

I'd have to say a lot of folk, from 'evironmentalists' (whoever they may be) to the media (when they choose to be green for a few column inches) are a little up 'emselves if this is the best they can do.

The critiques just comes across as plain silly and petty. And that is going to persuade no one.