Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Refuse Collection Frequency

How often should refuse (trash) be collected? Good question. I suppose it depends what the refuse consists of. The only way to find out is to examine it, something few people would want to do*. But one thing is clear, if the climate continues to change in an upward direction, bins are going to get hotter, not just because they are excellent absorbers of heat from the sun, but because their contents are increasingly prone to fermentation, decay and rot.

Today's society is geared to throwing things away - scraps of meals, babies' diapirs, packaging - all of which has to be put somewhere. The expense of doing this has driven many local governments in the UK to reduce the frequency of refuse collection to once every two weeks. And now we read a a study which shows that people recycle more when the period between collections is extended. This study misses the point completely. Without writing a thesis on the subject, here are the high points:

1. Two weeks is a long time in a hot summer - bins get very hot and high. This is a health issue, not one for the climate change experts. Rats should not be encouraged. In hot climates the collections can be daily and this is for good reason.

2. If governments are sincere about this problem, then they should be finding ways to reduce the amount of packaging.

3. Everyone should be encouraged to install either a composter, or a waste disposal unit if composting is out of the question.

*There have been studies into what people put into trash cans - the US Drug Enforcement Agency does it all the time, as do identity thieves. But the best example I know of was the study undertaken for the "Don't Mess with Texas" litter campaign. The researchers examined highway trash and were able to recommend where the State should place advertisements to persuade people not to mess with Texas - a favorite was the country radio station with Willie Nelson hired as the spokesman. No more beer cans out the window! Well, a few less, anyways.

On Political Manifestos

So the BBC commissions an expert to examine the Welsh political parties' election manifestos and he finds them lacking. Why on Earth should we be surprised by this non-news event!

Politicians are introducing draconian rules based on "saving the planet" when and where it suits them, not because they necessarily believe in their aims. To some extent, this is all window dressing, so they can be seen to be concerned. The truth is, of course, that election manifestos are written to get votes - what happens afterwards is anyone's guess. As to those draconian rules, invariably they are seen to be tax revenue measures, hitting the populace in the under belly they have previously softened up for the purpose of making us all feel so very guilty about "the planet".

Monday, April 23, 2007

On Biodiesel

This is a useful article that poses the question "if biodiesel is so good why aren't we getting the whole story?

I have to admit that driving past bright yellow fields of rapeseed can certainly brighten a dull morning but couldn't, shouldn't the land be used to grow food crops, particularly in a country that imports food? I mean, what about the transport costs of bringing food in from faraway places when much more of it could be grown here?

There are also vexing questions (rarely brought up) about the negative effects of biodiesel. Is it all right if your engine won't last so long? Of course it isn't, so why aren't we thinking about the extra cost (to us and the environment) of having to replace that engine before its time?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Coring Antarctica

This BBC report makes for fascinating reading for a geologist. What is interesting is the spin placed on the data by both researchers and the BBC reporter. The main reason for doing the research is purported to be studies on climate change but in reality this is likely to have been initiated more as a pure research project that got waylaid by the global warming community.

The cores show us that the Pliocene in Antarctica was warmer than today and it is anticipated that next year's core into the older Miocene sediments will provide evidence of even warmer climes. This is generally known from studies elsewhere on the planet but it is always useful to have another control point.

So, none of the work is revealing anything geologists would not have expected. Routine research with a twist!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Question marks are important!

First Post carries a two page article that makes for interesting reading. It appears Nature dropped a question mark from the title of a research paper that presented spurious data on the Gulf Steam slowing down and which would have serious implications for Europe if it was true. Two facts emerge. One, the researchers miscalculated their results, and two, Nature dropped the question mark that provided the correct measure of uncertainty, despite the mistakes they failed to catch. The media latched on to the "certainty" and their conclusions are for all to see. Unfortunately the errata won't be.

This is Important!

Here is an important report on the move by parents to take legal action against the Government for forcing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" on unsuspecting children.

I am reminded of one of the rare moments when I really agreed with Rush Limbaugh. "Schools" he stated, "have this propensity to fill young skulls with mush".

The bad aspect of the Education Ministry sending this video to every school in the land is that there is no opportunity for an opposite point of veiw, no opportunity for debate, no opportunity for science to be introduced as a subject that requires proper testing for a theory to become accepted. School teachers are likely to be conned by Al Gore in the same way he has conned Hollywood (I bet that was difficult!) and many of his politician friends. Without ammunition to counter this propaganda, teachers are defenseless and students vulnerable.

How to Sell Oak Trees

One of the Google Adsense advertisers demonstrates how to make a fortune on the back of your carbon footprint conscience!

I made up the entry to show what a "gas guzzler" I could be. Even with a minimal life style, however, the company still says that I would need to buy 7 oak trees a year!

Whatever Happened to Simply Saving Energy?

Every page of the newspapers these days carries an ad exhorting people to be green, save the planet, reduce their carbon footprints, etc. etc.

I have no doubt that a similar spate of "green" ads also pervades the broadcast media (tho' I wouldn't know as I rarely watch TV).

It seems to me that ever since Jimmy Carter's failed exercise in exhorting the American public to save energy, saving energy has become synonymous with his reputation. Which is absurd. Why on Earth wouldn't an individual want to save energy if it also saves money (which it does!)? The simple economics of Carter's idea appears to have been lost on advertisers, who, after all, are not really interested in us saving anything when we can spend it on their products!

So the politicians have come up with a nice scam. Don't save yourself your hard earned money - save the planet instead. And in the process pay more taxes to the politicians.

Two examples of how to save energy and how not to:

First, ground source heat pumps. Good idea. Although there is an initial cost of installing the system this is not so high for new builds and is a genuine way to save energy costs for raising the temperature of water. What is more, it is effectively a solar energy heat source which has no adverse effect on the environment.

Second, wind farms and personal wind mills. Bad idea. The initial cost of wind mills has been shown to be uneconomic without high energy prices and subsidies. The proof of this is the fact that many "greens" are happy to pay more for "green" electricity! Second, when the wind isn't blowing the wind mills don't make electricity. But consumers (even the "greens") still expect to have an uninterrupted supply, so back up generators are needed. These cannot be switched on the moment the wind drops and so must use energy even when they are not needed. Wind mills, whether large or small, are visible, noisy and a danger to bird life. Though the latter two criticisms only apply when the rotors are moving!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wind Farms

Recently I have come across wind farms in strange places. The first was while flying from Calgary to London. Clear skies over Scotland and Northern England allowed some photography from my window seat and I was busy recognizing old haunts from my Ph.D. fieldwork when I saw the strangest thing:
Offshore Wind Farm
An offshore wind farm in the Irish Sea!

Not one rotor was rotating. Not one! Which means that somewhere in the UK a steam generator (nuclear, natural gas or coal-fired) was busy making up the deficiency. The problem with this "back up" for wind energy is that you cannot simply switch on a conventional or nuclear power station when the wind drops.

The second occurrence was in a horrendous traffic jam on the A5 trunk road near Oswestry. Fortunately I was moving in the opposite direction but the tail back behind two advance warning police cars, a white van, four huge rotor blade carrying pantechnicons and a rearguard white van was about six miles long. This convoy was, presumably, heading for the Welsh Mountains where similar structures pollute the landscape and drive nearby residents crazy with their noise.

The strange thing about the convoy was that there were four blades when wind turbines normally have three. Perhaps the turbines need an extra back up?