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Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

It’s party time!

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What is beneath the gloss?

So now that the Diamond Jubilee parties are over and we bask a little longer in the glow, the next party is upon us from tomorrow in the shape of a footballing feast known as the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Another few weeks of supermarket prodding will have us overfilled with lager, beer, and frozen pizzas, our homes and cars will be draped with the flag of St. George, the “red tops” will exhort the England football team to glories well beyond their reach (they have only ONCE reached the semi final of this tournament), the new flatscreen TVs will be overheating, and when it all ends……….well there are the Olympics and Paralympics to look forward to in London, along with commercially sponsored torch bearers. One only hopes that South Tyneside Council is NOT tempted to mount the giant screen in the park again, I fear the demand will not be there to sit and watch in a South Shields park!

Of course our politicians will probably be a little more sanguine than myself, especially having invested so heavily in the London Olympics, and I confess most of the Olympian sports hold little interest for me even though there will be some football in Newcastle, but for others this will indeed be a veritable feast of summer sports with Wimbledon and Test Match cricket thrown into the mix. David Cameron and News International will be hoping to share the glory of English and British sportsmen and women as the medal count increases the “feel good” factor and the national index of good cheer. Parliament will be enjoying its long summer break with only the Leveson inquiry interrupting the good news, yet quietly gurgling away beneath the veneer of good cheer and “gloss” will be ……………………the economy.

Let’s not forget, that this is the main event!

After two years of a Conservative led coalition government the track record is not that impressive, the deficit continues to grow (albeit at a slower pace), the national debt is still woefully out of control, borrowing is still at record levels and getting higher, public expenditure is higher now than in the last years of Brown’s disastrous administration, so much for the cuts eh? The slight saving grace is that unemployment has not yet broken past levels which might lead to the sort of civil unrest witnessed in Greece. The Eurozone crisis refuses to go away, banks still appear to need recapitalisng (again) and none of the major European players seem willing to take the bull by the horns and dismantle the single currency. All the while the pan European policy appears to be one of further austerity, less public spending, and increasing taxation, as near every nation in the EU other than Germany slumbers along on virtually zero growth.

Growth? Did I mention growth?

Ah yes, who has the secret elixir which will put more money into the hands of consumers or savers? It is they alone who can provide the demand and stimulus that economies need, and any person in South Tyneside who tells you that they couldn’t use a few extra quid a month is madly deluded. Banks rely on savers to swell deposits, greater deposits create more capital, more capital creates greater liquidity which normally leads to easier lending and investment, yet the current economic cycle has brought us interest rates which creep closer to zero and discourage any saving at all. Similarly current personal and indirect taxation levels do nothing at all to inspire consumer confidence and help us to prioritise our spending on essentials such as mortgages and rents, fuel, and keeping our older cars on the road for even longer. It is almost a pan European deflationary cycle. Our own government is caught up in the very same frame of mind as Labour’s outgoing Chancellor Alistair Darling who was equally determined to reduce the deficit whilst raising taxes and sending out hopeful signals on government expenditure. Neither Labour nor the current coalition appears to have had a “plan B” that might have included some major initiatives to promote economic growth and rekindle consumer demand.

So, sadly, whilst we are in the summer party of love mood we have to remind the politicians that “it’s the economy stupid”, and with that in mind I’ve asked some of our prominent politicians in South Tyneside, along with some business people and other bloggers for their ideas on what we need to do to get our local and national economy on the move. Of course your own ideas are very welcome too.

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Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) restructured

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Eight business leaders added to board

Having lobbied the government to delay any announcements on funding for the north east Local Enterprise Partnership, business leaders have succeeded in getting eight of their numbers appointed to the new board of the LEP. Along with two academics they join seven local authority representatives in an effort to create an imaginative proposition that could bring increased funding for north east enterprises and jobs.

Speaking on behalf of the seven local authorities that make up the partnership, Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, welcomed the appointment of the permanent board.

He said: “We now have a board with a good mix of skills and experience and I’m sure under Paul Woolston’s leadership we will be able to build on this over the next few months to support a thoughtful and strategic approach to the economic development for the North East.”

Mr Woolston said: “I’m North East through and through and for me the reason for getting involved with the partnership is clear, what is good for the regional economy is good for my business life and family life, just the same as it is for everyone here.

“So really I want to galvanise the region, to make sure this partnership makes this a better place to live and work. That means the entire North East, working with the Tees Valley local enterprise partnership to really do what we can together.”

He added: “I’m interested in the whole of the North East, rather than just looking out for individual areas, and I include Tees Valley when I say we are stronger when we act together as a region.”

The big question remains will this benefit South Tyneside (who favoured a scheme based on the A19 corridor), or will it favour the larger cities of Newcastle/Gateshead and Sunderland? Whilst any jobs boost and regeneration will be warmly welcomed, I fear that existing companies may benefit at the expense of new start ups, and I can only hope that the science and green initiatives currently being marketed can have some real impact.

Do readers think that these areas mark out the future for the north east?

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Written by curly

July 5, 2011 at 10:17 am

South Shields homes inspired by penguins.

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emporor penguinsNo….they won’t be designed by The Joker either!

Antarctic penguins proved an unlikely inspiration for some of the greenest homes now under construction in the North East. Work is now under way on 21 carbon-negative homes at Reed Street, South Shields – and their design was partly inspired by the way penguins huddle together to survive extreme cold, says Lynda Peacock, Group Director of Development and Regeneration at Four Housing Group. Extreme conditions in the Antarctic see several thousand emperor penguins huddling together to reduce the amount of surface area exposed to the north wind, thus retaining heat in spite of the bitter cold.

The new homes are designed to imitate the penguins, with the main habitable rooms facing south and exposed northern elevations kept to a minimum. This maximises the natural heat and light from the sun, helping residents save money on bills as well as reducing the development’s environmental impact.

These new homes in Reed Street, South Shields will be primarily tax payer funded by The Homes and Community Agency and are promised to be “carbon negative” employing the very latest in “green building” techniques and will feature solar photovoltaic panels to produce some electricity (which I approve of), and a biomass heating system (which I am not so sure about) to produce heat in these super insulated houses opposite The Eureka.

I think I need to learn more, I have taken advantage of just about every scheme and tax payer funded initiative available to stuff my loft with several feet of insulation, filled my wall cavities with insulation, added pvcu double glazing and doors etc. etc. yet in my mainly south facing location I have yet to feel much benefit, we felt as cold this winter as we did in any other, so we probably used as much gas fired central heating as normal. Notwithstanding the self generated electricity that these houses may be provided with, and I have yet to try calculating how much CO2 the production of solar panels emits, there is the question of biomass heating systems which from what I read in Wikipedia could have an unbalancing effect on some eco-systems and the

combustion of biomass creates air pollutants and adds significant quantities of carbon to the atmosphere that may not be returned to the soil for many decades.

Additionally one has to consider the production of all of the building materials used to erect these homes, the heavy plant and diesel used to deliver materials to the site, the production of all of the tools required by construction workers, the production of all of the safety clothing that they will no doubt require during the building phase, what exactly is the cost of all of this in CO2 emissions?

Finally, on completion, there will be people living in these homes, decorating them with materials that emitted CO2 in their manufacture, eating food that had a cost in CO2 emissions, and unfortunately they will be breathing air and exhaling more CO2 into the atmosphere!

Can someone please explain to me what exactly is meant by a “carbon negative” penguin inspired flat, and which Joker invented the term?

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Written by curly

April 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Enterprise Zone good news for North East

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logoTyneside not forgotten in Budget

One of the better pieces of news from this week’s Budget was the announcement, from a Tory Chancellor who some decried as wanting to kill off the north-east, of the creation of two “enterprise zones” for the region, one to be in Teeside and the other to be on Tyneside, the exact locations to be determined by the members of the respective Local Enterprise Partnerships. I am glad that the announcement has received a “warmish” reception from the Labour Leader of South Tyneside Council Iain Malcolm who said:

“Clearly we have a decision to make, and we have until May until we need to advise the Department for Business on where we want this, but it is a welcome situation.”

The legacy of the last Enterprise Zones created in the 1980 Budget from Nigel Lawson is mixed with evidence of some lasting success and evidence of job transfers where employment had moved into an Enterprise Zone but had been lost from its previous location, from 1981 to 1986 the Enterprise Zones had cost nearly £300 million, but 2,800 firms were established in them, employing over 63,000 people. Some estimate that only around 13000 net jobs were created in the areas attracted by low local tax rates but the government at the time probably saw low tax revenue as being far better  than no tax revenue at all. Some locations such as the Merryhill Shopping Centre in Dudley, the Metro Centre in Gateshead, and the Canary Wharf redevelopment in London are seen as longer term successes where the employment provided probably equalled or bettered the employment that had previously been lost.

For us here in South Tyneside the location of the North East Enterprise Zone will be of paramount importance, as will the transition towards “wind down” as tax breaks and incentives inevitably need to be phased out, the hope being that capital flight will not occur as it did in Scotland in the 80s and to some extent other parts of the UK. Local councils will need to budget carefully in those areas where revenue will be lessened during the life of an Enterprise Zone and then carefully nurtured after the wind down in order to keep any new net jobs and encourage continued economic growth.

One of the most important factors will be the close proximity to the A19 with its new cross Tyne link and the availability of  The Port of Tyne as a major logistics facility, the partnerships arranged with other local authorities will need to be strong and effective in countering the claims of those on the north bank of the Tyne who may well have closer links to government than we do on the south side, although it ought to be appreciated that Cllr. Malcolm has been wisely networking with Conservative and Lib-Dem ministers for at least the past two years from a time when it became clear that Labour would have difficulty in winning an election under Gordon Brown’s leadership. His astute use of his business and political connections via lobbying firm Sovereign Strategy will have put him in a good place to promote South Tyneside as a place to do business, and a borough worthy of continued government support on whatever scale could be managed.

The Local Enterprise Partnership for the north east comprises members of seven councils covering areas of Durham, Tyne Wear, and Northumberland and it will be chaired by former Sage CEO Paul Walker, who after 16 years at the helm of the company was one of the longest serving CEOs of a FTSE100 listed company at the time of his departure, and it is important to recognise that the driving force behind this vehicle will have years of business and enterprise experience, rather than someone steeped in public sector service.

So now the difficult discussions need to begin on where we want an Enterprise Zone to be established, early suggestions include Wallsend with its green renewable energy plan, and land near the Nissan plant at Washington, I’m not sure if it is a requisite that one major zone needs to be created or whether it is possible to outline two or three separate areas that can be dovetailed together to provide a better mix of opportunities, in which case I’d like to see the Monkton business area in South Tyneside expanded to participate in the scheme. Wherever the LEP decides to locate the Enterprise Zone I believe that it is absolutely essential to look at the region’s infrastructure and quickly source more funding to improve the road networks that facilitate easy access to the A19 north and south of the Tyne to eradicate the “pinch points” that currently exist at Testo’s roundabout and the Silverlink, otherwise the eventual completion of the new Tyne Tunnel crossing will not provide as much relief as was first envisaged.

There is an opportunity being offered here for some sustained local economic growth which must not be missed, and our local council leaders need to be prepared to take bold and imaginative decisions which may shape the development of Tyneside for many years to come. They also need to be cognisant of the risks involved by the type of development allowed in the Enterprise Zone and how it impacts upon the livelihood of our existing town centres.

Do readers have any preferences or ideas about where and what type of development we would like to see from a north east Enterprise Zone?

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Fossil fuels produce less CO2 than biodiesel

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Government forcing production of biodiesel which pumps out more CO2 than petrol.

Using biofuel in vehicles may be accelerating the destruction of rainforest and resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions than burning pure petrol and diesel, a watchdog said yesterday.

The Renewable Fuels Agency also warned that pump prices could rise in April because of the Government’s policy of requiring fuel companies to add biofuel to petrol and diesel. More than 1.3 million hectares of land — twice the area of Devon — was used to grow the 2.7 per cent of Britain’s transport fuel that came from crops last year.

Under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, a growing proportion of biofuel must be added to diesel and petrol. This year fuel must be at least 3.25 per cent biofuel on average. By 2020 the proportion will be 13 per cent………………..

Most companies met part of their biofuel obligation by buying palm oil, one of the cheapest fuels but potentially the most damaging to the environment because of the carbon released when forest is burnt down to create plantations.

Expansion of the industry has made Indonesia the third-largest CO2 emitter after China and the US. A litre of palm oil produced on land converted from Indonesian forest produces roughly three times as much CO2 as ordinary diesel.

Can somebody please explain to me why and how public policy has become so muddle headed and disjointed in the face of this climate change/global warming malarkey? I’d love to know why public policy hasn’t backed innovative inventions that actually do result in lower carbon emissions, and we we continue to build and promote vehicles that run on fossil fuels, surely modern technology can provide good alternatives? I guess the answer to my question revolves around the power and influence of oil companies and states in politically sensitive or unstable regions that have leverage over western economies. Why else should compressed air motors not be running around our streets?

Seriously this biodiesel thing is as clever as wind turbines sat under a high pressure weather system!

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Written by curly

February 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Energy, environment, News, Technology

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Some global warming quirks

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White holiday period throws up some oddities

It is probably some time since South Shields enjoyed such a lengthy period of zero and sub zero temperatures, especially over the Christmas and New Year period, and it has helped my children enjoy a little of what I enjoyed at their age, the environment has changed into  a winter wonderland playground and even afforded me some different photographic opportunities. New spots seem to have been found for sledge runs at Gypsies Green and the South Marine Park but fewer have ventured on to Cleadon Hills, the art of making the giant snowman certainly hasn’t died but the the skills required to make the roundest and smoothest snowballs seem to have suffered.

No doubt many of you have resorted to leaving the central heating on 24/7 at a low but comfortable temperature, and some of you will have discovered that a whole new set of driving skills are requires in the side streets (remember to gently pull away in second or even third gear – not first), but when walking the old hob nailed boots are a big miss on the ice. Yet despite the return of a winter that was common in the 50s and 60s, and with certain forecasters speculating that Britain faces a lengthy spell of freezing temperatures, and the coldest winter for over 25 years, it kind of amuses and tickles me that this Labour government and it’s partners in the global warming camp fall of themselves to see who can look the biggest fools.

Which bright spark though of this idea? Instead of doing something positive to insulate homes or to secure future energy needs in the wholesale gas markets, or invest in nuclear energy, we find that millions of low energy lamps have been given away willy nilly and that most of them will never be used! I have a cupboard full of them, every lamp in the house is a low energy lamp, I’ve used them for over twenty years and two of them are of the originals, so the likelihood of me needing replacements in the next year or two is incredibly slim. I’ve given so many away to older people, but then find that they received even more than I in the post, their own lights will flicker and die before the energy savers!

In the first 18 months of the scheme, companies issued 182 million bulbs but insulated only 17,000 solid-wall homes. Britain has 6.6 million solid-wall homes requiring insulation.

Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the cost of these  182 million bulbs will find it’s way on to our electricity bills, hey thanks guys, just what we hard pressed consumers need in the middle of a recession! At least back in the old days when South Shields was lit by coal gas, you could warm your fingers beside the mantle, and even a sixty watt filament lamp dissipated heat, but the EU saw to the end of those!

So now, unless we are pretty well off, we will freeze at night to save on energy bills, and sit around in the house with wool hats drawn over our lugs, but at least we wont have risk a broken neck rushing out to the corner shop to buy a replacement light bulb.

Now I know that we should not take a great deal of notice over single events in the weather patterns, so I’ll not say a great deal more about the winter weather, nor question whether or not freezing temperatures are a result of climate change, but another strange side effect of the political decisions taken in the face of the global warming onslaught on legislators is that we driving away rare birds from their habitats as the ugly wind farm electricity generators scare them away.

Buzzards, golden plovers, curlews and red grouse, are abandoning countryside around wind farms because the turbines act as giant scarecrows, frightening them away.

“We found evidence for localised reductions in bird breeding density around upland wind farms. Importantly, for the first time, we have quantified such effects across a wide range of species,” said James Pearce-Higgins, an ecologist with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland.

With nearly 500 more wind farms arranged to come on stream in the next few years, does this mean that some more predatory birds will start roosting in our towns?

The British Wind Energy Association has said the idea that UK wind farms affect birds is a “myth” and warns that climate change is a far greater threat.

Of course they would say that, they have £ millions invested and want to make a profit, rather like the folks who are happily chopping down the South American rain forests and replacing some of them with fields of grain to make biodiesel, without realising that that they are creating an environment more easily eroded by winds and rain and destroying the habitats of wildlife and humans, as well as harming the earth’s lungs.

The solving of this great global warming crisis really does throw up some very odd side effects, and with hundreds of nations gathered in Copenhagen failing to reach any major agreement worth talking about, we shouldn’t be surprised that disparity, confusion, disconnect, and dismay become the natural outcomes.

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Written by curly

January 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm

102nd. Soldier dies in Afghanistan

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Gordon Brown continues to be a walking PR disaster.

Via Guido Fawkes

As we continue to be extremely saddened by further news of more British casualties in the Afghan war, it is annoying see the Prime Minister Gordon Brown attempting to improve his profile with bad PR opportunities, and incredible to think that he believes a soldier should break from his “standing to attention” to shake his hand (and there are rumours that others ducked out of the opportunity too).

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQHebAqIY7E&fmt=]

Meanwhile Gordon is off to Copenhagen to save the world and promise more British cash for developing countries so long as they do what they are told on climate issues, even though none of them are happy with the positions taken by the western economies:

“It is possible that we will not get an agreement,” he said. “This is also true of many issues to be sorted out but I am determined with the conversations I have had already today to do everything I can to bring the world together.”

Go on Superman!

David Cameron, on the other hand is launching a plan which forms a partnership with major retailers to insulate homes and allow people to share the benefits of the savings, but he doesn’t sound too happy about some other politicians:

“If the environmental agenda becomes limited to well-suited politicians stepping out of aeroplanes on to tarmacs, telling people how to live their lives and sounding like everyone else will just have to sit in a darkened room, wearing woollies with the lights turned off and the heating down, we are not going to get anywhere.”People do not like being lectured. You have to take people with you, and the way to do that is to connect individual behaviour and rewards, and help people see the advantages of going green. We have to have carrots as well as sticks.”

His plan is sound, so long as energy costs remain at current levels, rising gas and electricity wholesale prices would be likely to make a big dent in the available savings.

Here in South Shields I have already taken advantage of a couple of offers for additional loft insulation and draft proofing measures under a government funded grant scheme, but alas my bills continue to rise!

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Written by curly

December 16, 2009 at 11:23 am