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Lord Lawson takes on climate scientist on fracking. And the winner was…



On the day that the British Geological Survey revealed that previous studies into UK shale gas reserves could have hugely underestimated the potential, the Economist magazine hosted its annual UK Energy Summit in London. A panel discussion on fracking was the highlight of the event.

Energy secretary Ed Davey had kicked off the day’s proceedings with a keynote speech on transforming the UK’s energy market. Just over an hour later, the government would outline a number of energy policy updates, including disappointing statistics on the green deal.

Davey wasn’t able to unveil the policies at the Economist event, but he did hint that that they would go some way to meeting the government’s three core energy aims of security, affordability and decarbonisation.

Mixed in with the government’s announcements was a study by the British Geological Survey (BGS) on the UK’s shale gas reserves. In a report, it estimated that there may be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of the stuff in the north of England alone – double what was previously thought.

It was apt, then, that the Economist event should include a panel discussion that explored whether a shale gas revolution – mirroring the one currently taking place in the US – could happen in the UK.

Chaired by Economist political editor James Astill, the three-member panel comprised of World Energy Council secretary-general Christoph Frei, climate scientist Kevin Anderson and former chancellor of the exchequer Lord Lawson.

As perhaps was the intention, Lord Lawson’s inclusion caused some controversy – particularly given his outspoken views on climate change. As founder and chairman of the thinktank-cum-charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the former chancellor vehemently denies anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. Blue & Green Tomorrow named him as one of the four horsemen of the climate apocalypse in the recent Guide to Climate Change 2013. He is also very much in favour of fracking.

The impact of shale gas on the UK’s efforts to combatting climate change is up for debate. For example, Lord Deben, the chair of the government’s climate advisers the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said in a Financial Times article in February that “people should invest in shale gas in Britain” as a means of keeping the lights on. Meanwhile, some green groups rule out the technology as directly contradictory to the UK’s carbon reduction efforts.

RTCC and Greenpeace have both pondered the relationship between fracking and climate change in recent months.

Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA) recently said, If the environmental impacts of using shale gas prove to be acceptable, and if the public is happy to host the infrastructure, it is better than reliance on imports. Gas can certainly play an important transitional role, but shale gas should not be a distraction from renewables.

The UK needs eventually to produce electricity with virtually zero-carbon emissions. If shale gas can revolutionise our economy, we must invest the proceeds in building a resilient energy system for the future, dominated by renewables.

A widely-accepted view is that shale gas should act as a transition fuel as the UK moves towards a low-carbon energy mix, though even this opinion has been met with scepticism.

At the Economist event, it took Lord Lawson, a philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) graduate, less than a minute to describe wind farms as “nonsensical” – despite it being a discussion on fracking. He described the CCC and the Environment Agency as the “two ugly sisters” that were stopping shale gas from “getting to ball”.

Anderson, who is professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, offered a more considered perspective. He said that if the UK goes ahead with fracking, other countries – particularly in the developing world – will look to do the same. Put bluntly, he said, our climate may not be able to cope with this sudden boom in gas burning. Adding another fossil fuel to the energy mix would be dangerous and “the maths are absolutely clear” about that.

Anderson also commented on the risks of groundwater pollution caused by fracking. Many studies have found a connection between the two – most recently by researchers at Duke University in the US. Lord Lawson, however, rejected his fellow panellist’s claims but failed to refer to any evidence to support his assertions.

Another incident that had attendees amazed at the former chancellor’s chutzpah was his response to a question from the floor. Will Straw, associate director of left-leaning thinktank the IPPR and son of former foreign secretary Jack, pointed Lord Lawson in the direction of a comment made by a spokesperson from shale gas extraction firm Cuadrilla. The Independent reported earlier this month that the company’s PR man had admitted that fracking may not reduce energy bills.

Straw asked Lord Lawson what he made of that, to which he replied, “He didn’t say that.” We would refer readers to the original Independent article for confirmation of the spokesperson’s statement, but here’s an extract from the article:

At a meeting for concerned residents at a potential fracking site in West Sussex, a Cuadrilla representative was asked to comment on whether shale gas could drive down customers’ energy bills.

“We’ve done an analysis and it’s a very small […] at the most it’s a very small percentage […] basically insignificant”, said Mark Linder, a public relations executive at Bell Pottinger who is also responsible for Cuadrilla’s corporate development.

In the article a company spokesperson is reported to say, “Cuadrilla’s never said it [shale] will bring down prices…We don’t think it will bring down prices, although it does have the potential to.” The spokesperson went on to stress that shale gas exploitation was about security of supply than price.

An eventful panel discussion concluded with the former chancellor saying, “A government that purely pursues the policies of Kevin Anderson will be rejected by the British electorate, and quite right, too.”

But rather than giving the Lord Lawson the last word in this article, we refer to something Anderson himself said in a 2011 report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research into the environmental impacts of fracking: “if we are serious in our commitment to avoid dangerous climate change, the only safe place for shale gas remains in the ground.”

This is a warning from an experienced climate scientist. We would suggest perhaps listening to his advice, rather than giving a PPE graduate a platform to spread anti-science disinformation that distorts and damages the debate.

Further reading:

UK shale gas reserves could exceed expectations

Energy minister Michael Fallon: legislation will help ‘responsible’ fracking’

Too early to say’ whether fracking will reduce bills, say MPs

The four horsemen of the climate apocalypse

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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