Category Archives: Environment

we’re all doomed

it's doomed
it's doomed

If you’ve been following the blog, you might have noticed, that I’ve started to pay attention as to how the world economy actually works, and it’s scared me a bit. It’s not because we personally are in trouble, or if we are we haven’t noticed; after all we’ve just gone a bought a car. it’s because once you see any of this information you can’t but fail to see how the global economy appears to be built on a fundamentally flawed ideal, that we will never run out of stuff.

Well today I’ve fulled my paranoia even more, I’ve been reading New Scientist, and their special report on how our economy is killing the earth. so of the articles are available on line, but it you’ve got access to it, I recommend you read the New Scientist this week. 

for those of you with no time/inclination/regard for the fate of the world, here is my summary. 

“we’re doomed”

and here’s my more detailed, thoughts;

We’re all doomed, because the way the entire planet works is based on the fact we are never expecting to run out of resources. Just to make that clear, when we run out of oil, or fish, or water, or coal – the free market will collapse, because it’s all driven by the fact that it needs to grow to feed itself. 

stop the economy - buy this!
stop the economy - buy this!

Saving the planet while the economy is like it is, is a waste of time, because we need to reduce our carbon emissions world wide by a factor of 5 by 2050.. if you neglect the effect of a growth based economy, if the economy meats it’s target growths over the next 25 years then we need to reduce carbon emissions to 0.2% of the current levels. in short we need to make the economy sustainable, or we can’t save the planet. 1

some of the ideas to solve these problems are a bit Utopian, but we do need to do something, persuading people to forgo material riches, and start placing values on society isn’t going to be an easy thing. I’m not even sure there are any real individual things you can do today (short of starting a revolution) to change this. everyone in any position of power has so much vested in the system they’re not going to change easily.

so I’m all depressed now. I’m considering my options

  1. move to a croft in Scotland, and stock up
  2. start a political party and overthrow the world
  3. moan about it for a bit, then bury my head in the sand, hope if goes away

1http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg20026786.100-special-report-why-politicians-dare-not-limit-economic-growth.html

Energy Saving.

I’m all for saving the planet, it’s nice an all. even if some of the people on it are a bit noughty and smelly, but just how cold does my house have to be before I can stop turning the thermostat down?

More lightbulbs

Just to continue ‘harping’ on about light bulbs, the guardian yesterday had an article about changing everyone over to energy efficient lights, and they’ve got someone in the power industry to do the maths for them.

A clearer picture – and one that puts the “megawatts” value of CFLs into perspective – comes from Jonathan Smith of E.ON, Powergen’s parent company. “Changing every light fitting in all 20m households in the UK to energy-saver bulbs would result in a reduction on fuel bills of around 4.8bn – the cost of building 64 offshore wind farms, 53 biomass power stations, or 14 gas-fired power stations.”

that’s probably a lot more accurate than my maths about lightbulbs from a few weeks ago; but it’s also much much more saving than I estimated.

N.R.G.

(Warning: this post contains Kevin maths… So it’s almost certainly way of the mark)

Energy, and how we (as in, the consumers) are all to blame, has been in the news this week; I’m skipping for a moment the fact that it’s them (the big companies) who make the TV’s, that use more power in standby… Instead, I got all obsessed about light bulbs. I read a piece on the Beeb about banning light bulbs (the traditional ones, not all light bulbs the world – it would be quite dark, then), and I subsequently followed this up by looking at banthebulb.org (a bit of a disappointing website; will the fact it looks naff affect the message? I fear it might). It’s a good basic idea: either ban those bulbs, or if that is too scary for Government, then put a tax on them.

Some of the figures where very interesting, if with a bit of an American bias: replacing 3 light bulbs in every U.S. home with energy saving ones would save the equivalent of 11 power stations.

At this point I got all obsessed: how many light bulbs does it take to replace a UK power station?


Hurray!

Well it turns out that’s hard to answer. The energy saving bit isn’t too hard (maths bit coming up! All via Google).

One 60 W light bulb on for one hour, uses 0.06 Kilowatt hours.

If we say this light is on for 5 hours a day, every day (not outrageous for a hall/bedroom light), we get 109.5 Kilowatt hours a year. The equivalent for an 12 watt energy saving bulb comes in at 21.9 kilowatt hours, which is a saving of 87.6 kilowatt hours per bulb. Which apparently (although I couldn’t get a straight answer) is around ?7 a year saving.

Now the tricky bit is how much power does a power station produce?


Booo!

The answer is not as simple as you may think. For example Longannet power station in Scotland is rated at 2,304 MW, which should produce 20,183 GWh (Giga Watt hours) of power per year, except it doesn’t because that would mean running the plant at full power all year, and it would probably blow up (or break down lots). So in fact Longannet power station produces around 10,417 GWh of power a year. This discrepancy is true for most forms of power – that’s why the number of wind turbines required to replace a power station varies massively, depending on whom you ask.

Still with this number of 10,417 GWh, how many light bulbs is that? Well it’s 118,915,535 which is around 2 light bulbs per person in the UK. Which is a lot really, but wait… Longannet power station is massive, it’s the second largest coal power station in the country. Is there a smaller one we can replace?

Power stations I can find figures for (it’s quite hard)

  • Cockenzie power station. In 2000-2001 it produced 3563 GWh of electricity. That would only take 40,673,516 light bulbs!
  • Closer to home, in the year 2000 Fiddlers Ferry, produced 7,300 GWh of power (which was 2.3% of the UK’s power needs) which, assuming I’ve got my sums right, equates to 83.3 million light bulbs.

My plan, that will never get of the ground, is the campaign to replace a power station with light bulbs. Simple really; if everyone in the UK replaced one light bulb in their home with an energy saving one, we could replace a power station. Based on the 2001 census figure of 24,479,439 households in the UK, we could save 2144 GWh of electricity a year, which isn’t quite any of the power stations I’ve found so far, but most of them are big, so if the figures were more readily available, I’m sure I could find a power station somewhere in the UK that we could replace with light bulbs.

[update]
I’ve found a report, that states,”Replacing the four most highly-used bulbs, in fixtures identified as suitable, would save around 200 kWh”. If that was done in all 24,479,439 UK households; we could save 4,895.8 GWh of electricity, which is more than is produced by Cockenzie power station.