Friday, September 07, 2018

HOLD TIGHT!

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Hello and Welcome

Hello I’m Anthony Day and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 7th September.
Now that we have left August behind us you may think that the silly season is over. There were many silly stories in the press but many serious issues continued to be serious so here's a roundup of what you may have missed. I've called this episode HOLD TIGHT because there's an awful lot to get through. The first and most important thing of course is to welcome our newest patron Michelle Marks. Welcome Michelle, and thanks for supporting the Sustainable Futures Report. If you too would like to be a patron and contribute a small amount each month to support the Sustainable Futures Report you would be more than welcome. Just hop across to patreon.com/SFR where you'll find all the details. And let me take this opportunity to thank all my patrons for their continuing support.
This Time
I've always said that sustainability is a vast subject. Just to give you a flavour of that, in this episode I'll be talking about energy, including fracking and transport, about waste food and waste plastic, about climate change, about investment strategies, about floods and fires and climate change denial, and we have a book review as well. There are some informed insights from Jeremy Leggett and there might be a bit of politics too.
Remember, the full text of this episode is on the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report where you will find links to the sources of all my stories.

ENERGY
Liquid electricity?
Here we go then, let's start with energy. Have we finally found the philosopher’s stone? You know, the compound sought by the alchemists of old which would turn lead into gold. The idea of a pumpable liquid to fuel electric cars seems to me to be in that category, or at very least it seems to be too good to be true. Researchers Cronin, Chen and Symes say in the abstract from their article in the Nature Chemistry journal “we present a polyoxoanion, … that can act either as a high-performance redox flow battery electrolyte… …or as a mediator in an electrolytic cell for the on-demand generation of hydrogen.” Some storage batteries contain a liquid called an electrolyte. Older readers may remember when car batteries contained sulphuric acid as an electrolyte, and the cells had to be topped up with distilled water every now and then. It seems that this new process could be used in electric car batteries. The exhausted electrolyte liquid would be drained out and replaced with a new energy-rich batch. If this could be done as quickly as refuelling a petrol or diesel car the range anxiety problem with electric cars - the worry that the battery will run out and take hours to recharge, leaving the driver stranded - will be solved at a stroke. Of course there will be a few issues to be ironed out. Could this liquid be dispensed through existing petrol pumps? Can it be easily transported or does it need to be pressurised? How is it produced and how much energy is needed for the process? What will happen to the exhausted electrolyte extracted from the batteries? A practical solution may be some way off, but we need to support more research like this.

Cleaning Up Cars
More news from the automotive sector. 
In August Greenpeace took direct action against @UKVolkswagen by blockading their head office “to try & wake them up to the diesel pollution crisis. It's time for VW to do the right thing & #DitchDiesel.”   20-08-18
VW has been getting a bad press in Mexico as well, for a story which has been relayed by media from the Washington Post to CBC to the Daily Telegraph. Apparently, Volkswagen is curbing the use of hail cannons outside its factory in Puebla, Mexico, after it was accused by local farmers of causing a drought in the region, leading to heavy losses of crops.
VW used the cannons to protect newly-built vehicles from hailstone damage. The devices emit shock waves into the sky, which are believed to prevent the chunks of ice from forming, but there’s a lack of scientific evidence that the cannons actually impact weather conditions and minimise hail, and their legitimacy has long been criticised. Still, farmers in Puebla claim that the cannons have led to a lack of much-needed rainfall.
The hail cannons are “affecting the Earth’s cycles,” said Gerardo Perez, a leader of the farmers. When the devices blast away, “the sky literally clears and it simply doesn’t rain,” he said. To cover the crop losses, the farmers are demanding that Volkswagen pay nearly $4 million in compensation.

Bad news, but the most damning report came from The Guardian.
Drivers in Europe have paid €150bn more on fuel than they would have if their vehicles had performed as well on-the-road as in official laboratory-based tests, according to a new report.
Car companies have legally gamed official tests of fuel economy for many years by, for example, using very hard tyres during tests or taking out equipment to make cars lighter. The gap between test and actual performance has soared from 9% in 2000 to 42% today.
Analysts at research and campaign group Transport & Environment have now calculated that this difference cost motorists in Europe €150bn (£136bn) in extra fuel between 2000 and 2017. UK drivers paid €3.5bn more in 2017 alone, and a total of €24bn since 2000.
A new more realistic lab test is now in place but the European commission uncovered new evidence in July that this was also being gamed by carmakers. This means the increases in fuel efficiency being demanded by the EU as part of its action on climate change are still being undermined and drivers will continue to use more fuel than policymakers intend.”
Something in the Air
OK, that’s hitting drivers in the pocket and it’s frustrating attempts to curb climate change, but what’s more worrying is the effect of poor air quality on health. 
CNN reports that air pollution could be more damaging to our health than previously thought, according to a new study, which found that prolonged exposure to dirty air has a significant impact on our cognitive abilities, especially in older men.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that breathing polluted air causes a "steep reduction" in scores on verbal and math tests.
Meanwhile, The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health has declared pollution as the greatest health risk to the world population of which air pollution is by far the greatest contributor. The principal outdoor pollutants are particulates (PM10 , PM2.5 and ultrafine particles), both primary from exhaust and tyre/brake wear and secondary from atmospheric chemical interactions of pollutants.
In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPH) published a ground-breaking report highlighting the serious health issues being created by air pollution in the UK with an estimated 40,000 deaths from cardiovascular and lung disease brought forward and substantially greater effects on morbidity from a wide range of diseases. An important conclusion from this report was that air pollution acts across the entire life course from conception to old age; exposure to pollutants in early childhood, contributing to excess morbidity and mortality in later years.
Falsifying vehicle emissions data is clearly both cynical and irresponsible. It might not be going too far to classify it as a crime against humanity, as it affects all people for all of their lives; motorists or not. 

Goodbye to Coal?
Transform, the journal of IEMA, reports that the UK is on the brink of eradicating coal from its electricity mix during the summer months. OK, we’ve had an exceptional summer, but coal accounted for a record-low 1% of power over June this year.
Climate Action also has the story: “Researchers at Imperial College London analysed official data from the National Grid over the months of April, May and June,” they say.
“‘For the third summer in a row, coal is edging closer to extinction in Britain,’ commented lead author Dr Iain Staffell, noting that ‘coal supplied a mere 1.3 per cent of electricity over the quarter. Its share also fell below 1 per cent for first time across June.
‘The times at which coal is running over summer is “at a bare minimum”,’ Staffell added, highlighting that plants are usually called upon to provide grid stability during periods of low demand.”
“The report goes on to state that Britain “likely could” run without coal all summer, given that the remaining fleet operated at only 3 per cent of its maximum capacity.”



Across the pond, California has given fossil fuel-derived energy a hefty shove towards obsolescence after legislators voted to require that 100% of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources.
The bill, which will need to be approved by the state senate and Governor Jerry Brown, will require a complete shift to clean energy such as solar and wind by 2045. It would also demand that electric utilities source 60% of their power from renewable sources by 2030, up from the current target of 50%.

Nothing in the Pipeline?
Turning to another source of fossil-fuel energy, Eco-Watch reports a Stunning Victory for Indigenous Nations as Canada Halts Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion
I mentioned this dispute in a recent episode. Alberta is exploiting vast tar sands to extract bituminous oil, but can only make the project viable by transporting the output by pipeline across Bitish Columbia to the port at Vancouver.
The article goes on, “A Canadian court "quashed" approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on Thursday, a major setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government agreed to purchase the controversial project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion Canadian dollars (U.S. $3.5 billion) in May.
“It's a stunning victory for Indigenous groups and environmentalists opposed to the project, which is designed to nearly triple the amount of tar sands transported from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.
“The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the National Energy Board's review—as explained by the Canadian Press—"was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion."
“The project has been at the center of widespread protests from environmental groups and First Nations ever since November 2016, when [prime minister] Trudeau approved a $7.4 billion expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline that would increase the transport of Alberta tar sands oil from the current 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day and increase tanker traffic nearly seven-fold through the Burrard Inlet. Specifically, the court said it was an "unjustifiable failure" that the National Energy Board did not consider the environmental impacts of the increased tanker traffic.”
If you remember, the Burrard Inlet links the Port of Vancouver to the Pacific Ocean. In addition to concerns about the environmental impact of the pipeline there were also concerns about the tankers taking the product away to Asian markets. The inlet is crossed by a string of islands, making navigation far from straightforward, particularly in winter. 
The court's judgment could be appealed a final time to the Supreme Court of Canada, but for the moment construction must stop and the government must revise its review of the project, including its negotiations with the indigenous peoples.
It looks as though the Canadian government has bought a white elephant which could remain in limbo indefinitely. 

Fracking Futures - or not?
Still on energy, Jeremy Leggett published a review of fracking last month. You can find it at https://jeremyleggett.net/2018/08/08/history-of-oil-and-gas-production-from-shale-in-pictures-and-charts-why-american-shale-is-heading-for-a-crash-and-fracking-in-the-uk-is-doomed-to-costly-failure/  and the link is on the blog and the blog is at www.sustainablefutures.report . He calls it “Why American Shale is heading for a crash and fracking in the UK is doomed to costly failure” so he’s not puling any punches. I recommend that you go and have a look at it, but I’ll just highlight a couple of points. Leggett reports that  US fracking is consuming cash faster than it’s generating it and he calls it a giant Ponzi scheme which will never repay its investments. According to Bloomberg there’s a major threat to the viability of fracked gas from the rapidly improving solar, wind and battery technology which is driving energy prices below the level where fracked fossil fuels can be profitable. California’s plan to phase out fossil fuels, mentioned above, just ramps up the pressure. There is also concern that many fracking wells are becoming depleted much more quickly than expected. New pipelines will never pay for themselves if there is no product to put through them.
Quite apart from viability, there are serious environmental concerns. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) now accepts that fracking can contaminate drinking water. Farmers are suing water companies for mining aquifers to extract the thousands of gallons of water needed for fracking operations.  70,000 fish were killed in Ohio after a fracking spill, but nobody knows exactly what killed them because operator Halliburton has no legal requirement to reveal the chemicals it uses. On the face of it, gas is a cleaner fuel than coal, but the methane leaks associated with extracting the gas can make it more damaging than coal. The EPA has found that methane leakage is far higher than expected, and leakage in the US has global climate consequences.
There is no fracking currently in the UK, but the government is keen that it should start as soon as possible in England and is doing everything to smooth the planning path and to buy off opposition by promising hefty grants to the local communities where fracking is planned. Scotland, Germany, the State of Victoria in Australia, France, New Zealand and the US State of Monterey are some of the states which have all banned fracking, but the UK government insists that fracking is an essential part of England’s energy future. One of the problems in the UK, of course, is that nobody in government is giving any serious attention at the moment to anything apart from Brexit, the UK’s planned departure from the European Union, and each of the two main parties is totally split from cabinet level down.

Let’s talk rubbish
Waste has featured in the news over the past few weeks. 
A shocking report published in the Journal of Cleaner Production reveals that more than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never reaches supermarket shelves because it is misshapen or the wrong size. A third. More than 30%. One apple or potato or cucumber or strawberry or turnip in three is thrown away.
A University of Edinburgh study found more than 50 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables grown across Europe were discarded each year. This was in part because they did not meet consumers' expectations of how they should look.

Meanwhile, plastic waste still makes the news. BBC News quotes the Treasury saying that there is high public support for using the tax system to reduce waste from single-use plastics.
A consultation on how taxes could tackle the rising problem and promote recycling attracted 162,000 responses. Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick said the government was looking at "smart, intelligent incentives" to get plastic producers to take responsibility.
Reports suggest a levy on manufacturers and some disposable plastic products may be introduced in the Budget, which will take place in November. It could include measures such as a tax on single-use coffee cups.
Climate Action tells us about a new solar-powered watch made from recycled plastic. “Two French designers are leading the way to reducing plastic pollution,” they say, “by creating a watch made from recycled bottles. The new eco-friendly watch is named ‘Awake’. It is made from plastic waste, recycled stainless steel and is powered by solar energy.” 
Apparently this watch will cost about $300. I must admit I’m tempted, although my £65 watch still works perfectly well. If I were to buy a new watch it would be nice to think that it’s been made with minimal impact on the environment. I think the new watch’s main contribution will be to make people remember that recycling is important.

CHANGING CLIMATE
Scientists have been telling us about the dangers of plastic pollution for years. Then David Attenborough made a film about it and suddenly everyone’s aware. You can never tell what will trigger the tipping point; only rejoice when something does.
Scientists have been telling us about climate change for years. The consequences of the long hot summer we’ve had may have the same tipping point effect. There has certainly been no shortage of weather stories in the media, and people are beginning to think that climate change might just be real.
Floods and Fires
At the beginning of August New Scientist reported on California’s worst wildfire in history. It was now the size of Los Angeles, they said.

In June and July fire burnt across Saddleworth Moor in northern England. It may have been caused by arson, but the hot dry weather helped it burn for some 3 weeks.
A series of wildfires in Greece began in the coastal areas of Attica in July and by mid August 96 people were confirmed dead. 
In Sweden, in northern Europe, wildfires burned more than 24,000 hectares of land, with authorities battling 80 fires across the Nordic country at one point. Some of these fires were burning north of the Arctic Circle.
The situation wasn’t helped by an outbreak of arson, which saw some 100 cars set on fire in different cities across the country.
The South China Morning Post reports that In Japan, more than 200 people were killed in historic flooding, followed by an extreme heatwave, and then a typhoon battered the country again – all of this in July alone.
As I write this, the BBC is reporting that Japan has been hit by one of the strongest typhoons in 25 years, with officials warning more than a million people to evacuate their homes.
Typhoon Jebi made landfall in western areas, bringing heavy rain and reports of winds up to 172km/h (107 mph).
In Osaka Bay it swept a tanker into a bridge and in Kyoto parts of the train station roof came down.

In Calabria, Italy, torrential rain in August led to flash flooding. Waters tearing down a narrow gorge killed 11 hikers
In Kerala, India, floods caused the death of at least 324 people. Some 220,000 were left homeless and thousands were trapped after unusually heavy rain.
The state is “facing the worst floods in 100 years”, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Roads were damaged, mobile phone networks down, an international airport closed.

Could it be Climate Change?
The bad news goes on, all over the world. As I said, people are beginnig to mutter about climate change. Writing in the Daily Mail, former Conservative party leader Michael Howard said, “Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher warned of man-made global warming. I fear this blazing summer is proving her right.”

The Guardian’s headline was “Domino-effect of climate events could move Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state”. It went on to explain that a domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could tilt the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions would be increasingly futile. The paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” said Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.” He warned that the 2℃ target set by the Paris Agreement might not be enough to avoid this situation. Worryingly it’s generally agreed that the commitments made by the countries signing the Paris Agreement will not be enough to meet the target, especially as Trump’s America has turned its back on it.

Putting your money…
Jeremy Leggett provides us with a summary of a recent note to investors issued by Jeremy Grantham, chief investment strategist of Grantham, Mayo, & van Otterloo, a firm with more than US$118 billion in assets under management. Grantham calls it “The Race of Our Lives” and he goes through the threats to the future from climate change.  He shows his company’s portfolio break down - 39% in clean energy, 17% in energy efficiency, 19% in agriculture and the rest spread over smart grids, copper and water.
These are his recommendations:
  • Vote for green politicians and that can include some Republicans
  • Lobby investment firms to be greener and to lean on their portfolio companies to do the same.
  • Do not grant the oil companies immunity– they have been complicit in a global cover-up of data, funded propaganda, delayed decarbonisation and they’ve recklessly endangered us.
  • Consume with decarbonisation in the front of mind
He closes:
“We are racing to protect not just our portfolios, not just our grandchildren, but our species. So get to it.”

And Those Against…
Of course the denialists are always with us. A recent headline said,
“Australian PM dumps key climate policy to stave off leadership revolt”
Sorry Mr Turnbull, it didn’t work. Although there’s no guarantee that the new PM will introduce wide-ranging green policies. Probably the opposite.

In the US the Illinois attorney-general is suing Trump Tower over the 20 million gallons of water that it takes from the Chicago River each day. It uses the water for cooling, which raises its temperature, and then discharges it back into the river with no regard for any environmental consequences.

A sinister story comes from Open Democracy UK.
“Twenty years ago, and without any public debate, an arcane international agreement entered into force. The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) gives sweeping powers to foreign investors in the energy sector, including the peculiar privilege to directly sue states in secret international tribunals arbitrated over by three private lawyers. Companies are claiming dizzying sums in compensation for government actions that have allegedly damaged their investments, either directly through expropriation or indirectly through regulations of virtually any kind.
“Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, for example, sued Germany for €1.4 billion in compensation over environmental restrictions imposed on a coal-fired power plant. The lawsuit was settled after the government agreed to relax the restrictions protecting the local river and its wildlife. Since 2012, Vattenfall has been suing Germany again, seeking €4.3 billion plus interest for lost profits from two nuclear reactors, following the country’s phase-out of atomic energy after the Fukushima disaster. Several utility companies are pursuing the EU’s poorest member state, Bulgaria, seeking hundreds of millions of euros because the government reduced soaring electricity costs for consumers. And these are only a few examples.”
We covered this in a previous episode. I read a report recently that the US fossil fuel industry was considering similar action. It wanted to sue the government to repeal environmental legislation that was making its operations unviable. Let’s ignore the effect of fossil fuels on the viability of the planet.

It’s an Ill Wind…
There has got to be good news. Back at the beginning of year the city authorities in Cape Town South Africa predicted that the city would run out of water on 21 April. That you didn't in fact happen because they introduced to stringent water rationing regulations, they were able to negotiate with farmers to release some of the water in my reservoirs and they did have some rain. Since then I have had exceptional rain and the reservoirs are now back up to 80% capacity. No let up on the rationing regulations, however. I think people in Cape Town have come to realise how valuable water really is. A lesson for all us perhaps.

Good news for the shipping industry in that they North Atlantic Sea ice is receding in the hot weather so that navigation around the top of North America is possible. A new 42,000 t containership, the Venta Maersk,  has been built for the route. Good news for the shipping industry, but maybe not such good news for the rest of us because even without collisions or capsizes there will be environmental damage from the passage of these vessels. The fact that the northwest passage is open itself underlines the truth of climate change.
Designing the Purposeful World
And now, before you go, we have a book review and an interview with Clive Wilson, the author. This will be the first of two book reviews for September. My first thought was to ask “Who reads books these days?” We are so overwhelmed with sources of information from multiple television channels to social media to Internet search engines and podcasts, quite apart from the traditional newspapers, magazines, and print advertising. We are showered with so much information that many people have a very limited attention span, and who indeed would read a book when you can get all the answers on line? The answer of course is that while you can search for anything on line, it’s frequently difficult to judge the accuracy of what you find or even to complete the picture of what you are looking for. On the other hand, the author of a book has done the research, often over many months or years.  They have verified and cross-checked the information and assembled it all in a logical sequence for you to absorb.
I don’t know whether Clive Wilson thought specifically of attention spans when he wrote Designing the Purposeful World, but his book certainly does everything it can to catch the reader’s attention and keep it. It’s also only 130 pages or so, so it’s a very manageable size, but Clive is asking the reader questions, and giving space for written answers from the first page on. In fact he asks you to write down your thoughts no less than seven times in the first chapter and ends it with a checklist to test your understanding. This is a pattern repeated throughout the book. This is not a book that anyone is going to fall asleep over.

Designing the Purposeful World explores the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,(UNSDGs) how they affect all of us and how we all can make a difference. If you haven’t heard of the UN SDGs you should go to sustainabledevelopment.un.org, or maybe just read the book. It starts from why anyone can make a difference and ends with a summary of the story so far and a call to take action, to promote the SDGs and to help to fulfil them. There are seventeen goals and along the way Clive demonstrates how they fit in with our lives, with the organisations we work for, with the companies we buy from and with society at large. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to Clive Wilson and to ask him to expand on some of his ideas. 
Interview +++++++++++++++

Clive Wilson. His book, Designing the Purposeful World, is published by Routledge and available from all good bookshops. Next time I shall be looking at “A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains” by Catherine Weetman and published by Kogan Page.
And that's it for this edition of the Sustainable Futures Report, which is by far the longest one to date but as I explained the start there is just so much to catch up on. As usual there are links to all my sources on the blog which you can find at www.sustainablefutures.report.

And Finally…
Thank you for listening and if you're a patron thank you for your support. And thanks again to Michelle Marks for becoming our latest patron. The next edition of the Sustainable Futures Report will be on 21 September and I'm seriously thinking about resuming a weekly publication schedule. I'll explain why next time. I'll also mention smart meters and tell you about my attempts to buy an electric car. I expect there will be quite a lot of other stories to bring you as well. If you have ideas or information or feedback don’t hesitate to share at mail@anthony-day.com. And don’t forget that there are links to the sources of all these stories on the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report
In the meantime thanks once again for listening.
This is Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report 
Bye for now!




Friday, July 27, 2018

Extra! Extra!

 Find the podcast on iTunes or via susbiz.biz

I know, I know. I said the Sustainable Futures Report would be monthly from now on but there's just so much going on so this is Anthony Day with a third episode of the Sustainable Futures Report for July 2018. It’s Friday 27th.
On the energy front there are reports from the National Grid, from the National Infrastructure Commission and from the Climate Change Committee in the UK, and in Canada there is a report from the Federal Government
On the climate change front we have been enjoying an unprecedented heatwave here in the UK, although by the time you hear this it will probably be raining. As the grass turns yellow we need to take action so I've included an update from Cape Town, the city that was going to run out of water in April. At the other extreme of extreme weather torrential rain has caused floods in Nepal, Japan and China. Some 200 people have died as a result in Japan.
UK supermarket Morrisons have turned retail on its head with reverse vending machines. Remember I featured them a while ago? I'll remind you what they are later on. And finally, are you in the loop? That's the hyperloop, developed by Elon Musk and eagerly supported by Richard Branson of Virgin. More on that later as well.
Before all that I have a new patron. Welcome to Mark Rutherford and many thanks to all my other patrons who contribute a small amount to help me pay for the hosting of the Sustainable Futures Report. If you'd like to join their number just hop across to patreon.com/sfr  where you'll find all the details.
Here’s a press release.
Britain has a “golden opportunity” to switch to greener ways of providing energy to homes and businesses without increasing bills – but only if Ministers act now to make the most of it.That’s a key finding from this month’s National Infrastructure Assessment – the first ever for the UK – published by the National Infrastructure Commission. 
The Commission was set up in 2015 as an executive agency of HM Treasury by George Osborne (remember him?)
The National Infrastructure Assessment looks at the United Kingdom’s future economic infrastructure needs up to 2050 and makes key recommendations for how to deliver new transport, low carbon energy and digital networks, how to recycle more and waste less, and how future infrastructure should be paid for. It aims to ensure the UK is fully prepared for the technological advances that could transform how the country operates.
According to the report, “The UK must take decisive action to have world-class infrastructure” 
I imagine a prerequisite for that would be a decisive government. ‘Nuff said.
The report’s core proposals include:
  • nationwide full fibre broadband by 2033
  • half of the UK’s power provided by renewables by 2030
  • three quarters of plastic packaging recycled by 2030
  • £43 billion of stable long term transport funding for regional cities
  • preparing for 100 per cent electric vehicle sales by 2030 (that’s at odds with the present policy of permitting petrol and diesel car sales right through until 2040)
  • ensuring resilience to extreme drought through additional supply and demand reduction
  • a national standard of flood resilience for all communities by 2050.
It also highlights the most important future challenges.
Heating must no longer be provided by natural gas, a fossil fuel. 
That’s very interesting because earlier this month I was at the Energy Efficiency Awards where I was strongly advised by people on my table to replace my gas boiler with an air source heat pump. They said I could power it from my solar panels or from energy stored in a battery. If there was no sun I could charge my battery overnight using the cheap rate Economy 7 tariff and use the power during the day when electricity direct from the grid is at its most expensive.

The UK must prepare for connected and autonomous vehicles. These need more time for evidence or technology to develop. The Assessment sets out the actions needed to enable robust decisions to be taken in future.

Is the government listening? At the moment, no, because it’s consumed with infighting over Brexit. There is a serious chance that it will have fallen by the end of the year and the national squabble will continue. Did someone say fiddling while Rome burns?
Future Energy Scenarios
In the UK the National Grid has just published its Future Energy Scenarios. These scenarios outline different credible pathways for the future of energy for the next 30 years and beyond. They consider how much energy we might need and where it could come from. They look at what the changes might mean for the industry, customers and consumers. 
It’s interesting that on the very front page it says that “gas will remain crucial for both heating and electricity generation in all scenarios for the coming decades.” It does talk about decarbonisation and it does talk about hydrogen - a clean gas, at least at the point of use - but many people believe that natural gas use must be minimised as soon as possible. Using it as a “bridge” fuel will prolong its use and inhibit the development of renewables. Admittedly, that’s my initial reaction to the executive summary. The scenarios cover a set of detailed documents and deserve closer reading.
Of the four scenarios described, two achieve the UK’s 2050 carbon reduction targets and two do not. Main points highlighted: 
  • We are entering a new world of energy. The expected growth of low carbon and decentralised generation means the electricity system will need to change. 
  • Electric vehicle growth goes hand in hand with electricity decarbonisation. Smart charging and vehicle-to-grid can actively support the decarbonisation of electricity. 
  • Action on heat is essential and needs to gather pace in the 2020s to meet carbon reduction targets. A mix of low carbon heating solutions and better thermal efficiency of buildings is needed. 
  • Gas will play a role in providing reliable, flexible energy supplies for the foreseeable future. New technologies and sources of low carbon gas can decarbonise the whole energy sector. 
The Executive Summary is designed as a 5-minute read. I recommend you have a look at it. Find the link on the blog.

And here’s another report. 
This one’s from the Committee on Climate Change.
“Apply the lessons of the past decade,” it says, “or risk a poor deal for the public in the next.”
It continues:
“Ten years after the Climate Change Act came into force, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says the Government must learn the lessons of the last decade if it is to meet legally-binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the 2020s and 2030s. Unless action is taken now, the public faces an unnecessarily expensive deal to make the shift to a low-carbon economy.
“Scientific evidence of a changing climate continues to mount. Recent observations have catalogued evolving changes to the climate in the UK and around the world, highlighting the urgent need for further measures to reduce harmful emissions.”

And meanwhile in Canada…
It’s all about energy this time. A brief follow-up to my report about the TransMountain pipeline in Canada. The federal government has just published its Generation Energy council report, which envisions a roadmap for Canada’s energy future. “For the first time ever,” says the press release, “Canada has aligned its energy vision with its commitment to tackle climate change, marking an important moment.” Merran Smith, Clean Energy Canada's executive director and co-chair of the council, said “If we follow the pathways laid out in this report, Canada can succeed in ensuring that Canadians have access to affordable, reliable, clean energy, and that we can sell our solutions to the world."
In some places Dilbert is a cartoon character. In Canada dilbit is diluted bitumen. It’s what they plan to pump through the TransMountain pipeline, and it’s far from a joke. It’s the fossil fuel they’re planning to sell to the world. Some cognitive dissonance here, I think.
Find the links on the blog.
Feel the Heat!
With this very hot weather I can't help thinking about Cape Town in South Africa which was preparing to run out of water completely back in April. In May they were even talking about towing in an iceberg from the Antarctic. Actually the city didn’t run out of water, but very strict measures were imposed to make the best of what they had. Apparently about the time when they thought they would run out there was some rain, which made an immediate difference, but the main difference was made by people drastically cutting consumption. Consumers are currently allowed 50L of water per adult per day and nothing at all for children. If they run the water in the shower until it gets hot they collect the water in a bucket and they use it to flush the loo or to water the garden. In any case they are urged to limit showers to no more than 90 seconds. 
  • Get wet. 
  • Turn it off. 
  • Apply soap. 
  • Turn it on and rinse. 
Doesn’t everyone shower like that? No baths. Hotel guests are urged to re-use towels. Report leaking taps. Use a dishwasher because it uses less water than washing up in the sink, but only run it when it’s full. Same applies to clothes washers. Householders have installed storage tanks which they will presumably fill with rainwater and use for things like washing clothes and watering the garden if they must. Lessons for us all there. Even though water is short, in the present heatwave it’s always wise to drink plenty of it. Cape Town is holding its own but as climate change and global temperatures increase things can only, surely, get worse.
Still, according to the tourist board Cape Town is no longer at risk of running out of water this year or next.
Down the Tubes
Are you old enough to remember the Lamson pneumatic tube system in department stores? You took what you wanted to buy to an assistant and handed over your money. They filled out a bill and put it with the cash into a canister about the size of a tin of beans, opened a little door in the wall and dropped it in.  You could hear a loud sucking noise and it rattled away down the tube to some distant cash desk where change was calculated, the bill was receipted and the canister was sent back. After a few minutes it popped out of a little door in the tube which slammed shut behind it and it crashed into a basket behind the counter. I often wonder how they made sure that the right canister always went back to the right counter.
Anyway, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is much the same, except that it’s somewhat bigger and the pods are designed for carrying people or goods, not just cash and bills. Hyperloop is designed to link cities. While Hyperloop depends on creating a vacuum in front of the canister as with the Lamson system, that’s by no means the whole story. The tube is evacuated to thin the air and thereby minimise the drag on the pod. The idea is to create an atmosphere as thin as the air at 200,000 feet. The pod will actually be driven by magnets. It will be a maglev train suspended in a magnetic field within the tube, and with the rarified atmosphere it will travel at around 600mph. A Hyperloop pod will take passengers from London to Edinburgh (400 miles) in just 50 minutes. 
A recent article by the Institute of Directors lists 10 reasons why the UK should take Hyperloop seriously. You can read it via the link on the blog. I’m not convinced. We’re at the very early stages of constructing HS2, a high-speed conventional railway, and some people have serious doubts about that. Hyperloop would surely make HS2 obsolete. And what will Hyperloop cost, given that in a crowded country like the UK it will have to be almost totally in deep tunnels? What about the carbon footprint of the construction process? Where will we get enough magnets to create a 400-mile maglev line? (And that’s only for phase one.) How much electricity will it take to evacuate the tube and drive the 600mph pods? Will enough people want to go to Edinburgh in less than an hour and will they be able to pay enough to make the project viable? What about those people who don’t live in London or Edinburgh? And won’t the telephone, Skype and conference calling be very much cheaper alternatives in many cases? Read the IoD article and make up your own mind. But quite apart from all that, when people can take all day waiting for buses to take them to and from the hospital or down to the shops, when commuter trains are overcrowded by a factor of 150% or more (yes, that’s 150% on top of the design capacity), when new timetables have led to through train services on some routes being suspended indefinitely and when the privatised East Coast Main Line has collapsed into public ownership for the third time in 10 years haven’t we got more important issues to consider than superfast travel for the wealthy few?
That great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel built an atmospheric railway powered by vacuum in Victorian times. It worked with speeds of up to 70mph but it failed because of rats, but that’s a story for another time.
Giving Something Back
Yes, reverse vending machines. Morrison's have installed some in a couple of locations so there may well not be one in a store near you, for the moment at least. These machines are collection points for your bottles and cans. You insert them into the machine and they are automatically sorted into glass, plastic or metal. The plastic and metal bottles are crushed and guided into separate containers. The glass bottles go into a third container (without being crushed.) Now while it is a reverse vending machine you don't actually get your money back, but you will get a voucher to spend in-store or there may be an option to donate your refund to charity. Let's hope we see more of these machines soon.
More Talking
I’ve been on Talk Radio again. “A new report claims that the human population is adapting to climate change” Well, not exactly.

[Apologies - some of the sound quality on this is not at all good.]
+++++
And that was Mike Graham on Talk Radio with The Independent Republic of Mike Graham.
That’s it!
That's it for another episode. I'm Anthony Day and thank you for listening to the Sustainable Futures Report. I hope you all have a great summer and do you know what? I'm going to take August off. Yes, this is the last episode before September, so look out for the next Sustainable Futures Report on Friday 7th September.
Once again a big thank-you to all my patrons old and new for helping to make the Sustainable Futures Report  possible.
I'm Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report 

See you in September.