16 Nov 2012
Now if the Sceptic Tank is sure of one thing, it's that Peter Lilley, scourge of green campaigners, hates wind turbines.
This, after all, is a man who has been such an outspoken critic of renewable energy and taking action on climate change, that his recent appointment to the energy and climate change select committee caused all sorts of rumpus.
So imagine our surprise when a Greenpeace undercover journalist filmed Lilley apparently saying he "rather likes" wind turbines. It even sounds like it's his wife who has the problem with them.
It seems Lilley's main objection is that they are too expensive, which of course is a rather bizarre argument to make when onshore wind is already the cheapest renewable technology and is forecast to become cost-competitive with conventional power sources within the coming decade.
Anyway, with our faith so shaken we're now off to the woods to discover what exactly bears have been doing in there all this time.
14 Nov 2012
Intros are particularly difficult for the Tank. So now we've got that first sentence out of the way, let's just skip onto the next bit, which is a lot of fun and may even contain some Bad Words, depending on just how liquid lunch was today.
You see, three Nigerian schoolgirls have literally gone where no-one else has gone before, by inventing a urine-powered generator. Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, and Faleke Oluwatyoin, all 14, and 15-year-old Bello Eniola came up with the unique device as part of innovation event Maker Faire Africa.
Apparently, you can get six hours of power from a litre of the yellow stuff, which is around a half to two-thirds of what the average person produces each day.
Hydrogen is separated out from the urine in an electrolytic cell, purified and pushed into a generator to create electricity. The user is then politely reminded not to attempt to fill the tank from across the room and to please wash his hands afterwards.
Of course, there are problems beyond the basic hygiene the Tank so struggles with – you still need power for the electrolysis process, while hydrogen has a nasty tendency to explode.
Still these are surmountable problems and we're pretty sure it's a better use of waste than this Korean 'faeces-wine' (you honestly wouldn't believe the things we do for research...).
In fact, judging by the state of the gents at The Tank's Soho basement, the only long-term flaw might be losing a great deal of this valuable resource to inaccuracy.
05 Nov 2012
No man is an island, John Donne intoned. One might infer the famously bawdy poet turned Bishop meant self-sustainability is no mean feat - something The Tank can agree with, considering our latest attempt ended up in the eating of the very twigs we'd spent the last six hours trying to light after the sick rabbit we'd managed to trap escaped with our keys. Mrs Tank declared it to be the worst afternoon of her life, but as she's a Sheffield Wednesday fan it's hard to give that any credence.
Anyway, all this meant we were more than impressed that an entire country has become energy self-sufficient! And which pioneering, world-leading nation would have the vision, funds, and sheer chutzpah to carry this off?
A new 1MW solar array, thought to be one of the world's largest off-grid solar systems, has been installed across the three low-lying atolls that make up Tokelau for the princely sum of $7.5m.
The array replaces costly oil imports and, as it supplies one and a half times the 1,400 inhabitant's energy needs, it allows Tokelau to export excess power. The resulting fuel savings will be used to pay off the cost of the system and increase investment in health and education for the Tokelauns? Tokelauites? Tokelaus?
Fossil fuel imports comprise up to a third of total imports for some nations in the region, so it's no wonder Jovilisi Suveinakama, general manager of the National Public Service of the Government of Tokelau, advised other Pacific islands to follow Tokelau's example.
"Our commitment as global citizens is to make a positive contribution toward the mitigation of the impacts of climate change," he told Inter Press Service. "We are proud of this achievement."
And rightly so. Tokelau sufferers from extreme weather storm surges, droughts, coral-bleaching, inundation of land, and salination of groundwater, all of which is likely to get worse as a result of industrialised nations' carbon emissions.
Yet these very same countries are amongst the first to get on board with low carbon energy strategies, some of which have led by ambitious islands including the Maldives and our very own Isle of Wight embracing plans to become energy independent.
Other governments need to realise that while no man is an island, the planet certainly is - and there's no getting off. At least not until we get around to building that Death Star.
You have to feel a bit sorry for Arsenal fans. The team hasn't picked up a trophy for over seven years now, while every summer it seems they lose another of their best players – and all for the price of the most expensive season ticket in English football.
But while supporters were clearly disgruntled with Saturday's poor 1-0 defeat at struggling Norwich, at least the team had a decent excuse for this latest capitulation: jet lag.
Yes, the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Arsenal's London Colney training centre to Norwich's Carrow Road ground was clearly deemed far too arduous for such cosseted superstars, so the decision was taken to fly from Luton – a flight that spends a grand total of 14 minutes in the air.
"It is absolutely absurd," raged Norwich Friends of the Earth co-ordinator Jennifer Parkhouse, missing the open goal of a "given the poor performance Arsenal clearly chose flight over fight" gag.
"I cannot see any reason why they would have flown, other than it being a rather ostentatious display of the players' and the club's wealth," she added. "They must have spent more time just getting on and off the plane than in the air."
Weirdly, a quick search reveals you can fly to Norwich for as little as £20, which is a damning indictment of travel in this country right there. Although, you'd imagine that Arsenal's millionaire footballers could have quickly spent any money they saved buying enormous Toblerones at the airport.
The Arsenal press office refused to get back to the Tank yesterday, so we've nicked quotes from elsewhere –specifically a press conference given today by gaffer Arsene Wenger ahead of tonight's Champions' League tie with Schalke.
"Usually we take the train and there was no train available," he said. "So in the end we decided to fly because we had to drive up on Friday afternoon at the moment when you never know how long it lasts."
No, that made little sense to us either. Fortunately, a spokesman for the club elucidated in widely reported comments (again, comments not given to the Tank, despite the fact we specifically asked for them – it's enough to make you think Arsenal's press office doesn't want to answer questions about how flying to Norwich fits with the club's lauded sustainability strategy).
"The club considers all transport options available for the first team when travelling to an away fixture," he said. "Given the severe disruption to rail services at the weekend, the most time-efficient option was to fly, hence the first team made the journey by plane from London to Norwich."
But how this fits in with the club's stated aim of "taking steps where practicable to minimise any adverse impact that we may have on the environment" must be left to the imagination – much like Arsenal's title bid this season.
All this is a bit of a shame, because the Emirates Stadium itself has a number of green features, such as a recyclable pitch, LED lighting, and voltage optimisation equipment that reduces power consumption by up to 20 per cent, while the club says it is investigating installing solar panels or wind turbines at the training ground.
But perhaps it highlights just how far Arsenal have fallen from their 'Invincibles' team in 2003/04. After all, as some wags have pointed out, this would never have happened in Dennis Bergkamp's day.
16 Oct 2012
The Tank didn't get an invite to the Conservative party conference last week, so we were forced to catch the highlights on our wind-up telly.
Still, despite this wholly admirable attitude, it seems not everyone is as impressed with the Conservatives as they are with themselves - especially on the energy front.
So having faced down revolting doctors and teachers, insulted policemen and royally ticked off the Lib Dems, the party now faces its biggest challenge: taking on God.
OK, not God himself (or herself! - equalities Ed), but the Methodist Church, Baptist Union, United Reformed Church, and Quakers of Britain, who together represent around half a million of the country's Christians.
The groups have jointly issued a statement calling on the government to target producing 60 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, adopt a commitment to decarbonise the electricity sector in the Energy Bill, rapidly phase out gas and coal, and incentivise measures to reduce energy demand - all of which will likely require divine intervention is George Osborne is to agree to it.
"Our faiths lead us to work for a fair and healthy UK economy that operates within the limits of our earth and climate," the groups say. "Creating a decarbonised power sector by 2030 is central to achieving this.
"We call on the Government for an Energy Bill that shows ambition in tackling climate change and delivering a sustainable energy economy."
Strong stuff - and you have to hope that when it comes to decision time on the content of the Energy Bill David Cameron will weigh the arguments on counter-party guarantees, flexible decarbonisation targets, contracts for difference, and capacity mechanisms, and simply ask himself, what would Jesus do?
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