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Air pollution

From Michael Prior

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Now that the fury of the local elections has died down (perhaps a little hyperbole here), I thought I could make one specific and positive answer to the question as to what our new councillors could do to reduce air pollution.

I have to say that although in their Hebweb pieces, most of the prospective councillors were keen on the Climate Change Emergency and very proud that Calderdale has declared such, they were very short on any practical proposals; this includes the one Green Party candidate who was full of his overall commitment to the environment but notably short of any practical suggestions.

So here's one; electrical charging points for cars.

There is not one public charging point to my knowledge in all Hebden Bridge nor in Calderdale. Why not gradually install more and more such points in Council-owned car-parks reserving the spaces for electric cars and not charging parking-fees but for power consumed? The Council would, of course, have a power contract with a green supplier. (What it doesn't already? What happened to the Climate Emergency?) If the Hollins Place debacle is anything to go by, the Highways Department would kick up a rumpus about reduced revenue from parking spots but so what.

I would be willing to change my present car for an electric model but, as I live in a flat, there is no possibility of installing a charging point. The Government has grand plans to reduce then prohibit the sale of petrol cars but the problem remains of how to charge them, something which for many is, like myself, impossible.

This is something over which the Council has total control. So stop talking the talk and try starting to walk the green walk.

From Paul D

Friday, 3 May 2019

I think expectations need managing here. Calderdale has been in possession of clear evidence that air quality in Hebden Bridge not only breaches recognised safety limits, but poses clear, direct and immediate threat to human health. Not least to the most vulnerable, the elderly, babies, asthmatics and those recovering from illness. 

They know the pollution is damaging our people, they’ve known this for years, this is the new asbestosis obscenity, I don’t  know what bit of the fact that pollution is killing us they find hard to grasp.

Don’t buy an electric car. Just press the crossings on New Road or Macpelah, suck in the fumes as you wait, and wait, and wait as the priority becomes clear and clearer still in your mind that you - the resident pedestrian - mean nothing. The car is all, electric cars fuelled by Russian gas will just displace the gas and toxins into another child’s nose. 

Our town is among the worst places to push a buggy due to high levels of pollutants along the A646 corridor. It’s the worst place to be old, Ill, or asthmatic. But wow it’s so very funky. Inclusive and arty isn’t it? So very nice to drive to, or through. 

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Calderdale not buying into the future isn’t a surprise, but in the case of electric vehicle charging points they may figure that the last thing they want is a huge ongoing infrastructure cost that may be unrecoverable, for something that may not be needed.

Maybe I’m missing something but I really can’t see electric vehicles as a viable replacement for petrol and diesel or as an answer to pollution. They’re too much of a backward step. 

Even short journeys will require careful planning, especially in winter. There will have to be a monster national network of charging bays with enough redundancy to ensure that there will be one free wherever and whenever you want it. The odd charging bay here and there isn’t going to cut it.

There will be no more spontaneous drives to the seaside because it’s a nice day. ‘Battery anxiety’ will become a major thing. Probably ‘battery rage’ too. The roadside rescue industry will boom, and will doubtless attract cowboys.

We’ll need a huge increase in electricity supply that may only be ‘clean’ at the point of use. How will it be generated, and by whom? It’s unlikely that renewables alone will meet demand, or that we’ll be any more self-sufficient in electricity than we are in gas or oil. Unless we go fully nuclear, of course… 

Then there’s a happy little thought shared recently by an auto engineer. Apparently there’s a fear in the trade that if an electric vehicle sustains damage that compromises battery safety, it can become extremely dangerous even to examine. It may also be a danger for any occupants, bystanders and emergency workers.

Electric vehicles may turn out to be like video cassettes - great, but only for a short time until something better turns up. How long might it be until you can’t even give your electric car away? In which case, it might be better to stick with what we’ve got and use fossil fuels more frugally - by rationing, if necessary - until we develop a technology that gives us what we’ve got now but at far less cost in harmful emissions.

From Michael Prior

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Great News! 20 June is to be our very own Cut Air Pollution Day! And the advice from our very own Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, one Mr. Patient: Stop car engines when not moving!!

I am sure that Mr. Patient has put up with many jokes about his name but really, how long before we get some actual policy from the Council as to what they are proposing to do.

Sorry, Graham, you feel that there are some problems with electric cars but could you spell out exactly what vehicles you expect to see moving on our roads in, say, 2030, to meet the newly announced zero-emission target. Are we all going to be cycling to the station which will, of course, be running electric trains by… well by when? And will the shops be restocked by giant rickshaws?

No one serious about cutting emissions doubts that one necessary measure is replacing most fuel-powered vehicles by electric ones. There simply will not be enough biofuel to go round and, in any case, the zero-emission credentials of biofuels are very suspect. And the absolute necessity for electric cars are plenty of charging points in public car-parks.

So Calderdale Council and particularly Mr. Patient, stop passing brave motions and spouting fine talk. Walk the walk. Tell us what you propose to do.

From Graham Barker

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Michael, it’s all very well mocking Scott Patient for saying ‘Stop car engines when not moving’ but it actually is good advice. It’s dead easy, so how many drivers do it, for example at the Mytholmroyd road works? From personal observation, very few - and there in a nutshell is the problem that makes politicians tread cautiously. The big challenge isn’t changing technology but changing human behaviour.

If you want to transform totally the way people move from A to B you need a proposition they will accept, and ‘scrap fossil, go electric’ will be an extremely hard sell to drivers for several reasons, chief among them affordability and convenience. 

Even if there is a market offering used e-vehicles for all budgets - unlikely for maybe a decade - the deal-breaker may be recharging time. Even a rapid charge takes 30 minutes compared to 5-10 minutes to fuel up, but mostly it’ll be several hours. That’s not going to be seen as progress.

What will we be driving in 2030? Without very significant carrots or sticks, much the same as we’re driving now. E-cars will increase in number but may remain marginal. Hybrids will make more sense but only if their cost makes sense too. 

Remember how LPG conversion was once supposed to be the greener, cheaper alternative to petrol? It barely happened. There should be a lesson in that.

If the aim is zero carbon, a better strategy may be to dramatically improve public transport, encourage more shared vehicle ownership schemes such as Hour Car, incentivise businesses and public services to locate close to good public transport, and incentivise them to recruit locally. In short, reduce the need to own a car of any kind.

Maybe in extremis bring in fuel rationing and cut motorway speed limits to 50 mph. Both have been done in the past without the sky falling in. Or have exclusion zones. Lots can be done without faffing around with electric cars.

Let’s not forget that in its glory days, most of the northern economy was powered by people who walked to work. That wouldn’t be a bad target to aim for a second time round. We’re either serious about climate change or we’re not. To me, electric cars are nowhere near serious enough.

From Michael Prior

Thursday, 13 June 2019

I am not mocking Cllr. Patient, just asking that Calderdale Council stop making bold statements and do something to back the fine words.

On 30 January, a motion was passed by the Council. Cllr Daniel Sutherland, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Housing and Environment, said, “We must act now if we’re to protect Calderdale’s exceptional environment and do our bit to tackle the global climate crisis. This is something that everyone can play their part in, and we’re committed to taking the lead locally.”

Nearly six months later, the Council announces that 20 June will be an official Clean Air Day and Cllr. Patient unveils his bold new idea: to turn off car engines when stopped. Nothing wrong with this, especially outside Burnley Road School which undoubtedly suffers illegal levels of air pollution.

On 11 June, Cllr Scott Patient, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, said: "We believe that Calderdale can lead the way in improving the environment for future generations. The Council plays an important role in this, but we urge everyone to take action to tackle climate change. It’s damaging our health and putting our distinctive environment at risk, so we must act now to reduce the impacts. That’s why we’ve declared a climate emergency.”

Fine words but policy?

Road traffic consumes 38 million tonnes of petroleum annually. Most of this has to go by 2030 and most experts in this area believe that electric road transport has a big part to play. Just a few parking spaces reserved for electric cars and just a token number of charging points. Is this asking too much?

From Michael Prior

Thursday, 27 June 2019

As a supplement to the above discussion, I made a Freedom of Information request to Calderdale Council asking for the names of the supply companies with whom they had electricity contracts. The answer is very simple; all electricity is supplied by one company, Npower.
The Npower website shows that the most recent fuel mix from their Yorkshire group was as follows:
Coal          11.8%
Gas           62.5%
Nuclear      19%
Renewables 2.8%
Other          4.0%

Carbon emissions  359 g/kWh

For comparison, Scottish Power claim to be currently relying 100% on wind power.

Perhaps Cllrs. Patient and Sutherland, in view of their fine words quoted in my previous message, will tell us how soon the Council will be switching away from one of the most polluting suppliers to a green energy company. There are plenty of them who would no doubt grab a big contract.


HebWeb Forum: Tackling air pollution and climate change (Jan-Feb 2019)