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Re the recent power cuts – building resilience

From Ms. P. Finch

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

The recent power cuts highlight the need for more than one source of energy in homes. For those with gas or log burners they got lucky this time. Many more will have struggled.

With mobile, internet and TV networks down it emphasised the need to retain landlines - yes they do still exist!!

As for back-up from the radio, national media have seriously failed this time, merely making brief staements about events happening without giving enough detail.

Local radio was unavailable in my area.  

As Northern Power seemed overwhelmed and unable to provide detail, it yet again highlights the need for a route to national news for all local reports at such times.  

Bizarrely Yorkshire Water have provided frequent updates re water supply/pressure on the landline phone even when there was no apparent problem.

From Vivienne H

Sunday, 5 December 2021

I agree - we need to have a range of options for heat & light. 

But Boris has determined that we are imminently to lose gas boilers, and burning wood & coal is regarded as the work of the devil.

BT recently announced it's doing away with landlines. Without central heating, light, hot water, tv, radio, timepieces & the internet, I found my landline invaluable. It was the only way I could communicate with the outside world. 

Information was sitting in an email box I couldn't access until I'd ceased to need it. 

From Tim M

Monday, 6 December 2021

The kind of storm that brought power lines down is only going to get more frequent, Vivienne if we don't move beyond fossil fuels rapidly. "Boris" is doing the least he can get away with to facilitate this. As for wood burners, the amount of localised pollution these produce - well...

From Vivienne H

Thursday, 16 December 2021

You're right that we need to move away from fossil fuels, Tim - but it has to be done in a rational manner, and that means, first of all, ensuring that people have alternatives. You can't  expect old people to live in unheated houses in the winter.

We also need to think more holistically. At present, we import natural gas from Qatar and Russia: the consequence of that is that the average gas bill now consumes more than one-sixth of the state pension, because the seller sets the price. If we extracted British natural gas, we couldn't be held to ransom by inimical states, and we would save the environmental cost of transporting gas - from countries with little environmental awareness - thousands of miles across land and ocean.

Every solution comes with disadvantages, so obviously we need to think this through carefully, but local and national self-sufficiency, using a range of energy sources, seem to me to be worth aiming at. 

People naturally prioritise according to personal circumstance: few owners and users of mobile phones recognise that their manufacture gives them the biggest carbon footprint of any device, and is responsible for much of the destruction of the Amazon. The Hidden Environmental Toll of Smartphones

Those who upbraid others for wearing natural fibres such as leather, silk or wool, seldom pause to acknowledge that their synthetic fabrics have irrevocably polluted soil, rivers and seas with nano particles of plastic - derived, of course, from petroleum hydrocarbons - and these are moving up the food chain, destroying as they go.

These are not simple matters, which is why I think insisting on One Way (& that chosen on the basis of a preferred ideology), is unlikely to produce the best solution.

From Vivienne H

Friday, 17 December 2021

Further to the discussion on coal:

In domestic settings, the most polluting form of coal has long since been replaced in the UK by smokeless fuel, a mixture with a high proportion of anthracite.

But because Welsh & Cornish coal mines have been closed despite still being viable, we are now importing coal from Kazakhstan for what remains of the steel industry, and the Cornish Heritage steam engines, traditionally powered by local sources, are being forced to use Kazakh coal as well. 

That supply is obviously subject to political interference by Russia or Turkey, but that aside,  how does moving coal 3000 miles west make environmental sense? 

Thatcher closed British mines because she was determined to break the Trade Union movement. Kazakh miners aren't permitted strong unions. When they went on strike in 2017, they were told it was illegal and were threatened back to work, at the behest of China, which has mining interests there. 

Nuclear power, give the human tendency to err, is cleaner only until there's a leak, or radioactive waste can't  be safely stored. 

This confirms my sense that we need to think about this issue holistically, considering the intended and unintended consequences of what at first glance seem like attractive options.

From Mark H

Friday, 17 December 2021

I'm sorry, as I agree we need to take a holistic view of energy supply and consumption, but facts are sacred.

Cornish coal mines are not viable because there is not, and never has been any coal mined in Cornwall. The county has no coal measures.

It's increasingly important in this era of citizen journalism and social media misinformation that we insist on verifiable facts just in case we need to defend our views later.

Hope everyone has a cool (logburning) Yule ! ;-)

From Adrian Riley

Saturday, 18 December 2021

I quote this from the Guardian newspaper of a couple of days ago;

"Research published in the last year has shown wood burning in homes is the single biggest source of small particle air pollution in the UK, producing three times more than road traffic, despite just 8% of the population using wood burners.

"Even new wood burning stoves meeting the "ecodesign" standard still emit 750 times more tiny particle pollution than a modern HGV truck. Wood burners also triple the level of harmful pollution inside homes and should be sold with a health warning, according to scientists".

From Vivienne H

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Mark H is quite right to correct my reference to Cornish coal. The Cornish heritage train was fired by open-cast coal from South Wales -  still much closer than Khazakhstan. If we believe in reducing environmental  damage, we can't suppose that to be a good solution. Nor are Russian and Qatari gas - which as well as ecological conditions, also leave us open to political & economic pressure. That our gas prices have recently doubled is a result of this unnecessary dependence. 

I think we need a nationalised energy industry which aims at self-sufficiency for our islands. Research should focus on ensuring that coal, wood, and gas can be used cleanly. We should postpone nuclear power stations until we can afford our own, and not until we're confident they're safe & have a harmless way of disposing of radioactive waste. 

Particulates cause breathing problems, but so do cold damp houses, which encourage moulds and fungi.

From Gideon Foster

Friday, 24 December 2021

On the subject of Climate Change and pollution it often occurs to me that we don't look at the bigger picture enough which I think is what Vivienne is alluding to.

We look at log burners and we compare it to say a gas central heating system and come to the conclusion that gas causes less pollution, which is correct when comparing the effects of burning the two different fuels.

However, to the best of my knowledge we don't include the footprint of the means we use to consume the fuel, or rather it is not directly attributable. For instance, a gas central heating system manufactured from metals, plastic, etc, the mains gas infrastructure and its upkeep will all contribute to pollution but will appear as "industrial" in the calculations.

There will undoubtedly come a point when the saving in pollution from burning gas offsets the excess had we carried on with natural fuels but it doesn't seem to be readily available unless anyone can enlighten me?

From Tim M

Monday, 27 December 2021

 It's not that difficult to not use a lot burner. Pretty much everyone using one has central heating as well and is just enjoying the aesthetics. Say what you want but the evidence is pretty conclusive. Burning wood in the west in 2021 isn't really necessary and is directly harming our health. See also: diesel, asbestos, lead...