Because of the recession (yes we’re allowed to say that now) firms are apparently using less water according to the BBC news business story Recession hits Severn Trent sales.
Severn Trent Water supply water to the Midlands and Wales (as if there wasn’t enough water in Wales aye?) where industry has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Jaguar Land Rover, Woolworths and MFI have been quoted as part causes for the drop in demand and as such, Severn Trent have issued a profit warning – they will earn Â£25 million less revenue than they received last year.
A caption under the image on the BBC story reads
Severn Trent says firms are cutting back on their water use
As if that was a bad thing, and this cynicism is further reinforced by broker Credit Suisse adding:
Overall we think the news is negative, not just for Severn Trent, but for sector sentiment.
Severn Trent Water’s shares were apparently down by 46p to 1141p this afternoon.
Of course, this story is from BBC Business News, and as far as business goes this is a bad thing. Less water use, less profit, share values down.
But this is a negative thing?! This story should be celebrated by greens everywhere; whilst cynical companies catch the water that falls out of the skies and clean it when we’ve flushed it, they have still been making an absolute fortune. It just goes to show that this is more about money than service, so if this is just one of the country’s water companies you have to wonder how much they are collectively squeezing out of people.
Saving water hits the pockets of these water companies and I’m pleased that my showers, reduced-flush toilet and rainwater butt in the garden are reducing my own water use, but these companies still thump us with an extraordinarily high water bill each year and then feather their own nests with the fat profits.
So come on people, save even more water. I think I’m going to have to get a water meter fitted so I can reduce my bills and hit their profits a bit more.
President Obama is not hanging about is he? Yesterday he announced America’s intent to provide global leadership on climate change (Gordon Brown, are you listening?) and to allow states to set their own vehicle emissions targets for vehicles.
On the BBC TV news last night, forward-thinking California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was openly delighted by the policy shift. I can imagine why; everytime I see pictures of Los Angeles there’s a big smog cloud over it, probably from what seem like millions of vehicles pouring into and out of the “City of Angels”.
It was President Bush who bore complete indifference to the “quality” of America’s air; the ex oilman who brazenly displayed the badge of “World’s Biggest Polluter” allowed America’s love affair with the testosterone-fuelled big SUVs to grow without limits and look where that got them. High oil prices killed the SUV, for a little while at least, but it did force the “big 3″ car makers to completely reassess their policy on leaner, greener cars – something they should have done years before.
So now, with America’s cars spewing out 25% of the country’s carbon emissions, individual states can start pruning back on the consumption of oil, so maybe there’ll be some left for the rest of the world. Hi MPGs will be rewarded and Toxic Texans will have to drive Smart Cars by law [Sorry, that's untrue but I couldn't resist it - Ed]
The most important thing is that Obama has signalled a clear intent to keep his promises and to forge ahead with America’s green policies. Amen to that.
London, 26th January 2009: A 16 foot high sculpture of an iceberg featuring a stranded female polar bear and her baby cub was launched on the River Thames today providing Londoners with a timely reminder of the dangers of global warming.
The sculpture, which was specially commissioned to mark the launch of Eden, a new digital TV channel devoted to natural history, graphically brought to life one of the most iconic images of climate change â€“ the melting ice caps.
A team of 15 artists spent two months constructing the 20ft by 20ft square structure which was launched in Greenwich, South East London at 6:30am, before travelling up the Thames to stop beside Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament for a national photocall. The structure weighing 1.5 tonnes was winched into place in freezing temperatures, before travelling 7.5 miles along the Thames.
The melting of the ice caps will not only affect the polar bears, there will also be serious repercussions for the two billion people who depend on the glacial meltwater that feeds their rivers. The polar bearsâ€™ presence in London highlights these issues which will also be addressed in Edenâ€™s Fragile Earth series which will run throughout the week.
Broadcaster and eminent wildlife conservationist, Sir David Attenborough says:
â€œThe melting of the polar bearsâ€™ sea ice habitat is one of the most pressing environmental concerns of our time. I commend Eden for highlighting the issue; we need to do what we can to protect the worldâ€™s largest land carnivores from extinction.â€
Edenâ€™s Channel Head, Adrian Wills, says:
“The Earth is a fragile place and we were keen to launch with a message that would draw attention to the uncertain state of our finely balanced environment. Our aim is to reflect one amazing world, with one amazing channel that can address issues like climate change whilst providing an entertaining, informative experience by airing a range of high-end premieres, landmark natural history programmes and first class wildlife documentaries.”
Now the polar bearsâ€™ have finished their journey along the Thames, they will be taking the message about global warming to Hampstead Heath as well as key cities across the UK including Birmingham and Glasgow.
The Thames is familiar with unexpected visitors. In January 2006 a seven-tonne bottle-nosed whale became trapped in shallow water near Battersea Bridge. Crowds gathered as the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) attempted to save its life. But despite the teamâ€™s efforts to move it into deeper water, the whale died.
Other mammals which have strayed into The Thames include a family of Harbour Porpoises, which were spotted near Vauxhall Bridge in December 2004. Three years previously, a Bottle- nosed dolphin was discovered swimming past Tower Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.
Edenâ€™s programming starts at 9am, Monday 26th January 2009, with Attenborough Explores… Our Fragile World at 10pm. A programme schedule for new digital Natural History channel Eden can be found at: www.exploreeden.co.uk
Yesterday I had an appointment in the south east corner of Dorset, on the border with my county of Hampshire, and I found myself just a couple of miles away from the New Forest where I lived when I was very young.
Driving back through the New Forest I stopped at a couple of places to pick up some local provisions; bread & free range eggs from a farm shop in Sopley and New Forest Cider from Burley.
I had a few tankards of New Forest scrumpy cider last night. Their dry scrumpy is really nice and I’ve also got a gallon of medium and a gallon of Vintage Kingston Dry, made only from Kingston Black apples. The New Forest Cider shop in Burley is well worth a visit and the surroundings are idyllic for those of you who want to have a snapshot of traditional farm life a century ago.
Just had a round of toast from the bread I brought in Sopley and now I’m going to have a fried egg sandwhich for a late breakfast. It’s so much nicer when you buy local produce even if you are popping out of town.
Ministers will apparently give the go-ahead for the controversial third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport later today according to the BBC.
Despite open opposition from around 50 of the Government’s own MPs, opposition MPs, environmental groups, concerned citizens and residents of the houses in the path of the runway, the announcement will be made today under the provision that the expansion is within strict environmental parameters.
The promise of quieter and more fuel-efficient planes seems to be the key to a near-doubling of the amount of air traffic expected at Heathrow. With almost twice as many aircraft and an alleged 55% increase in fuel efficiency, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that pollution would be at similar levels to today. This totally contradicts the government’s targets to reduce emissions by 80%.
Either the government is simply nodding its head to the pro-expansion camp who only have to promise to meet strict environmental criteria in order to get its way, or the government knows that this cannot be achieved and is arrogantly forging ahead anyway or the airline industry gets concessions where other sectors, industrial or public, would have to cut their carbon emissions by even greater levels to meet the targets. The former seems more probable as this government has an increasing propensity to trample over public opinion, after all, and let’s not forget the fact that this country’s leader was never democratically elected.
The government has caved in to the lobbying of big business and industrialists with money and influence. They get their own way and the people are treated with utter contempt. The “jobs and prosperity” that are supposed to be handed out to the immediate area is a travesty because 2000 locals will see their homes demolished and be forced to move elsewhere.
As for meeting the stringent criteria, the pro-expansionists would say that wouldn’t they? Who will be held accountable when we all realise that we’ve been lied to in order that a select few will squeeze a profit out of this “obvious” money spinner? Does nobody have the brains to realise that there’s a huge green industry that’s just waiting to be tapped? Does nobody have the balls to get involved in green initiatives? In America Barack Obama is promising to create “nearly half a million jobs by investing in clean energy”… where’s the British equivalent? Focusing job creation and transport in Heathrow is asking for trouble. At least a green initiative would be “all over the country”.
Once again, if the third runway and sixth terminal are completed, that will be ten years away. The short-term job promises will mean those labourers are laid off after completing their unpopular work. Who knows what will happen in the next decade but I don’t expect oil prices to go down and air travel, already on a knife edge, is hardly in a position to boom. This whole expansion is timely to “create jobs” in a recession but is ultimately based on a lie.
A couple of days ago we brought you a story from The Times that “revealed” the CO2 emissions of a Google search by Harvard University Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross.
With The Times quoting the 7g/search and, later in the day, Google responding with their 0.2g/search figure we suspected that something was very wrong here. It was a bit like a debate over something costing Â£7 when it was actually on sale for 20p (Or $7 when it was priced at 20c for our American guests) So we naturally and logically reserved judgement, promising to report back to you if we had any further developments.
According to TechNewsWorld, Wissner-Gross was a little upset by The Times for a number of good reasons.
Firstly, Wissner-Gross says he never mentions Google in his report. The Times seems to have over egged this point for some reason and Wissner-Gross believes that, for some reason, somebody had an axe to grind with Google.
Secondly, the report does not single out ANY search engine or company for their energy use and emissions. The report is generic in that it calculates that it takes 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to view a webpage.
The Times then used the analogy of the boiling kettle to illustrate the comparative energy use and we followed on that flow to compare the claim vs. the counter-claim. Wissner-Gross says he has
“no idea where they [The Times] got those statistics.”
If you read the TechNewsWorld story, a spokesman for Google says that Larry Page & Sergei Brin, the founders and heads of Google, are very passionate about the environment. He quotes numerous initiatives by Google to cut emissions and states the business case that cutting energy use for an organisation such as Google obviously cuts costs too, and that’s all good for the bottom line.
So the question still remains unanswered as to why The Times name-dropped Google for their alleged energy consumption and why those claims were “accredited” to the Harvard scientist. As Wissner-Gross closes his interview with TNW:
The short answer is, it’s a really easy way to sell papers. Google is a very successful company and it’s a very easy way to get readership by making grandiose claims about them.
On Monday afternoon we heard that the decision on whether to expand Heathrow Airport by building a third runway was imminent and that a Government decision would be made this week.
The day’s talk seemed to be dominated by the pro-expansion camp, consisting of parties with vested interests, including the unions Unite and GMB who, according to the news, argue that 50,000 jobs would be created with a further 15,000 new jobs upon completion of the project. The pro-expansion group Future Heathrow boast that 72,000 jobs would be created. On their website, Future Heathrow say that a total of 500,000 jobs would be dependent on the expansion of Heathrow and the third runway.
That sounds like the sort of “good news” the public might want to hear in times of an economic crisis where unemployment is rising and people desperately look for jobs. But our question is this: Just how many of those 65,000-72,000 jobs are short-term? How many jobs are tied-up solely during the construction time of the third runway and sixth terminal?
All the vested interests concur that a bigger Heathrow would be for the benefit of the WHOLE of the UK economy and on BBC’s Newsnight programme (Monday) Lord Soley, the man heading the coalition for expansion, said that Heathrow was falling behind other major European airports, naming Schipol (Amsterdam), Paris and Frankfurt as threats to Heathrow’s position as Europe’s number one airport, even having surpassed it already. In his words
Heathrow can either expand or continue its decline.
His point is that because other European airports are expanding then so must Heathrow, supposedly in an effort to stay competitive, or rather dominant, if you read between the lines. Or is that to regain its crown or to at least try and catch up with the other "usurpers"? Afterall, it would be another ten years before the expansion were completed.
In addition further pros for expanding Heathrow namedrop the "integrated transport system" argument, where road and rail all connect up to provide ease of travel between places. You can read Lord Soley’s full argument on the matter here.
So this begs further questions: Is there an "arms race" in airport expansion? Obviously the continued or returned dominance of Heathrow is an absolutely paramount goal for those who see financial gain from it but what if other airports continue to expand too and, once again, in the future overtake or merely stay ahead of Heathrow? Will there be a fourth runway? Just how far does this go? How much of Britain’s countryside and heritage needs to be tarmac’d over before the expansion stops?
As for the "integrated transport policy" into which Heathrow seems to play such a vital role, why is the onus on planes rather than improving rail? Does this scheme also include expanding motorways by adding extra lanes to cater for an expected rise in road traffic to the bigger airport? Why do railways seem to be so neglected?
This seems to fall in nicely with proposed government policy on public works spending in order to "kick start" the economy again. Widening motorways is seen as a way to a) create quick & easy manual labour jobs and b) relieve road congestion, whereas the real answer is to 1) invest in creating jobs in the emerging green sector and b) make drivers use the slow lane, rather than clogging up the middle and "fast" lanes. That would save public money being spent on unnecessary, not to mention environmentally unfriendly, projects that would have nothing but short-term, short-sighted and low-brow benefits.
So with the weight of over 100 lobbyists, businesses and groups, who all stand to gain financially from, and people in suits arguing the business benefits of the proposal, it looks pretty gloomy for those who wish to protect any history & culture, schools, 2,000 residents, 750 homes and the church with its graveyard at the site of the new runway.
But wait – The Conservative Party are against the third runway, the Lib Dems too, 50 Labour back-benchers and London Mayor Boris Johnson. Greenpeace, WWF and Plane Stupid are also against the development. There are a further four other airports serving London, including Stansted which was invaded in December for its own expansion plans, so why the rush to bulldoze Middlesex?
And then, late in the day, another piece of news comes in; Greenpeace, along with the famous impressionist Alistair McGowan, actress Emma Thomson and Zac Goldsmith, former editor of The Ecologist, supported by named individual MPs from the three main parties and environmental activist George Monbiot to name a few, announce that they have purchased a football-field sized plot of land right in the path of the new proposed runway!
Any attempts to build the third runway at Heathrow will require that the plot of land is included and the four legal owners are (obviously) firmly against that. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for the public to become “beneficial owners” of the plot, to be included in the legal deed of trust and to be represented should there ever be any legal move to seize the land.
Even with a compulsory purchase order, this move by the concerned citizens will certainly delay efforts of expansion, putting a "spanner in the works", as one person put it. Read about Airplot to see how it works.
Underpinning this whole debate is a small but extremely important detail that I find incredible that nobody seems to be talking about or even paying the slightest bit of attention to: Oil. Will oil prices start going up again? At what rate will oil prices go up? Being a finite resource, when does the oil run out and what are the plans for alternative aviation fuel? If flight expands at the rates some predict, won’t that just put further pressure on oil supply, thus increasing demand and driving up price? Will this demand also accelerate the point at which peak oil is reached or are we there already?
As innocuous as it may seem, “Googling” apparently has a definite environmental impact.
A story in The Sunday Times says that two Google searches are the equivalent to boiling enough water for one cup of tea.
Alex Wissner-Gross, a physicist at Harvard University who came up with the figures, estimates that a search on Google generates 7g of CO2. Boiling a kettle for just one cup of tea generates 15g of CO2.
With an estimated 200 million searches on the Internet daily there’s obviously a great amount of concern regarding the environmental impact of web search. If all those searches were on Google (with it’s supposed 7g/query) then that would be the equivalent to over 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or over 9 million cups of tea!
According to the story Google does not, apparently, publish the figures on its energy consumption or its carbon footprint, but they are just one part of the global IT industry which technology analysts Gartner believe to be as polluting as aviation.
The blame for Google’s carbon output is laid squarely at users’ desire for quick and accurate searches – the amount of processor power needed from multiple datacentres in order to satisfy search demands is apparently pretty phenomenal and one researcher in the Times story says that
Data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable
That’s quite a dramatic statement.
But at the end of the very same day that story was published, Google posted on the Official Google Blog to correct these figures, adding that they believe they have the most energy-efficient data centres in the world.
Google state that with a fast Google search taking 0.2 seconds their results use only 0.2g of CO2. That’s 35 times less than Wissner-Gross’s figure, a considerably smaller amount.
If all search only generated that amount of carbon dioxide on a daily basis then our previous example would be greatly reduced to less than 50 tons of CO2 daily and a little over 250,000 cups of tea.
So, who’s right? Google, who dominate the arena as the world’s favourite search engine or Alex Wissner-Gross’s research with his CO2stats.com commercial service?
In the weekly address from the President-Elect, Barack Obama, on Saturday 10th January, you could be forgiven for hoping he was talking just about environmental issues when he stated:
These numbers are a stark reminder that we simply cannot continue on our current path.
Rising temperatures or sea levels? Disappearing rainforests? Breakup of glaciers or endangered species? He continued:
Itâ€™s not too late to change course â€“ but only if we take immediate and dramatic action.
Again, snippets of this speech could well be about curbing CO2 levels, reducing oil consumption, simply stopping pollution or a war against litter.
But no, this speech addresses the economic crisis in America where job losses are at their highest since the second world war. America’s next President plans to embark upon a national spending plan to “kick start” the economy.
Amidst a raft of initiatives to save or create as many as 3 or 4 million jobs, including repairing the USA’s “crumbling infrastructure”, creating educational jobs and improving healthcare there are some environmental plans.
Weâ€™ll create nearly half a million jobs by investing in clean energy â€“ by committing to double the production of alternative energy in the next three years, and by modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improving the energy efficiency of two million American homes. These made-in-America jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, developing fuel-efficient cars and new energy technologies pay well, and they canâ€™t be outsourced.
That’s quite a turnaround from the continued consumption of oil we’ve seen and the bailout of auto industries that continued churning out gas-guzzling trucks in the midst of growing concerns over sustainability. Barack Obama seems to be going in the right direction after years of the country’s “top brass” avoiding environmental issues, let’s hope his plans make a positive impact.
The biggest concern we have is regarding the laying of the “foundation for future growth”… for a country with the biggest ecological footprint1 (per person) on the planet, we hope the growth figure is a sustainable one?
See the full speech and transcript at change.gov