The Guardian view on Texas storms and power cuts: preparing for the worst

The outages endured by residents result from the state’s political decisions – but all of us need to think more about ensuring resilience

Eithan Colindres and his family wear winter coats indoors after power cuts in Houston, Texas. Photograph: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle/AP

Though the desperate conditions that millions of Texans have suffered for days were triggered by a powerful winter storm, the underlying issues are the work of human beings. At least 2.7 million households were still without power on Wednesday, and nearly 12 million faced water quality issues. Hospitals ran out of water. Families have burned belongings to keep their children warm.

Continue reading
  57 Hits
57 Hits

Wood burning at home now biggest cause of UK particle pollution

Domestic wood burning has become the single biggest source of small particle air pollution in the UK, producing three times more than road traffic, government data shows.

Just 8% of the population cause this pollution by burning wood indoors, according to a separate government-commissioned report. It found almost half of those burning indoors were affluent and many chose a fire for aesthetic reasons, rather than heat.

Tiny particle pollution is harmful to health as it can enter the bloodstream, be carried around the body and lodge in organs. The government is not planning a ban on wood burners but a ban on the retail sale of wet wood will come into force on 1 May, as will a ban on bags of house coal, the first such restrictions since the clean air acts of the 1950s. Wet wood has not been seasoned and produces higher levels of pollution.

Revealed: air pollution may be damaging 'every organ in the body'

Read more

Continue reading
  59 Hits
59 Hits

The Guardian view on Boris Johnson's role: laundering the Tory brand | Editorial

Boris Johnson prefers wordplay to policy detail. That will be a problem going forward. No amount of verbosity can mask the complex, often clashing set of socio-economic needs and interests that need to be reconciled to make effective policy in a deeply divided Britain. The four tasks that will define Mr Johnson’s government are minimising the economic and health fallout of the pandemic; making good on the promises of Brexit; putting the country on the path to net zero greenhouse gas emissions; and fixing a Britain broken since the global financial crisis. No one would would oppose the ends, it is the means that matters.

Mr Johnson’s response has been, mostly, to launder his reputation in either green soapsuds, the warm waters of “levelling up” or the steamy fug of new technology. Last year, he claimed that by 2030 Britons would fly in zero-carbon jets and be transported by hydrogen-powered trains through a land of plentiful housing. The most substantial policy to come out of the pandemic so far is to reward failure. Ministers – who have made a hash of lockdown timings, test and trace, and the procurement of personal protective equipment – aim to seize back control of the NHS, which has successfully managed the crisis and the vaccine rollout.

In environment, the prime minister has produced policies that are pale shadows of their rhetoric. Last week, it emerged that hundreds of millions of pounds were withdrawn from the government’s green homes grant programme – undermining its flagship scheme for a green recovery. There is a well-founded suspicion that Mr Johnson has caved to lobbying from corporate party donors. The prime minister’s pledge to ban gas boilers from new homes by 2023 – which would have imposed costs on developers – was first made, then withdrawn and finally replaced with a later date. His promise last year to scrap taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas would not have pleased big oil. Perhaps that is why we have yet to see the end of British interest in 17 such endeavours, including a major Brazilian offshore oil scheme that will contribute the same emissions as 800,000 cars annually.

The prime minister owes his position to Brexit, but this was a campaign, not a way of governing. It was remarkably successful in permitting Mr Johnson to pose as a breaker of taboos that he, as a Thatcherite Tory, had worked hard to construct, without having to specify in detail the boundaries of – and therefore his accountability in – a new policy regime. Brexit had its roots in an economic model based on spatial and income inequality, despite aligning with a conflict over values. Leaving the EU was a signal, its supporters were told, that international economic policy would be subordinated to more equitable domestic priorities. Yet, as Labour’s Lisa Nandy spotted in last year’s budget documents, Mr Johnson plans to “level up” the red wall with a model that has failed communities for the past 40 years.

After decades of failure by pro-market reforms, the only way for a Tory government to create a low-tax, low-regulation state seems to be under the cover of another project – Brexit – and by parachuting ideological soulmates into positions of power. It is why the OECD should not be led by the Australian rightwinger Mathias Cormann, whose pro-coal ideological vandalism led to the removal of the country’s carbon emissions trading scheme. Britain faces an unequal recovery from the pandemic in the coming months, with the rich and old out consuming, while unemployment rises and the young are left to struggle with higher debt. When he was just a follower of a doctrine, Mr Johnson could claim that if things went badly he or his creed weren’t entirely responsible. But he posed as a leader with a new gospel. The prime minister should not be surprised if the public, sooner or later, judges him wanting and abandons his temple for another church.

Original author: Editorial
  55 Hits
55 Hits

Belgians Asked To Eat Fries Twice A Week To Save 750,000 Tons Of Potatoes

Mound of Fries in Restaurant, Antwerp, Belgium. (Photo by: Barrie Fanton/Education Images/Universal ... [+] Images Group via Getty Images)

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Up to 750,000 tons of potatoes may be destroyed this season, meaning a loss of €125 million, as a consequence of COVID-19 lockdown in Belgium. A decreased consumption of the iconic Belgian frites is putting farmers at risk, as well as workers along the entire chain.

The frozen potato sector in Belgium is partially working with contracts (60-70%) while the rest is being sold on the free market. The processing industry has engaged itself to prioritize contracted potatoes where possible, so companies producing frozen fries are storing them into the freezers and waiting for markets to open again.

However, companies working for the fresh market (like restaurants, industrial kitchens and Belgian’s famous friterie shops) have lost nearly their complete sales channels. They are unable to comply with their contracts and try to work out other solutions.

Romain Cools, secretary general of Belgapom and board member of Belpotato.be, is calling on citizens to eat fries twice instead of once a week and hopefully save the sector. The association asked Belgian supermarkets to give priority to Belgian potatoes and potato products.

Continue reading
  36 Hits
36 Hits

Hundreds of millions in green grants for English homes pulled despite delays

The government’s flagship programme for a green recovery is in turmoil after it was revealed that hundreds of millions of pounds are being withdrawn from its green homes grant programme.

Ninety-five per cent of the £1.5bn pot provided for householders in England to make their homes less carbon intensive remains unspent due to long delays in giving out grants to householders and making payments to installers.

Some householders have been waiting nearly five months for the grants to be approved and installers say they have had to lay off staff because they are owed tens of thousands of pounds by the scheme, which is run by an American global consulting firm, ICF.

By 22 January, only £71m of the £1.5bn promised to householders had been given out – less than 5%. The grants have been extended to run until March 2022 because of the delays.

But in a parliamentary answer, the business minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan revealed the £2bn available would not be rolled over into the next financial year from March.

Continue reading
  61 Hits
61 Hits

BA plans transatlantic flights partially fuelled by recycled waste in 2022

British Airways says it will operate transatlantic flights partially powered by sustainable fuels as early as next year.

BA will invest in a new US plant to be built in Georgia by LanzaJet producing commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), made from ethanol derived from agricultural and other waste.

The airline said the fuel would create 70% less carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel.

However, it is likely to only provide a tiny fraction of BA’s overall fuel needs at first. SAF can be used to substitute for up to 50% of conventional jet fuel but so far demonstration flights – such as one conducted in 2018 by Virgin Atlantic with LanzaTech (from which LanzaJet was spun off) – have blended only about 5% of the greener fuel.

BA’s owner, IAG, which has pledged to invest almost £300m in SAF as part of its pledge to decarbonise by 2050, said it would investigate building a refinery with LanzaTech in the UK, as well as a waste-to-fuel plant in partnership with Velocys.

Continue reading
  59 Hits
59 Hits

UK's green plan offers mixed hopes for post-Covid-19 jobs boom

Britain’s homes are going green, says Derek Horrocks, who runs a home insulation business in Lancashire that has vacancies for architects, surveyors, administrators and accountants.

Derek Horrocks of Sustainable Building Services

Horrocks, who runs Sustainable Building Services from his offices in Skelmersdale, near Wigan, south Lancashire, says he spent much of 2020 contemplating how to avoid making redundancies. That was after several years when ministers said they wanted to turbo-charge the insulation of British homes, only for those plans to be shelved.

“For the first time in a long time we can see a positive picture,” he said.

Flats in Byron Court, Nottingham before refurbishment. Photograph: Sustainable Building Services

His staff assess whether homes need cavity wall insulation, external rendering, ground source heat pumps or underfloor heating before arranging for the work to be done and later checking it is up to a high standard.

This year he expects to employ an extra 50 HQ staff to cope with the flow of business from the government’s “10-point plan for a green industrial revolution” and particularly the seventh element: greener buildings.

Continue reading
  54 Hits
54 Hits

Green homes: how to shut out the winter cold and save cash

With storms and snow sweeping much of the country this week, many people’s thoughts will have turned to how to make their home warmer and more energy efficient.

According to research from Nationwide building society, shared with Guardian Money, some households could be wasting as much as £27.50 a month, or £330 a year, because of inefficient heating and poor insulation.

Its league table of areas in England and Wales named Llandrindod Wells in Powys as the least heat-efficient location, followed by Shrewsbury.

The research is based on data from energy performance certificates (EPCs). Since 2008 an EPC has been needed whenever a property is built, sold or rented, and it gives the building an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G. It also contains information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs, plus recommendations for saving money.

The society looked at the average savings that could be made on a property if the homeowner had acted on the recommended improvements suggested by their EPC.

Continue reading
  63 Hits
63 Hits

Italian Hero Gino Bartali Died This Day 20 Years Ago—Did His Cycle Rides Save 630 Jews During WWII?

Italian rider Gino Bartali rides uphill on July 25, 1950 in the Pyrenees mountains during the 11th ... [+] stage of the Tour de France between Pau and Saint-Gaudens. Bartali won the stage but withdrew from the race along with his team following scuffles with spectators. Bartali won the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948. (Photo by STF / AFP) (Photo by STF/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Twenty years ago today, the media in Italy reported that one of the nation’s sporting icons had died from a heart attack, aged 85. Gino Bartali was a three-time winner of the Giro d’Italia cycle race—1936, 1937 and 1946—and a two-time winner of the Tour de France—1938 and 1948—but what people in May 2000 didn’t find out until some years later was that the champion cyclist appeared to have had a secret life.

Iconic in Italy, Gino Bartali is lauded as a hero in Israel. He was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in 2013. The award is given to non-Jews who endangered their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust in the Second World War and is awarded by the Yad Vashem memorial museum.

Bartali’s fame as a successful racing cyclist allowed him to travel mostly unhindered in wartime Italy, and his “training rides” from his home city of Florence were, according to some historians, subterfuge for smuggling. It’s claimed the fake IDs he was able to hide in his bicycle saved the lives of hundreds of Jews who were able to evade capture by the Nazis.

Andrea Bartali, the son of the late Italian champion cyclist and Righteous Among the Nations Gino ... [+] Bartali who risked his life to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON via Getty Images.

Continue reading
  43 Hits
43 Hits

Biden to cancel $9bn Keystone XL pipeline's permit, says source

Rescinding permit is on list of executive actions thought to be scheduled for first day in office

Indigenous leaders protest against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in front of the White House in March 2017. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Joe Biden is planning to cancel the permit for the $9bn Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts as president, perhaps as soon as his first day in office, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

Donald Trump had made building the pipeline a central promise of his presidential campaign. Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, was vice-president in the Obama administration when it rejected the project as contrary to its efforts to combat the climate crisis.

The words “rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” appear on a list of executive actions likely to be scheduled for the first day of Biden’s presidency, according to an earlier report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Continue reading
  135 Hits
135 Hits

The weather's dismal but it shouldn’t stop us enjoying our local wildlife this lockdown | Chris Packham

Do you remember the first lockdown? We were scared but for most of us it was easier than this gloomy winter shutdown. We hadn’t endured a year of the coronavirus crisis – of fears for vulnerable family members, of economic shock, mental health challenges and ruined livelihoods. It was also the sunniest spring ever. The traffic stopped, the birds sang and so many people reported positive benefits for their mental and physical wellbeing from connecting with nature.

I hoped that we would all remember those physical and mental health benefits of spending time in wild green places. But I fear it’s not happening.

It’s mostly cold, wet and dismal outdoors, and many of us dismiss winter as a time of death and decay, absence, hibernation and senescence until spring can begin again.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Nature can’t stop. Winter is not our nature’s seasonal holiday. It doesn’t just go for a great big nap or all clear off to sunnier climes.

Every day, I look on to the grass beyond my window and see 150 wood pigeons. Fat grey birds picking their way across the lawn, scoffing acorns. It’s joyous. When I returned from my walk this morning, there was this enormous blast of applause as all these pigeons took to the sky with their wings clapping. Wow. That’s a real winter experience.

Continue reading
  126 Hits
126 Hits

'We need answers’: why are people living near Dutch goat farms getting sick?

In early 2008, Jeannette van de Ven began to see a slightly higher rate of miscarriages among the goats on her dairy farm in the south of the Netherlands.

“We sent the samples to the veterinary authority. Nine out of 10 results showed no explanation. Only maybe toxoplasmosis from cats. We had no cats,” she says.

Van de Ven, who keeps a herd of around 1,700 dairy goats in Noord-Brabant, a province densely populated with goat farms, kept sending samples. Finally, in May 2008 an outbreak of the respiratory infection Q fever was confirmed. It infects livestock including goats, sheep and cattle, and is found in placenta, amniotic fluid, urine, faeces and milk.

The disease turned into a nightmare for the Netherlands after thousands of people also became infected during the outbreak, which lasted from 2007 to 2010. The Dutch government culled more than 50,000 dairy goats on 55 farms in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

About half of the humans infected ended up developing complications, such as heart failure, and 95 people died.

Continue reading
  122 Hits
122 Hits

In ExxonMobil’s Defense

The logo for ExxonMobil appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, ... [+] Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Because of its long-standing position as the biggest member of the “Big Oil” club, ExxonMobil XOM is a company many love to hate. So, stories about ExxonMobil’s woes generate a lot of schadenfreude, and hence a lot of clicks.

Many people celebrated last year when ExxonMobil’s stock price crashed along with the rest of the oil industry. Meanwhile, many of the people celebrating continued to fuel up at ExxonMobil gas stations. We prefer to blame ExxonMobil for our fossil fuel consumption rather than our own choices.

The latest controversy with the company was reported last week by the The Wall Street Journal. The WSJ reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into allegations that the company overstated the value of certain assets in the Permian Basin. ExxonMobil had reportedly fired an employee who complained that unrealistic assumptions were being used to value the asset.

The company has ramping up its activity in the Permian Basin. In 2017, ExxonMobil agreed to buy the Bass family’s Permian assets for up to $6.6 billion. That was a factor that led ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods to claim in early 2019 that the company would increase oil and gas production in the Permian Basin from 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) to over 1 million bpd.

Continue reading
  134 Hits
134 Hits

Jennifer Mills on how pandemic solidarity can help us tackle climate change and inequality

Author Jennifer Mills reflects on how the idea of breath ties together the three crises of 2020: the climate crisis, racial injustice and the pandemic. She compares Australia’s ‘gas-led recovery’ plan to Europe’s willingness to embrace solutions to the climate emergency as part of its economic recovery

How to listen to podcasts: everything you need to know

This interview with Jennifer Mills is based on an essay she has written for the Fire, Flood and Plague anthology series. You can read it here or buy it in an anthology published by Penguin Random House.

Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Support The Guardian

The Guardian is editorially independent. And we want to keep our journalism open and accessible to all. But we increasingly need our readers to fund our work.

Support The Guardian
Original author: Presented by Gabrielle Jackson with Jennifer Mills. Produced by Miles Herbert and Ryan Pemberton. The executive producer is Miles Martignoni
  115 Hits
115 Hits

The biggest Coalition conspiracy theory is climate change denial | Greg Jericho

Nasa announced this week that 2020 – a year which included a La Niña event normally associated with lower temperatures – was the hottest year on record. It was also the week in which the Morrison government used racist tropes to distract and excuse conspiracy statements made by its MPs.

Remember the good old days when climate change deniers would proclaim that “the world has not warmed since 1998”? Since then there have been 16 years when it has been hotter – including nine of the past 10 years.

Graph not showing? Click here

Nasa confirmed what other agencies have found – last year was (depending on your measurement) either the hottest, equal hottest or close second-hottest year on record.

The previous record holder, 2016, experienced a strong El Niño, which usually means it is abnormally hotter than other years. But the latter part of last year was affected by La Niña.

Continue reading
  117 Hits
117 Hits

Carbon capture is vital to meeting climate goals, scientists tell green critics

Engineers and geologists have strongly criticised green groups who last week claimed that carbon capture and storage schemes – for reducing fossil fuel emissions – are costly mistakes.

The scientists insisted that such schemes are vital weapons in the battle against global heating and warn that failure to set up ways to trap carbon dioxide and store it underground would make it almost impossible to hold net emissions to below zero by 2050.

Carbon capture and storage is going to be the only effective way we have in the short term to prevent our steel industry, cement manufacture and many other processes from continuing to pour emissions into the atmosphere,” said Professor Stuart Haszeldine, of Edinburgh University.

“If we are to have any hope of keeping global temperature [increases] down below 2 degrees C then we desperately need to develop ways to capture and store carbon dioxide.”

Carbon capture and storage involves the extraction of emissions from power plants and factories, condensing them and then pumping the resulting carbon dioxide into underground stores. Britain is considered to be well placed to develop and operate such technology given its many depleted North Sea oil fields where this sequestrated carbon dioxide could be stored.

Continue reading
  118 Hits
118 Hits

S.E.C. Probe Of Exxon Renews Focus On Company’s Resistance To Write-downs

An Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In Pictures via Getty Images

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into Exxon XOM Mobil for possibly overvaluing one of its key oil and gas properties in the Permian Basin, the highest-producing oil field in the U.S., after an employee filed a whistleblower complaint last fall, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday that sent the oil major’s market value down 5%. 

In 2019 several people complained during an internal assessment that employees were being forced to use unrealistic assumptions about how quickly the company could drill wells in the Permian to achieve a higher value, reported the Journal, which reviewed a copy of the complaint. 

Citing unnamed sources, the article reported that the SEC had begun investigating the allegations after it received the complaint. The SEC declined to comment for the story. 

The oil and gas property in question, in the Delaware Basin of the Permian, forms a key part of Exxon's plan to ramp up shale production. In 2017 it paid $6 billion for 275,000 acres of land that at the time produced just 18,800 barrels per day, though Exxon insisted that there were 60 billion barrels of oil beneath the ground.  

Continue reading
  116 Hits
116 Hits

DUCs Won’t Save U.S. Oil Production

U.S. oil production has fallen more than 2 million barrels per day since March 2020. Many reasonably expect that DUCs (drilled uncompleted wells) provide a solution to output falling further.

They won’t.

There are about 5,800 DUCs in the main U.S. tight oil plays. These are already drilled and could be converted into producing wells for the cost of completion which is about half the total well cost.

Most DUCs, however, are uncompleted for a reason namely, that their owners don’t believe that their performance will be as good as wells that they chose to complete instead.

Even assuming similar performance, the larger problem is that large numbers of DUCs are already being completed and official EIA 914 production remains less than 10.5 mmb/d. 

Continue reading
  123 Hits
123 Hits

The State Of U.S. Shale: What You Need To Know As 2021 Dawns

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 03: Vice Chairman of IHS Markit Daniel Yergin speaks during "Maintaining ... [+] Energy Connectivity in an Unstable World" panel within Russia Energy Week in Moscow, Russia on October 03, 2019. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Let’s start this update with a couple of book recommendations. Many readers know that, along with Shale Magazine publisher Kym Bolado, I co-host a weekly oil and gas-focused radio program called In The Oil Patch Radio, which airs across the state of Texas. In recent weeks we have conducted interviews with the authors of two new books that should be required reading for anyone who is interested in the oil and gas industry and the shale business in the United States.

The first author is well known to most everyone: Daniel Yergin, the Vice Charman at IHS Markit INFO , and author of a series of books about the oil and gas industry, including “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil Money and Power” and “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.”

We interviewed Mr. Yergin on the November 15 edition of In the Oil Patch, focusing in on his latest book, titled “The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations.” You can listen to the podcast of that interview at this link. All of his books are extremely educational and intriguing books filled with vast stores of useful information. Mr. Yergin is an extremely gifted writer who is able to present this wealth of information in a novel-like narrative that holds your interest and makes it difficult to put the books down. If you want to know where the world is headed where the intersection of energy and climate is concerned, “The New Map” is truly a must-read.

The same is true of another new book titled “The Shale Controversy” by Dr. Ian Dexter Palmer. We interviewed Dr. Palmer late this week for a show to air on the radio later this month, so the podcast of this particular episode is not yet available. Our initial hour-long interview with Dr. Palmer was so compelling that we have scheduled a follow-up interview with him next week so we can delve more in-depth into his book.

Continue reading
  111 Hits
111 Hits

Let's Celebrate Apple's Uncanny Ability For Leadership

getty

When the first reliable leaks announced, in June 2020, that Apple’s upcoming iPhone 12 wouldn’t pack a charger or a headset, many, even the brand’s own customers, were unhappy. When the company launched the phone without them, in a significantly smaller box, and citing environmental reasons, a tsunami of complaints was unleashed: this was just a way to squeeze more money out of customers, it wouldn’t reduce electronic waste … Meanwhile, brands like Samsung or Xiaomi even made ads laughing at Apple’s move, and pretty much suggesting that this was one road they wouldn’t be following the company down.

What happened? Guess what the next model that Xiaomi has brought out doesn’t include? Or Samsung’s latest and the next generation? What a surprise! No charger, citing precisely the same environmental reasons as Apple: to reduce waste and to be able to pack more units in each box, thus lowering the carbon footprint from shipping costs.

Soon, the entire industry will adopt a standard that was once ridiculed. A measure that Apple will have achieved simply by leadership: having the courage of its convictions to withstand a storm of criticism, knowing that what its competitors criticized today, they would imitate tomorrow.

Tablet and phone chargers actually make up barely 0.1% of total e-waste, some 54,000 metric tons. If we consider only the portion that Apple generated, we would be talking about half or less, at most, about 25,000 metric tons, or 0.05% of the total. However, someone has to take the step of starting to lower that number, of creating awareness among users that all those chargers accumulated over the years make no sense, and get all the other manufacturers to incorporate the new standard and make the reduction of electronic waste one of their goals.

Continue reading
  120 Hits
120 Hits

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://energy-grants.co.uk/