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posted by on 27th Apr 2015

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No gas heating

13th October, 2009

In a speech to the Overseas Development Institute in June,  Lord Turner, chair of the Climate Change Committe, said:

…we can pretty much totally decarbonise our electricity generation. UK electricity generation currently puts out approx 550gm of CO2 per KW hour … we believe it’s possible to get to a low of 100g/KW hour by 2030. And 10-20g/ KW hour by 2050.

That’s important not only to take the CO2 out of electricity generation, but once we’ve done that it’s likely we can apply electricity to a wider set of economic activities- largely electrfying the light end of the service transport – cars- and putting electric heating back into our houses, having spent the last 30 years taking it out.

That means removing your gas central heating … and your gas cooker.

Listen to Lord Turner’s speech to the Overseas Development Institute on 03 June 2009 here:  ODI Public Lecture: “UK leading the way: Moving forward in international climate change policy”

posted by on 27th Apr 2015

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A waste of space

21st September, 2009

Climate change is the most urgent reason for drastically reducing motoring but there are many others. Top of the list is the space they waste. Here’s a blast from 1973:

The problem is that of designing an environment for people, who occupy a few square feet and need tens of square feet to move, which can also accommodate a large number of motor cars, which occupy hundreds of square feet and need thousands of square feet to move. This has consequences for housing design and for urban form. There are also other characteristics of motor cars which damage the local environment so that a large number of them in an urban setting has the effect of encouraging people to spread out spatially in trying to avoid the nuisances of heavy traffic.

Put simply, the choice is between compact no-car Venice and sprawling all-car Los Angeles.

Which do you choose?


Comment by James, January 5th, 2011

Thats easy, I choose Venice

 Comment by Luke, May 23rd, 2011

im more of an LA man myself

Comment by Geoff, March 14th, 2013

Excellent video on Car Free Venice:

posted by on 27th Apr 2015

This post was the contents of (now retired)

More jobs – the easy way

22nd September, 2009

A simple way of creating jobs is to subsidise goods that use lots of labour and tax those that don’t. This increases the use of labour and decreases non-labour factors of production. See for example the proposals for employment friendly VAT proposed by Professor J.K.Swales. This is a combined tax and subsidy scheme which gives a rebate on VAT for each person employed. He says

… governments are generally concerned about the overall level of taxation within the economy. However, the type of integrated subsidy and tax scheme that we investigate in the simulations could, in principle, be operated as a uniform tax scheme. That is to say, the change in the firm’s tax bill could be calculated as the net difference between the additional VAT and the per capita subsidy. In so far as the scheme increased total employment, and thereby reduced payments of unemployment benefit, it would be associated with a reduction in the required overall tax take. That is to say, the introduction of the new tax scheme would increase employment and reduce taxation.

It’s that easy.

P.S. An earlier paper Employment creation with very large scale labour subsidies was a precursor to this work.


The private sector does it

5th October, 2009

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posted by on 25th Apr 2015

This post was the contents of (now retired)


13th October, 2009

Embodied carbon ignored

The quantity of greenhouse gasses released as a result of building construction – the embodied carbon in buildings — is usually ignored. But, to their credit, it was calculated for BedZED by one of the project initiators, Bioregional. They say:

the embodied environmental impacts of BedZED’s construction materials are within the same range as standard UK housing. The total embodied CO2 of BedZED is 675kg/m2, whilst typical volume house builders build to 600-800kg/m2. Construction Materials Report by Nicole Lazarus, BioRegional Development Group

This means a 100m2 flat in BedZED has embodied carbon of 67.5 tonnes CO2. Compare this to carbon rations suggested in the GreenRationBook :

The average UK citizen creates 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) a year. New UK targets aim to cut this by 80%. Dividing the ration equally between categories “consumables”, “building”, “transport” and “government”, allows 1.5kg per day.

This argument gives a ration for building of 500kg CO2e per person per year. For two people living in an average-sized 3-bedroomed flat, the 67.5 tonnes CO2e is 67.5 years of their building ration. That’s before the flat is heated, the fridge switched on and the impact of all the other necessary buildings (shops, offices schools etc) are considered.


17th October, 2009

Eco-towns aren’t eco

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Our Nasty Nanny State

posted by on 17th Apr 2015

Our Nasty Nanny State

“We had to undertake role play etc in order to supposedly help us on our way back to work … where we had to stand up and tell the group what kind of job we were looking for  … I took a paracetamol to numb my panic .”


Tories cross a “bridge too far” for 1 million working poor

In 2011 Jonathan Rutherford wrote a piece in the Guardian This punishing welfare plan may be a bridge too far for the government :

The Tories are planning a draconian extension of welfare sanctions that will affect millions of working families currently claiming tax credits…

People who work hard and feel they are contributing to society will be told they must earn more or face a sliding scale of cuts to their income…

Workers who fall below this threshold must increase their work with their current employer, or look for an additional job or for a new one.

The subtitle says

Yes, the public are angry with benefit cheats – but they may object to harrying the low paid into earning more

One way of overcoming the objections is to sneak the measures in. Digging around in the Parliamentary Sessions (2014-15) for the 2nd Delegated Legislation Committee we find

Esther McVey:

“…we will be working actively with 1 million more claimants who are in work—that is 1 million working claimants who have not been supported to date.”

“…individuals on universal credit who earn less than £12,000 per year on average and who can earn more…”
“These were traditionally low-earning tax credit claimants some of those activities could be mandatory, specifically where they offer claimants a strong opportunity to increase their salaries.”

That means being punished for earning less than £950 in any one month and the Universal Credit self employed fact-sheet 2015 says

If you earn less than the minimum income floor in any month, Universal Credit will not bridge that gap. This will encourage you to grow your business and make sure it can support you.

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We should listen to … Chris Exley

posted by on 27th Mar 2015

People we should listen to. No. 4

Professor Chris Exley on aluminium and Alzheimer’s

Does aluminium increase the chances of Alzheimers?

The easiest place to start is Chris Exley’s YouTube presentation which he introduced like this

Even my old boss at The Royal Society, Professor I Forget His Name FRS, enquired quizzically of me as to why I was bothering to research aluminium. I explained that this was actually the subject for which I was awarded my Royal Society University Research Fellowship! Oh, he replied, his dark and slightly foreboding eyes beginning to glaze over as our ‘interview’ came to an abrupt end. I am sure that he mumbled something about it (aluminium) having no biological purpose and being essentially benign as he walked away, probably convinced that I was wasting both his and my time! One of his mumbles had some substance, aluminium having no known essential biological role, but his other final utterance, purposefully beneath his breath, that aluminium had no biological reactivity was at best uninformed and more likely contrived.

Does silicon rich water help ?

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Submission to the Barker Review of Land Use Planning (2003)

posted by on 24th Mar 2015

This was my submission (in 2003) to the interim

Barker Reviewof Land Use Planning




1. Property price inflation.

The rise in the value of property has reached 40% of GDP in some recent years.

2. Wealth redistribution.

Changes in tax and benefits since 1997 have made the poorest families better off by about £30 per week. Over the same period the wealthy have seen their property assets increase by hundreds of pounds per week. Wealth distribution is from the poor to the rich and from the young to the old.

3. Total planning permission.

The term “planning permission” is usually used in the context of new build. But most existing buildings have permission to remain at their location. If they do not have this permission, the planning authority can demand that they be removed. Increases in property values have for many years been driven by a shortage of this totality of planning permission. It is not an increase in the value of the bricks and mortar that has made my house three times more valuable in the past five years. It is the increase in the value of the right I have to keep my house in its present location.

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We should listen to … Heather Ashton

posted by on 11th Mar 2015

People we should listen to. No. 3

Professor Heather Ashton on benzodiazepine withdrawal

Drugs linked to brain damage

An article in The Independent, Drugs linked to brain damage 30 years ago starts “Secret documents reveal that government-funded experts were warned nearly 30 years ago that tranquillisers that were later prescribed to millions of people could cause brain damage.” It also says

Heather Ashton, emeritus professor of clinical psychopharmacology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, set up the first NHS withdrawal clinic in 1984. In 1995 she submitted a research proposal to the MRC to investigate the link between long-term benzodiazepine use and permanent brain damage, using sophisticated EEG and MRI scans, and cognitive testing in a randomised control trial. Her proposal was rejected.

The Department of Health

The article also references the work of Professor Malcolm Lader. Professor Ashton referred to him in a letter to Dr Iona Heath, President of the Royal College of General Practitioners (02 August 2011).

In the radio programme Professor Lader was asked why the Department of Health had not taken action on this problem as it is admitted that there are over one million long-term prescribed benzodiazepine users in the U.K. who receive little help in withdrawal. His depressing reply was that

(1) the DOH is influenced by the powerful drug companies who would have to pay out millions of pounds/dollars     in compensation if the health risks of long-term benzodiazepine use were exposed and
(2) general practitioners are afraid of litigation from patients who have been prescribed long-term benzodiazepines.

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We should listen to … Zig Engelmann

posted by on 2nd Mar 2015

People we should listen to. No. 2

Zig Engelmann, preschool teacher

Only 1% should be illiterate?

A few months ago I was a messenger between an ex head teacher and an educational academic. The topics was Direct Instruction, a method of teaching young children to read. The teacher claimed it worked; the academic said several methods work if good, enthusiastic people were using them.

The teacher claimed that only about 1% of children should remain illiterate, a much lower rate than schools achieve today. One problem was that it was not liked by many teachers because the teachers liked to have the freedom to express themselves and innovate. The practitioner said he’d done it but the academic didn’t believe it was repeatable.

However, if the practitioner’s 1% were to be anything like correct, why does the National Literacy Trust say

Around 16 per cent, or 5.2 million adults in England, can be described as “functionally illiterate”.

Evidence or “Gimme Some Truth”?

(Break here for John Lennon)

To look around to resolve this literacy contradiction I found Somerville and Leach writing

The Direct Instruction programme resulted in gains in reading performance significantly greater than the other two programmes and the control group…
Post‐intervention questionnaires completed by the subjects, their parents and their classroom teachers indicated that perceived success differed significantly from measured success and that parents and children were predisposed towards the success of any programme to which they had committed themselves. An explanation was offered for the continued acceptance and use of intervention approaches which have failed to find significant support in the literature.

Evidence alone isn’t good enough.

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We should listen to … Bob Johnson

posted by on 24th Feb 2015

People we should listen to. No. 1

Bob Johnson, psychiatrist

In a pub last week I had a short conversation with a former prison governor. He had been a governor of some high profile prisons. Obviously a caring person but not naive, he said long prison sentences were too long and short prison sentences were too short. If I caught his meaning correctly in this short conversation, long sentences make prisoners institutionalised, unable to cope with release and short sentences didn’t give the prison system time enough to do any good. Do judges talk to the prison service enough?

I asked the governor, if he knew the psychiatrist that quietened Parkhurst Prison for several years by getting the respect of prisoners and understanding the origins of their behaviour and enabling them to change. He immediately knew of Bob Johnson and acknowledged his work but he also said that no one else could repeat his success. The governor’s judgement – which I am reluctant to accept – has prompted me to start this series and make Bob Johnson the first.

I have attended some of Bob’s conferences and he is charismatic. My simplistic view of psychiatric interventions is that one discriptive dimension of methods ranges from “digging the bullet out” to “papering over the cracks”. Bob “digs bullets out”. But that’s enough of my amateur observations, go an find out more about Bob Johnson:

Video: Curing mental pain

Website: Truth Trust Consent

Book: Emotional Health: What Emotions Are and How They Cause Social and Mental Diseases

Book: Unsafe at Any Dose: Exposing Psychiatric Dogmas, So Minds Can Heal, Psychiatric Drugs Do More Harm Than Good

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