| Brussels Blog

posted by on 13th May 2015

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Plastic better than recycling glass

6th August, 2009

Recycling bottles – breaking them up, melting them down and making new bottles – does not benefit to the environment much. We start with these questions:

1. How does this footprint of a bottle made from recycled material compare with the footprint of a bottle made from virgin material?

2. How does the recycled bottle footprint compare with other forms of packaging?

Some information on the carbon footprint of bottles can be found at wineenabler . They say

In the U.S., recycled glass accounts for about 25% of all glass on the market. Also, using recycled glass reduces the carbon footprint of the resulting bottle by about 25%.

They also say

you can manufacture and dispose of about 2.7 plastic wine bottles for the same carbon footprint that you could manufacture and recycle 1 glass bottle.

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posted by on 9th May 2015

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DEFRA win a prize

3rd January, 2011

Air travel 1: The frequently asked questions on the UK Government Act on CO2 Carbon Calculator says air travel now accounts for 6.3% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions1.

Trying the calculator for a return flight from Leeds UK to Brisbane Australia gives a carbon footprint of 2.9 tonnes of CO2. The Green Ration Book gives 6.8 tonnes. The difference is largely that the Government calculator ignores the radiative forcing index, which accounts for the extra climate effects of air travel over the CO2 emissions alone.

The Government calculator explains the radiative forcing index in the notes1 but quietly ignores it. It says this “could mean that aviation’s climate change impact is almost double that of its CO2 emissions alone”.

Air travel 2: Hansard (2 May 2007) records that emissions from flights departing the UK contributed approximately 13 per cent. of total UK emissions in 2005 when the radiative forcing index is used2:

The prize:

At the 2008 GREEN AWARDS, DEFRA won the Best Green Audiovisual Category (Over £50K) for its ACT ON CO2, Save Money, Save Energy Campaign.

1 Air travel now accounts for 6.3% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions and the full climate impact of aviation goes beyond the effects of CO2. Apart from emitting CO2, aircraft contribute to climate change through the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx). This forms the greenhouse gas ozone, especially so when emitted at cruise altitudes. Aircraft also trigger the formation of condensation trails, or contrails, and are suspected of enhancing the formation of cirrus clouds, both of which add to the overall global climate change warming effect. These extra impacts are examples of effects which are collectively known as “radiative forcing”. Recent scientific studies have shown that including the climatic impacts of non-CO2 emissions from planes could mean that aviation’s climate change impact is almost double that of its CO2 emissions alone.

2Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the most recent estimate is of the percentage contribution of aviation, based on emissions by all aircraft departing from UK airports, and including the radiative forcing effect, to UK climate change emissions. [134036]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 26 April 2007]: International aviation is not included in the UK’s climate change inventory as there is no internationally agreed method for allocating such emissions among states. In 2005 aviation represented 6.3 per cent. of UK emissions, calculated as a proportion of emissions in the UK inventory plus emissions from international aviation and shipping departing the UK. Detailed data may be viewed at:

As the “Future of Air Transport Progress Report” (December 2006) noted, aviation emissions arising from the combustion of kerosene include carbon dioxide, water vapour, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, particulates and other compounds. These give rise to “radiative forcing” impacts. The total radiative impacts were estimated by the EC TRADEOFF project to be approximately twice those of carbon dioxide (excluding cirrus cloud formation).

Using a radiative forcing multiplier of two, emissions from flights departing the UK contributed approximately 13 per cent. of total UK emissions in 2005. However, the figures for non-aviation sources do not include any radiative forcing attributable to them, as conclusive figures are not available.

The link to the DEFRA website doesn’t work.

Suspension suspended – planes still bad

23rd August, 2010

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posted by on 28th Apr 2015

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Murder on the Environment

18th August, 200

New Scientist: 18 July 2007

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption.

Steak’s big carbon footprint

18th August, 2009

Adelaide Now: November 18, 2007 01:15am

EATING one less steak a week is better for the environment than leaving the car in the garage, a new report reveals.
The Meat’s Carbon Hoofprint report, compiled by Adelaide experts, compared the greenhouse gas emissions of cattle and vehicles, and found beef was almost four times as damaging to the atmosphere.

The report’s authors, Adelaide University climate change chair Professor Barry Brook and Animal Liberation committee member Geoff Russell, used the example of a family of four eating 4kg of beef a week and driving a two-tonne Ford Territory 200km each week.

Beef’s footprint 14 times its own weight

26th August, 2009

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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

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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

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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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