Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yellows going green?

So far, Labour's effort in reducing carbon emissions has been a failure, with CO2 emissions increasing since 1997 despite countless speeches on the dangers of climate change. In particular it's handling of renewables has been pathetic, the incompetent management of micro renewables grants a specific case in point.

The only plus I can think of was the introduction of the Climate Change Bill, but since that had cross party support, and Miliband's minions ripped the guts out of it, I won't include that as a Labour success unless it hits the books as a strong climate law.

The Conservatives, apparently recent converts to green politics, seem to be suffering from a split personality - one side wanting to continue with more flights and more roads, the other trying to grasp the green nettle. It looks like Redwood's carbon spewing proposals have the Cameron favour at the moment, possibly because they are not too far from Gordon Brown's "concrete it" attitude to the environment. Depending on which personality wins will confirm if the Tories are genuine on the environment or just copying Labour's greenwashing.

So it's refreshing to see at the Lib Dem conference Environment honcho Chris Huhne calling for the country to be 50 per cent carbon neutral, with energy from "clean, non-carbon-emitting sources" by 2020, rising to 100 per cent by 2050. It's a courageous idea (for a 'mainstream' party) and what's needed - a strong target with a clear objective.

What's telling is that we haven't so far heard a peep in response out of Hilary Benn. Labour are so keen to try and outstep the Conservatives that they've missed the Lib Dems, although I'm not sure if that really worries them.

Let's hope that Hebburn Lib Dem Councillor Joe Abbott pricks up his ears and thinks about how the Lib Dems' new proposals can be realised in local terms, especially considering his objection to the proposed wind turbine at the A&P yard in Hebburn. Cllr Abbott has also got into the unusual frames of reference for the measurement of objects, saying that the turbine would be "six Angels of the North on top of each other". Since that particular gem seems to have originated from a Northumberland "No to Wind Turbines" group it suggests what's really informing his thoughts, and it's not what's coming from Chris Huhne.

Realistically, if we want renewable energy, we need wind turbines. Of course wind won't be able to provide all of our energy, so solar, tidal power, wave energy and other renewables as part of a balanced mix also need to be developed urgently, along with initiatives to reduce energy use.

In terms of siting wind turbines, my personal sequential preference is for offshore, then industrial site, brownfield site, urban areas and finally rural areas. Also, land based sites should be as close to the point of use as possible to minimise transmission losses through our aged grid. There is a fly in my preference ointment though - on the land wind tends to be stronger and more consistent in upland rural areas, so I wouldn't rule out rural areas - they need electricity too.

The infrastructure isn't yet in place to support offshore, so until it is we've got to go with onshore for quick wind energy wins and personally I think industrial, brownfield and urban sites should be treated as the next best option.

This is where the A&P development fits in. It's a working industrial site and most of the energy produced will be used in the yard. I can understand the concerns about the noise and the size of the turbine. Bejaysus, at 80m high plus the blades (or two Concorde jet planes placed nose to tail) it's big. But we need to remember this is a river which once had a skyline dominated by cranes, so I think in terms of visual intrusion it's replacing one industrial structure with another. As for noise, it's an industrial site and if the level isn't worse than what is already produced then there's no net disadvantage. Being a previous resident of Hebburn Village I can attest to the audible volume of ship hull sandblasting, but accepted it as the price for purchasing a house in an industrial area.

It's disappointing though that the planned turbine (as with others erected locally) is going to be imported. As shipbuilding was winding down on the river an opportunity was lost to shift the massive resource of first class engineering skills from building ships to building renewable generation units for wind, wave and tidal power. In the past the Tyne was famous for exporting coal; in the future the Tyne could be exporting clean green energy. Even though I don't believe in Karma, if I did there would be a poetic green Karmic balance somewhere in there.

Hopefully in light of the Lib Dems' new aspirations for CO2 reductions Cllr Abbott will reconsider the plans more seriously than dismiss them with a knee jerk. However, given his (and Newcastle Lib Dems) support for the second Tyne road tunnel, I'll not be surprised if he continues his business as usual attitude.


David Potts said...


Just what is your issue with a second TT? I'm genuinely interested in your view (this is not me being sarcastic here, I assure thee).



rossinisbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rossinisbird said...

Oops, try again...

I'll give you the quick answer. At the conceptual level, the second tunnel is a totem for a bad governance - unsustainable policies, poor planning, disregard for the environment, the callous disrespect for local people, ignorance of health concerns, downright dishonesty - all based upon flawed assumptions about planning led economic growth and a falsely perceived need.

On a physical level, there's no real need for it. There are other ways to resolve the issues of crossing the mid Tyne without a new road, but unfortunately alternatives were not considered (not in the public domain at least). Despite climate change rising up the agenda, Alistair Darling pushed through this project which will likely help feed a growth in CO2 emissions and further unsustainable development.

If you want more detail, go to: Tyne Crossings Alliance

David Potts said...

Interesting. Thanks for that.

So what is the 'green' solution to the mile long queues at both ends of the tunnel every day?

I've noticed that you guys are quick to be critical but rather slow to offer alternatives. I'd be interested in your thoughts (realistic ones though!).

rossinisbird said...

It's a common misconception that somehow those with green leanings are short on alternatives. In fact the opposite is true. I think this is exacerbated by a media that wants short snappy stories and unfortunately a sniff of controversy makes headlines. Often the alternatives offered - sensible dull things like sustainability - either receive minimum coverage or get dropped altogether.

Consider the recent Gazette story on the A&P wind turbine proposal. "Row over giant turbine grows" screamed the headline. Read the detail and there's little 'row' - a reactionary councillor with some mildly negative comments and a fairly ambivalent resident. The green comment in support of wind power for that piece didn't even get printed.

Anyhoo, solution - and remember this is just a solution to the queues, since your question implies that the queues are the problem, which is a bit simplistic, so I'll give a simple suggestion.

The main reason queues occur is because there is a limited commodity - road space. It's only limited because at certain times demand outstrips availability. Normally in the real world, availability is correlated with price, but with the Tyne tunnel, price is set by a fixed tariff, not the market. This means the price doesn't reflect it's real value. So the answer is to introduce a market mechanism in which the price reflects the scarcity of the resource. The closest model for this in terms of road space is demand led charging - the more in the tunnel queue, the more you charge.

David Potts said...

A pathetically unworkable and complex 'solution' which would merely serve as yet another stealth tax on the working and middle classes who need to use the tunnel to get to and from work.

Further more, some may choose not to pay your proposed sky high charges and go round the long way instead! How's that supposed to combat pollution?

Please tell me this isn't official Green Party policy!?

If it is can you forward me a copy of the official policy statement so I can rip it apart in the press.



rossinisbird said...

Whoa! Calm down big lad! I'm shocked that you have such a low opinion of market economics. You're not turning commie are you?

"A pathetically unworkable and complex 'solution' which would merely serve as yet another stealth tax on the working and middle classes who need to use the tunnel to get to and from work."

Calling something 'pathetically unworkable' without backing your claim with some kind of qualitative assessment is empty rhetoric, and lazy. This 'complex' solution merely recognises the simple relationship between supply, demand and price - a basic structure of our economic system which has been in use for a very very very long time. So it's not a tax at all - it's a reactive point of use charge which closely mimics market pricing. You keep on using the clichéd 'stealth tax' whinge and you'll wear it out.

Besides, no one 'needs' to use the tunnel. 'Need' in your terms is purely subjective.

"Further more, some may choose not to pay your proposed sky high charges and go round the long way instead! ! How's that supposed to combat pollution?"

You didn't ask for a solution for pollution; it's a suggestion to combat queues as you requested. If people use price information to choose another method or route (or time) to cross the Tyne (otherwise called competition) then queues will be shorter and the solution will have worked.

"Please tell me this isn't official Green Party policy!?"

Don't be daft of course it's not, but it's given me a right chuckle to see you spew your gizzards in outrage at free market values.

David Potts said...

Buddy, you just cannot form an argument on this issue can you?

Also, what's with the 'big lad' comment? Resorting to personal attacks eh? Hey, why not just stick to policy.

Slag me off all you like. I'm simply sticking up for the hard working majority who would suffer massively from your barking mad stealth tax ideas.

I live in the real world and talk to real people every day. I've mentioned your TT plans to a couple of folks. One burst out laughing, the other said that it confirmed his view that a 'Green' administration would destroy our economy within six months.

Do you talk to real folks, Rossi, or just your Green mates?

I'm sure you're gonna repond, but please use plain English. I'm reasonably well educated myself, but I don't feel the need to try to impress folks by acting like a walking dictionary.

rossinisbird said...

David, it seems I've rattled your cage. Nothing meant by the 'big lad' comment, it's just a turn of phrase that 'real folks' use. I presume it means more to you than me - it wasn't intended to be interpreted as an insult.

For debate's sake though, you accuse me of being unable to form an argument, yet I've constructed a clear and logical position, whilst you've failed to come up with a rational objection to demand led charging.

Oh, and I'll try to stop using multi-syllable words if you try to stop using empty worn out clichés like 'stealth tax' and 'hard working majority'. I know that's how politicians speak but it gets a bit wearing.

David Potts said...

"Rattled (my) cage"? Sorry, old boy but you over estimate your influence.