Friday, 27 February 2009

Scientists to stop global warming with 100,000 square mile sun shade

According to astronomer Dr Roger Angel, at the University of Arizona, the trillions of mirrors would have to be fired one million miles above the earth using a huge cannon with a barrel of 0.6 miles across.
The gun would pack 100 times the power of conventional weapons and need an exclusion zone of several miles before being fired.
Despite the obvious obstacles - including an estimated $350 trillion (£244trn) price tag for the project - Dr Angel is confident of getting the project off the ground.
He said: "What we have developed is certainly effective and a method guaranteed to work.
"Tests are ongoing but we expect to be ready to launch within 20 or 30 years time. Things that take a few decades are not that futuristic."
Dr Angel has already secured NASA funding for a pilot project and British inventor Tod Todeschini, 38, was commissioned to build a scaled-down version of the gun.
He constructed the four-metre long cannon in his workshop in Sandlake, Oxfordshire, for a TV documentary investigating the sun shield theory.
He said: "The gun was horrendously dangerous. This was the first gun I'd ever built.
"I knew I could put it together safely but at the end of it all I didn't know what I was going to get.
"It was immensely dangerous. I was attempting to build a gun to produce 1,500G of force but it ended up creating about 10,000G and we had to turn the power down.
"Most weapons used by the army produce 100Gs of force so our gun was about 100 times more powerful.
"The main danger was electrocution because it used enough power to boil 44,000 kettles.
"If you were working with normal levels of electricity you could get a shock and be fine, but if you got a shock off this you would be dead - no question.
"We've proved it's possible to build a scaled-down version of the gun needed to get these lenses into the air so it's just a matter of scaling up the designs for the real thing."
If Dr Angel's sun shield is successful he says the mirrors will last 50 years before needing to be replaced.
full article

US toilet paper 'worse for planet' than gas guzzling cars

The vast majority of the paper used by American consumers is produced from virgin forests, while Europeans are more open to using recycled lavatory paper.
Greenpeace this week launched a guide about the ecological impact of the use of toilet paper. Lindsey Allen, a forestry expert with the envirnmental campaign group, said: "We have this myth in the US that recycled is just so low quality, it's like cardboard."
More than 98 per cent of the toilet paper sold in the US is from virgin forests, with the figure just under 60 per cent in Europe.
US consumers consume significantly more of the paper than Europeans - reportedly three times as much. They are said to use 100 times paper per head of population than the Chinese.
Allen Hershkowitz, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council, said: "Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving [petrol-thirsty cars] in terms of global warming pollution."
American producers of the products maintain that there is ample choice for consumers, with recycled toilet paper - which involves less use of chemicals when manufactured - available widely in the US.
full article

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Centrica set to report bumper £2 billion profits

CENTRICA, the owner of British Gas, will court fresh controversy next week when it reports annual profits of about £2 billion and an increase to its dividend while steadfastly refusing to cut household electricity prices.

Chief executive Sam Laidlaw is expected to justify the profits by giving details of a multi-billion-pound investment programme that the company plans for the coming years in renewables, nuclear and gas production and storage.

He will also be grilled by investors and analysts over his determination to complete the controversial £3.1 billion acquisition of a 25% stake in the nuclear operator British Energy from its French owner EDF Energy.

Since the deal was struck last year, power and gas prices have collapsed, making what was a generous top-of-the-market deal look even more costly. A minority of investors and some analysts have called for Laidlaw to abandon the deal or negotiate a lower price. EDF and Centrica have said they hope to close the deal by the end of next month, and Laidlaw is expected to reiterate his support for it this week.
full article

Friday, 20 February 2009

Green charger hits high street

CARPHONE WAREHOUSE is about to launch an ECO CHARGER that it says "reduces the amount of energy needed to power a mobile phone more than any other on the market".

It's a bold claim but for starters this has one advantage. While other chargers continue to zap electricity from the plug if left in the socket with no phone attached, this automatically switches itself off as soon as the handset is fully juiced or unhooked.

CPW reckon this can save the UK approximately 217 million kWh of electricity per year, the equivalent to the annual energy consumption of almost 66,000 households.

If you're like me, then you'll be guilty of leaving the plug in the mains with the switch on and no mobi at the other end. We all do it, so any move to help reduce that standby-drain has to be welcomed.

Andrew Harrison, UK CEO at The Carphone Warehouse, said: "Increasingly, concern over global climate change is becoming top of everyone’s agenda, and that’s why I’m thrilled that we’re now able to offer a device that will not only will save our customers money, but help them to be energy efficient too."

Out in the chains 820 stores from March 3, it will cost £22.99. Customers can get £10 off when bought with a handset.

That's a small price to pay for saving the planet but then it'll be a lot easier to save the cash and just remember to switch off the socket and take out the charger!
full article

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

An eco-dream of a house

It's the house that decades of design and centuries of building have been leading up to... but it takes its inspiration from the Middle Ages.

Strange as it may sound, this home of the future, designed for his family by architect Richard Hawkes, is wedded to the past.

Its very framework is based on a medieval design, known as timbrel vaulting, which can be seen in the dome-shaped roof.First used in 1382 in Spain, this method uses thin bricks to create a lightweight,
durable building.

The arch is less than 5in thick, so wastes no material. Gravel and soil on top, in which flowers will be planted, help weigh the self-supporting frame down, stabilising it.
Not only does the structure do away with the need for materials such as concrete, which are energy intensive to make, it also allows the building to retain heat.

And in his quest to save power, Mr Hawkes again found traditional methods were best.

He used locally-sourced, old-fashioned clay tiles, in place of brick, as they were more energy efficient.
full article

Monday, 16 February 2009

Warm Front branded unfit for purpose

Warm Front, the Government's flagship fuel poverty scheme, has come under attack for squandering public money, with contractors accused of charging high prices for poor standards of workmanship.

Times Money has been inundated with complaints about the scheme, which gives grants of up to £2,700 to make the most vulnerable households energy-efficient. Readers have reported paying more than £3,000 in top-up fees - required when the cost exceeds the maximum grant - for boilers that do not work.

Warm Front was also criticised last week in a National Audit Office (NAO) report for “inefficient targeting of resources”.

Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, says: “We are receiving thousands of complaints about Warm Front. Not only are customers being let down, but there also appears to be little accountability over how public money is spent. The organisation is unfit for purpose in its current form.”
The Government has poured almost £2.4 billion into Warm Front to help the 5.4 million households in fuel poverty, where one tenth or more of income goes on fuel bills. It relies on a contractor, eaga, to administer the scheme and manage the 139 sub-contractors responsible for installing heating and insulation systems.

But many customers complain that they have to agree to eaga's choice of supplier and equipment to obtain the grant, even if the boiler selected is unsuitable or the work appears to be overpriced. Many also say that complaints about unsatisfactory work can take months to resolve.

Times Money reader Malcolm Field, 56, applied to Warm Front for a new boiler on behalf of his 80-year-old mother. The total cost was £3,300, so his mother was asked to pay a top-up fee of £600. Mr Field, who lives in Chertsey, Surrey, says: “The contractor took more than a week to fit the boiler and its work was appalling. We called it out six times because the system failed. Eventually, 18 months later, a new pump was fitted and it now seems to work. My brother was a plumber and says that the work should not have come to more than £1,500. These contractors are lining their pockets with the Government's and pensioners' money.”
full article

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Electricity prices are too high, says EU

THE European Commission is to launch an investigation into the price of electricity, following concerns that they may be too high.

Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Meglena Kuneva said the decision followed an initial report which showed prices charged by some suppliers across the 27 member states may be excessive.

"Less than two thirds of consumers are satisfied with their energy supplier," said the commissioner.

Across the EU, about 60 per cent of consumers reported a rise in their electricity bills last year, while only 3-4 per cent saw falls.
It follows an announcement by British Gas last month that it would cut its standard gas bills by 10 per cent, but would not pass on cuts to electricity customers.

The new rates, which will save the average customer around £80 a year, will come into effect on February 19, benefiting 7.5 million of the supplier's 15.6 million customers.

Yet they will see no reduction in electricity bills, despite a 35 per cent drop in wholesale costs since last summer. It means dual-fuel customers will see their bills drop by a mere 7 per cent.

Critics also point out the gas cut was only half what they expected given the 50 per cent fall in wholesale gas prices since they peaked last summer.

Mark Todd at comparison website said: "Given the dramatic falls in wholesale energy prices, we were hoping for something more like 20 per cent."

British Gas said it had not passed on the full effects of last year's wholesale price increases , so consumers could not now benefit from the full drop.

The UK government has already urged suppliers to pass on savings to customers and warned that it may legislate to lower bills.

The energy regulator Ofgem told suppliers in October that they had to stop charging customers different rates if they paid by direct debit or pre-payment meters.
full article

Monday, 2 February 2009

Victorian house given £330,000 eco makeover

The Victorian council house in Camden has been fitted with £330,000 of green gadgets and measures to save energy and cut emissions.

If the occupiers manage to cut their bills, the council will extend the initiative across the borough. The five-bedroom house has solar panels on the roof to provide power and an advanced air-conditioning system to lower heating costs.

It has high levels of draught proofing and windows that are designed to be 20per cent better at retaining heat than current building regulations.

The property also boasts heat recovery ventilation to warm incoming fresh air and rainwater harvesting for use in the garden.

Council bosses say emissions from the house are now 80 per cent lower and it will save residents hundreds of pounds in bills.

What's behind the green door?

Insulation: floor, roof and internal wall insulation fitted wherever needed at a cost of £12,000

Windows: good-quality double glazing means windows are 20 per cent better at retaining heat

Draught proofing: every area, including loft access, is draught proofed as much as possible

Internal heat recovery: uses “smart ventilation” to recycle the heat from the outgoing stale air and re-use it in the incoming clean air

Drainage: rainwater is collected for use in the garden

full article