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Archive for the ‘agriculture’ Category

I’ve just finished watching the first of three episodes of The Future of Food on iplayer. In it there’s a fascinating interview with Hilary Benn, secretary of state for DEFRA. Fascinating not because of what he says, but what he doesn’t say. On this programme about the upcoming global food shortages (mainly due to fuel prices, water shortage, and changing climate), he says:

We know we’re going to have to grow more food with a changing climate and probably less water being available… I think looking at what happened last year, the food riots, the rise in prices, we’ve got to take responsibility now to ensure that people have enough food to eat.

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Just to warn you, this post is a bit trite and must have been done before, but here goes…

I reckon if you chipped all the Christmas trees in the UK and fed them into a biomass CHP , you’d provide enough zero carbon heat and electricity to supply about 25,000 new homes for the entire year.

If you can be bothered, here’s how I got there:

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There’s a short video on the Building website of Phil Clark and Michael Willoughby discussing biomass. At one point Michael claims “it’s not efficient to transport biomass more than 20 miles.” Holy smokes, where does this fact come from? I took a stab at the numbers and came up with a figure of 3000km (1900 miles) by truck before you lose the carbon benefit. That’s 100 times more than Michael’s figure. Looks like one of us (or possibly both) has got it wrong.

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Love them or hate them, liquid biofuels are increasingly being put forward as a renewable fuel for CHP. Currently they’re eligible for ROCs and so appear to be considered renewable by BERR and OFGEM.

But when I spoke to the SAP team at BRE, not only did they confirm that liquid biofuels aren’t considered under SAP, they also said that “because of mounting doubts over the extent of emissions from biofuels”, you have to use the emissions factor for oil when carrying out your SAP calcs. Did they expect the treatment of biofuels to change for the 2010 review of SAP? Adamantly, they did not.

Then I called the BREEAM helpline. They told me that liquid biofuels also aren’t considered under the Code for Sustainable Homes. So no help in scoring points under ENE1 or ENE7.

So liquid biofuel CHP is eligible for ROCs but will do little for your Part L and Code requirements. Without achieving these requirements, the case for biofuel CHP for new buildings is severely undermined. Obviously this situation could change. With CLG on the lookout for ways to meet the 2016 zero carbon homes target, there might be considerable pressure applied in favour of making biofuel renewable under SAP. But for now the official line is that biofuels are not a solution for carbon reduction in new build.

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An article in the Times over the weekend claims that walking to the shops emits more CO2 than driving. It’s a sensationalist claim (even if they can back it up with calcs) that doesn’t help anyone except Daily Mail readers desperate to shore up their view that anyone who thinks about energy or the environment is a commie pinko control freak determined to spoil everyone’s fun. Chris Goodall, the man behind the claim, should have known better and is clearly more interested in headlines than making a genuine difference.

Every little helps. But all things being equal, the fight to alleviate the effects of global warming isn’t going to be won between your house and the shops. It’s much more useful to keep your eye on the crucial issues rather than handing ammunition to the folks who like nothing better than a bit of obfuscation.

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