Saturday 22 July 2023

The politics of (green) compulsion

If, as seems likely, the Tories held Uxbridge as a reaction to Sadiq Khan's ULEZ extension, well, we ain't seen nothing yet.

The UK has reduced its CO2 emissions by more than any other country** since 1990 - but this was achieved by (a) going for the low-hanging fruit (i.e. phasing out coal) and (b) de-industrialisation.  Although this hasn't been remotely cost-free, the costs have been loaded onto electricity bills and, frankly, haven't really been noticed.  But that phase of the game is rapidly coming to a close: very little low-hanging fruit remains down decarbonisation way.

The cost of such potential still to be exploited in the power generation sector is rising rapidly

Aside from incremental efficiencies that arise naturally from technical evolution, we've barely started on home heating, transportation, agriculture and much of heavy industry.  And decarboning those will be very costly indeed.

And then there's Behaviour.  Less travel.  Less meat.  Less creature comfort.  The greens, from Swampy and Greta to John Selwyn Bummer (© Jasper Carrot) have all been pressing government to start 'changing behaviours' - that's our behaviours - and while they'd rather that to be via 'leadership' and 'persuasion', there's little doubt that ultimately they mean compulsion.

I have a strong suspicion they won't be getting any change out of any UK politicians of any party (except just maybe a few Green Party hopefuls) this side of the next GE.  In this context, Khan is right out there on his own - and being rapidly disowned by Starmer, naturally enough.  Miliband has been well and truly sat on, so really it's only Ed "Drax" Davey we still need to hear from on the subject.



** France, of course, would claim to have had a lower-CO2 starting-point, thanks to its nukes


Bill Quango MP said...

…” Although this hasn't been remotely cost-free, the costs have been loaded onto electricity bills and, frankly, haven't really been noticed.”

Speak for yourself.

In an all electric home like mine the cost is £335 A Month. £4000 + a year.
Most days in the winter December-April, the heating was on in ONE room only. The mould, for lack of heating, is terrible. The interior of every exterior wall gets mould.

That’s the price for a very standard three bedroom semi detached.

Anonymous said...

What BQ said. Admittedly it was a mild winter, but a daughter actually didn't turn on the (electric) heating in her rented flat at all this winter, living under a heated throw.

BQ - get a decent dehumidifier. We use ours cos the caravan lives outside in all weathers. Move it from room to room.

We have open chimneys and woodburners - and oil fired heating/water. For once cheaper than gas, though still twice the 2020 price/

Anonymous said...

ND - but it still doesn't alter the fact that while we are donning our hair shirts, the rest of the world is burning coal like it's going out of fashion... record quantities last year.

If sea levels are due to rise X feet, why did Obama buy a beachfront estate, and why aren't Sandbanks house prices collapsing?

Anonymous said...

Totally off topic, but if you can get there it's looking pretty good at the moment, like a giant's cauldron.

rwendland said...

BQ & Anon@4:42: The advice to get a dehumidifier is very good, not only to make the place less damp, but because a dehumidifier is greater than 100% efficient in turning leccy into heat. All the electricity the dehumidifier uses turns into heat, plus you get extra heat from the change of state of water vapour into liquid water - the magic of recovering the "latent heat of vapourisation" as it was called when I was at school.

The blogger below measured this for his dehumidifier, and calculated he got 5.89 kWh of heat from using 3.87 kWh of electricity, or a COP of 1.52 - though this depends on how damp the place is.

So if you could achieve this for 180 days over the winter, at the current 30p/kWh leccy cost, you'd save about £109 per year in leccy, assuming the dehumidifier was in a room you actually wanted to heat (and the noise & airflow didn't annoy you, or emptying the tank!). So ROI time is under 2 years! Even if the COP was only half that good (1.25), 3 to 4 years ROI. Nice?

Bill Quango MP said...

Very interesting.
Used absorbing crystals to reduce moisture. Seemed pointless to ramp up the electric costs with a dehumidifier, since those costs were what was preventing the heating being on as in a gas house.

The electric radiators are brand new. German specials. Very good, but nowhere near as good as gas radiators.
( our firmer home before downsizing was a 6 bed, 1850’s townhouse. With massive ceilings and rooms. The ground floor was a business yard and premises. Doors open all the time.
The front windows were wooden sash. Poor insulation. The rear all modern. ( due to listed building issues the front windows were left as copies of the originals. The highest specification insulation! For 1899.)

That home, with the business heating and power running all day, and the home all night, cost HALF of the utility bill today. Even with the Putin war, it would only cost 2/3rd of the ordinary electric powered house. Despite being twice the size and age.

The problem is the cost of electricity and the green tax, which heavily falls on it.
New gas installation is not permitted. Nor oil tanks. And wood burners are an endangered species.

Mr Drew is correct. If the politicians think the populace will give up everything for a lower emissions target, they will get a surprise.

Anonymous said...

IIRC 2024-5 was Boris' deadline for all new build to be heat pump, no gas or oil.

Who thinks it'll happen?

Anonymous said...

With collapsing house prices due to interest rates, builders stopping building, and brick firms closing, there won't be any new build in 2024-2025.

Job done

Back on track. You can't solve domestic energy use without improving insulation. This needs lots, and lots of new build.

Oh sh*t.

jim said...

Mrs J and I are oldish and don't have (or won't spend) capital. We will fork out on a new gas boiler as and when and I built a new log store for better drier logs come winter. Costs a lot of money to keep Mrs J warm.

Chatting with a young grad I asked how people will get used to EVs and homes and costs. Answer 'they'll be made to'. Government can do very little, there are no good new technologies on the horizon, no new oilfields just offshore. A heavy temptation to soft pedal on 'Green' is probably wise for an electoral cycle while making hay with Green industry and services where possible.

The politicians are in a difficult place - to hold off global warming requires global action and that interferes with global power games - so won't happen. Also 'Green' is generally not very effective, more expensive and more inconvenient or does not work at all. EVs are little more than toys for city dwellers, no use in the Third World. Similarly heat pumps, hydrogen heating and green electricity generation, batteries are a problem and I think always will be.

For a sensible politician the best answer is to to do very little. Nature will constrain us and the politicians will not get the blame. The hope must be that Nature does not go into some runaway decline for 1000s of years - that would be very bad for votes.

formertory said...

Anon, 1157

In my village there are 350 new houses going up and not a single heat pump in sight. I'm surprised, actually, because originally I'd thought builders would switch to heat pumps because (a) a new build with current insulation / building regs compliance should be a no-brainer for the long n slow heating cycle of a pump and (b) it would be a means of squeezing out even more money from purchasers eager to have lower energy costs, and wave a little virtue about. There's no doubt that in the right construction, heat pumps work. It's when they're applied to older construction methods that they turn into a crock of shit. And an air source pump is such a huge, ugly pile of scrap that needs to be found a home and will undoubtedly rust horribly over 10 years or so.

I guess that the builders concerned just find it cheaper to install a gas combi boiler and pipework rather than underfloor heating.

formertory said...


Nature will certainly go into some. runaway decline at some point.


Hope this works..... the graph is the temperature record for the last 450,000-odd years taken from an Antarctic ice core. Global warming isn't what we need to worry about!

formertory said...

Damn! If interested, article here:

A nice, if quite old now, treatment of warming without getting involved in suspicious "adjustments".

Jeremy Poynton said...

The great red herring that is CO2. Temperatures have hardly risen in the past 25 years, whilst CO2 concentration has hugely increased. Historically as well, there is NO link between CO2 and temperature. Were we on a better blogging platform, I could post you the graphs which show this. A 20% rise in CO2 concentration since the turn of the century resulting in no significant temperature rise.

This, for example...which relates that Greenland was warmer and green with less than CO2 than today.

JULY 22, 2023
Greenland has greener history than previously thought

“We’re discovering the ice sheet is much more sensitive to climate change than we previously thought,” says Utah State University geoscientist Tammy Rittenour. “This is a foreboding wake-up call.”
. . .
The melting caused at least five feet of sea-level rise around the globe, she says. “Some of our model scenarios suggest sea levels up to 20 feet higher than today.”

“It was an unusually long period of warming with moderately elevated levels of carbon dioxide—CO2—in the atmosphere,” Rittenour says. “What’s alarming about this finding is today’s CO2 levels are 1.5 times higher.”

Don't know why I'm bothering posting as this will almost certainly not be published by Blogger

Sobers said...

I said ages ago that the 'green blob' would eventually run into the broad mass of the public, particularly the mass that doesn't bother to vote normally. Rather like Brexit came as a total shock to the PTB, because a lot of the electorate who never usually vote turned out for Leave, they will be 'amazed' that the public won't vote to be impoverished for green reasons.

Anonymous said...

"There's no doubt that in the right construction, heat pumps work"

But Passivhaus standards are expensive and don't go with our vernacular architecture.

Jim - just be sure a new gas boiler is still available! We may buy a combi oil boiler earlier than we'd otherwise have done, just to ensure we can get one!

Anonymous said...

BQ - "Seemed pointless to ramp up the electric costs with a dehumidifier, since those costs were what was preventing the heating being on as in a gas house."

The one I linked to is only 165w, and its 20 litre brother is 205 watts. But it will warm the room more than that wattage would imply (as above), AND you've got no black stuff on the walls.

Now the kids have all gone (other than frequent returns to get washing done) we're fortunate to have a couple of spare rooms, but you can't just turn off the rads and keep the doors shut, because in winter every bit of warm air will eventually condense in there. So once a week or so when it's cold the dehumidifier goes on for an hour or two.

PS - totally OT, but if wiki is correct (admittedly a big if) most Russians don't have to worry about rent or mortgages, as they were given their State-owned dwellings when Communism fell. Mind, I bet a few crooks were allocated big houses just before the handover. A bit different from £700 a month for a single room.

E-K said...

Barbie or Oppenheimer ?

I know. I'm gonna see both !!!

(In view of the fact that UK politics is an irrelevance. Greenism is decided.)

James Higham said...

If we were looking for one word to describe Westminster policies of any parties, I wonder what that word would be.

E-K said...

OK James.

Barbie and not Oppenheimer. Sorry to have caused confusion.

Don Cox said...

"If we were looking for one word to describe Westminster policies of any parties, I wonder what that word would be."

Student ?


Wildgoose said...

+1 for Don.

Not grown-up, there are certainly no rational adults in politics any more.

So, my word would be "Childish".

Anonymous said...

What is sad is to see, say, the arguments in the Guardian about ULEZ as a climate change mitigator, when UK emissions are a tiny fraction of world CO2, the world is burning more coal than ever before, and inside the new ULEZ is a site where enormous amounts of CO2 are emitted daily - namely Heathrow. How much fuel is burned in a multi-engined plane at take-off? Anyone done the sums for LHR? Might be up there with vehicles for all I know.

Nick Drew said...

Today's politics?

The protagonists are thoroughly disoriented; and various strands of public discourse are forcing them** to embrace fairly severe cognitive dissonance in order to pretend the impossible with apparent sincerity

as regards Khan's ULEZ, he is a f***ing hypocrite: he refused to enforce the latest emissions standards for diesel sets of all kinds on building sites, of which there are many. In circumstances where enforcement would impact on London's economy (which arguably all building works do) he instructed automatic waivers were to be given.
Of course one can argue they are not 'forced' to do anything except tell the truth. But they wouldn't last ten minutes, and everyone knows it. Voters' tolerance for uncomfortable truth is extremely limited, and they want their politicians to know how to avoid confronting them with it. It's just etiquette.

Caeser Hēméra said...

I'm still hoping Brexit will enforce the need for more adults in politics.

As for hair shirts, there's plenty the government could be doing around insulation.

The current system in insane, due to neither being on benefits, nor in a household earning under 30k, it's practically impossible to find a company to come and size up what insulation improvements we could make.

I'm pretty sure those companies are indulging in some meaty margins from the councils, margins they couldn't get away with privately, and so are now basically economic Remoras.

E-K said...


The adults (brains) are leaving* - the 'net' immigration of 600k is only part of our tragedy.

I've just returned from Greece.

My first visit there was 36 years ago and I couldn't wait to get back to 'civilised' Blighty.

This time I dreaded coming back. In Greece there was not one tattooed 'lady' or XL Bully in sight. A distinct national identity and culture.

A truly grown up and decent people. The British are now barbarians and kidults by comparison.

* The Australians are badgering my boy and his GF to go out there and they leave in 14 months on a red carpeted secondment - they'll be F3 qualified doctors by then and part of the exodus.