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Letters / Cutting the waste and become more energy efficient

Somebody recently asked me how I could be a long standing environmental activist and often stand against wind farms, recycling, battery cars etc.

There isn’t a simple answer as it’s down to understanding the science involved, however I am not intrinsically against these things but I am totally against them being touted as a solution to our problems when they are not.

Trying to seek and develop systems and technologies that assist us to live more sustainably and not polluting the world we need to sustain us, is a very complex process and requires looking at each individual issue or problem right back to its roots. However to cut to the chase here, let’s consider the generation of electricity as a good example.

If you Google search ‘How much energy do we waste’ or words around this you will find a dearth of statistics, studies and reports on how much of the total energy generated is wasted.

Different countries have different levels and the studies break it down further into types of energy such as transport, domestic, industrial, electricity, gas, oil etc but if we look at electricity generation for our homes, essential services and industry, as this is what drives the renewable energy sector and is flooding our wild and scenic places with industrial complex’s, it’s alarming.

On average between 50 to 60 per cent of all the electricity generated for everyday use in our homes, industry, service sector, entertainment etc is wasted.

This shocking level of waste being pretty typical of a developed country, some countries are worse and it seems the wealth in the country (disposable incomes) results in the more it wastes.

So if we focus on waste energy as the major problem it is and worked seriously at addressing it, we could close a large proportion of the dirtiest power stations around the world running on coal, oil or gas, which would have a major impact in reducing climate change gasses; we could also halt the proliferation of wind farms.

When you add your varied and somewhat erratic partially green energy into a grid system mainly powered by fossil fuels/nuclear etc it joins a system that the consumers are wasting half of, so the destruction of green spaces for the construction of new wind farms is adding more waste into the system and becomes part of the problem not the solution.

In fact observations of human behaviour suggest that when the product (electricity in this case) is seen to be benign or from a free/sustainable source, it seems ok to be wasteful because it’s seen as sustainable and free, which of course it isn’t in any shape it form.

Other studies show that if buildings or groups of buildings are not grid dependent and mostly or totally off grid, utilising and managing a range of generation/energy conservation systems for residential, business or essential services, the residents are significantly more aware and in tune with the fine line between resource use and waste and live a far lighter carbon footprint lifestyle.

This may sound like a contradiction to the paragraph above but it’s not, it’s about being physically connected to something you use.

So if you have your own individual or community generating system you understand all the efforts, impacts, costs and value that go into it and considerably less likely to waste it compared to folk who are not connected who don’t think about efforts, impacts, costs and value very much if at all.

However wind farms are not built for genuine environmental reasons as we could get lower carbon and better environmental results by just cutting the massive waste energy first and making everything else more efficient.

Wind farms are mostly built because of the profits they make for the financial institutions behind them and a few involved individuals.

Its less about the environment than profit, image and marketing – a bit like when BP tried to rebrand its image as an energy efficient, environmentally responsible, greenish sort of oil company which is totally ridiculous as they were/are not and never could be by the nature of their business, so they painted all their petrol stations green.

Anyway – Electric vehicles are another example of industry and big business using environmental concerns to continue or grow their profits by treating the effects of a problem and not its root cause but that’s another essay!

Vic Thomas
Catfirth