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Bio Diesel is a diesel fuel that is made from plants instead of crude oil.
It can be derived from specific crops or made directly from recycled
When made from recycled vegetable oil the manufacture of Bio Diesel turns
a waste disposal problem into a non-polluting fuel source.
There’s nothing new about it – when Rudolf Diesel invented his first
diesel engine he ran it from peanut oil. Bio Diesel can be used unmixed
or as a blend instead of fossil diesel, without modification, in most
modern diesel engines.
Bio-diesel is arguably the easiest, cleanest, most sustainable and
renewable form of vehicle fuel commonly available to the general public.
The greenhouse gases produced from biodiesel are 55% lower than fossil
diesel. Emissions of Carbon Monoxide (a poisonous gas) are about 40%
lower; particulates (soot) are 20 to 39% lower than low sulphur fossil
diesel, and sulphur emissions a staggering 80% lower.
On top of all this Bio Diesel is also much less toxic, more biodegradable
and altogether safer than equivalent fossil fuels.
Perhaps most remarkably Bio Diesel is carbon neutral. The amount of Carbon
Dioxide it produces when used is the same amount that is absorbed from
the atmosphere by its plant source when it is growing.
Bio Diesel is currently available from some petrol forecourts in East
Yorkshire at a similar cost to ordinary diesel.
For more information contact Rix Bio Diesel at
natural “greenhouse effect” is essential for life on earth. Heat
from the sun reaches the earth, (wishes that there were a few more
solar panels around) radiates back and is stopped from escaping by
a blanket of gases and particles that act like glass panels in a
greenhouse. They let the sunlight through and keep some of the
heat in the lower levels of our atmosphere.
any of this greenhouse heating it has been calculated that the
earth’s temperature would be up to 70 degrees below freezing and
the ocean’s would be frozen!
greenhouse gas is so-called because of its heat-trapping
properties. There are many compounds within the earth’s atmosphere
which act as greenhouse gases, some occur in nature such as water
vapour and carbon dioxide (the two most important in maintaining
our equable temperature), as well as methane and nitrous oxide,
whilst others are man-made such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),
perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.
amount of many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased by
a quarter since large-scale industrialisation began. The Kyoto
Protocol, an international treaty, set targets to limit the
emissions of these gases and modify their impact on the greenhouse
effect throughout the world in an effort to reduce their potential
impact on global warming.
dioxide is the main greenhouse gas. It is colourless and odourless.
The amount of it in the atmosphere has risen steadily in recent
history primarily due to the ever increasing burning of oil, coal
and natural gas as fuels. Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are
forecast to continue to rise by almost 2% each year.
is a colourless, odourless flammable gas that usually comes from
landfill sites, coalmines, oil and gas operations and agriculture.
Oxide is a colourless gas with a sweet odour, commonly known as
laughing gas and commonly used as an anaesthetic. It is emitted
from burning fossil fuels and through the use of certain
fertilisers and industrial processes.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were introduced as a replacement for
CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) for use in aerosol cans, refrigerators
and air conditioners because CFCs were breaking down the ozone
layer (which protects us from harmful ultra-violet rays from the
sun). HFCs are non-flammable, of very low-toxicity and have no
effect on the ozone layer. They are however a potent greenhouse
gas. The most significant source of HFCs in the UK is the chemicals
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) are colourless, odourless
and non-flammable gases which result from aluminium production,
semiconductor manufacture and leakage from refrigerators.
on earth is…a heat pump?
heat pump can provide a hot water supply and heat a home in one of
the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly methods.
There are about 1 million domestic heat pumps working throughout
the world and installations are increasing within the United
Kingdom. One in every four houses in Switzerland has a ground
source heat pump.
heat pump works like a fridge in reverse. It can extract low
temperature heat that is stored naturally in the earth, air or
water and raise it to higher more useful temperatures. Whilst a
conventional domestic heating boiler is about 70% efficient, and a
condensing boiler manages approximately 85% efficiency a heat pump
operates with an efficiency of at least 300%!
pumps are very reliable, having few moving parts, and when used in
the ground are very secure and generally not exposed to
pump systems have a long life expectancy, make very little noise,
and do not require a lot of maintenance. They do not require a
flue, ventilation, boiler, fuel tank or combustion gases.
pumps are particularly well suited to new buildings that
incorporate high levels of insulation into their design. In a new,
well insulated, medium sized building the cost of installing a
heat pump system would be approximately £7,000. Running costs
after installation compare favourably with oil and electricity
powered systems and maintenance costs are minimal.
funding for heat pump installations is available from the
government’s “Clear Skies” programme (for more information contact
the helpline on 0870 2430 930). For more information about how
heat pumps work there is an interactive demonstration model in the
Energy Room at the ATC. Information on the technical and financial
implications of heat pumps can be obtained from the Yorkshire
Renewable Energy Network co-ordinator, Barnaby Fryer (01422
What on earth is... BIOMASS?
Biomass is anything that grows, such as trees and grasses and many
food crops, due to the energy of the sun upon it. (Animal and
human waste are also sometimes misleadingly referred to as
Biomass.) Energy is usually generated from Biomass by burning it
and it is still the main source of fuel for the domestic energy
needs of more than 50% of the world’s population.
Large scale energy generation from biomass involves the use of
crops such as trees and grasses, as well as forestry and
industrial wood waste as fuel to provide heat and power.
Willow is a commonly used biomass fuel although grasses such as
miscanthus, which can only be grown successfully in temperate
regions of the UK, will produce a bigger biomass harvest per acre
Forestry waste is the residue from the clearing and “management” of
woodland and forests. Industrial wood waste can be sourced from
furniture manufacturers and carpenters.
pellets are also commercially produced from compressed sawdust,
ground wood chips and wood shavings. The use of wood pellets for
heating is well established in North America and much of Europe.
biomass fuels will usually be dried, shredded and chipped before
they are fed into a boiler and burnt. The heat from this
combustion can be used to heat rooms and other spaces whilst gas
is collected from the burning process and used to produce
Ely, Cambridgeshire, a state of the art straw burning power
station currently produces 31MW of electricity. An increasing
number of farms are using straw-fired boilers for on-site heating
requirements in buildings and polytunnels.
Government’s Clear Skies initiative can provide grants for
community household Biomass schemes.
Local wood fuel suppliers can be sourced via the National Energy
Foundation at www.logpile.co.uk.
to be confused with electricity generated from waves, tidal power
uses the force of water driven by tidal currents to produce
renewable energy. Tidal power benefits from the fact that tidal
currents are very predictable (increasing and decreasing in a
constant cycle) and that the water only moves in two general
directions as the tide ebbs and flows.
technique of making energy from tides is one of the oldest, with
tidal mills dating back to Middle Ages in Europe. The modern-day
principle of making electricity from tidal power is much the same
as wind power. In both cases the amount of energy produced depends
on the speed and volume of the water or wind. Wind speeds are
greater than tidal speeds but the density of water (about 1,000
times greater than air) makes tidal power as efficient as wind
tidal power station that was completed in 1966 still generates
240MW of power at St Malo, France. A smaller facility operates in
Nova Scotia, Canada.
Tidal energy is easier to convert to electricity than wave energy
and Britain is very well sited to benefit from this potentially
huge power source. Recent proposals for tidal power plants in the
River Severn estuary would alone produce almost 7% of the UK’s
total electricity demand. This would be an ideal replacement for
the old nuclear power station at Hinckley in Somerset that is due
to stop producing electricity (but not radiation!) in 2011.
Swansea Bay offshore tidal project, which is due to begin in early
2004, should supply half of the town’s electricity needs at a
price similar to the cost of conventional gas-fired power.
Unlike traditional "barrage" systems, modern offshore tidal power
schemes involve minimal environmental impact whilst producing
clean, pollution free renewable electricity
Permaculture - A
word that that usually evokes an ‘Oh permaculture, I’ve heard of
that, what is it?’ sounds like an Alaskan yoghurt or some dodgy
Permaculture is in
truth an approach to designing systems so that they can be more
sustainable. It achieves this by using the patterns and processes of
natural systems. Why? Because they are the most sustainable systems
we know (having been around for a fair few years) but also because
every system in nature is like a cog in a bigger machine, if we
re-arrange that cog without taking any notice of what role it plays,
the whole machine goes wrong. it's about trying to see the output of
the whole system as relevant, not just the individual components.
Take the example of
the recent flooding, among the possible causes are changes made to
the way land in the catchment is used. The original forest has been
replaced with grass and concrete with no regard to the role it
played in the whole river system. The result is that the rivers
burst their banks and damage property and business.
not advocate returning the catchment area to its natural state,
humans have to make a living after all, but it would design the area
so that we could get what we needed from it without affecting its
role retaining water.
The same philosophy
also applies to the role ladybirds play in keeping aphid populations
down. Size doesn’t matter. Because natural systems are all linked,
they get what they need from each other, using what they have in the
most efficient way, thereby reducing waste, over consumption and
So how do we do
that then? Firstly, by understanding the system you are working
with, using good, well thought out design, then looking at how you
can get what you need from what you’ve got without clearing it all
and starting from scratch. The solutions permaculture finds are
often the same as those found by environmentalists looking at
recycling, or organic gardeners trying to avoid chemicals. Bill
Mollison and David Holmgren who first coined the term Permaculture
in the 70’s described it as a philosophy which pulls together past
and present common sense. Indeed many of the techniques used are not
modern, some of the best ideas for re-using waste were discovered
during the war, or by isolated island communities who have had to be
permaculture different is the bringing together of these techniques
into one approach, working out a holistic solution which takes into
account all the elements so that inputs and outputs are used most
a parliamentary lobby, "Beyond Recycling, Towards Zero Waste",
hosted by Liberal Democrat MP Sue Doughty, the UK Zero Waste Charter
has been launched by an alliance of environmental groups. It calls
on the government to set a target of zero waste for all municipal
waste by 2020.
Despite nearly thirty years
of often well-intentioned environmental waste policies, huge
mountains of rubbish continue to be created and are having an
increasingly detrimental effect on all of our lives. Modern-day
waste disposal systems that rely on burning and burying large
amounts of rubbish commit us to increasing levels of pollution, the
loss of valuable recyclable goods, and missed opportunities for job
Unlike traditional waste management policies however Zero Waste
Strategy recognises that the continued creation of waste must not be
examined as a problem of how to get rid of it, but instead as a way
of stopping its creation in the first place! Everyone has a role to
play in this strategy but it inevitably shifts the burden of
responsibility to producers, designers and suppliers. It also
clearly puts waste reduction, re-use, repair and recycling at the
top of the waste agenda.
If a Zero Waste Strategy is adopted there is clearly no need for
the incineration of waste or new landfill sites. Products that are
wrapped in excessive packaging, goods that cannot be used or
consumed in an environmentally sound way and for which there are no
safe recycling technologies would be phased out under a Zero Waste
Strategy. Producers would be made responsible for the environmental
impacts of their product throughout its life cycle and that includes
the use of renewable energy sources in its production. A Zero Waste
Strategy should be a goal and policy driver for councils and
businesses and an aspiration for all households. Individuals have an
important role to play by utilising their purchasing power to avoid
over-packaged and environmentally unfriendly goods.
Where Zero Waste Strategies have been implemented the results have
been amazing. At the Atlanta Olympic Games 85% of its waste was
recycled, Honda (Canada) reduced its waste output by 98% in ten
years, California has a recycling rate above 50% and Halifax (Nova
Scotia of course!) has reached 60%. High levels of recycling and
waste prevention are essential parts of successful Zero Waste
Strategies but the introduction of new ecofriendly production
processes, substitution of non-recyclable materials, material
efficiency and extended product life are essential.
The Strategy recognises that the long transitional path to actual
Zero Waste will be littered with the debris of traditional residual
waste. It proposes to reduce and ultimately neutralise such waste
through mechanical and biological treatment plants, which are
becoming increasingly widespread in Germany and Austria. Whilst
initially criticised for being an unrealistic aim, the value of
adopting Zero Waste Strategies is being increasingly accepted as the
only realistic and sustainable approach to waste reduction and