New Green Jack New Green Jack

35 responses to “Looking for Green Gold
down under…”

    • Graham P

      Good luck Dale. It looks like an awesome machine. Bring back some photos and videos.

      I assume you’ll be offsetting your flight to Oz. Who do you use?

      Regards

      Graham P

    • Chris

      Good luck Dale. Saw your interview on BBC News. Looks like a cracking experiment. Can’t wait to see your prototype car in December too.

      I too would be interested in knowing who you use to carbon offset, if anyone.

    • Justin Segrave-Daly

      Dear Dale,

      My Great Uncle Sir Henry Segrave broke and held the world landspeed record, in fact he held three land speed records and the water speed record and was the first person to hold both simultaneously.

      On the 29th March 1927 in his 1000 HP Sunbeam Mystery (also known as ‘the Slug’), he was the first person to travel at over 200 mph (320 km/h.

      Having worked as a project manager at the Ecotech Centre in Norfolk and now a sustainability consultant in energy and renewables I hold great affection for Ecotricity.

      I would like to wish you all success with the record attempt; I hope that you may be the first person to break the 200mph barrier in the Greenbird. Funnily enough Sir Henry’s car was a Sunbeam, if I ever have the money I will be investing in a PV car and attempting a few world records myself!

      Sincerely, all the very best of luck.

      Justin Segrave-Daly

    • Peter Pannier

      Great comments on offsetting Dale. But if you don’t believe in carbon offsetting, and you do believe in looking closer to home, can you still believe in Flying to Australia? Can you still believe in Motorbikes?

    • Selena

      sorry left my comments on the wrong page. Just pretty het up re your trip to Aus Dale! Only just found your blog page and wonder how you justify the carbon emissions from such a flight to do what? An ego trip in a wind powered car! Better you spend your time living in the real world where normal people are trying to do their bit for the planet. Success and huge subsidies often have the habit of elevating people beyond their station in life!

    • Justin Segrave-Daly

      Speak your truth quietly and clearly and try to avoid vexatious persons…

      Try to be the change you wish to see in the world.

      You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!

      As an ex hippie traveller myself I sometimes wonder about my footprint “as a normal person living in the real world”. Then I remember that at home we have biomass heating, solar PV and make biodiesel. Then in the make believe world 9am-5pm advising architects, small businesses and local government about sustainability, energy and carbon I feel much better.

      I will try to calculate my carbon offsetting and see if I can trade it for a flight to Oz, someone is bound to buy it!

      Shame you didn’t make it to Oz Dale, I was looking forward to hearing of you breaking a record or two.

    • Adi Lawton

      Hi Dale,

      I just discovered your blog – dont usually waste my time on those things but hey..you are an exception.

      Now onto carbon offsets. I think your view on carbon offsets is missing something and so flawed: The reason why is that your justification for not supporting it relies on voluntary human change to happen within a timescale which we dont have! Consequently there is only one solution – which roughly means we have to work with what we’ve got. By that I mean work within realistic limits of what can change within the decade we have left to make a significant carbon change.

      Its only realistic that to achieve the level of carbon change within the short space of time we have left (if we are to prevent irreversible climate change and < 60% species extinction) then we must trade quotas of carbon. Why? Because a combination of the free market economy – as an institutional force – intrinsically prevents the governments taking the domestic measures necessary to reach the required carbon reduction levels. Free market economy wont change quick enough – and individual efforts wont be enough. Given that .. the only hope left is the successor to the bali summit in terms of agreements on tradable quotas internationally. The world needs to get big business on board – with all its imperfections.. then improve those imperfections later. Carbon offsets are a part of any sensible tradable carbon quota system.

      “Carbon offsets” the term is a little unclear of course. It can range from paying a premium which pays into a fund which builds new renewable capacity (the best kind of offset I think) to replacing light bulbs in third world countries to reduce fossil fuel consumption (pretty open to abuse that one). So to dismiss carbon offsets – is to dismiss part of the package of the overall solution.

      Now there is nothing wrong with a good holiday though, that can keep up your spirit & being ‘well spirited’ leads to more progressive work. In your case of course you have already offset your trip to Oz (had you made it) by the amount carbon emissions prevented due to your windmills reducing the amount of fossilfuel burned by a tiny fraction. So I dont have a problem with you not buying them – however please have another think about the “offsets” issue in the context of an international carbon trading system and the reality of the world being time-poor.

      Otherwise, please keep up the Good work Dale

      (In fact Dale I would like to set up something with you to help fund “new build” which would be marketed as offsets – but might warrant a rebranding of the term – in the same way as the title “ecotricity” was a kind of new definition.

      Talk to you again soon – as I’m back in town and ready to get stuck into something new – Adi

    • Adi

      Crumbs – this needs a bit of unpicking! Your description of carbon offsets is admittably true when carbon offsetting is at it’s worst. At its best though, it is a way to fund new build renewable capacity and that aspect you seem to be ignoring.

      Instead of analyzing each point you’ve made Id rather just describe a model I see working for the future (which includes buying offsets) and get your response to that, that way I hope we can remedy the confusion:

      Model: Take the earth as having a finite carrying capacity in terms of carbon emissions. Divide that quota into the worlds population (for arguments sake call it 1 tonne/person/year).
      Now trade that quota such that the the 3% emitting third world population benefit financially by emitting below 1 tonne/person/year by the some of the 97% Westeners paying them for their quota. As a Westerner under a quota system I would have the choice to invest in reducing my carbon impact (conservation measures or produce renewable power) or pay to have a higher quota and then what I’ve paid to the developing country person could provide them with the funds to develop further generally (including developing carbon neutral power solutions). So the poorest benefit, the rich keep some of their power consumption if they are prepared to pay for it and the world carbon levels drop. We all win. Thats the model and its a good one.

      (This model describes it as individuals – it a could of course be dealt with regionally or nationally)

      Carbon offsetting would be a part of that tradable system. Eg. I (the Westerner) wanted to continue consuming a large amount of energy but didn’t want to pay a developing country person for part of their quota but wanted to generate my own renewable capacity.
      Lets say I had no home and could not invest in micro generation – how would I achieve that? Well, funds to assist building/using new renewable energy capacity would be set up and could be paid for instead. That means that though I don’t physically receive the electric generated from renewable energy plants – someone through the national grid does – so a real carbon benefit globally has been achieved – and so my impact has been offset!

      My definition of “Offset” in this context means: to cancel out ones carbon impact caused by one action by inducing another action which will reduce another persons impact by an equivalent amount –( indefinitely in relation to the specific action).

      Tree planting does not really achieve this definition as space is limited and we couldn’t offset indefinitely on that basis. But, funding new renewable capacity generation as an “offset” is a real long term solution both in terms of the transition to a lower carbon world and as part of an ongoing sustainable industry mechanism after carbon levels have dropped down to an acceptable level.

      What is your definition – because I suspect its just the word “offset” which is interpreted differently between us that has caused the confusion. I suggest you need to differentiate between types of offset rather than throw out all kinds in one sweep? Anyhow whats your definition please?

      Adi

    • Adi

      Sure, thats more like it.. glad to resolve that.

      I agree about the 3% is not worth offsetting and the 97% needing to take responsibility in essence..

      However, in reality – third world countries are not limited to a potential maximum of “offsetting” only 3% because they can “export”.

      Take for instance exporting biofuels (hopefully grown responsibly due to RTFO introduction and the like since April 2008). Such an industry (again regulated responsibly) could achieve carbon offsets in excess of 3% without even tampering with the third world’s own 3% consumption.

      This would still allowing developing countries to financially benefit and not limit offsets to match only the existing levels of third world demand.

      Take the same principle of “exporting energy to offset” and a Europe wide grid could extend to East Europe and achieve the same thing potentially – without the physical storage element (necessary in biofuel export).

      At this point I wonder if I should start to call it something else – because really – although it could “offset” mathematically if say Russia exported renewable energy electric – its really still renewable energy production.. maybe I’m being a bit pedantic on the word “offset”. Nonetheless, Im still very sure about the point that the third world involvement in a carbon trading system is not limited to its 3% current demand.

      I also agree with you on your gripe about offsets ..that even if third world did offset – say 15% of our energy consumption.. we still need to do a heck of a lot more here in the West.

      Regards to you
      Adi

    • adi

      Greetings.

      Yup, lets conclude thew term “carbon offset” can mean either the product on the market right now (of limited value) or the concept of balancing carbon emitted by preventing equivalent emissions elsewhere (potentially good).

      Biofuels have their place (and always have prior to industrial revolution) but strong international regulation is needed. That discussion warrants a new blog sub-title. So lets do that another time perhaps.

      All the best,

      Adrian

    • Adi

      Under your definition, I pay you (ecotricity) to reduce my own impact so that I don’t need to have solar panels etc. myself (= maintain my own electricity consumption and status quo). Hence the need to differentiate between good and bad kinds of “offsets”! (New renewable capacity from offset money is good).

      Basically, you need to acknowledge the difference between different kinds of carbon offsetting. Otherwise it starts to make you look silly – and as you are a hero in renewables – I for one don’t want you to look silly by bad mouthing all offsets as if they were all of one generic base -especially when ecotricity is in a sense a kind of offset – in the best possible way.

      I appreciate you have your own definition of offsets but I don’t think most people share that definition, so your dismissing offsets publically could be misunderstood.

      All the Best

      Adi

    • Adi

      Hi Dale,

      OK you call it substitution if you like, I’ll call it offsetting.

      The dictionary in front of me describes offset as: “Something that balances, counteracts, or compensates”.

      I agree its good to be clear – and clarity to me means to use the English language properly – not our superimposed meanings upon it.

      It is not just a theory but a reality that the power ecotricity produces goes to some people, via the grid, who are not even paying a green electricity company. Consequently, your customer’s consume a “brown” unit of electricity which is “balanced” by the fact that someone else gets a “green” unit when they pay ecotricity for it. This “balance” is a strict interpretation of the word “offset”.

      If you wish to continue with your own interpretation of the word “offset” other than what the dictionary (and most other people understand), then that is your prerogative. I find it frustrating that you don’t use the dictionary definition, but that frustration is more than “offset” by the fact that I find it liberating that you succeed in running a profitable company building wind turbines and doing a good thing.

      I am not denying that there are products on the market labeled as “offsets” which are ineffective, we just need to be clear as you said.

      Keep up the good work of building windmills, there is no confusion with you there!

      Adi

    • Adi

      Hi Dale

      OK – not in the Oxford dictionary (yet) but other dictionary’s have the term “carbon offset”, like Allwords:

      a reduction in carbon dioxide emission by a third party purchased by a heavy carbon dioxide producer as part of carbon emissions trading.

      Another definition that includes renewable energy generation within the definition is, to quote:

      “A wide variety of offset methods are in use — while tree planting was initially a mainstay of carbon offsetting, renewable energy, energy conservation and methane capture offsets have now become increasingly popular.” (see http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Carbon+offset for full explanation).

      Look, lets forget the exact meaning for a bit, here is the undertone to my reaction of your offset dismissals: the commercial products that you are talking about are mostly full of flaws.. agreed. But to dismiss them fully is to discourage any action at all by some people.. in particular those people who otherwise wouldn’t do anything. In that sense I dont think you should dismiss that goodwill as it is a very negative impulse to squash an act of goodwill- however ineffective that act turns out to be.

      Besides, as offsets get more scrutiny, they are likely to become more effective too. I think that if the carbon accountancy were sorted in line with any future carbon trading system, then purchasing offsets which fund new renewable energy projects would be a positive thing and part of any future international carbon trading system. I know that is living in what you call a theoretical world , but I think the design for international solutions has to be theoretical before it is placed on the table for discussion.

      Anyway, until reality changes and an international agreement on a carbon quota is nearing completion this is pretty academic, so lets see what happens at the next summit and keep our fingers crossed.

      All the best

      Adi

    • Peter Pannier

      Hi Dale and Adi,

      I think even if ecotricity approaches offesetting in what it does (a person buys some stuff that emits, but this is cancelled out by paying a company that promises to generate non-emitting stuff to equal it) the important difference is that ecotricity doesn’t claim that this somehow ‘offsets’ your impact. As Dale is getting at, the problem with offsetting may not be what actually happens (though even the tree planting etc can be malign), but the fact that it encourages people not to change their behaviour. Because ecotricity don’t make an ‘offset’ claim, sensible consumers will continue to try to reduce their consumption of electricity – which is a crucial aim. I still think ecotricty could do more to encourage people not to view them in a offset light, as that ‘rubbish’ analogy of dale’s probably isn’t too far from how lots of ecotricity customers do feel…? I don’t know

      What I find interesting is that you’re so anti-offsetting Dale, and yet you’re using the same arguments against it that I’m using against EV’s – namely “the attitude that says ‘I know I shouldn’t do this, that or the other, and I will get round to changing how I live, but meanwhile I’ve taken care of the impact through offsetting so it’s OK’ – that’s the downside risk that outweighs the upside.” just change to “i’m driving / one day i’ll drive a zero-emission vehicle so it’s OK”. the status quo is pretty much maintained (OK, a little less badly than with offsets), and it’s still a dangerous distraction. Do you see this contradiction in your thinking? Why develop EV cars as “an easy cop out”, when you could instead emphasise “the option for meaningful action” – travelling less and by foot and bike? It’s a hypothetical question really, as we’ve gone over the ground so much elsewhere…

    • Adi

      Hi Dale

      Glad you see that its bad to kill good will.

      2 points:

      1. I fundamentally disagree that the work like http://www.climatecare.org/ is meaningless. It has some validity although many flaws too.

      2. We are going round in circles here on the 3% maximum offset thing with developing countries as I mentioned higher up on this page (entry 18.9.08)

      “third world countries are not limited to a potential maximum of “offsetting” only 3% because they can “export” as an offset.

      for instance by the export of biofuels (see entry 5.10.08 on thoughts on garages):

      The Biodiesel 2020 study finds algae may hold the key to meeting large-scale, sustained feedstock shortages in the US, Europe and Asia. Using conservative estimates, algae can produce up to 10,000 gallons of biodiesel feedstock per surface acre per year vs soybeans at 48 gallons per acre and canola/rapeseed at 120 gallons per acre. Due to these factors, algae is attracting a great deal of interest and investment in the US, Europe and world-wide.

      Algae are the fastest-growing plants in the world. Like other plants, they use photosynthesis to harness sunlight and carbon dioxide. Among biofuels related projects, algae is commonly grown in two scenarios. The first is in ponds or lakes (both open and closed). The second type is grown in closed, translucent tubes or containers also called photo bioreactors. In both cases, energy is stored inside the cell as lipids (the source for oil) and carbohydrates, and can be converted into fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.

      Regards
      Adi

    • Adi

      Hi Dale,

      In answer to point 2: The way it works is most easily explained by a model:

      ————————————–
      Lets say global CO2 emitted by fossil fuel burning is 100 units of CO2 of which 97 units is used by the West and 3 units is used by under developed countries (UDCs). Lets say a sustainable level of CO2 is 50 units for the world.

      The UDCs start algae farms and export say 15 units worth of biofuel oil to the west. The west uses that instead of fossil fuels in their power stations and so reduces it’s CO2 impact from 97 down to 82.

      Result:

      The UDCs still impact their 3 units but have sold offsets worth 15 units, making a net offset value of 12 units. As their export exceeds their own use, this makes the UDCs essentially carbon negative (this bit answers your question). The West having bought the 15 units as offsets (i.e. bought the carbon neutral biofuel) uses the biofuel instead of carbon positive fuels (fossil fuels) and so achieves a reduction of 15 units in CO2 emissions.

      This leaves the world needing to still reduce its CO2 units by 35 units of which only the West can do (assuming the UDCs need to keep using their 3 units).

      The elimination of the last 35 units is then the responsibility of the West which would still need to reduce CO2 consumption from 82 down to 47 units to reach sustainability.
      ———————————-

      Of course this is oversimplified and ignores Chinas growth etc. But it does illustrate that developing countries can play a significant role (which is not limited to just equalling out their own levels of energy use as you suggest) and make money from exports besides (sold as offsets). It also shows that the main emphasis on CO2 reduction still lies with the West (by replacing fossil fuels with renewables and conserving energy).

      I think this last point is what drives your passion against the offset thing.. i.e. that the reality is that the West are not taking enough responsibility (and that current offsets on the market hardly ever reach what is needed) .. and with that assertion I do not disagree with you. But its good to agree to disagree on the value of offsets altogether.

      I don’t hold that against you. Its just you are simply wrong on not placing any value on offsets. They have some value at present and could have a lot of value in the future – such as model described.

      Hope that clears it up – at least conceptually.

      Adi

    • Adi

      Hi Dale

      No – you are getting it a bit wrong. The model was there to explain the answer to your previous question -it is easier to explain that way and was not to be taken as a direct reflection of reality.

      Nonetheless I will answer your points one by one:

      1. No don’t suspend all criticisms of offsets but also don’t dismiss them either as they have some value now and could be of more value in the future.

      2. You have a point about growing algae in the west, yes point accepted. To answer your latest point though: One main advantage of growing it further afield would be to generate forign income for developing countries to assist their development. (There are other advantages too).

      3. Why grow algae and keep using inefficient ICE cars? Because we have to accept that we dont have enough time to change society so that EVs become the norm within the timescale needed for CO2 reductions – that is, if we are to prevent irreversible climate change which may result in 60% of all species diversity becoming extinct! Basically I support your idea of replacing ICEs with EVs, (you should know that as I gave you a ride in my EV about 8 years ago) – but its unrealistic on a global level to think you can do that quickly and time is of the essence here. Better to go for an interim solution which has a chance of realistically capping the carbon emissions and then do the transfer to EVs after that. I dont think the world has the resources and infrastructure (socially and technically) to achieve both within the time scale needed.

      4. Ah – well I’m not sure we need to reduce our energy consumption as much as we need to change how we produce energy.. again behavioural changes take years if not generations and time is of the essence, thats why I see the role of offsets (and it is only a limited role) as a pragmatic approach – not the idealist one you are going for. I believe the only way to achieve the necessary carbon reductions in the time frame is by reaching an internationally agreed carbon quota and allowing the free market to meet that in whatever way it can (that includes offsets). Its all about time pressure and not about how it ought to be done in an ideal transition. Thats why I don’t throw out offsets as a route. I only wish the state of the world hadn’t come to this desperate point, but now it has – lets be realistic about what is achievable within the given time frame.

      5. Glad you understand that I understand your view… now I can only hope that you understand mine – which fundamentally is brought about by taking a pragmatic approach due to time pressure. Do you get that at least?

      I suppose you will probably disagree on something again.. but you will really need to convince me that change can happen quicker than I believe it can. Maybe you have more faith in people pulling their weight and changing quickly? Or maybe you dont believe the time pressure is as critical as the IPCC suggest? Which is it?.

      Regards
      Adrian

    • Adi

      Aye, yup, all good points Dale. We’ll see which technology evolves faster. There are more vested interests against the EV coming on board quickly which may inhibit development (maybe has already – otherwise the Prius would have been made with the plug in recharge option?). Huge development in either EVs or Algae would be fine be
      me.

      The 2020 EU biofuels commitment also strongly pushes the algae technology development forwards and research is now testing algae for oil growing in sea water!

      So there are 3 forces which may make the algae option surge forwards faster. Don’t know.

      I like the carbon negative power station.. in fact thats where some of the algae may be grown initially – in waste water which couldn’t otherwise be used for anything else. Good stuff.

      I agree Ive almost had enough of the offset discussion for now. I would like to just ask one
      (aah dare I say hypothetical) question:

      Lets say I started an offset scheme which ONLY placed all funds into an account until that account had enough money to actually finance a local wind turbine to be built and then commissioned that and gave it to a not for profit company to run. (The offsets would be very expensive to match the emissions). Would you be able to support that particular kind of offset scheme? (Accepted, it would not be typical of all the other offset schemes).

      All the best

      Adrian

    • Adi

      Hi Dale,

      Cool. I’m happy to leave our carbon offset discussion at that for now. Hopefully definitions will be forthcoming in the future from the relevant authorities.

      All the Best

      Adi