Sunday, January 14, 2007

Government Ministers pay to bury bad smell

Well, according to the Sunday Telegraph here and here, the government is looking to offset it's vast carbon emissions from flights by carbon offsetting. A process described by some as like paying the RSPCA and then beating your pet.

Tony Blair may be right that science may well have the answer to global warming, but that is not by mitigating ones sins through paying the pardoner it is by finding alternative ways of producing energy, of which there are many.

However what appears to be going on is that as part of the scheme the government's offsetting policy is to bury some vegetable waste in Thailand and then use the methane gas to provide electricity to the plant producing the vegetable waste. If they did not do this, it would stink. Methane is odourless (Must tick off ignorant Telegraph journalist, methane does not smell to such a huge extent that natural gas has a smell added to it to let you know when there is a leak) but the process of decomposition often produces other gasses such as the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulphide. (You also get this smell in river estuary mud due to anaerobic bacteria)

Well good. The government is doing two good things. It is preventing methane getting into the atmosphere, and by turning into electricity, is also reducing carbon emissions. Double gin and tonics all round!

However I will make a couple of observations.

Firstly you don't have to go to Thailand to get roting vegetables (John Prescott anyone). I appreciate that many would like to throw them at Labour politicians, however we as a country dispose of vast quantities of organic material a year which can be turned into methane (after removal of hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide) that could be fed into the gas grid or used to generate electricity.

Secondly, if you produced the energy here, you could sell it here, and as you are saving land fill tax, get paid to take the waste away and paid for the energy and compost produced, so the carbon offset would be both cheaper, and more beneficial to our economy.

So nice try David Milliband, if you were doing a GCSE I would give you a C, if you were doing anything more, I would have to say "must try harder to think in a joined up coherent way"


Timothy said...

Benedict, I have lots of problems with offsetting, not the least of which is that the CO2 has still been emitted.

However, I feel I should point out that methane has been being captured from [at least some] landfill sites in the UK for quite some time now.

They haven't banned incandescent light bulbs yet have they? Any good reason why not?

Benedict White said...

Timothy, I agree with your critisism, that CO2, or rather, fossil CO2 (sustainable CO2 is good, very good in may ways) is being emitted.

I know tha when they stop filling a landfill site they cap it with clay and burn off the methane.

However, that does nothing for the vast amounts of methane emitted before the cap is placed on the site, and more importantly does nothing to generate electricity or gas that we could use instead of fossil based fuels.

Also, if organic matter is biodigested as well as getting energy out, you get compost/fetaliser, which saves another petrochemical industry destroying the planet, producing fertaliser.