All entries for July 2008

July 29, 2008

Carbon calculators

Writing about web page http://actonco2.direct.gov.uk

I was bored the other day, and thought I’d try out the government’s “Act on CO2” carbon calculator. I mostly put in just details about my own life, only adding in an extra car at 5,000 miles a year to see how much this would affect my carbon footprint. If you haven’t had a go at the calculator already, it asks you quite a few questions about your lifestyle – number of TV’s and how long they’re on, how many loads of washing you do a week and at what temperature etc. So I was expecting this to come out as pretty accurate.

I was surprised to find that my CO2 footprint (for my household, of 2) was 17.63 tonnes/year, compared to a national average of 10.2 tonnes/year (which I thought was per household by the way it’s presented, but I have a feeling is per person). Given that I live in a modern flat, which is very cheap to run, I was rather surprised by this figure (before anyone points the figure at my driving, my houshold came at just over 10 tonnes compared to transport of 7.4 tonnes). So I did some digging around…

Despite the claims that the calculator doesn’t double count, I’m pretty convinced it does. Having asked you what your bills are for gas and electricity (which surely is the sum of your carbon footprint, unless you add in water costs which it doesn’t ask you about), it then asks you lots of detailed questions about your appliances. I therefore dug around the web for 15 minutes, and calculated my own carbon footprint against the calculator’s. My results were:

2.9 tonnes Gas
0.7 tonnes Electricity
Total home: 3.6 tonnes

2.7 tonnes Petrol car
4.9 tonnes diesel car
Total transport: 7.6 tonnes

Total footprint: 11.2 tonnes
Total/person: 5.6 tonnes

This is based on my consuming 1500m3/yr gas, 3000kWh/yr electricity, 20,000 miles/yr of my diesel car (at 50MPG) and 5,000 miles/yr of a hypothetical fun petrol car (at 20MPG). Data used for calculation:

Natural gas 1.94kg/m3
Electricity 0.238kg/kWh
Petrol 10.68kg/UK gal
Diesel 12.22kg/UK gal

The table from the Carbon calculator, on the other hand, looked like this:

Total Footprint for Home 8.54
Heating & Hot Water 8.32
Lighting 0.22
Total Footprint for Appliances 1.67
Kitchen 0.62
Entertainment 0.42
Study 0.4
Other 0.23
Total Footprint for Travel 7.42
Vehicle 7.42
Flights 0
Total Carbon Footprint 17.63

The transport figures are in pretty good agreement, but the home section is pitiful. The heating and hot water (which is only gas) is about 3 times too high, and the electrical footprint is over twice as much as what I calculated.

The carbon calculator is a nice idea, but I think they need to do a bit more work a) Not double counting things b) Not disregarding what you give as your total household consumption and c) More clearly presenting per person and per household figures.


July 14, 2008

Interesting development in environmental motoring

Writing about web page http://www.theengineer.co.uk/Articles/306687/Exhaust+to+biofuel.htm

Ok, so I’m a month or so behind the curve on this one (I found out about it whilst reading a mate’s car mag), but the link is to a technology that anybody interested in motoring or climate change should take an interest in – vehicle based carbon capture.

From what I can glean (specifics on this at the moment are very hard to come by), the principle is for the fitment of a filtration system into an internal combustion engine exhaust. The filters can be removed and then the CO2 extracted by bubbling it through an algae generator, which can then be used to make biofuel. There are a number of significant questions unanswered about this:

  • To what extent does the increase in exhaust back-pressure affect engine performance – horsepower, fuel consumption etc
  • How intrusive will the system be in terms of space and weight.
    Each cartrige holds 8kg of CO2, which will give a range of about 50 miles before it needs changing on a standard car. Apparently two cannisters can be used together to double range. Longer journeys, or higher emission cars, would therefore either require frequent stops to change cartriges or a larger storage capacity. I would imagine this would add a fair amount of weight and take up a lot of space
  • The practicalities of growing biofuels from algae on a large scale. There would obviously need to be some energy input into the algal growth, probably from sunlight. In order to grow algae rapidly a large area for the generator would presumably be required
  • Development costs and time

If you read the linked article, you’ll quickly see that the above queries have yet to really be answered in the press releases so far, and I suspect the technology is a fair way off of being fitted to every car given how new this is on the scene. A good dose of scepticism is therefore heavily advised on at the moment, and I have my doubts given the above points. However, it’s an intriguing concept which I really think might have some merit and it’s definitely one to watch progress of.


July 08, 2008

Return to the blogsphere

I haven’t written a post since last November. How time flies! A combination of a heavy workload at work and moving into my first home has somewhat taken its toll on my free time. A brief update of what I’ve been up to:

  • Bought a flat in mid-December. I’m now living just south of the centre in Bristol, which is a bit more convenient for work (although I’m now working on-site at Oldbury so still driving every day…). I appear to have timed my first foray into the property market quite well – please don’t ever say the words “negative equity” to my face.
  • Sold my ST in February. After owning from new, the moment was fast approaching where I would face horrendous depreciation, and as much as I didn’t want to sell it, I’m too much of a tightwad for a hatchback to lose me £500 a month. It’s been replaced by a Mondeo Ghia X TDci
  • Got an allotment. It’s just out the back of my flat, and has been sapping a lot of my time of late. It was a total mess when we got it, and I’m not expecting any crop to speak of this year; hopefully all the digging will pay off next year.
  • Had a three week holiday recently to go farming. Decided I fancied a change this year and worked for a grassland contractor near to where I grew up. Got a shiny new Fendt 718 to drive which was a lot of fun, if a tad complicated!
  • Got promoted at work in April – am now a senior engineer.
  • Jenny properly moved into my flat recently, so we’re now living together.

Self-indulgent life update over, normal service will be resumed shortly.


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