The telegraph has put out an article suggesting that homegrown food has 5 times greater carbon footprint than conventional: is that right? Should we all end our allotments?

Looking at the busy mass of growing green, it is hard to see how this is the most inefficient way to grow food…

The study that the article is based on comes from the university of Michigan, and is frankly badly, badly made. It is the quintessential study, where this is the answer, now how do we get there, sort of study.

So, what did they do? Well, they put gardens into 3 different categories

  • Backyard gardens – single occupancy
  • communal gardens (like the above)
  • Urban farms

Your backyard garden has about as small a carbon footprint as it is possible to have, it is possible that fruit or veg from here actually has zero carbon footprint. Community gardens can be a bit different – you have a small area, so you might use more compost or fertilizer, and it is possibly further from where you live, so you might drive to it. However, this kind of place also has a low carbon footprint.

It is essentially just the Urban farms which are a problem here: growlights and watering and temperature controls all add up to large quantities of energy.

This video shows this is an easy way to understand.

Do not be put off! If you have an allotment or a vegetable patch in your garden, this is almost completely carbon free food, it does bring down your carbon footprint.

It is unfortunately the kind of study you can find in a newspaper like the Telegraph; I do not think it would be a surprise for any readers to hear, that this is not the place readers go to find out about the new scientific studies of this kind.

Late last year Exxon spent $60 billion to by a shale gas giant – the deserve to go bankrupt

Exxon is like many other oil companies – they have buried their head in the sand, and have continued to deny the science.

There are still oil rigs littering our coasts, do we really want another rush to build more equipment, which will last long after the shale gas runs out?

What astounds me, is that, over the last 3 years, the price of Exxon shares has gone up 3 times over. This means that the majority of people who are investing in the market, believes either that there is a killing to be made from Exxon before it goes out of business, or climate change is wrong (it is true that investment in Exxon 3 years ago would have tripled, but a long-term investment is unlikely to be successful, as Exxon has to completely change its business model.

So, why is Exxon buying a shale giant?

Clearly, it thinks that there is money to be made, before the world transitions. The problem is that should Exxon be right, the world will suffer more global warming.

We already need to leave much of our known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground, Shale gas, is just more,

We need to be moving away from fossil fuels as fast as we can.

How is your family doing? As for us, we have bought a second had electric car, we have just installed our solar and thermal solar, and will in a couple of weeks, have a heat pump installed that will remove our last reliance on gas (these two moves, will have removed carbon from our travel and from our house running and heating – we also have zero carbon electricity). Obviously we still have a way to go, but we are making progress. Of course, from a finance point of view, it is a good move – it is true that our car was more expensive than anything we’ve had before, however, the purchase cost will only take 6-7 years to save back , and our house greening has a payback time of around 4 years- after that we should be several hundred pounds better off each month.

Exxon is still betting that there is more money to be made before the good times are over, however they are betting on our future.

It is foolish to invest in them, either they are right, and will make a fortune while the world suffers, or they are wrong, and this business venture will collapse.

Ford has made clear its aim to take on Tesla and BYD by launching cheap electric cars

Is this news to anyone? It is known that the car industry is in a race to move to electric. Given the vast saving for the end line consumer, the huge reduction in pollution, and the fact that many countries have already set dates where combustion engine car sales will be banned, surely the response to this news is ” why have you not made this move before?

What is clear, is that ford is developing a smaller and cheaper EV platform. Well this is great, but everyone is trying to create small affordable electric cars.

Now, how many of these small cars is ford aiming to sell? Currently, ford makes a $28,000 loss on each electric cars. Which means that they need to bring this down, or 2 million electric cars sold my ford would cause a huge loss.

Tesla is making progress on their own cheap model – the so called tesla model 2. This is aimed to hit the target of $25,000, or around £18,000, and they are expecting to make millions of this model, which does not seem unreasonable.

We need to remember, that while we look on ford as an old car company (and they are) at the current moment, they are not bigger than tesla. So in 2023 tesla sold 1.81 million vehicles, all electric, while ford sold 1.99 million, however only 72,000 of these were electric. If in the future, only electric cars count, then perhaps we should already be looking at ford as the minnow in a pond with a huge shark that is tesla. If we look at profit, this might make this clearer, Ford made profits of $4.3 billion, while Tesla made profits of 15 billion.

So, is Ford a tiny electric car maker, or not? Is it going to become one of the most profitable electric car makers, or is it going to become a small car maker? Time will tell, however, the problem is that the 2 million small electric cars that ford says its is targeting, is also the same number that Tesla is going to be targeting. Can the world demand sustain 2 million from each? Possibly, in the future, but Ford may well find that diving into the pond of small Electric cars is a hard place to make money, and finding enough demand for 2 million electric cars may well prove to be the harder part of the transition.

Time will tell, but they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Should Hertz dumping 20,000 electric cars be a warning to car buyers?

So Hertz is downsizing its electric car fleet, just a few years after buying them. Should this put off electric car buyers? Well, I would argue no, and I suspect that Hertz will live to regret this day.

So have Hertz abandoned electric cars? Nope, it is true that in the current climate, they have scaled back their electric buying car program from 100,000 cars to just 50,000 cars, but this is still a significant number.

Given that in the USA they own around 500,000 cars (elsewhere it is mostly franchise so they do not own the cars) suggesting that at the current time, Hertz will have around 10% of its fleet as electric.

What has prompted this? Well, largely a higher cost of repair cost.

The problem for Hertz is simple. They get paid a rate, to rent the car, they save nothing by it being electric, on the other hand, the renter, might save plenty of money, as refueling can be far cheaper (though admittedly, with currently high electric prices on this side of the Atlantic, public chargers are often just as expensive as petrol.

So, no, this does not (as business insider suggests) mean the end of the electric car. In fact, given that they are selling around 20,000 electric cars, it is quite likely that it will boost the number of electric cars in public hands.

It is true, that some fixes are far more than they should be (we have found that) but it is also clear that overall, electric car owners save money. Whether this will accelerate the change or slow it down, time will tell. It is often the case that once experienced few want to go back to a fossil fuel car, so renting them is useful. Unfortunately, given the price, Hertz treated them as premium, which meant this had less affect than might otherwise have been the case.

I think they will come to regret this, the world is going electric, and the transition is accelerating around the world. It seems likely that they will have to reverse this change within a decade.

Do Ancient sea sponges point to an underestimate of the warming of the world?

There is much work around the world, which is going into measuring temperatures as accurately as possible and watching for change. While the British empire routinely took temperature readings on certain trips, and there are various other long records, there is no human record which goes back more than a few centuries. While this is irrelevant for human caused climate change, as we only started releasing large quantities of warmth trapping carbon dioxide in the last few centuries (largely started by the industrial revolution in the UK), we want to be able to both have more records from the last few centuries, and records that go far further back.

At just 10-15cm this sponge is likely to be close to full size on a laptop or computer

A variety of natural methods have been found, but this new ancient sea sponge method is interesting. This is because, lying 30-90m below the surface of the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean even in the shallows with the water only changing by around 10 degrees, however, below 12-40 feet (depending on churn etc) the temperature is incredibly constant year round. That is not to say that there is no change in temperature, but it is very small.

So in this instance, these sponges have been recording changing temperature over the years, and according to their tempearture records, the planet has alread warmed by 1.7° C, which is half a degree more than the United Nations climate panel has seen elsewhere.

A number of climate scientists have questioned how wide-ranging a conclusion, you can draw from readings taken from one sponge species in just one location in the world. However, the lead researcher stated “Taking a precautionary principle, our findings show taht global warming is more advanced than we thought and therefore it’s a wake-up call that we have to get on with reducing CO2. He went on to add “We will experience more serious impacts from global warming sooner than we had anticipated”.

6 different speciamins of this sponge species were collected. The sponge can take hundreds of years to grow (to a size only 10cm-15cm). As it grows, it stores strontium and calcium in a ratio which relates directly to the temperature of the water around them. The team reconstructed global water temperatures going back 300 years through this method, and then combined them with land-based temperatures, in order to arrive at global temperatures. Because of the depth, the water temperature changes little from winter to summer, which means that the water tends to match the global average with surprising accuracy.

Incidence like the volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1815 show up clearly in the record. However, unfortunately, it also confirms that manmade warming started in 1860, and given that global temperature changes are benchmarked against averages of the temperature between 1850 and 1900, it shows that this cannot be considered pre impact by humans.

However, responses are rather more encouraging. Essentially, the point is, that regardless of the sense in taking readings from a moving point, given that both our current position and the warming that we have targeted are against the same wrong number, it is irrelevant – if the start temperature was higher, but all our readings are out by the same quantity, it does not mean we will hit dangerous levels any sooner – these were worked out using the same incorrect measurements.

However, whatever is true, what is clear is that we still need to cut emissions alarmingly fast if we want to escape changes that are likely to kill many people, and displace hundreds of millions more – if not billions.

Climate stripes

Climate stripes – a clear way to see global warming over time

This image is a fantastic way to be able to see climate change. Created by Professor Ed Hawkins in 2018, it shows the changing in temperature over the last 2 centuries.

Blue lines show years where the yearly average temperature is lower than the overall average (and the darker the further below the average). The red is the opposite.

While it does not need pointing out, can you see how dark it has got in the last few years.

Below is a short video about the stripes with their creator explaining them.

Transforming coal into protein for livestock feed uses 0.1% of the space!

Currently, land given over to growing animal feed accounts for 40 million square kg (15.4 million square miles). Given the worlds land mass accounts for almost 60 million square miles (160 million square km( this is a significant increase). This amount of land, freed up, could potentially allow a huge improvement in the amount of space given over to wilderness on the earth.

So where would we get protein for livestock feed?

Chinese scientists have created a method which allows the conversion of coal into protein – far more effectively than with plants. 0.1% of this land is required in this new system. It is true that this still accounts for 60,000 square miles,

So the process has a number of steps.

  1. The coal is transfored into methanol via gasification (this can now be done with a near zero carbon emissions)
  2. The methane is then fed to a special strain of Pichia pastoris yeast, which ferments the methanol, in order to produce a single-cell protein complete with a range of amino acids, vitamins, inorganic salts, fats and carbohydrates. There is far more protein in this than in plants and it can be used to partially replace the protein currently used

The conversion efficiency is at a remarkable 92%. This means that it is a cost effective replacement. Now, how much of the protein can be replaced, however a trial facility has already produced thousands of tonnes of this protein.

So if we assume that it cannot replace all of the protein, it seems reasonable to be able to replace 50% or 80% of the protein.

Even countries like the USA could free up thousands of square miles.

The idea that we could free up 30 -48 millions square kilometres (7.5 to 12 million square miles) to be returned to wilderness and carbon sinks among other purposes. If just half of this land was rewilded, it would allow large amounts of the land around the world to return to a wild state, which would help us cut emissions.

Now, it is true that this coal will be emitted as carbon at the end of the line, but if enough of the freed land is used for forest and similar, the net carbon gain can be huge.

Do not buy a hydrogen boiler!

The UK watchdog (amongst many other groups) have concluded that hydrogen boiler is a stupid idea. It is true that its only waste product is water and oxygen, but the cost of making the hydrogen is very high.

Should there be large quantities of hydrogen sitting around, then this might make sense – burning hydrogen is generally a very clean fuel. The problem is, that it is almost impossible to store or transport it without loosing much on route, and it is incredibly expensive to split water – the current form for the vast majority of the hydrogen on the planet. Fossil fuel companies are keen, because their old methods can extract and split hydrogen, but it will mean large carbon emissions as well, so is useless – there is a reason that it is called grey hydrogen. Green hydrogen is the only kind that will give us any profit as a world.

So why is the government supporting the switch (alongside gas focused industry). The department for energy security and net zero stated this week that the gas network ” will always be part of our energy system”. I am not sure why anyone would look at it, given an air-source heat pump is likely to be around price parity, and ground source heating even cheaper.

Installation, at the cheap end will be far cheaper than a heat-pump, but this will be more than made up for over the lifetime of the device. Furthermore, with the grants currently available, you are far better off going straight to a heat pump. This is a waste of time and money, and it would not be remotely surprising, if you had to remove it before the end of its life,as it would be costing too much

Company Green Grazing from Vietnam is aiming to grow and sell red seaweed, as an additive to livestock feed

Why is this important?

red seaweed photo credit Peter Southwood

Around the world there are around 3 billion cattle and sheep. These produce around 231 billion pounds of methane each year, which is around 10 billion metric tonnes of methane into the air. Remember that over the first 20 years (it reduces after this) methane traps roughly 80 times the same amount of carbon dioxide. So this is the equivalent of a huge amount of carbon.

To put this in perspective, if we shrink the worlds carbon emissions to zero, but are left with all this methane, we are likely to have runaway global warming anyway.

So what does this seaweed do? It essentially causes the cows and sheep to create less methane. How much? Well, while around 100 million tonnes of this seaweed would be needed, they could eliminate 98% of the methane emissions from these livestock!

In 2019 around 34.7million tonnes of seaweed was farmed, which is leading some sceptical researchers to suggest that it cannot be done. However, if we look logically, this is already enough seaweed to reduce methane emissions by 1 third – not to be sneezed at.

Another problem, is that currently Greener Grazing is restricted to only growing 1/3 of the year, as the water temperature kills the seaweed the rest of the time. However, this could be fantastic – if cross breeding can give this seaweed the ability to cope with warmer water, they might be able to meet the whole worlds demands.

More work is needed, and other tests have proved less successful in the reduction of methane, but still, this is a field, where we might be able to green peoples behaviour without requiring them to stop eating meat.

Now, of course, if meat grown in a lab could reach price parity, it may deal with this problem overnight, though it would also eliminate many peoples source of income.

Time will tell if this company is going to have a large effect or not. We need to have farmers wanting this additive, thereby creating a valuable market for coastal communities around the world.

See Animals Wild