Thursday, October 30, 2008

green party hydrogen response 4: boris johnson

To recap: I did an analysis showing that London's prototype hydrogen buses cause considerably greater carbon emissions than diesel buses.

As the Green Party support this technology yet obviously shouldn't, I've been having correspondence with them about it. First up was MEP Caroline Lucas.

London's about to have a new larger hydrogen vehicle trial, so I've had exchanges with Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones, the Green members of the London Assembly, as they are supporting this high-carbon technology. So the second exchange was with London Assembly member Darren Johnson

After that, the other Green London AM Jenny Jones, who table some questions to the Mayor, Boris Johnson.

Darren Johnson (no relation, you've gotta hope) has forwarded the answers.

Please find below the response from Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London to the questions that Darren Johnson, Green Party Member of the London Assembly raised on your behalf at the September 2008 London Assembly’s Mayors Question Time.

Hydrogen Buses, Question No: 1694/2008

Darren Johnson’s questions:

Will the mayor respond to the following questions from a member of the public:

- With the planned expansion of the trial of hydrogen buses going ahead this year, will you ensure the hydrogen is from renewable sources?

- What is the target for improving on the well to wheel calculation of CO2 emissions obtained from the previous CUTE [Clean Urban Transport for Europe, the pilot project that ended in 2006] trial?

- With the expansion of the existing scheme to encourage local authorities to install charge points for electric vehicles, what efforts are being made to ensure that this energy is from renewable sources?

- Will you carry out an assessment on the full potential for sewage in London to be used as a fuel for Combined Heat and Power generation, or for the bus fleet?

Boris Johnson’s response:

The new hydrogen buses will be on London’s roads by 2010. The hydrogen used will be produced by steam methane reforming. TfL [Transport for London] and Air Products (the refuelling supplier) are committed to putting in place measures that minimise the emissions from this method over the life of the projects as further advancements in abatement technology become available. In the future, TfL will look to procure hydrogen from the greenest sources and harness renewable technologies when they become available and are viable.

No well-to-wheel statistics were produced for the CUTE trial. TfL expects the new generation of buses to produce significantly lower emissions with the fuel-cell buses estimated to produce 50% less CO2 than a diesel bus on a well-to-wheel basis. These figures can be improved further when greener sources of hydrogen are developed.

TfL and GLA officers are in discussions with local authorities and energy suppliers to investigate the possibility of obtaining electricity from renewable sources.

In terms of building facilities, TfL have introduced combined heat-power generation to their newest building. This technology can be adapted to run on gases other than mains natural gas, should potential alternatives such as sewage become available. In terms of buses, current hybrid technology being trialled in the bus fleet offers immediately realisable CO2 benefits in London.

'No well-to-wheel statistics were produced for the CUTE trial'? Come with me to page 79 of CUTE's own report on their trial, where we find this chart.

Graph from CUTE report

The baseline is the impact of a normal diesel Mercedes Citaro bus, the same model that the hydrogen bus trial adapted.

To decode, the three groups are:
FC H2 St.ref. - fuel cell bus, powered by hydrogen from steam reforming (ie natural gas)
FC NEBUS, H2 St.ref. - the NEBUS, the hydrogen Citaro's predecssor, powered by a fuel cell with hydrogen from natural gas.
FC, H2 Hydro - fuel cell bus powered by hydrogen made from electricity from hydroelectric dams.

The four bars on the graph are:
PE ( - Primary energy from non-renewable resources
GWP100 - global warming potential (taking all climate impacts into account, not just CO2)
POCP - Summer smog formation potential
AP - Acidification potential

It clearly shows that the energy and climate impacts are substantially worse with the hydrogen bus when powered from natural gas.

Incidentally, as I said in my original piece, the hydroelectric thing is a red herring. Firstly, there's the way that hydroelectricity is seen a climate-neutral whereas it emits huge quantities of methane (a greenhouse gas 25 times as potent as CO2).

Beyond that, there is - as with all the 'hydrogen from renewable sources' stuff - the fact that it displaces electricity from fossil sources. I know I've said it before, but it seems that either I'm missing summat or else people are refusing to hear me.

If we earmark our renewables for this new electricity demand, they no longer feed the grid. So more fossils get burnt to make up the shortfall. It only works if the grid is entirely powered by renewables with capacity for all our present uses and our vehicles too.

Full marks to the Greens for their tenacity and responsiveness, it really does set them apart from the lower fob-off threshold of politicians in other parties. But they clearly haven't grasped the point of my writing to them, despite reiterations, citing sources and a couple of simple handy metaphors.

Answers that miss the point of questions that, in turn, missed the point are not really going to mean much, are they?

I'm following it up but, as with all the exchanges in this, I'm letting it run until the exchange has ended before I publish so that it's fairer and clearer for all concerned.

Monday, October 27, 2008

green party hydrogen response 3: jenny jones

A while ago I did some maths about London's hydrogen bus trials and found that the hydrogen buses are responsible for far greater carbon emissions than the diesel buses they seek to replace.

The Green Party support this technology, which is all the more worrying as there's to be a new and larger trial in London next year. As so many wild and inaccurate claims have been made about the ecological benefits of using hydrogen as a vehicle fuel, I'm presuming they've just never looked into it properly.

Because the London buses were part of a wider European trail, I had an exchange with Green MEP Caroline Lucas.

Then there was Green member of the London Assembly Darren Johnson. He said that he'd be 'doing more work in this area in the Autumn'.

I think we've got more detail on what that meant in a subsequent email from the office of the other Green London AM, Jenny Jones.

I am responding on behalf of Jenny Jones at the London Assembly, and I apologise for taking so long to get back to you.

We will put the following questions to the Mayor at next month's Mayor's Question Time, in the hope of finding a solution to some of the issues you raise:

- With the planned expansion of the trial of hydrogen buses going ahead this year, will you ensure that the hydrogen is from renewable sources?

- What is the target for improving on the well to wheel calculation of CO2 emissions obtained from the previous CUTE trial?

- With the expansion of the existing scheme to encourage local authorities to install charge points for electric vehicles, what efforts are being made to ensure that this energy is from renewable sources?

- Will you carry out an assessment on the full potential for sewage in London to be used as a fuel for Combine Heat and Power generation, or for the bus fleet?

I will let you know the response received.

To which I replied

Thanks for getting back to me. I'm glad to see you will be raising the issue. However, one element seems to miss the point

"With the planned expansion of the trial of hydrogen buses going ahead this year, will you ensure that the hydrogen is from renewable sources?"

Making hydrogen from a green electricity tariff causes the same emissions as if it were made from grid electricity.
If we start powering our vehicles from the electricity grid, it adds to overall demand for electricity; taking the renewable electricity for hydrogen production means the same amount of electricity being generated from fossils generation elsewhere, so the extra emissions should be attributed to the new demand from hydrogen.

As an analogy, imagine if you went home tonight to find there were a hundred new cars parked on your street. The drivers of the new cars got there first and took the spaces, making the usual cars have to overcrowd other places and park illegally. The new drivers could claim that they were taking the sensible legal spaces, but we would all know it is they who are creating the problem.

Hydrogen only becomes effectively renewable if the whole grid is powered by renewables. Until then, it causes more fossils to be burned and should be counted as such. Not to do so is as disingenuous as the hydrogen manufacturers who claim it has no climate impact because the CO2 was released at the production plant.

Making hydrogen from electrolysis from the grid, as the analysis I previously sent to you showed, has around ten times the carbon emissions of a diesel bus. If someone came to the GLA with a proposal for a low exhaust-emission, tenfold carbon-emission bus that has twice the resource impact to manufacture than a normal bus, what would you say?

The other option is to make it using new dedicated renewable infrastructure. Even then, hydrogen makes no sense. We take electricity, convert it to hydrogen, then convert that back into electricity to power the bus. The hydrogen is, in effect, just a very inefficient battery.

Making hydrogen by electrolysis takes colossal amounts of electricity. It’s only 30% efficient, less than half the rating of any other method(1). It’s such a wasteful process that powering the UK’s vehicles with electrolysis hydrogen would take more electricity than we presently use for everything else combined(2). There are far more efficient batteries available.

Fuel cell vehicles that operate on hydrogen made with electrolysis consume four times as much electricity per mile as similarly-sized battery electric vehicles(3).

Using electric vehicles would mean only a quarter of that dedicated renewable generation infrastructure would be required.
That would mean it would be 100% renewable a lot sooner, and a lot less money and resources to invest in the meantime, and it could not be used as an excuse for the fossil fuel companies to promote their present high-carbon hydrogen. It’s hard to see how electrolysis hydrogen is anything other than an extravagance.

"With the expansion of the existing scheme to encourage local authorities to install charge points for electric vehicles, what efforts are being made to ensure that this energy is from renewable sources?"

This has the same problems as described above regarding adding to electricity demand as so merely displacing emissions, but at least it's several times more efficient - and therefore a fraction of the emissions - of using hydrogen.

Thankyou for taking the time to write, and I look forward to seeing what response you get from the Mayor.

Please forgive the academic overtones of using footnotes, it's just that with any statistical or scientific assertion there should be a source to check, and in my experience green issues especially lend themselves to wild claims.

1-US National Academy of Engineering, Board on Energy and Environmental Systems, 'The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs', 2004, p39

2-'Decarbonising the UK – Energy for a Climate Conscious Future', Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, 2005, p74

3-Alec Brooks, 'CARB's Fuel Cell Detour on the Road to Zero Emission Vehicles', Electric Vehicle World, 7 May 2004

Some time later I got a copy of Boris Johnson's response (I'll publish that in a couple of days). The questions were tabled as set out above, with no amendments in the light of my reply pointing out that they don't actually address the 'issues I raise'.

Kudos to them for sticking at it, but if they miss the point, ignore the corrections and then ask the wrong questions, what they say is not going to be worth much.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

fuck off fatso, says fat tory

In the same way that the last Conservative government had them preaching about family values whilst fucking prostitutes, their secretaries and even each other, so the fuckers who'll form the next Conservative government are limbering up to be hypocritical arsewipes.

There is "no excuse" for people to be too fat, the Conservatives will declare today


Check out the guy who said it, Conservative health spokesperson Andrew Lansley. Note the way his second chin has more than double the mass of his first and its line of definition extends up to level with his eyes.

Andrew Lansley

Mr Lansley acknowledged he could do more to improve his own fitness. He said: "I have a body mass index of 28 which means I'm classified as slightly overweight. I make no secret about the fact that I could be fitter, but following fitness training with Men's Health last year I use a running machine"

Nice plug for the magazine there. But anyway, this is him after a load of effort to reduce his weight?

Quite what the poor - those who can't afford fitness training with Men's Health or a running machine, or indeed any time or energy after they come in from spending all day at a shitty job that exhausts them - are meant to do isn't clear.

Lansley goes on to tell us that

a future Tory government would not "nanny" people, pledging to scrap support for "traffic light" food labelling

I'm not quite sure how traffic light labelling is nannying people. I'd have thought giving people the information so they can see through the packaging and marketing bullshit and letting them know if their food is genuinely fatty would be pretty useful to people trying to reduce obesity.

But then, it affects the profits of the supermarkets who make their money selling the fatty foods. Far better to blame the consumer even if they are deliberately misinformed by advertising and a lack of honest labelling.

And this is where we get into the darker side of all this. Rather like the way they've been blaming unemployment on the unemployed as a way to shift money from the poor to the rich, now they're rounding on other members of the underclass.

The health spokesman's comments on obesity echo David Cameron's speech last month when he said the poor, the obese and people with drug and alcohol problems are partly to blame for their own plight.

This is all about expanding what's chillingly and euphemistically called 'Conservative demands for greater personal responsibility across social policy'.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

what do worms attack?

I get the strong impression that the kid is familiar with the cycle of birth and death, and how, essentially, the world is one big cannibalistic restaurant.

Still, I can't help finding something ominous in the adult's last line. If I were that age, staring down at a worm practically the size of a python and wondering what it attacks, it would be material enough for a month of nightmares to be told 'it could eat you'.

Friday, October 03, 2008

integrity, why hast thou foresaken us?

I know that in a world where Pictures Of You by the Cure sells printers, Atmosphere by Joy Division sells bank accounts and Town Called Malice, In Between Days and pretty much every other song ever written sell cars I shouldn't be shocked by great music and its makers bending over to be violated by the engorged scaly phallus of the consumerism.

But I can't switch off this thing that expects people who create something of worth to honour what they have achieved instead of soiling it.

Only a couple of weeks after Antony and The Johnsons gave a new track to Prada in London Fashion Week come two TV adverts with John Lydon selling butter.

Lydon tries to justify it not with one of his his usual 'I make loads of money hahaha' statements but a claim that he's done it because this specific butter is just so great.

I for one am proud to be British and I’m proud to get behind a proper British brand. That’s why I’m supporting Country Life butter.

People know I only do things that I want to or that I believe in and I have to do it my way.

I think we can safely assume he got a fat cheque for his services.

Can we really believe he would have done it for free? If not, then his comment about believing in a particular brand of butter is a load of bollocks. He's a millionaire pretending to like stuff for more money.

Here's the deal, folks. You do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll-call forever. End of story. You're another corporate shill, you're another whore at the capitalist gang-bang. And if you do a commercial, there's a price on your head, everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is like a turd falling into my drink.
- Bill Hicks

Thursday, October 02, 2008

cooking with gas

A further thought on that home electrolyser.

I dissed its stupidity for turning electricity into hydrogen into electricity. However, they tell us some of it can be used directly for cooking.

At present, when we cook with gas we are actually cooking with hydrogen. Natural gas is essentially methane; CH4, carbon and hydrogen. In burning it we combust the hydrogen and the carbon reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form CO2.

Manufacturing hydrogen from natural gas emits 9.1kg CO2 per kilo of hydrogen(1). So if cooking with gas is a way of splitting hydrogen from carbon, it seems reasonable to presume that we emit about the same when we cook with gas.

It takes 39kWh of electricity to make 1kg of hydrogen(2).

UK grid emissions are 480g of carbon dioxide per kWh(3).

480gx39 = 18,720g.

By this calculation, if the cooking hydrogen is made from grid electricity, it releases 18.72kg of carbon dioxide per kilo of hydrogen - more than twice the amount of someone cooking with gas.

= = = = = = = =

1. IPCC, Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p131.

2. J. Levene, B. Kroposki, and G. Sverdrup, Wind Energy and Production of Hydrogen and Electricity — Opportunities for Renewable Hydrogen, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, March 2006, p2.

3. Table 3, Fuel Mix Disclosure Data Table, DBERR 2006-07,