GF Blog 24 – Week 18

May 3rd

Red, Blue, Yellow and tons of Green. But the political picture globally sees Green parties at a lowly 2 or 3% of votes. Why?

Before we get into the main theme of the week, I need to commence with an email received from Lin, in response to my comments last time about lawns.

Dandelions bring valuable minerals up from the sub soil and are one of the first sources of food for early pollinators. I try to resist digging them out (BTW my lawn is in some people’s eyes – awful). Dyshals do the same remineralisation with their roots and their seeds are loved by little birds and help see them through the winter. I don’t have thistles in my garden, but I do have teasels which provide winter seed for gold finches. I don’t put out bird feeders. 

Let me refer you to an interesting Wiki read, re certain trees absorbing NOx. Perhaps this is the same process employed by the wild garlic? When planting trees maybe there ought to be more focus on beech and oak?

A 2018 study by Indiana University determined that forests in the eastern United States can expect to see increases in NOx and in turn, changes in the types of trees which predominate. Due to human activity and climate change, the maples, sassafras, and tulip poplar have been pushing out the beneficial oak, beech, and hickory. The team determined that the first 3 tree species, maples, sassafras, and tulip poplar, are associated with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria known to “emit reactive nitrogen from soil.” By contrast, the second 3 tree species, oak, beech and hickory, are associated with microbes that “absorb reactive nitrogen oxides,” and thus can have a positive impact on the nitrogen oxide component of air quality. Nitrogen oxide release from forest soils is expected to be highest in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio.

In no particular order, first Lin I have tried so hard to encourage dandelions on the wilder areas of Meadow Barns, which are mainly banks rather than flat grass. They don’t go for it at all! I wondered if one reason might be the effect of traffic, as I offer a long road-side swathe like this and there is not even one dandelion in sight …

But then I found some strong ones flourishing right in the road, almost under the car wheels. I have been out and examined my various banks and come to the conclusion there is way too much deep grass overpowering almost everything I previously sowed. So, I have started to tackle one area, strimming, hand pulling and once I have removed as much grass as I can, I will transplant … Dandelions! The last word however is, nature will always go where it wants to go and do what it wants to do. I should stop caring about lawns and go with the flow!

NOx Facts

With regard to the NOx, the most damaging Nitrogen and Oxygen combinations, in terms of emissions, occur at very high temperatures. Some examples are a) we can get NOx from lightning strikes, b) power station boilers and – as I am sure you know –c) internal combustion engines. However, just putting stone cold nitrogen onto our farmland in the form of fertilizers has a major impact too. When it is added to the soil, excess ammonium and nitrate not used by plants can be converted to NO by micro-organisms in the soil, and this is what escapes into the air.

A recent study conducted by the University of California Davis found that adding nitrogen fertilizer to soil in California is contributing 25 percent or more to state-wide NOx pollution levels. This why West Coast drivers use a special formulation of diesel fuel to produce less NOx relative to diesel fuel used in the other 49 states. The change is enforced by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), to offset the combination of vehicle congestion, warm temperatures, extensive sunlight, PM, and topography that all contribute to the formation of ozone and smog. CARB has established a special regulation for Alternative Diesel Fuels to ensure that any new fuels, including biodiesel, coming into the market do not substantially increase NOx emissions. The reduction of NOx emissions is one of the most important challenges for advances in vehicle technology.

This takes me inevitably to the question, does my chosen test fuel – HVO – have any impact either way on NOx? One of the partners I am working with is Prema Energy. And here are the relevant bullet points off their web page:-

Prema HVO:-

  • Considerably reduces carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbon (HO) emissions.
  • Considerably reduces particulate matter (PM) emissions of all size classes, including nanoparticles – proven to be very harmful to human health.
  • Significantly reduces NOx, polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), aldehyde and mutagenic emissions.
  • Reduces cold start smoke and emissions in winter conditions.
  • Provides a longer lifetime for particulate filters due to ash-free combustion.

There is in fact an entire article about this on their website, but I suggest you might want to wait until I am able to talk to one of the advisers. I need them to tell me the truth of how this is achieved, in words of one syllable, which hopefully I can then make clear to you.

IMPORTANT: Not all HVOs are alike…

The tailpipe emissions of HVO are also dependent on what the HVO is actually made from, and unfortunately, not all HVOs are alike. Some HVOs are made from one type of oil, whereas others are made from multiple types.

Prema HVO is made from one category and one category alone, hydrotreated used cooking oil. It is supplied by only one supplier, Neste. In other words, it is a single source fuel from a single supplier, which is clearly evidenced by its ISCC certification. Having this chain of custody is invaluable for credible and accurate tailpipe emission monitoring. Without it, you cannot be sure what type of HVO you are using.   (THIS IS WHY I AM HAPPY TO BE WORKING WITH PREMA!)

How worried do we need to be about NOx?

A recent University of Oxford study found that exposure to pollutants such as PM2.5 (small particular matter) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) is linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths in the UK each year. Cars and vans generate £6 billion per year in health damages alone, and diesel is the main culprit. Special working environments, such as mines, construction sites or tunnels, can be particularly challenging. (Remember the tunnels, as I comment further about them later).

Prema HVO is a cleaner-burning alternative to conventional diesel. Its tailpipe emission levels are proven to be lower, which means it is cleaner for your workers, your local community and the environment at large.

NEXT Politics;  Scottish, plus Local and Bye Elections south of the border

Red and Yellow and Pink and Blue … To be fair, in the song, Green has always come halfway through. But in politics around the world, it is still sitting much nearer the end, around the 2 or 3% level. How on earth can this be explained, when so many ordinary citizens are deeply worried and want to see change happen with reference to looking after the planet and switching to greener heat and energy?  

Let’s think about London. Seems to me, Green Policies have been badly managed by Sadiq Khan. Harmful vehicle emissions have been his flagship, but his message has in fact been built on falsification of the true picture in and around the city. Apparently, much more damaging levels are experienced by travelling on the Tube (see tunnel info above) than walking beside roads. TfL in 2017, launched a new air quality action plan for the Underground.

Quoting from   

A Transport for London (TfL) commissioned study by the Committee On The Medical Effects Of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) stated that previous studies in other subways around the world have shown that gaseous pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) tend to be in similar concentrations to local ambient environments but also reported that particulate pollution can be up to 30 times higher in tube stations than on busy roads above ground in London10. The particulate pollution is that of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) and is considered to be particularly harmful to health due to it being capable of entering the blood system due to its extremely small diameter (approximately 30 times smaller than a human hair)11,12.

To compound this, the Underground has been monitored and found to have higher particulate matter concentrations in comparison to other subway networks in other cities around the world, possibly due to its comparatively deep tunnels and poor ventilation related to its old infrastructure10

Let’s Punish Car Drivers

Attacking car drivers in a fanatical storm, pushing ULEZ further into more rural areas and upsetting Blue Voters may have been as ill-advised in London as the 20 mile per hour speed limit across all of Wales. It is not the principles so much, rather the way these policies have been implemented with refusal to conduct genuinely open-minded research, and use people’s feedback for the best possible outcomes. Instead, there is this arrogance and ignorance at the top and all it does is alienate your voters. Yes, it is going to be very interesting to see if Khan and Welsh Labour will get punished at the ballot box.

As of lunchtime Friday 3rd, the Independent said:-

Sadiq Khan, who is seeking his third term, is currently the favourite to win against his Conservative challenger Susan Hall. This has continued to be the message even at tea time, Friday.

But the Tories have been buoyed by what they see as a low voter turnout with just two million Londoners out of a possible six million registered placing an X on their ballot on Thursday.

Scotland, Brighton, and further afield

Now let’s consider other areas of the country where, instead of Red or Blue, the Greens have had significant influence and power. How have Green Party politicians been doing? First here is the background to recent events in Scotland, but – despite my hunting, no hard facts about how they have performed:-

8th May 2021 — The Green Party had its best ever performance at a Scottish Parliament election, winning 4.7% of the total vote and 8 seats.  

With Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie at the helm, they entered a coalition with the SNP which came off the rails spectacularly last week, because SNP leader Humza Yousef scrapped previous Green targets. Targets are the easy bit,” said Sam Alvis, director of energy and environment at the London-based political consultancy Public First. “Partners with diverse politics can normally agree on a target. Things get crunchy in the delivery. That’s where political parties need to make trade-offs. For example: which sectors are decarbonizing first or fastest, or who gets support?”

Prior to Yousaf’s resignation, on Monday April 29th, his government had insisted Scotland is still committed to its over-arching climate target of reaching net zero emissions by 2045. Its about-face last week on the 2030 target followed a bleak assessment from the independent Climate Change Committee watchdog last month.

Green co-leader Harvie — who had urged the government to go harder and faster, particularly on the roll out of electric heat pumps to replace gas boilers — expressed disappointment.

But some in his party went further. Niall Christie, a prominent Green Party activist in Scotland, told POLITICO last week he could not see how the party could “in good faith continue in government”,  in light of the ditched target.

It highlights one of the key tensions governments around the world are grappling with on climate policy.

Polls show Scottish voters are concerned about climate change and support greater green ambition, said John Curtice (political analyst). But debates about the real-world cost of heat pumps and electric cars, which now dominate Westminster’s own climate politics, are convulsing Edinburgh, too.

“It’s a debate we’re going to have,” said Curtice, “All about how we’re going to get there.” 

Reflecting in a Guardian newspaper article, Rebecca Newsom, the head of politics at Greenpeace, said: “Political leaders come and go but public concerns about climate change and plastic pollution remain. The lesson from the Holyrood debacle is not that governments shouldn’t set ambitious targets to cut planet-heating emissions, but that targets need to be backed up by a clear action plan to meet them.

“Whoever becomes the next Scottish first minister should roll up their sleeves and get to work on climate solutions that can bring down energy bills, boost energy security and create jobs.”

That is a final sentence with which I totally agree. I have long envied Scotland for its green energy potential and seeming progressive thinking. This is a sad moment!

Moving South

In Brighton, where Caroline Lucas has been the only English Green MP for 14 years, and the local council was Green til 2023, I have found a fascinating write-up from last year about the reasons things went wrong. Here is the link:-  (This item first appeared in the Brighton Argus on 10th May 2023)

The Greens lost in Brighton and Hove because they were poor communicators, poor administrators, and exceptionally poor politicians

Andy Winter wrote – My forecast for last week’s local elections in Brighton was met with derision, not least by Green Party councillors. Even Labour activists felt I had been over-optimistic on their behalf.  Few others predicted Labour topping 30 seats. I had said that Labour would win 31 seats, the Greens 12, the Conservatives 8, and that there would be three independents.

Graphic: Election Maps (@electionmapsuk)

In the event, Labour secured 38 seats, the Greens seven, Conservatives six, and three independents. Few anticipated the rejection of the Greens by the voters on such a massive and humiliating scale. 

Andy points to the following reasons:-

indifference to the problems of the city, the closure of public toilets, weeds on the pavements, graffiti, the dirty state of the city, the treatment of mayoral-hopeful Dawn Barnett, traffic, an unnecessary flight to a climate summit, and the administration’s perceived focus on national and international issues when they weren’t getting things done at home. 

As for Labour, having secured the largest-ever majority in Brighton and Hove, they now have the ability to impose, without hindrance, their will on the Council. However, they will face huge challenges and, given their mandate, have very high expectations placed on them.

The Labour Group should avoid making some elementary mistakes. It should not rush into making changes in how the Council is run, at least until the very large number of new councillors and its new leadership have a better understanding as to how things work. It should resist the temptation to reintroduce a cabinet-style of administration. That would marginalise the majority of its own councillors and the few remaining opposition members. 

What I don’t know is, how have Labour shaped up in the past 12 months?

These stories give some hint as to why voters, with huge concern about the future of our planet, are not turning out to vote Green. Fanaticism, ideologically-driven grand plans and policies, which are not well thought through, lose sight of other equally vital parts of everyday life. They also underpin today’s ruling in the High Court, which I heard about in an email from ClientEarth. The legal action was taken against the UK government by 3 organisations jointly, ClientEarth with Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project. I put some £s into supporting this cause and am pleased to see how the judge ruled, though under no illusions that we will see a swift and efficient response.  

 Dear Caroline,

This morning, we won in court against the UK government over its inadequate climate strategy… for the second time

The High Court has now told the UK government not once, but twice, that its climate strategy is not fit-for-purpose, and therefore is unlawful.

Back in 2022, we first took the government to court over its then climate plan, which wasn’t good enough. And we won. The government was then ordered to produce a plan that was fit-for-purpose by March 2023.

The new plan included more detailed information on emissions savings and risk that the previous version lacked. But we, along with other experts, agreed the new plan still didn’t add up. It relied on high-risk, unproven technologies and uncertain proposals and so didn’t adhere to the basic requirements of the UK Climate Change Act.

So, we went to court again. And in ruling in our favour for a second time, the court has made it crystal clear that the government needs to do better, with a plan that can actually be relied on to deliver.

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