Humphrey Hawksley and the Chip Fat Conundrum

Humphrey Hawksley in an article on today’s BBC News website has reported the (blindingly obvious, some might say) results of a 25-year American study into the effects of air pollution (specifically vehicle and industrial) on life expectancy.

City air pollution ‘shortens life’

Basically, it’s bad!

I live next to an A-class road, busy with holiday makers on this warm bank holiday day off to the West Country.  I know it’s bad!  They all pass my house.

The article is very well written except for right at the end, where somehow Hawksley has been suckered into a ‘trend’ sort of spiel.  Either that, or some young office bod, equally blinded by the ‘trend’, has amended his copy.

Specifically, it’s the very last paragraphs which go;

Over the next generation, however, it’s expected that pollution, especially that created by dangerous diesel particles, will be cut dramatically.   Standard filters are now being fitted to buses. Bio-fuels and cleaner energy in general, brought about by climate change pressures, will make the air safer.

I’ve emphasised the offending words.  While notionally appearing good, this is far, far, from the case.  Bio-fuels, mostly sold as vegetable oils (a.k.a. chip fat) in this country, are just as particulate polluting as diesel.  They chuck out exactly the same CO2 and the other stuff as well.  To state the obvious, burning them in the same way as diesel fuel will cut life expectancy in the same way.  It’s only the use of filters that improves things.

Furthermore, bio-fuels have been totally discredited as a major fuel source by everyone except George Bush et al since the Bush era.  In simple terms (and ignoring the plus point that it’s a carbon-neutral fuel), there isn’t enough land area on the world to grow enough biomass to power the USA, let alone the rest of the world.  (see my earlier posting, fuel-costs-red-herrings for some further reading and links).  We must be ever-so-careful not to lump all the different ‘green’ technologies into one panacea and state things that are clearly proven to be bollox.

This isn’t to state that bio-fuels are all bad.  No, it’s just the current implementation of using food soya and palm oil monoculture to the detriment of the world’s forests and human food needs.  Using algae, for instance, in tanks covering the hot sunny deserts of America, Asia and Africa, could be a way of generating enough biomass for fuel usage once the problem of getting enough water into the desert is solved.  But that’s another issue.  The current mindset is bio-fuel oil and even batteries! (news this week is that Indian-owned Jaguar are getting >£300m of UK cash to develop an electric performance car- this should help the better off feel greener!)

To check out my thoughts on the unfeasability of batteries as motive power, check out another earlier post of mine, mini-e-an-enviromental-disaster-looms-from-muddled-thinking. In a nutshell, there’s only enough lithium in the Earth’s crust for 35 million cars.  Even with the recent newer ways of using lithium, getting 10 times that number wouldn’t provide enough vehicles to satisfy the current  demands for personal transportation.

The Jaguar and other similar developments show the peculiar macho-power mindset that governs decisions.  Most current, populist, trendy ideas are part of this dead-end mindset.   This is the blockage that must be removed, not people’s creativity.

By Strangely

Founding member of the gifted & talented band, "The Crawling Chaos" from the North-East of England.

One comment


    Finally, in this BBC article, (link just above), it is now being widely stated, that electric vehicles aren’t the universal panacea for good living that they’re set up to be.  Like dah?  Here’s what I said about the electric Mini about 4 years ago…

    Interestingly, someone called Steve in the comments chucks in the red herring about cooking oil fuel –

    He states, “Use cooking oil that is grown sustainably. Makes us independent from the big oil industry, moves jobs to poorer countries”.  Now I included a link above which describes in very simple terms, the probable outcome should all cars be powered by bio-fuels (or cooking oil, if you like).  This is the link:

    Here, you’ll find, that there is currently not enough food in the world to turn into fuel to satisfy America, let alone Europe, China, India.

    In other words, we starve then die to satisfy our craving for transport…..

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