Friday, 31 October 2008

ELDR adopts electricity supergrid policy

This evening I feel satisfaction to have succeeded in getting the Congress of ELDR (short for European Liberal Democratic and Reform Party) to adopt an energy policy proposal that is hugely important. This is the creating of a new European electricity supergrid, transmitting electricity along high voltage direct current (HVDC) cables. Energy losses on DC lines are far lower than on the traditional AC ones, so the new supergrid will make it economic to transmit electricity over long distances. It is feasible and economic to transmit electricity for 3000 km or more using HVDC transmission lines. This will mean that the benefits of renewable energy can be shared throughout Europe. It could be, for example, geothermal energy from Iceland, tidal energy from coastal regions or wind energy from exposed regions. Energy could even be imported from hot desert regions, such as North Africa, by means of "concentrating solar power" (CSP) technology - a huge and inexhaustible source of energy. It is proven technology and economically feasible, too. Well done, ELDR Congress.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Westminster City Council's little mistake (worth £17m)

Westminster City Council has, or had, £17m in Icelandic banks: £7m in Landsbanki and £10m in its UK subsidiary, Heritable. Nearly £10m of these deposits were placed in August. According to Councillor Colin Barrow CBE, Leader of the ruling Tory group on the Council, in August "both banks had excellent credit ratings of the highest standard". But on 30th January 2008 David Ibison, writing in the Financial Times about Landsbanki and two other major Icelandic banks, stated there was "increased uncertainty over the banks arising from their perceived reliance on wholesale funding, cross-ownership issues, an alleged lack of transparency, and macro-economic imbalances." How come this increased uncertainty had not come to the attention of Cllr Barrow? I am surprised, especially as according to his biography on the Westminster Conservatives' website (not yet updated to reflect his promotion to Leader), he "handles the Council's finances, as Deputy Leader of the Council. He has his own investment management business in Westminster".

Friday, 10 October 2008

Wrecking nature costs megabucks - official

An EU report prepared by a Deutsche Bank economist studies the economic effects of not halting the loss of ecosystems and species and states that the financial cost of such loss dwarfs financial market losses. (But it isn't grabbing headlines because it isn't sudden but continues year after year.) The argument is that as forests decline, nature stops providing resources and services that it used to provide for nothing - you know, little things like food, water, getting rid of excess CO2, stuff like that - and there is a financial cost to either having to do without, or provide them by human efforts instead. The report, like the Stern Review, brings economics to bear on the biodiversity loss issue and maybe will help politicians to bring it into their policy deliberations. Plenty of them have been deaf to ethical arguments about the value of the natural world, but they are more likely to hear economic ones. Aren't they? The study (commissioned by the European Commission) is ongoing.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Forget the banks - extinction is for ever

Although a member of a Least Concern Species (widespread and abundant), I am plunged in gloom by the news that the latest Red List of Threatened Species (published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) says at least 25% of the world's mammal species are at risk of extinction. Which is for ever. It is due to loss of habitat, including deforestation, which is the result of our own species' actions. The current financial crisis is as nothing compared with the biodiversity crisis. It is really, really urgent. Time for us to stop breeding like rabbits and give the natural world room again.