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Your View | Energy, Transport, Drax

Restricting movement

Crunching carbon

Crunching carbon

Crunching carbon

The articles on climate change in March’s New Civil Engineer highlight key issues but fail to make the important point that transportation is a major source of carbon emissions.

The problem is that most of the energy used to fuel and construct vehicles comes from fossil fuels. If global temperature rise targets are to be met this must be addressed.

To tackle this, it would be necessary to cut down the movement of stuff across the world and reduce the need for people to travel. This would require international agreement. I hesitate to suggest a solution but one way forward might be to increase carbon taxes so that they cover the full environmental cost of transportation, making it, for example, cheaper to source steel locally rather than from China, or, at a local level, to buy food from a farmers’ market rather than a superstore.

While traffic reduction would have a number of obvious benefits, a downside would be less work for civil engineers employed on transport infrastructure. One would hope that this would be offset by employment on flood protection, sustainable power generation and other work needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

  • David Naylor (M)

Infrastructure Encourages travel

Your agonising over carbon dioxide emissions prompts thoughts about some of the easy steps that we ignore: offices, as well as homes, are habitually overheated; young people who are concerned about “saving the planet” still don’t switch off the lights; motorway drivers flout the speed limit, at the cost of increased fuel consumption; and vast quantities of food is wasted. 

Then there are the contrary developments: multiplying delivery vehicles dealing with internet purchases; Crossrail and potentially Crossrail 2 encouraging yet more travel; materials shipped backwards and forward across the country, or across the world, because transport is cheap. There are many areas in which we could decrease our emissions.

  • Mike Keatinge Highbank, Marston Road, Sherborne Dorset DT9 4BL

Is Drax as low carbon as it claims to be?

In the article on Drax power station the implication is that burning wood chips is better for the environment than burning coal. 

On a pragmatic level this claim is dubious and my understanding is that the model on which this claim was based is now discredited. Indeed, I understand that a newer model shows using wood chips is environmentally significantly worse than using coal.

That said, the situation in respect of spare UK generating capacity is dire and getting worse. The postponing of a final decision on Hinkley Point C has become an annual joke, the existing nuclear stations are well past their use by date and just under 50% of the remaining coal-based generating capacity is due to close this year. Diesel generators seem to be being used as a quick fix stop gap but, apart from the high generating cost, these are even worse for the environment.  

We therefore need new long term capacity, (both base and standby that can be called on at short notice), to come on stream. Hand-wringing over environmental effects will not address the problem. 

Reliance on imports, be it coal, gas, wood or electricity, is also strategically a dubious approach. 

The failure of successive governments to address the issue and the Conservative mantra that public ownership is bad and private enterprise and market forces is the only way for what is an issue of strategic national importance, (and electricity supply is not the only area suffering from this), are now coming home to roost.

  • Jeremy Abell





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