Day 1030 of Theresa May’s premiership: No Brexit. But UK Air Quality Improves

Welcome to Day 1030 of Theresa May’s premiership, and still no Brexit in sight.

There’s no Brexit news to report, but as this is a blog about Brexit I’m compelled to write something, anything, about Brexit.

So, here’s your weekly Brexit mashup:

“Prime Minister Theresa May could set a date for her resignation in the coming days, the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee has said.

The PM said she will step down when her Brexit deal is ratified by Parliament — but some MPs want a fixed date.

Sir Graham Brady said he expects a “clear understanding” of that timetable once she has met the committee, which she will do on Wednesday.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster, he said the 1922 Committee had asked her to give “clarity” about her plans for the future, and she had “offered to come and meet with the executive”.

He continued: “It would be strange for that not to result in a clear understanding [of when she will leave] at the end of the meeting.”

The 1922 Committee is an elected body of Tory MPs that represents backbenchers and oversees the party’s leadership contests.”

Excerpted from BBC: Theresa May could set exit date this week – Sir Graham Brady


‘If you judge a fish by how well it can climb a tree…’

It seems that Theresa May has done a great job of being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom but has been a disaster when it came to Brexit. Such a conundrum!

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

The UK economy (in contrast to ‘Project Fear’ projections) is rocketing along. Government debt is falling and deficits are getting smaller, and relations with America went from “back of the line” to “let’s do a trade deal soon as you get Brexit sorted”.

Even relations with the EU seem to have broadened-out a bit as each side reflects on what they mean to each other and how they can keep what ‘works’ in the relationship while discarding what ‘doesn’t work’ for both sides in the post-Brexit era.


And there’s good news on the environmental front. Last week, the UK didn’t burn any coal

That’s right! The country that started the Industrial Revolution around the year 1760 burning millions of tons of coal in industrial-sized burners to produce electricity and heat to fuel a socio-economic miracle, burned none last week.

It looks like more such weeks will be reported in the coming months as the UK completes its phaseout of industrial scale coal-fired electricity generation by 2025. (Although many rural homes in the UK still burn relatively tiny amounts of coal, or wood, or a mixture of coal and wood)

Natural Gas has replaced coal in the UK, and that’s a good thing because the gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than brown coal (lignite) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the cleanest grade of black coal (anthracite) and Natural Gas is about 1000 times cleaner than burning home-heating fuel (kerosene).

“Each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, and combustion—generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and are thus often considered “externalities.” We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one‐half of a trillion dollars annually. Many of these so‐called externalities are, moreover, cumulative. Accounting for the damages conservatively doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh generated, making wind, solar, and other forms of nonfossil fuel power generation, along with investments in efficiency and electricity conservation methods, economically competitive.” — Full Cost Accounting for the Lifecycle of Coal — Harvard Medicine (Report available for download at The New York Academy of Sciences)

So while burning Natural Gas produces plenty of CO2, it produces slightly less than half the CO2 that burning coal produces. And there’s no airborne heavy metals, no soot, no sulphur dioxide to breathe that’s so powerful it can destroy automotive paint finishes, no toxic fly ash long-term storage problem, no damage to aquatic life from water runoff near the massive coal piles. Nitrogen Oxide and other airborne oxides aren’t a factor with Natural Gas either.

If you’re a Briton pat yourself on the back, because the UK is a world leader in the switch to converting from coal to cleaner fuels, and additionally, adding wind and solar capacity to the grid!


Theresa May, Brexit, environment
Image courtesy of BBC

Growing the Economy, While Lowering Emissions!

“A new Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit report confirms that Britain has been the most successful G7 nation over the last 25 years on the combined metric of growing its economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In the 25-years since 1992 when clean air and the corresponding lowering of healthcare spending became an important policy for the United Kingdom, the country grew its per capita GDP by 130% while lowering GHG emissions 33% — proving that a country can simultaneously grow their economy AND lower greenhouse gas emissions.”United Kingdom Leads G7 in the Combined Metric of Economic Growth + Carbon Cuts


Each type of power plant has vastly different water demands

UK, Brexit, Theresa May, environment, clean air, water usage by power plant type
Water usage by power plant type — per megawatt / per hour.

It’s too bad Theresa May didn’t wait until later in the game to become Prime Minister (allowing Brexit to be completed by others) because they would’ve delivered a worthy Brexit within months of the June 23, 2016 referendum, and then Theresa May could’ve ushered-in an era of economic growth + lower emissions and clean air and water in God’s Own Country.

READ: Theresa May’s Environment Speech, January 2018

by John Brian Shannon

UK Leads G7 in Combined Metric of Economic Growth / CO2 Cuts

Reposted from Letter to Britain

by John Brian Shannon

A new Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit report confirms that Britain has been the most successful G7 nation over the last 25 years on the combined metric of growing its economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In the 25-years since 1992 when clean air and the corresponding lowering of healthcare spending suddenly became an important policy, Britain grew its per capita GDP by 130% while lowering GHG emissions by 33% — proving that a country can simultaneously grow their economy AND lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Comparatively, Japan grew its per-capita GDP by 83% while increasing its per-capita emissions by 10.5% — making it the worst performer of all the G7 nations. (Not to pick on Japan which has the most difficult population pyramid demographic problems of any nation on the planet)

“It’s really time to slay once and for all the old canard that cutting carbon emissions means economic harm.

As this report shows, if you have consistent policymaking and cross-party consensus, it’s perfectly possible to get richer and cleaner at the same time. Britain isn’t the only country that’s done it – it’s true for most of the G7 – but we’ve clearly been the best of the bunch.

There are signs that these successes are now transferring to the rest of the world.

Globally, emissions have been flat for three years while world GDP has grown by 8%. But science indicates this isn’t enough to fulfil the objective of the UN Convention and prevent ‘dangerous’ climate change – for that, emissions need to start falling soon.

This study should give confidence that with good policies, it’s achievable.” — Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

And in the United Kingdom, Scotland has led the way on the switch from coal to renewable energy and it rightly deserves many of the accolades handed to the UK over the ongoing clean air success story, while England and Wales deserve much of the credit for growing the UK economy. As usual, Northern Ireland is ‘holding its own’ and although it is presently caught in the middle of an election cycle it seems that it might ramp-up to follow Scotland’s environmental success, post-election.

Scotland sets 50% renewable energy target (BBC)

Pre-Brexit, UK Leads G7 In ‘Conscious Decoupling’ Of Economic Growth & Carbon Cuts (CleanTechnica)

The Road to Decoupling: 21 Countries Are Reducing Carbon Emissions While Growing GDP (World Resources Institute)


By far, the biggest reason UK emissions have dropped in every decade since WWII is a HUGE shift away from coal. At one time, almost 100% of Britain’s electricity was sourced by brown or black coal. Some of which was replaced by hydro-power, and later, by nuclear. Eventually, even more coal-fired capacity was replaced by natural gas, and most recently, by renewables.

The inexorable march away from coal-fired generation in the UK resulted in cleaner air. It is by far the biggest factor in Britain’s ongoing clean air success story.

Still, it’s not enough progress. Scotland has set the standard that the rest of the UK should follow — which will take strong leadership in the House of Commons.


The Way Forward for Clean Air, Lower Healthcare Spending, and a Thriving Economy for Britain

There are many ways to accomplish those goals and everything has its own particular cost. But two pathways jump out as the most beneficial per pound sterling.

ONE: Continue to replace coal-fired power generation with any other power generator. Yes, everything else burns cleaner than coal! Burning home heating fuel is cleaner than coal. Natural gas-fired power generation can be up to 1-million times cleaner than burning some grades of brown coal. Even upgrading coal-fired power generation from brown coal ‘lignite’ fuel to black coal ‘anthracite’ fuel results in astonishing improvements in air quality.

Fortunately, this is the (unevenly applied) default in the United Kingdom, which, when combined with the solid and thoughtful policies of Scotland and Wales, results in cleaner air, lower healthcare costs, and boosts economic growth via lower energy prices.

Record UK wind generation lowers electricity prices (Power Engineering)

TWO: In addition to everything mentioned above, the other low-hanging fruit leading towards cleaner air, to lower healthcare spending and to boost economic output (by lowering energy costs) is via energy-efficiency.

Prime Minister Theresa May should recognize that no matter how cleanly we can generate one GigaWatt of electricity, energy-efficiency equal to one GigaWatt is many times cleaner — and such improvements are typically simple and cost-effective.

Imagine a UK government policy that lowers primary energy consumption (demand) by 30% across-the-board over the next 5-years.

That’s possible with the right policy, and infinitely cheaper than adding the exact same amount of energy production capacity (demand) to the grid.

Cheaper, by orders of magnitude. In fact, the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant construction could be cancelled AND other proposed power plant projects could be shelved for at least a decade with that much efficiency added to the grid.

Simple programmes get the best results

If the UK government added an energy-efficiency programme shared by three government entities, costs and (importantly) accolades would be shared between them.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, would gain support from voters and expats by supporting a national energy-efficiency programme consisting of a £100 per capita credit on energy-saving electronics and materials.

For a business that employs 5 people, that’s a one-time credit of (up to) £500 towards energy-efficiency at that business, which will buy A TON of efficiency and thereby lower energy consumption/energy bills for that company.

All else being equal; Are those business owners more likely to vote Conservative in the next election? I would have to say, Yes.

Obviously, those 5 employees also live near their workplace and use electricity at home. Therefore, they too should receive a one-time (up to) £100 per capita credit at the hardware store for the purchase of LED or other energy-saving lights, smart thermostats, weather-stripping, insulation, receptacle gaskets and other energy-saving electronics or materials.

Each of those 5 people will now save significant amounts on their monthly electricity bill.

Again, all else being equal; Are those homeowners or tenants more likely to vote Conservative in the next election? The answer is likely to be affirmative if the present government decides to save each one of them, tens or hundreds of pounds per year on their annual electricity bill.

It sounds expensive until you consider the cost of adding 30 GigaWatts to the UK grid to cover wasted energy vs. spending a much smaller amount to conserve the same amount of energy.

There is simply no comparison. Energy-efficiency wins every time, and it’s cheap in relation to the costs of building new generation capacity.

A £100 per capita energy-efficiency credit for the UK is the way forward for clean air, lower healthcare spending, and a thriving economy for Britain (via lower energy costs) and pound for pound, nothing else comes close to accomplishing those goals at such a comparatively low spend.