Change Alley

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Posts Tagged ‘boris johnson

Green Light For London Desalination

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Boris Johnson paddling a coracleLondon’s new Mayor, Boris Johnson, has dropped a legal challenge to Thames Water’s proposed £200 million desalination plant in Beckton, East London. The High Court challenge was initiated by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, on the grounds that the project was inefficient and bad for the environment.

Mr Livingstone said cleaner, cheaper and less wasteful alternatives should be found to avoid the “energy-guzzling and carbon-intensive” way the plant was run. According to Times Online, Boris Johnson withdrew the case after Thames Water “promised to introduce a series of environmentally-friendly measures”.

The plant will use reverse osmosis to remove salt from river water. Osmosis occurs between two solutions of different concentrations or strengths. A very fine membrane separating the solutions allows liquid (but not the dissolved solids) to pass from the weak solution to the strong solution.

Over time, the concentration of the two liquids will balance out but pressurising the stronger solution can stop the flow. If the pressure on the stronger solution is increased further the osmotic process is reversed and the liquid passes from the stronger solution making it more concentrated. This reverse osmosis process can be used to remove water from a saline solution (i.e. brackish water) thus providing a desalination technology.

The first reverse osmosis water treatment plant was built in California and started working in 1965. The nice thing about this technology is that it’s highly scalable, suitable for large projects like Beckton, producing enough water for 400,000 homes, right down to small-scale devices like Red Button Design’s ROSS (‘Innovate or Die‘)

According to Thames Water’s FAQ page, the process will be timed to extract water during the three hours leading up to low tide, minimising the salt content to less than one-third that of seawater. This means that the plant will use approximately half the energy required to treat pure sea water, and around 15% of that used by the most energy-intensive thermal desalination plants.

The plant “will use around 6.3MW a year over a 25-year lifespan”. Hmmm, not sure what that means, someone doesn’t know the difference between a megawatt and a megawatt-hour it seems. More work needed, must try harder. Thames Water have “given a legally binding commitment that 100% of the plant’s energy needs will be met from renewable energy”. Options being considered are wind power, and used cooking fat and oil. Initially, however, the plant will be powered by biodiesel, which raises the old questions, where will the biodiesel come from, and what environmental damage will be caused in producing it? I bet it’ll have some palm oil in it.

Interesting how the word ‘sustainable’ doesn’t show up in Thames Water’s information on the plant, it’s all about ‘renewable’ energy, which is more difficult for the green lobby to take exception to. They’re learning.


Written by Pete Smith

May 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

What Do We Do Now?

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Boris Johnson
“Crikey! When they offered me the candidacy, nobody said I might actually win!”

I went to bed last night not knowing who London’s next Mayor would be, but still nursing a faint hope that all those transferable second votes would come galloping over the hill like the 7th Cavalry to save the day. I woke up to discover that my nightmares were real, and Boris Johnson is now running London for at least the next four years.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t deadly serious. In charge of a multi-billion pound budget we now have a buffoon who by all accounts can’t run a bath. Taxpayers will be paying £137k a year to a man who, it is universally accepted, will be completely dependent on the quality of the team he assembles to do the job for him.

What worries me about this election is the way that Boris won so convincingly without the slightest trace of a coherent policy on anything. Londoners have dumped a highly competent public servant with a proven track record of controlling a huge organisation, and replaced him with a celebrity journalist chat show host who was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet. Not even the Conservatives’ first choice for mayoral candidate, Boris has been subjected to steady criticism from the Tory press:

“Never before having had the opportunity to observe Boris trying to conduct himself seriously and responsibly, I have to confess that his various attempts to do so last week were deeply disappointing. He just can’t do it. The harder he tried, the more insincere, incoherent, evasive and even puerile he looked and sounded, even enabling the liberal candidate to score points. Take away the gags and jokes and nothing much is left….”

Peregrine Worsthorne, in online journal The First Post

“One of Mr Johnson’s failings is a belief that the public is there to serve him, not vice versa. He has given much pleasure to millions over the years, but will that cause the Underground to work better, the Metropolitan Police to catch more criminals, or business to thrive in London? Or would a Johnson mayoralty be yet one more chapter in an epic of charlatanry – perhaps, since it is so serious a job with potentially no hiding place, the last chapter?

“Oddly enough, given how acute he is, that won’t persuade him to do it properly. The guiding theme of his life is the charm of doing nothing properly. His sins themselves are charming in that they are the sort of failings that upset the Edwardians, and few others since. He is pushy, he is thoughtless, he is indiscreet about his private life. None of this matters much to anyone these days, which is why he has gone so far in spite of them, and tomorrow may go further still.

“Lynton Crosby, the Australian public relations genius who has kept Mr Johnson out of trouble during his campaign, returns home after it. Then what? Who will guide the unguided missile? Who will support the figurehead? Who will ensure he turns up on time, or at all? How will they be accountable?”

Simon Heffer, in the Daily Telegraph

Ken Livingstone may not have been perfect; who is? However, over the last eight years he has proved himself a highly competent, imaginative and principled leader of one of the world’s great cities. Only in comparison with a professional showman like Boris would Ken lose out in the personality stakes. To quote Peregrine Worsthorne again:

“Last week was also the first time I observed much of him on TV, and I was worryingly impressed. For unlike Boris he showed that he could be both witty and serious at the same time.”

As an environmentalist of sorts, the ‘green’ thing matters to me. I’ve heard nothing from Boris on these matters apart from a vague, uncosted, statement of intent to replace the ‘bendy bus’ with a new Routemaster, and even vaguer promises to ‘work with’ local authorities on improving recycling. Ken Livingstone , on the other hand, has a long track record on environmental issues. Friends of the Earth rated Ken the greenest candidate in the Mayoral election, giving him nine out of ten. Said FoE Director Tony Juniper:

“He is one of the few British politicians to have shown genuine leadership on green issues and put London at the forefront of efforts to tackle climate change. His manifesto is full of exciting plans to go even further. Of the three main candidates for London Mayor, Ken Livingstone is the greenest.”

As George Bernard Shaw said, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” In spite of using local elections to beat up a national government for policies outside local control, Londoners still deserve better than Boris. I keep coming back to a quotation from H.L. Mencken: “Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under”. Now I consider myself a pretty decent bloke, and I suspect under the buffoonery and bluster Boris is too. In answering my original question, “What do we do now?”, all I can do, apart from fleeing London, is try to shame Boris into doing the very best job he can for the city that elected him.

Written by Pete Smith

May 3, 2008 at 12:09 pm