United Kingdom - August 29
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Fuel prices drive cars off the roads
Mark Hughes, The Independent
The credit crunch and the rising cost of running a car has caused traffic on Britain's major roads to drop for the first time since congestion was measured, a report has revealed.
The study, which examined traffic on 34 motorways and trunk roads in England, Scotland and Wales, found congestion fell by 12 per cent in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period in 2007.
The route with the most dramatic fall in congestion was the northern section of the M25, which showed a 26 per cent reduction in traffic jams over the period measured. Journey times around Birmingham also improved markedly with a decrease of 9.9 per cent. Overall journey times have improved by 0.3 per cent even though the average speed of traffic slowed from 63.3mph to 62.2mph...
(27 August 2008)
Safe in our cages
AC Grayling, Guardian
Proposals to monitor all our communications are an intolerable assault on liberty in the name of security
In the Queen's speech this autumn Gordon Brown's government will announce a scheme to institute a database of every telephone call, email, and act of online usage by every resident of the UK. It will propose that this information will be gathered, stored, and "made accessible" to the security and law enforcement agencies, local councils, and "other public bodies".
This fact should be in equal parts incredible and nauseating. It is certainly enraging and despicable. Not even George Orwell in his most febrile moments could have envisaged a world in which every citizen could be so thoroughly monitored every moment of the day, spied upon, eavesdropped, watched, tracked, followed by CCTV cameras, recorded and scrutinised. Our words and web searches, our messages and intimacies, are to be stored and made available to the police, the spooks, the local council - the local council! - and "other public bodies".
(26 August 2008)
Suggested by Big Gav.
Rush for oil reaches Britain's fields
Katie Hunt, BBC Online
At first glance Britain's green fields and ancient woodlands have little in common with deserts of Saudi Arabia or the Texas plains - but the oil deep beneath parts of the UK could be the next frontier in the bid to beat the energy crisis.
A record number of prospectors are scouring scores of sites across the East Midlands, Yorkshire and a swathe of southern England.
The dizzying rise in oil prices over the past year to above $147 a barrel has made even the smallest pockets of oil and gas commercially viable.
Environmentalists fear drilling for oil will ruin some of Britain's most beautiful landscapes but the government and oil companies say that it will help secure the UK's energy supplies amid a global grab for oil.
"Indigenous resources are becoming more important for security of supply," says Mark Abbott, managing director of Egdon Resources, an exploration and production firm that operates an oil field in the Lincolnshire Wolds...
(27 August 2008)
Community project convincing builders to recycle waste
Mel Poluck, The Guardian
Richard Simpson's daily challenge is to persuade foremen on building sites to separate waste. The former architect is co-founder of the Brighton & Hove Wood Recycling Project, which has recycled nearly 6,000 tonnes of timber since it opened in 1998. All would otherwise have been buried or chipped.
The initiative was one of the first in Britain to take waste wood from building sites to be reused. From humble beginnings when he and a colleague lugged wood across town in a clapped-out camper van, the project has since become a model for community recycling.
"To building firms we were just a bunch of hippies," says Simpson. "But we were the first in the country to go to commercial building sites. The trick is to win over the foreman." And to have a steady stream of volunteers and staff, who between them have collected lab tables from Roedean school, stage sets, and timber from Brighton pier and English Heritage sites.
Grassroots projects such as this are playing an underrated but important role in diverting materials produced by construction from landfill. Simpson provides timber to customers as diverse as the Chelsea Flower Show, students and home improvers.
(27 August 2008)