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Transition: gearing up for the great power-down

Luke Leitch, Sunday Times
In Sandpoint, Idaho – birthplace of Sarah Palin, who really wouldn’t approve – residents have prepared the community garden for its first winter and plans are under way for a local biomass-fired power plant.

In Bell, a district of Geelong, Victoria, Australia, they are making wood-fired pizza ovens in each other’s gardens and have negotiated bulk-buy discounts on solar power equipment for local residents. They have also planted more than 150 trees in a push to become the “fruit and nut tree area of Geelong”.

Viewed in isolation, these well-intentioned community efforts are laudable, yet insignificant. But Sandpoint and Bell are two examples of something much bigger – the Transition Initiative, a movement barely two years old that claims to have the answer to sustainable living in a world without oil.

In some 700 towns, villages and cities worldwide, Transition is under way, and more communities are signing up every day. Most of the groups are “mulling” – Transition-speak for gearing themselves up – but 114 have launched publically, or “unleashed”.

Of those, 83 are in the UK, as are a further 486 “mullers”. One, Lewes in East Sussex, has just launched its own currency, the Lewes pound, in an effort to encourage townsfolk to reject Tesco and spend their money at purely local shops.
(17 November 2008)

Fruit and veg boom needed to feed Britain

Robin McKie, Guardian
In the face of climate change, food experts call for more home-grown fruit and less grain for cattle

It is an image worthy of a Keats poem or a Constable landscape: great orchards bursting with fruit, fields crammed with ripening vegetables and hillsides covered with sheep and cattle.

But this is no dream of long-gone rural glories. It is a vision of the kind of countryside that Britain may need if it is to survive the impact of climate change and higher oil prices, according to leading agricultural experts.

They have warned that only a total revolution in the nation’s food industry can save Britain from serious shortages of staples as world oil production peaks, the climate continues to heat up, the population grows and our dietary needs continue to evolve.

In turn that means a complete shake-up in the way we farm the countryside. At present Britain imports more than 90 per cent of the fruit it consumes.
(16 November 2008)

Strahan: Letter to the Energy Secretary

David Strahan, blog
Dear Mr Miliband,

Congratulations on your recent appointment to the most important job in government.

Just as Spike Milligan played a part in Hitler’s downfall, I could perhaps claim a small hand in your promotion: I advocated the creation of a ‘Department of Energy and Climate Change’ and cabinet-level Energy Secretary in my book The Last Oil Shock, published in April last year, a copy of which is enclosed.

I am also encouraged by an unexpected outbreak of common sense in several areas of British energy policy, though not all, since your appointment: raising Britain’s emissions reduction commitment; announcing the introduction of a feed-in tariff; and the recent decision to reward biogas production for injection into the national gas grid. All were long overdue, but are welcome nonetheless, and I hope a sign of greater alacrity and sharper analysis than has been evident in British energy policy to now. Your reported support for personal carbon trading is also encouraging.

Since you are apparently building a bonfire of previously held policy prejudices, can I urge you to add your predecessors’ willful denial of the imminent threat of peak oil, recently highlighted by group of major British businesses – the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security. As their report makes clear, the worst impacts of global oil depletion are likely to be felt far sooner than the worst impacts of climate change – without in any way detracting from the profound threat of global warming. …
(13 November 2008)

Homes with no electric shocks from the bills

Huma Qureshi, The Guardian
Electricity bills are hitting record highs, but some developers are offering homeowners the chance to escape price hikes by making their own electricity – for free.

Eco-development Chudleigh Mill, situated near the river Yeo in Somerset, is promising homeowners free electricity for 10 years, thanks to a hi-tech hydroelectric generator that uses river water to produce power. The generator will cover at least 95 per cent of electricity costs, so even if residents do receive a bill, it will most likely be minuscule.

Geoff Grant of TST Properties, the developer behind Chudleigh Mill, says: ‘We wanted to create properties that had lower running costs. People are concerned about rising prices – you just don’t know how high bills will be in the next few years and the prospect of using renewable energy like this is appealing.’…
(16 November 2008)