Sunday, October 23, 2022

Cost of living crunch forcing shoppers to ditch green products

The cost of living crisis is forcing consumers to make less sustainable choices as prices soar, according to new research.

Six in 10 (59 per cent) shoppers say they have been forced to choose less sustainable but cheaper options as prices increase – despite wanting to make more eco-friendly choices.

This rises to 70 per cent among younger adults who are feeling the financial strain more acutely, a survey commissioned by insurer Zurich’s Youth Against Carbon initiative found.

And nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) want the government to take steps to make sustainable behaviour and products more cost-effective.

Sustainable appliances like energy-efficient lightbulbs are the most likely to be left on shelves with almost half (45 per cent) of shoppers saying they are now having to swap them for cheaper, less environmentally friendly options.

Locally sourced and organic fruits and vegetables (41 per cent) are second on the list of green items on the chopping block, followed by eco-friendly cleaning products (39 per cent).

For young people, the biggest impact is being felt on clothing purchases, with 40 per cent saying they would choose more planet-friendly fashion if it wasn’t for the cost of living crisis.

John Keppel, chief sustainability officer at Zurich UK, said: “With the impact of the current economic landscape on the general public being so stark and immediate, it’s totally understandable that people prioritise making ends meet over living greener lives.


Climate protesters accused of 'blood on their hands' after 2 die in crash amid traffic from bridge protest

Climate protesters in England are being accused of having "blood on their hands" after their protest scaling a bridge caused a traffic jam that reportedly kept first responders from quickly tending to two crash victims who died.

"The eco-warriors may have thought it was an innocent protest, but they’ve got blood on their hands," Mark Heap, 55, told the Daily Mail after suffering a broken back and a broken leg on Monday when he stopped to help a stranded motorist and was struck by a speeding car that was attempting to avoid a traffic jam caused by climate protesters who had scaled England’s Queen Elizabeth II bridge.

Lisa Webber, a mother of four in her 50s, was also struck by the BMW while attempting to help the stranded motorist on London’s busy M20 highway and was thrown into oncoming traffic and later died.

The Daily Mail reported that a second woman in her 40s was also struck and killed by the BMW.

Drivers were using the M20 motorway to avoid traffic backup after several "Just Stop Oil" protesters scaled the bridge causing a traffic jam that contributed to emergency vehicles taking 40 minutes to tend to crash victims.

"They may not have directly caused the M20 accident," former Metropolitan Police detective chief inspector Mick Neville told The Sun. "But had their irresponsible demo not taken place, the women and van driver would probably not have been there."

"Without the protest, the emergency services might have been able to get there in time to save the women," Heap said.

Two climate activists climbed the north side of the bridge early Monday morning, saying in a press release that they were demanding that the government "halts all new oil and gas licenses and consents."

The pair of activists were on the bridge for at least 24 hours and caused two-hour delays and a 6-mile traffic jam, according to reports.

"As a professional civil engineer, each year as I renew my registration, I commit to acting within our code of ethics, which requires me to safeguard human life and welfare and the environment," 39-year-old activist Morgan Trowland said. "Our government has enacted suicidal laws to accelerate oil production: killing human life and destroying our environment. I can’t challenge this madness in my desk job, designing bridges, so I’m taking direct action, occupying the QE2 bridge until the government stops all new oil."

Just Stop Oil did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.

Trowland and fellow protester Marcus Decker were reportedly arrested after being brought down from the bridge on a cherry picker and charged with conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.


Will the energy crisis crush European industry?

As European businesses brace for energy shortages, workers at one plant in south-eastern France are getting a new winter wardrobe.

Saint-Gobain, the French building materials group, has ordered extra-warm coats and gloves for staff at its warehouse in the Alpine town of Chambéry, who have agreed to turn down the heat this winter. In order to cut gas consumption, temperatures will be closer to 8C, instead of the usual 15C.

“It will be just like working outside so we have to give them all the tools to work in an outside environment,” says Benoit d’Iribarne, senior vice-president of manufacturing.

Turning down the thermostat is no mere cost saving for many of Europe’s industrial companies as they dig in for a hard winter. With energy prices soaring to unprecedented highs after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has become a matter of survival.

Europe’s industrial base employs some 35mn people or roughly 15 per cent of the working population. The bloc’s leading industrialists warned earlier this month about the potentially devastating economic impact of the energy crisis.

“Soaring energy prices are currently precipitating an alarming decline in the competitiveness of Europe’s industrial energy consumers,” said the European Round Table for Industry in a letter to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, head of the European Council. Without immediate action to cap prices for energy-intensive companies, “the damage will be irreparable”.

On the surface, European industrial companies are putting a brave face on it — talking about the energy-saving measures they are implementing and the other costs they are finding to cut. While some are looking to coal and other fossil fuels to get them through the winter, others talk optimistically about the green revolution that the crisis is spurring.

But there is already evidence that major companies are reducing production in some sectors because of the energy shortage, even before the winter kicks in. And executives from chemicals to fertilisers to ceramics businesses warn that they risk losing permanent market share and could be forced to move some of their production to parts of the world that can offer cheaper and more reliable energy.

The alarm bells are ringing among Europe’s politicians. “We are risking a massive deindustrialisation of the European continent,” says Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s prime minister.

Saving energy

In the meantime, companies in sectors from steel to chemicals, ceramics to papermaking, fertilisers to automotives are racing to reduce consumption both to cut crippling energy costs and to prepare for gas shortages over the winter, should governments impose rationing.

Many are finding ingenious ways to reduce energy use. French carmaker Renault, for example, is reducing the time it keeps paint hot — a process that accounts for up to 40 per cent of its gas demand.

Such innovations promise to deliver more efficient factories and processes in future. But first, these businesses have to get through the winter.

Those that could do so have increased prices. Cologne-based chemicals company Lanxess, which makes base chemicals and active ingredients for the pharmaceuticals market, increased base prices by up to 35 per cent when energy costs began to surge.

But price increases will not address the problem of gas shortages. Paper and packaging group DS Smith has ordered its factories to cut consumption by 15 per cent, a voluntary reduction agreed by EU member states in July. Machines that used to be idled between production runs will now be turned off, and thermostats turned down. “If we do things like this and turn down the thermostat from 20 to 18.5 degrees we reduce gas consumption significantly,” says Miles Roberts, chief executive.

Valeo, the French automotive supplier, has asked factories to reduce energy consumption by 20 per cent, with measures such as halting production at the weekend and turning down temperatures during the week. Solvay, the Belgian chemicals company, says it is organising its factories to operate on 30 per cent less gas using alternative energy and mobile diesel-fuelled boilers.

Gas is the single most important source of energy for Europe’s industrial companies. But gas is also an important feedstock, used in the chemicals and fertiliser industries. In total, industry consumes about 27-28 per cent of the bloc’s total supply, according to Anouk Honoré, ​deputy director of the gas research programme at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

But it is not that easy to cut the fuel out of many industrial processes. Roughly 60 per cent of industrial gas consumption is used for high-temperature processes of 500C and above, such as glassmaking, cement or ceramics. “For lower temperature processes, there are more options to use renewable energy and heat pumps,” Honoré says.

For that reason some companies are turning to fossil fuels, in a potential setback for the EU’s green transition plans. Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and biotech company, in 2019 announced plans to move entirely to renewable energy. But it has now reactivated oil as a fuel “just in case” it is unable to meet heat needs for production.

Carmaker Volkswagen is running power plants in Wolfsburg, its largest site, with coal for the next two winters, instead of switching to gas as planned as part of its decarbonisation efforts.

Even for the lower temperature industrial processes, alternatives are unusually scarce at the moment. The summer’s drought has depleted hydropower capacity, while France’s ageing nuclear reactors are unable to meet demand due to protracted shutdowns and maintenance issues


Government-owned electricity generation: What could possibly go wrong?

Australian State government boss is going to close all the coal-fired power stations. Not a single word about what will happen on windless nights and overcast days

A re-elected Andrews government will take back control of the state’s electricity grid and effectively end coal-fired power generation in Victoria in little more than a ­decade through a ­re­newable energy target of 95 per cent by 2035.

Ahead of the November state election, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the new policy on Thursday, prompting warnings from energy experts that returning electricity generation to state hands could increase power prices, expose taxpayers to massive fiscal risk, and even make the government’s renewable energy targets harder to reach.

The plan was condemned by energy generators as a “back to the future” announcement and “retrograde step”, but was backed by the Electrical Trades Union as a “fantastic development” for Victoria.

It follows a joint Albanese-Andrews government “rewiring the nation” announcement earlier this week – which aims to fast-track Victorian renewable energy zones and offshore wind development – and the launch earlier this month of the NSW electricity infrastructure road map. And last month, Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $62bn energy plan, which includes a renewable energy target of 80 per cent by 2035.

Mr Andrews claimed his policy would “deliver cheaper power bills and lower greenhouse gas emissions” in a state that is currently dependent on coal for 60 per cent of its power. He also took aim at the Kennett Liberal government for selling off the SEC amid Victoria’s post-Cain-Kirner Labor government recession in the 1990s.

“The Liberals sold off public power assets to private, for-profit companies. They sold off Victoria’s essential services and sent much of the profits offshore – with the generators alone making $23bn in profits at our collective expense,” the Premier said.

The plan to revive the SEC would give Victorian taxpayers a 51 per cent stake in the commission and its wind and solar projects, at an initial cost of $1bn.

Mr Andrews said industry superannuation funds were the government’s preferred investment partners for the remaining 49 per cent.

“Unreliable, privatised coal will be replaced by clean, government-owned, renewable energy,” the Premier said.

“We’ve already taken soundings from the super industry and to say they are excited is an understatement.”

A new SEC office will be established in the Latrobe Valley town of Morwell, in Victoria’s east.

Labor is facing electoral challenges from the Greens in at least three inner city seats, and is targeting the seat of Morwell, following the retirement of independent former Nationals MP Russell Northe.

Mr Andrews announced new renewable energy targets of 65 per cent by 2030 and 95 per cent by 2035, bringing forward the government’s net-zero emissions target by five years, to 2045.

He also estimated the initiatives would increase gross state product by about $9.5bn and support 59,000 jobs through to 2035.

The Andrews government says the new SEC will be responsible for generating 4.5 gigawatts of renewable power – the equivalent replacement capacity of Loy Yang A, Victoria’s largest power station, which is being closed by AGL in 2035, a decade earlier than previously planned.

The owner of the Loy Yang B coal plant, Alinta, said its staff were shocked by Thursday’s announcement, given the generator had been due to remain open until 2047, but will now be forced to close 12 years earlier.

Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery said the company had taken “strong steps” to prepare for the transition to renewable energy, “but we need to understand more about how the government intends to manage the cost of the expedited transition, protect communities and workers, and support us to invest in the re­placement generation required to keep the lights on in the state.

“Our immediate priority and focus will be supporting our employees at Loy Yang B who will be understandably shocked by this announcement,” Mr Dimery said.

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said the announcement, with recent statements by the federal government, Queensland and NSW, demonstrated a renewed push by state and federal governments to “renationalise” the power sector.

Mr Wood argued governments had effectively made a call that markets could not be trusted to deliver an increasingly volatile transition from coal power to clean energy.

“We just have arrived at a position where the ministers whose governments contributed to the problem have concluded that the markets cannot deliver what they want, someone has to take control and it should be them. They are probably right,” he said.

“That means that the risks now sit with governments and some combination of taxpayers and consumers.

“I suspect that, despite the claims that this will all reduce power bills, the most likely casualty will be cost – although delivering the targets might be a close second.”

Green Energy Markets analyst Tristan Edis said he suspected the policy would be “good politics as voters with rose-tinted glasses experience large hikes in their power bills, warning that state-owned power companies “can be incredibly ruthless, profit-oriented operators”.

“Some have been big blockers of emission-reduction policies. They have regularly exploited their market power (with) network charges higher than needed (because they’re) used to raising state government revenue. (They) ain’t saints,” Mr Edis tweeted.

Australian Energy Council chief Sarah McNamara said the move was a “back to the future” announcement and “retrograde step” which would damage market and investor confidence.

“The surprise announcement contains little detail but looks likely to chill private investment and see Victorian taxpayers carry the lion’s share of risk around new generation,” Ms McNamara said.




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