There is no Planet B: Mike Berners-Lee
A Handbook for the Make or Break Years – Cambridge Univ. Press
Judith Allinson writes
If this book, launched in March 2019 is as good and useful as MBL’s first book “How Bad are Bananas?” then it will be worth reading every page of it. So I am doing just that and writing, in this post, points that hit me . Send me your ideas too. (See also There is No Planet B Website) And if you live near Settle, N Yorks, come to this talk:
Page 1 – a
For the past 50 years the (energy) growth rate has averaged 2.4% a year, more than tripling in total over that time.
For the century before that it was more like 1 percent.
Page 1 – b
Around 100 years ago, in the first World War, we couldn’t have smashed the whole place up even if we had tried.
By 50 years ago , with nuclear energy especially, it became clear that we could could totally mess things up if we made big enough blunders.
Today we don’t have to blunder at all; if we don’t try hard enough NOT to we will wreck the whole environment. And 50 years into the future?
The Rebound Effect: What is the catch with energy efficiency? It goes hand in hand with an even greater demand for whatever the energy is used for. This is the Rebound Effect (See p. 258 of Mike’s book). So we need strong policies to keep fossil fuel in the ground
How can we fly in a low carbon world? It takes about 20kg of premium lithium ion battery to carry as much energy as there is in a single kg of jet fuel. Planes would be too heavy to fly.
But using stored electricity as energy is 2.5 times more efficient than burning fossil fuel to produce motion.
Easyjet is trying to design an build electric planes to be used within ten years for short haul flights. Lithium, cobalt, copper and other elements may soon be in short supply and limit development.
Comparing photosynthesis and solar panels: Through photosynthesis, plants can capture between 1 and 2 Percent of the sun’s energy that falls on them. Cheap solar panel capture 16 % and expensive ones capture 22%. Perhaps one day we will have solar panels that capture 40%.
How many travel miles can we get from 1 sq m of land?
Mike Berners-Lee points out that biofuels are a very inefficient way of using the sun’s energy: In the section “HOW MANY TRAVEL MILES CAN WE GET FROM A SQUARE METER OF LAND?” He compares how many miles one can travel in a year if one square meter of land is used to provide the energy, either by being used for solar panels (PV) or by being used for growing biofuel (wheat or willow):
(This is for panels in California – the figures in our country for PV solar panels would only be 2/3 this.)
Source of power Number of miles travelled for 1 sq m of land per year
Electric bike (PV) : 21,243
Nissan Leaf Electric Car (PV): 1,081
Bicycle (Wheat bread powered): 45
Walking (bread powered): 22
biodeisel train (Wheat powered) 5 passenger miles
Biofuel car: (Willow powered) 5
Horse riding (wheat powered) 3
Biofuel car (wheat powered) 1
Click here for the link to these ideas explained in easy reading.
If biodiesel comes from wheat, 1 sq metre of land will only provide enough to drive a car for 1 mle.
To provide enough wheat for a person’s calorific needs for one day will only power a car for 2.7 miles.
p.79 “We could see biofuel for the rich becoming more profitable than providing essential food for the poor and we could see yet more natural habitats trashed in exchange for monocultures.”