Green house gas

IssueMay 2007
Comment by Jeff Cloves

One statement Noam Chomsky made in his interview in PN's April issue struck me forcibly: “[Iran] is independent and independence is not tolerated [by the United States]”.
It's an interesting concept, independence, and I take it for granted that independence of thought and action is common to PN readers. But enough flattery.
Chomsky's interview made me think again about self-sufficiency. The desirability of using alternative sources of energy to counter climate change is obvious enough but another aspect is the prospect of avoiding dependence on the global network of power suppliers. The interdependence of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons is incentive enough.

Our house

To get personal, Dee and I are currently engaged on a project to make our house -- Edwardian, brick cavity walls, some double glazing, gas-fired central heating -- more green.
Easier said than done and not helped much -- despite their environment-friendly posturing -- by central and local government.
For example, five years ago Stroud District Council made grants available for cavity wall insulation. We applied and were provided with the names of two approved specialists. The first never replied to our queries at all but the second eventually sent a surveyor who told us, incredibly, that our house was too close to our neighbours for foam filling to be practicable so how about dry granulated filling?
It involved, he admitted, considerable drilling inside the house and consequent damage but it could be done. We had several visits, much discussion about the whys and wherefores, but never got a quote or possible starting date.
In fact, we were banished and, before we could pursue the matter elsewhere, the grants died up.

Our mum

Around this time, mum (now 93 and past Aldermaston marcher and embracer of the base) sold her bungalow and moved in with us.
Meantime our roof had reached the end of its life and its replacement was more pressing than cavity insulation. It was a source of considerable heat loss -- no roofing felt even -- so it was insulated properly before the original/second-hand slates went back on.
It was an expensive job -- currently there are no grants for roof or cavity insulation -- but mum's bungalow money made it possible. How many would-be greeners can afford to be even eau de nile?

Our castle and our keep

On 5 Feb this year we wrote to the District Council (copy to “Planning”, copy to “Conservation”) saying that we were considering mounting a wind turbine on our house and using voltaic cells or solar panels on the roof. What advice or help was available, was there any financial aid for such a project and what were the planning implications?
By the second week in April we'd still not had a reply and had to make an angry phone call before I got any response: no explanation or apology was forthcoming. At least, however, somebody somewhere was taking us seriously and we're now have a variety of alternative energy hares to chase.
We've also learned that the District Council can help with a contribution of £500 towards any renewable technology installation. This money comes under the WISE Home grant but readers may remember that our Government's much-vaunted low carbon building grants have recently been the victim of some financial sleight of hand and may no longer be available. Chomsky's words about “independence” came back to haunt us.
Still, things are happening in Stroud and a recent co-housing development right in the heart of the town has a wind turbine making a clear statement of intent high up on its roof.
Elsewhere all manner of personal initiatives are afoot and, via this column, I hope to keep you posted as to our green progress or lack of. Advice and encouragement from readers will be most welcome.

Topics: Green
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