Letters: We must learn to conserve energy


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I agree with Nick Reeves (letters, 15 December) that "energy-efficiency measures" can help meet our energy needs. But, if fracking is given the go-ahead, we can lessen the adverse consequences by reconsidering our energy strategy and incorporating more energy conservation.

Until we can rely on "cleaner" production systems it is probable that conventional technologies will be used for some time.

Unfortunately, a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics is that electricity generation from the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels has a finite efficiency. Coal- and oil-fuelled electricity generation has a typical thermal efficiency of 33 per cent.

When transmission losses and the energy necessary to build, operate and maintain the plant are taken into consideration conversion efficiency is some 25 per cent (for every one unit of electrical energy at the socket we need to burn nearly four units of fuel at the power station).

Modern, combined cycle gas-fuelled generation can achieve a thermal efficiency of 56 to 60 per cent, which, allowing for production and transmission losses, results in a net conversion efficiency of about 50 per cent.

Significant increases in overall efficiency can be achieved only when electricity generation is coupled with District Heating schemes, which utilise the exhaust heat from combustion to supply space and process heating. This will result in less electricity being needed, less fuel burnt and less pollution emitted.

It is vital that new power stations are smaller integrated ones built close to and in conjunction with housing schemes and industrial estates.

Dr David Bartlett

Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Shahriyar Saeb-Noori (letters, 18 December) makes a valid point about the cheap energy prices that would supposedly come through large-scale fracking.

I have always believed that a basic tenet of capitalism is that manufacturers/producers and suppliers/retailers charge prices that the market will bear, what they feel the customers are prepared to pay. Because the energy suppliers in this country form the "Big Six", they would ignore the anguish caused to millions of customers by their prices and assume the customers are prepared to pay those prices, although customers have no choice. Regardless of how much gas was released by fracking, in no time energy prices would soon be back to their fuel-poverty levels.

It would be a tragic irony if despoiling our countryside and causing untold damage to water supplies simply led to fat cats getting even fatter.

Peter Henderson

Worthing, West Sussex

It seems to me that Nick Reeves misses the point. Concern for the environment is a factor until it clashes with the opportunity to make vast amounts of money. When that happens, money wins every time.

George Osborne will doubtless be looking for his share in tax revenue. And his friends, wealthy millionaire investors, will be buying into companies that are happy to rape the environment in pursuit of profit.

R Havenhand

Nantwich, Cheshire

DWP makes no effort to be contacted easily

Having read MP John Healey's letter (20 December) regarding the DWP's premium-rate phone lines, may I add another dimension? My son holds enduring power of attorney for his 93-year-old grandmother who has severe dementia and has been in permanent residential care since August 2011.

He is responsible for all her financial affairs, which include having to sort out her benefit entitlement. The DWP phone- lines are open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. He goes to work at 7am and returns home at 7pm so cannot talk to the DWP during the day.

Trying to get through to, let alone trying to have any meaningful discussion with some person at the other end of the phone, is not to be recommended during a half-hour lunch break. Consequently, he has had to ask for time off work specifically to attend to his grandmother's benefit problems.

If, on the other hand, there has been an overpayment of benefit by the DWP for any reason, the DWP Debt Management Agency is open 8.30am to 9.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 4pm Saturday.

It is good to know that the DWP know exactly where their priorities lie.

Frances Hall

Macclesfield, Cheshire

The real birth of United Kingdom

David Wilkie (letters, 14 December) asserts that the UK was created by the Acts of Union 1707 and as such would cease to exist upon Scottish secession.

In fact, it was the Acts of Union 1801 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 that created the United Kingdom. The Acts of Union 1707 created Great Britain. The term "United Kingdom" was used informally in the 18th century but was not the name of the sovereign state until 1801.

As Irish independence did not dissolve, but merely adjusted the UK, Scottish secession would be similar. In any case, the best authority on membership status of the EU is the EU.

Nick Saunders


Violence reigned before videos

I disagree with Rod Raso (letters, 17 December). In November 1963, President John Kennedy was shot dead, ditto Malcolm X in 1965, ditto Civll Rights leader Martin Luther King in April 1968, ditto US Senator and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in June 1968, Alabama Governor and presidential candidate George Wallace shot and disabled for life in May 1972, President Gerald Ford shot at in September 1975, former Beatle John Lennon shot dead in December 1980, President Ronald Reagan shot and seriously wounded in March 1981, machinegun bullets fired at the White House in 1994.

Even the Boomtown Rats' "I don't like Mondays" was based on a fatal US school shooting in the 1970s, all before the advent of violent video games. Need I say more, except damn the National Rifle Association?

Dominic Shelmerdine

London W8

When Congress recently took action against commercials that roar above normal broadcast volume, they showed that they are willing to impose standards on the media for the good of the public.

Now they need to impose standards that would limit the amount of coverage that the media gives to mass murderers so that atrocities like the recent school shootings are not seen as an avenue toward fame and notoriety.

Even our overblown and sensationalistic sports broadcasts will cut away from the field when a spectator runs out and interrupts the game, and certainly the safety of our streets and schools deserves no less consideration.

Joseph Carducci

Pittsburgh, Pennsylviania, USA

My husband's American aunt has recently remarried. She has decided to buy her new husband a gun for Christmas, to add to his collection. It would seem that only the British contingent of the family find this somewhat bizarre, more so in the light of the recent shootings.

Dr Elaine Venables


Anyone who says guns don't kill, people do, is just being foolish. Guns enable them to do it more efficiently, surely?

Ramji R Abinashi

Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Prison works. Bank on it

Your leading article about the desirability of sending dishonest bankers to prison (20 December) absolutely hits the nail on the head. That no criminally dishonest individual has been prosecuted as a result of the Libor scandal, is itself a scandal.

Voltaire famously remarked that in this country it was found useful to shoot an admiral from time to time "pour encourager les autres". Change that to imprisoning a banker from time to time and the effect would, I suggest, encourage all of us.

A C Bolger

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Union chiefs fight for non-members

Trade union leaders do fight hard to protect the employment rights of workers who are not union members ("Bob Crow should be fighting for all workers", 19 December), a difficult task in the face of governments like the present one. Extending union membership would strengthen their hand in the workplace on behalf of a wider range of employees, which explains why so many employers use underhand tactics to discourage union activities.

Nigel Wilkins

London SW7

True perks

It is wrong to refer to the fuel allowance, bus pass, and free TV licence as "universal" (letters, 21 December); nobody under 60 has ever received them. Most people below the poverty level are also below 60. These benefits are not a legal entitlement based on one's National Insurance contribution record, as is the state pension.

Alan Pavelin

Chislehurst, Kent

'Ello, 'ello, 'ello

Thirty police officers to investigate who said what to whom in Downing Street, £2m to find why the BBC didn't broadcast a programme? Am I missing the point or is the world going bonkers?

David Carr

Houghton le Spring, Tyne & Wear

It looks as if 2013 is going to be a good year for young criminals without Twitter accounts. All our police will soon be tied up investigating crimes against people with a media presence or crimes by those who are decrepit or dead.

Trevor Pateman


Meet the numpties

Darren Senders (letters, 19 December) says those who deny climate change should not be called sceptics. He is right. A genuine sceptic has beliefs based on reason and critical thinking, and is prepared to change his/her mind if the evidence justifies it. Those who deny climate change cannot claim any of these and should be referred to as numpties.

Jo Selwood


A BBC mystery

Amid all the talk about BBC management's lack of engagement with major issues, one wonders just what it is that these senior directors and executives actually do?

Peter McKenna