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How Westminster Politicians Could Help the UK Environment, post-Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Bet You Didn’t Know that Half the World’s Oxygen is Produced by Microscopic Phytoplankton that Live in the Top 6-feet of the World’s Oceans…

It’s true. A simple Google search provides hundreds of reputable sources to prove that assertion.

Anyway, the phytoplankton eat tonnes of CO2 every day and release tonnes of oxygen into the atmosphere 24/7/365. More oxygen is produced during warm and sunny days when the plankton can better utilize the heat and light from the Sun to turn CO2 into life-giving oxygen.

But what’s that got to do with the UK environment you ask?

Not much really — other than half of the oxygen in the air you breathe is produced by trillions of tiny organisms living in the sea, and without them, life as we know it on planet Earth couldn’t exist.

We need oxygen; The plankton need CO2. See how it’s all woven together?

And somehow, even with humans definitely NOT HELPING the phytoplankton and the zooplankton by dumping billions of tonnes of liquid and solid pollution into the seas in recent decades, an almost perfect balance has continued on the planet for billions of years — although the total number of square miles of plankton in the world’s oceans has decreased correspondingly over the past century.

So, we might not be able to do much about the number of microscopic organisms in the world’s oceans that eat CO2 and thereby produce 50% of the world’s oxygen, but we can do something about the non-plankton oxygen producers (trees and grasses) in the UK.


Where Does the Other Half of the World’s Oxygen Come From?

The other half of the Earth’s oxygen is produced by trees and grasses, along with relatively small amounts of oxygen released during volcanic eruptions.

Think about it. If all the plankton in the world’s oceans were to suddenly die from excessive pollution — all the land-based oxygen producing plant life in the world plus all oxygen releasing volcanoes in the world — wouldn’t be enough to sustain life on Earth for very long.

A sobering thought.

However, that shouldn’t stop UK politicians from creating the necessary legislation to require planting 100-million trees per year in the UK to help cleanse CO2 from the air, nor should it stop them from creating legislation that requires ships heavier than 20-tonnes to run on battery or hydrogen power whenever they’re operating within the UK’s 12-mile maritime zone.

Indeed, some jurisdictions already have such legislation, while some require ships to shut off their engines and hook-up to (much cleaner) shore power while tied-up at dock.

It’s not that hard to write and pass sensible environmental legislation, and the proof is that some jurisdictions already have such legislation.


Planting 1-Billion Trees over 10-Years & Legislating Clean Propulsion Use Within UK Maritime Areas & Mandatory ‘Shore Power’ for Ships in Port is the Morally Right Thing to Do

Yes, it sounds a bit hard. But if the UK doesn’t do it, human health and the environment will suffer as compared to not doing those things.

Would it solve 100% of the UK’s air quality problems? Not even close.

But it would make a measurable difference in UK air quality and work to lower the personal cost of respiratory illness, reduce the cost of lost productivity to businesses due to employee respiratory illness, and allow lower NHS respiratory illness spending — especially in regions near the country’s ports. If done aggressively, it could even help the economy.

And even if, in the worst-case scenario, that 10-years-on under such a clean air act — that UK air quality improved by (only) 30% and respiratory-illness-related productivity losses fell by (only) 30% and NHS respiratory healthcare budgets fell by (only) 30%, we’re still talking major savings and a success story that any government would be pleased to brag about in future elections and at each significant milestone along the way.

Creating the necessary legislation to plant 1-billion trees over 10-years, to require all ships to use a method of clean propulsion while in UK waters, and to require ships to plug-in to (cleaner) shore power while in port, are the low-hanging fruit on the way to meeting the UK’s clean air targets, to helping citizens live healthier lives, and to lower NHS spending on respiratory illness.

It’s a complete no-brainer that UK politicians should pass such legislation in early 2020.


Related Articles:

  • UK needs to plant 1.5 billion trees to tackle climate change (The Independent)
  • Tree-planting in England falls 71% short of government target (The Guardian)
  • General election 2019: How many trees can you plant? (BBC)
  • UK Tree planting: Your questions answered (BBC)
  • Shore Power a Modest Step Toward Cleaner Air (BCSEA)
  • Shore power lacks global investment, tax exemptions (JOC)
  • Air pollution ‘kills 40,000 a year’ in the UK, says report (NHS)
  • NHS announces air pollution ’emergency’ as study shows our dirty air is killing us (The Telegraph)

Boosting Britain’s GDP 5% in three easy steps

by John Brian Shannon | October 18, 2016

Opportunities as big as the sky abound regarding UK exports to developing nations that need everything, and needed it yesterday.

India with 1.5 billion people now and 2.2 billion by 2025, need massive upgrades to their electrical grid. Although India has made great strides in recent years, some 400 million people living in rural areas of the country have never had electricity.

Britain - ready to export electrical grid expertise

Is Britain ready to export electricity grid expertise and grid components to India’s 400 million citizens who have never had electricity in their homes? Such opportunity with real benefits for both nations!

Filling that need over the next two decades will cost hundreds of billions of dollars (if the Americans do it) but that begs the question Why leave it to the U.S.A. alone?

Such an opportunity represents hundreds of billions pounds sterling if the UK takes on part of that project — with significant opportunities to earn revenue by financing such projects — financing which are likely to be guaranteed via some combination of Indian government bonds, World Bank funding, and IMF loans.

Not only that, of course. India has a growing middle class with real purchasing power that want to purchase quality cars and trucks, housewares, electronics, and just about any product manufactured in the UK.

Further, Indian corporations need access to world class financing and market exposure afforded by the London financial sector, and some of the world’s preeminent legal and architectural firms have an obvious role in helping India to become all that it can and should be.

GCC kingdoms are always searching for evermore high-end warplanes and civilian jetliners, and they are always quick with the money. And, especially nice, no bickering when it comes time to pay the bill.

The GCC has transformed in recent years due to massive expansion in the formerly sleepy fishing villages of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ras Al Khaimah — turning them into thriving financial centres, replete with stunning architecture and residential communities.

In fact, some of the most famous buildings in the world are located in those three cities and were designed by world class architects based in London, engineered by the most advanced engineering firms in the world, along with a host of other services such as project management, financing and property management, many London-based.

In the GCC, it isn’t about whether they have the money, because they sure do. It’s about having a presence and being there to meet opportunities as they arise.

In places like Dubai, major projects are envisioned, mooted, and completed in less than four years. Which is about the amount of time it takes to get just a simple development proposal permit approved in some cities. The message there is; Don’t nap, or you’ll miss it.

Brazil. The country’s formerly strong economy has taken some shocks in recent years. Both economic and political shocks have caused damage to the Brazilian economy, but that also presents many opportunities for investor groups. Huge Brazilian conglomerates that are barely holding together for now could be a real bargain for investors with sterling to spare.

What is great about commodity based economies is that when the price rises, it doesn’t get any sweeter. And when commodity prices are low, it’s almost always a good time to buy stock in those companies, or just buy the whole company.

Sugar from Sugarcane – and Biofuel Made from Sugarcane

Companies like Cosan and Raizen have the advantage of selling their sugarcane in two very different markets.

If the price of sugar is high, then the twice-yearly sugarcane crop gets sold as sugar commodity, or as finished sugar product at the retail level.

But when sugar prices drop, those same corporations simply sell their sugarcane to the huge biofuel market in Brazil, where 92.9% of Brazil’s cars run on a minimum 22% biofuel blend (E20) as mandated by Brazilian law, with many cars burning 100% biofuel (E100) which significantly lowers vehicle emissions and respiratory related healthcare spending across Brazil’s largest cities.

Britain - International Trade. Image courtesy of Raízen.

Raízen, the joint biofuel venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan Ltd. is the 3rd-largest energy company in Brazil. Image courtesy of Raízen.

“A life cycle assessment by the Yale School of Forestry on jatropha, one source of potential biofuels, estimated using it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85% if former agro-pastoral land is used — or increase emissions by up to 60% if natural woodland is converted to use.

In addition, biofuels do not contain sulfur compounds and thus do not emit sulfur dioxide.”  — Wikipedia Aviation Biofuel

Aviation Biofuels

With global aviation accounting for 2% of total anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2 emissions, now is the time for Britain to legislate 50/50 blends of biofuel and conventionally sourced petroleum aviation fuel. Many airlines are already doing exactly that. Notably, the US Navy is doing the same as part of it’s Great Green Fleet programme. Biofuels can also help to moderate jet fuel costs when conventional fuels skyrocket due to wild price swings.

By switching commercial aircraft to 50% biofuel blends, aviation related CO2 emissions would drop by half and respiratory illness healthcare spending would drop by billions.

Summary

What makes these three opportunities so tantalizing are the sheer numbers; India with 2.2 billion consumers by 2025, the GCC nations with their unquenchable thirst for the trappings of a wealthy society, and Brazil for it’s commodities, especially the sugar/biofuel synergy with the opportunity to cut global aviation emissions by half.

With the right vision, the right approach by the British government, and some dedicated effort and follow-up by HM government, it should prove to be a cakewalk to grow the British economy 5% by 2021 (separate from already planned growth) on the strength of those three opportunities alone.


Related Articles:

Read: Sweetening The Biofuel Sector: The History of Sugarcane Ethanol in Brazil

Read: Sugar-Cane Fuel Wins in Brazil as Cheap Ethanol Beats Gasoline

Read: Shell and Cosan invest $1 billion to boost Brazilian biofuels