Eco News Q1 2022

In This Issue

  • Editorial:
    • Event of the Quarter            
    • History Repeats Itself in Europe
    • Fuel Poverty – QE Gets Involved
  • Forthcoming Events:
    • 22nd April – QE’s 2022 AGM
    • 4th May – Talk “Going Local for Clean Energy”
  • Recent Events:
    • Talk – “Electric Vehicles – Myth, Truth & Reality”
    • Project – Slowing the Flow in Bicknoller Combe
  • In Case You Missed It!:
    • A Narrowing Window for Action

Event of the Quarter:  Without question it is Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  It may seem strange that Eco News chooses a war as the eco event of the quarter.  Please read on, see the hope that it will accelerate the death knell of fossil fuels from one of the Planet’s largest suppliers.
To put that hope in perspective, Russia’s petroleum industry is one of the largest in the world.  It has the largest reserves and is the largest exporter of natural gas.It has the second largest coal reserves, the sixth largest oil reserves, and together with Saudi Arabia is one of the largest producers of oil.

The only doubt is – if the war ends early will the West’s commitment to reducing dependence on Russian fuel be eased, as relief is welcomed and it reverts to old habits?

History Repeats Itself in Europe:This Editorial has been written by Mike Davis, QE Trustee, member of its Executive Committee, and successful entrepreneur.
Yes, history repeats itself in Europe.  Will it lead to a greener future, unforeseen consequences or self preservation?

I am old enough to remember the height of the Cold War and the fear of nuclear Armageddon that seemed ever present. As the Berlin Wall fell and inclusive politics held sway, the voices arguing caution for ensuring food and fuel security were drowned out.  If history teaches us anything it is that lessons from recent history are easily forgotten by politicians in the West, until we are “surprised” again.

One hundred years ago the world had celebrated the end of the First World War, or those with money on the victor’s side did, whilst the Treaty of Versailles and the subsequent collapse of Germany laid the conditions for the rise of Hitler and the Second World War.  

The World has moved on in many ways, but human behaviour has not.  The parallels with the collapse of the USSR are there to see.  Globalisation was the answer to many of the world’s issues after 1945, but not all.  Indeed it could be argued that the unforeseen consequences have laid the foundations for humanities biggest challenge to date, our impact on the environment, climate and other species.  As well as inadvertently handing considerable power to authoritarian regimes.

Given escalating fuel and food prices the consequence of the war in Ukraine and emerging new Cold War will be a rapid policy lurch to ensuring food and fuel security.  Both could be good for the environment.  The long term answer to fuel security is harnessing natural ubiquitous resources and nuclear power.  The answer to food security is more production in the UK, less wastage and dare one say it, less choice in the shops.

It is hard to be optimistic when one watches the news.  If history runs true to form this crisis will pass, how it plays out and over what time period no one knows.  That does not downplay the human cost and suffering caused in Ukraine and around the World in so many different ways.  It will boost the urgency to remove fossil fuels in order to provide energy security for nations, as well as removing Putin’s financial ability to wage future wars, and that of other non enlightened despots. An emphasis on local sustainable food production and reduction in food waste will be an environmental benefit as well.

Technological advances as a consequence of war and conflict are well documented.  I hope that as humanity pulls itself back from the edge once more, that one unintended consequence of Putin’s aggression is an acceleration away from fossil fuels.  Britain is well positioned to lead the charge across many technologies.   

We must all use our voices and wallets where possible to promote the technologies which will allow us to remove our dependence on fossil fuels that predominantly come from countries whose regimes we would not wish to live under.  In so doing we can also do our bit for tackling the climate crisis.

Finally, there is a school of thought that real progress only occurs when there is a looming and clear deadline or problem that causes such discomfort that humans finally act.  I used to experience this every summer as exams loomed and panic took over.  Whilst this is not to be recommended, it is clear that pressure unlocks political decisions and enhances the ability to get things done.

The war and consequential fuel price shock being felt around the world may prove to be more of a catalyst for urgent change than all the COP conferences to date.

Fuel Poverty – QE Gets Involved:  Yes, for sometime now QE has been concerned by the fact that 12% of households in West Somerset, 11% in Sedgemoor, and 10% in Taunton Deane were in fuel poverty.  We know these regional statistics are old, as in 2019 the national average was 13.4%.  The current regional position may therefore be even worse.  Clearly this data will also be seriously affected, seriously increased, by the crisis created by Putin.

The factors which contribute to being in fuel poverty are a combination of the property’s energy efficiency, the cost of energy, and household disposable income. 

Our project strategy is in three phases:  the first of which is to concentrate only on those households considered the most needy before the recent increases in energy costs. 

It will deal with draught exclusion.  Draughts often account for a substantial proportion of heat loss (sometimes as much as 50%), and draught proofing is a simple, cost efficient, effective way to make homes warmer.  It is our intention to test our methodology with a pilot study of some 25 to 30 households. 

We shall work with three or four schools who can draw on households which are known to have the socio-economic profile and concerns that we need.  Danesfield School in Williton has already agreed to introduce us to 10 households.  We shall be inviting two more schools to join us.  Spark Somerset are working with us to find funding to finance the purchase of draught proofing materials from local suppliers.

It is an exciting project which meets QE’s objectives in that we shall be initiating an activity which not only has a social benefit, but will also lead to the promotion of sustainable lifestyles. 

Forthcoming Events
QE’s 2022 AGM:  This year we shall have a “hybrid” AGM, held partly Online and partly Live.  Last year it was all online.  Two weeks before the Live meeting the Trustees will send all members the relevant reports and resolutions by email. 
Members will be asked to vote on all aspects and return their wishes to us by email as soon as possible, and no later than two days before the Live meeting – April 20th. 

The results of the voting will be announced at the Live meeting which will be held in Bicknoller Village Hall on Friday 22nd April at 7 pm.

It will also be an opportunity for members to question Trustees about the past and future of QE.  After those formal proceedings, members will be invited to celebrate last year, and welcome 2022/23 with savoury snacks and drinks. 
This will be followed by excellent entertainment – the award-winning documentary, “Kiss the Ground”.  The solution is right under our feet!

A quorum of 15% is essential to proceed so please, a special request, even though you have completed Phase 1 online, please come to this too, and enjoy it.

Going Local for Clean Energy”:  This talk will be held at Crowcombe Village Hall on Friday,  4th May.  Doors open at 6:30 pm for a 7 o’clock start. 
The speaker will be Hugo Chandler, Director and co-founder of New Resource Partners.  Hugo has worked with renewable energy technologies for over 25 years.  His experience embraces working for the European Wind Energy Technology Association in Brussels and the International Energy Agency (IEA). 
He now leads the team developing the Liverpool Energy Exchange (LEX), a government-funded project to create the first UK marketplace for clean, renewable energy.
The talk will cover the transition from today’s centrally produced and distributed energy to passive consumers, to locally produced renewables where resource owners actively and effortlessly trade their clean energy surpluses on the LEX platform.

Recent Events
Talk – Electric Vehicles – Myth, Truth & Reality:  Mark Hodgson founder and MD of Co Cars, the car sharing business, based mainly on electric and hybrid vehicles in Devon, gave an excellent talk on “Electric Vehicles Myths, Truths and Reality” and how the use of EV vehicles is changing, partly driven by the costs of new technologies and Government policies.

He answered many questions on which technologies would win out in the long term and how the market will progress over the next decade or two.  Co Cars and Co Bikes will be coming to Taunton shortly, whilst Co Cars are also working with Plymouth Council to roll out there offering Plymouth this year.  

Spot car rental is set to grow dramatically in our towns and cities in the next ten years. Combined with technological changes, production costs dropping with increased take up of electric cars the speed of change is only likely to keep on accelerating. 

The demand for better and cheaper EV batteries is creating a new gold rush as university research teams, start-up companies and automakers delve into exciting new technologies and hurry to meet demand.  The goal is to develop improved EV batteries that charge faster, last longer while switching to less expensive and more environmentally-friendly materials.  For more see  

Project – Slowing the Flow in Bicknoller Combe:  The Bicknoller Combe catchment area is described as “flashy” by the experts, meaning that “its streamflow can increase considerably and has little restraint down a moderate gradient”.  In times of prolonged heavy rain, run off has resulted in localised drainage problems in the village at Dashwoods Lane. 

To help prevent this and do more for its “landscaping” remit, QE suggested that trees be planted in a couple of small specific areas in the combe to help reduce run-off, and that woody dams be installed to slow the flow of the stream. 

The project blossomed and a partnership was formed with the National Trust (the owners of the combe), Somerset Rivers Authority (who funded it), the AONB, FWAG, WWT, and Friends of Quantock, who after receiving the agreement of other key stakeholders (Natural England, the Commoners, the County Council and Bicknoller Parish Council) set about seeing it through.  

The possibility of growing trees by natural regeneration was discarded on the advice of the Commoners, and the scheme was concentrated on four leaky woody dams along the upper, non-wooded course of the combe stream. 
Leaky woody dams are a natural green flood management option.  The structures are made from logs and branches which mimic naturally fallen trees across a stream, and are built in such a way that fish (if there are any!) and gravel can move along the stream uninhibited. 

Their benefit comes after heavy rainfall events when the streamflow rises. They restrict, and slow the flow of water which lowers and lengthens the peak flow further downstream, allowing the water time to flow away without rising too quickly and causing streams to break their banks and result in flooding.

The logs used to build the four dams in Bicknoller Combe were sourced from trees at the lower end of the combe that had been blown over, or were in need of safety pollarding. 

They were hauled up the combe by traditional low impact Ardennes heavy horsepower.  In fact the whole operation has been a no-emission exercise.

Hauling the Logs – Kate and Ardennes Working Horse “Sol”

It is clear that a few seasons will have to pass before the intended effects of the dams can be seen.  Please do not expect an overnight slowing of the flow!

Maintenance will of course be required when dams cease to be leaky or are in danger of collapse.  The responsibility for this maintenance has been assumed by the National Trust and the AONB. 

QE invites walkers from our local communities to engage with them and help by alerting us on email if they think that a dam looks as if it has ceased to be leaky and needs maintenance. 

There is little doubt that the main thrust in making the project a reality has come from a joint WWT/FWAG SW/AONB team using funding from the Somerset Rivers Authority. 

Milly, Ross & Bill Building Woody Dam 1
Dam 2 built

QE is especially grateful to Milly Bowden (FWAG) and Iain Porter (Quantock Hills AONB Manager as from 1st April) who have played significant roles in the project’s realisation.

In Case You Missed It

A Narrowing Window for Action:  The last IPCC report was published in Berlin on 28th February saying “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction, it shows that climate change is a grave threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

For more see

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