Quite pretty really....

Quite pretty really....

We’re in a recession. Fair enough. Businesses will go bust and that is the way of the world, sad though that is. Different businesses ones will spring up to replace them. However, one closed yesterday which on top of the tragedy of 400 lost jobs in Wales, it could have an enormous impact on the environment.

Anglesey Aluminium, which opened 40 years ago, announced in August that it would cease smelting work, where the raw materials are heated up to create aluminium. The UK government had offered a £48m rescue package over four years but this was rejected by the plant’s owners because it was “not enough to break even”.

But Aluminium demand is on the rise, so the smelting will be done, but elsewhere in the world.

Energy GenerationSo what you ask? Well, the kicker is that plant on the outskirts of Holyhead, used 12% of the total electricity in Wales. Yes, that is not a misprint, 12% of the total electricity supply of a whole country. For one plant. Crikey.

Now this electricty has to come from somewhere, and AA has been pretty much linked to the nuclear power station at Wylfa, 14 miles away. One of the main issues was that it was due to be decommissioned, and other options were more expensive.

Estimates give the consumption of the plant as about 2,200 Million Kwh per year. Or if it came from the normal UK grid (at 544g/kwh), a footprint of 1.2 million tonnes of CO2. However, its from Nuclear, and the best research available (http://www.world-nuclear.org/education/comparativeco2.html) quotes the g/kwh figure as 16g/kwh. So the footprint of the plant is more like 35,000 tonnes of CO2, just 3% of a non-nuclear power source.

So what happens when the slack in Aluminium production is taken up by India or China and fueled by a gas or coal? Well, the table below (using UK figures which are probably very optimistic) shows Anglesey Aluminium’s closure is likely to cause between 750,000 and 2,000,000 tonnes of extra CO2 in the atmosphere every year.

Makes you think doesn’t it?The impact

2008 Mclaren F1 CarLet’s compare an F1 car to a typical car in the UK which produces about 160 g/km, and over a year (10,000 miles) will produce about 2.56 tonnes of CO2.

According to Wikipedia a typical F1 burns 75 litres of fuel per 100km raced. Based on figures for petrol (which is a reasonable proxy of race fuel), 0.75 litres of fuel burnt per km equates to a CO2 output of 1737 g/km. And over a race season using approx 100,000 litres of the stuff, that’s 231 tonnes of CO2. Per car. And each team has 2. So for fuel alone, before the costs of flying to races, support vehicles and the number of cows required to furnish Max Mosley’s “special” wardrobe, that’s about 463 tonnes per team. I wonder if they carbon offset?

At least they’re becoming hybrids for the 2009 season…

Speed-bump, road hump, speed ramp or sleeping policemen. Let’s face it by any name they are the bane of urban driving (unless of course you make your living selling replacement shock absorbers). They’re a hassle, damage cars and cause urbanites to drive otherwise unnecessary 4x4s (in my experience anyway). Yes, average speeds are reduced, but so is your attention of what’s up ahead as you’re trying not to clout your exhaust on that unnecessary piece of road calming. Other complaints made against them are that they slow down emergency services (endangering lives), they are particularly unhealthy for people with back or neck pain and create noise for local residents.

Speed Humps

Speed Humps

But I can add another one, that they’re giving the poor Polar Bears an early bath. Yup, that speed bump round the corner on Mornington Close is directly responsible for the increasing popularity of bear-centric swimming lessons at the North Pole. So let me tell you how….

The AA (Automobile Association) did a bit of research on fuel consumption for cars at the Millbrook Proving Ground and found that a typical mid-size car running at a constant 30 mph did 58 mpg. However a car slowing down and speeding up for speed bumps only did 31 mpg. Put that into carbon figures* for a petrol car** and you get 113 g/km of CO2 at a constant 30mph, or 211 g/km over speed bumps. So a kilometer of road with speed bumps creates an extra 0.1kg of CO2 for every single car that travels it.

For argument’s sake, lets say this km of road has on a average a car going each way down it every minute during the day and night***. In a year, that means a single stretch of road creates an extra 103 tonnes of unnecessary CO2 per year. We’re making estimates here, but if that km of road has 10 of the UK’s estimated 100,000 speed humps, then speed bumps in Britain are responsible for a colossal 1.03 million tonnes of CO2 per year. That’s about the same as the total carbon footprint of the 830,000 residents of Fiji, or almost twice that of Greenland. Ouch.



You can console yourself that as a UK taxpayer, based on the estimate that 50 standard humps on three or four connecting residential streets costs about £150,000. So the UK speed hump population cost us £300 million pounds. Which is about what Newcastle United would cost you if you wondered up to St James’ Park with a really big chequebook this morning.

*Clear research

** A diesel car is actually worse with 128 v 240 g/km

*** More in the day and less at night of course

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