362 - September snippets | Scoins.net | DJS

362 - September snippets

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Back in 344, May snippets, I commented upon the proposal to demand voter registration. This week a piece from Angela Rayner in the Guardian prompts a review of that situation I largely agree with Angela Rayner that it is a solution for a non-problem and therefore its purpose is something much darker. I want to see declarations from other parties to repeal it at the first opportunity.     

§362.1 Elections Bill 2021

I wrote here more about the forthcoming Elections bill, that already referred to in the page on the Queen's speech. I've added a Guardian article from Angela Rayner (not my favourite person) who mostly writes agreeable content on this occasion. Thus we have Elections Bill, 2021


§362.2 Non-fungicide I explored the idea of non-fungible tokens as it applies to classes of art, including music.


I connect that general tone with another Guardian article [2] from yesterday; John Harris compares the attitudes of the devolved parliaments with that of England and points to a general feeling of incompetence at (over, with regard to) the English national government. What there is of it, that is. Time, say I yet again, for that to be devolved.  I cannot help but also contrast the English attitude with those of Australia and New Zealand, both of whom have locked borders—even from each other. How this perception of incompetence fuels the independence of Scots and the likely result if a referendum was imminent, is only one example of the possible consequences. England, the narrative goes, is dominated by reckless Conservative politicians who habitually lead their country into mishap and disaster, while the UK’s smaller nations emphasise caution, responsibility and, to use a phrase once beloved of Tony Blair and his followers, “what works”. [3]

[2]  https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/sep/04/no-10-ignoring-coronavirus-advice-say-scotland-and-wales 

[3]  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/05/boris-johnson-incompetence-uk-westminster-normality

[4]   https://www.thenational.scot/news/17936347.scottish-tories-laugh-pms-salmond-sturgeon-fish-jokes/

DJS 20210906

Noticed by the boss, that Sturgeon and Salmond are fish, certainly to the ear. Surprised not to have caught comic humour based on this. But I found I'm ten years too late and then found [4] which is simply cringeworthy. I was better off missing this.


Trying to update my satnav, my lack of faith in institutions has risen to the point at which, instead of viewing the great delay in any update occurring as an issue to do with poor quality cables, I prefer to believe that TomTom has deliberately added delay to all updates so as to raise and encourage the idea that replacement of the satnav with the new improved model is a worthy action. It took two hours to update the spouse's TomTom, and mine, which is much older, has so far taken more than six hours. 

The solution involved three changes: 

•  turning off all the security on the machine I was using, my 'big' one; 

•  realising that the system preferences allows me to look directly at the state of the satnav connection, and so shown not a cable issue at all; 

•  swapping to the laptop instead of the desktop showed that there never had been an issue with cables or satnav or update. 

But, while the desktop's security was turned off, some pernicious attack occurred and so I lost a load of updates on the back-up; 60-70 webpages simply disappeared from the desktop machine. Most of them are already posted so I am able to download the files from the website so that I can upload them all over again at the next update. Of course, I'm now (even more) paranoid about backups, especially w.r.t. the website, which is now quite large. 

Wrong: what happened was that I loaded the not-current version of the website, somehow swapping the file that was open probably with an accidental keyboard shortcut, so what I have been doing is, in effect, the update of the back-up file I have promised myself would occur.

Lesson learned: paranoia doesn't help. I have been making mistakes of late (driving, too) and it appears I need to pay a bit more attention to what I am doing. I blame the pandemic; my life is good, but pretty empty.


I have written too much to no good effect about the current government's (failed and failing) attitudes to equality. This, 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/16/tax-rises-austerity-social-care, does a better job.

After you have read that, have a quick look at the impact assessment referenced. Quite clearly there is a case for Care Insurance, §9-17. There are several hidden issues: that any policy be sustainable in the long term; that an awfully large amount of money will go into the admin (of means testing, one suspects) rather than into care or prevention of care; having a cap on care costs implies that those with advantage get to keep that and, by implication to pass it on within the family. I did not find the data that supported the argument that the result of the care package as proposed (and therefore likely to be passed) will affect only a small, 100,000, number of people. Try here, which says “around 150,000 people will be directly benefiting at any one point in time”.  I'm afraid I believe very little of what the gov't says, and I think that the tax rises will not end up going to address the problems they are claimed to be directed at. I think we need a wealth tax, even though that would probably hit me too. First, I'd want to see NatIns spread so that it hits the wealthy (properly, is how I think of it); I follow the arguments that show that the very rich get to stay very rich after they've passed on, and I'm no more in agreement with that than the rules about perpetual copyright.


Lancashire Fire Service went through their records and showed that half of all domestic fires (accidental house fires) were kitchen fires caused by distraction (kids, phones, etc). Their message was "Stay there and cook it". 119 of them in 2020 out of 386 cooking related accidental fires.  Group Manager Kirsty McCreesh, the Prevention lead for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service explains more; “Our data shows that cooking fires can happen to anyone, they are the most common type of fires in people’s homes that we attend and we want to see the number significantly reduced and an end to injuries. There are plenty of simple things that people can do to drastically reduce the chance that they will have a cooking fire and these include staying with cooking, not getting distracted and keeping the hob and surrounding area clean and clear. Make sure that you have working smoke alarms and, should a fire occur, get out, stay out and call us out.”


Cabinet reshuffle 2021 (one in 2020) moves Raab to Justice (displacing Jenrick, who falls out of favour), which I see as demotion; Gove to local government, which might be a clever move all round. Liz Truss becomes Foreign Secretary from Trade; Dowden becomes the man with no portfolio. Barclay takes the Duchy job that Gove had. The new Ed Sec is Nadhim Zahawi. Unfortunately that leaves Sunak, Javid and Patel in place — and BoJo, of course.

Robert Bickland is ousted to make a space for Raab and (I think he) will be back in a future role. Amanda Milling, previously party co-chair, is gone, replaced by Dowden, who in turn is replaced by Nadine Dorries, a new cabinet face. I'd not heard of her or Milling until today.

Gavin Williamson gone (yippee! What happened to the other accident-prone (or fall guy) idiot, Chris Grayling?).  Grayling was appointed to a £100,000-per-annum 7-hour-per-week job advising the British Virgin Islands domiciled Hutchison Port Holdings Limited "on its environmental strategy and its engagement with local enterprise bodies".[137]  "Chris Grayling to advise ports operator in £100,000 role"BBC News. 17 September 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.  I think that is quite disgusting, but then I think MPs should not have other roles while in post. Among other ideas, the attraction of gravy should move them out of post.  One notes that Tigger (Matt Hancock) is not reinstated.

Michael Gove's position needs understanding. In effect he becomes Monster (typo, but it's staying) for Levelling-Up. He's no longer in the Cabinet Office, no longer Duchy of Lancaster but he is still the liaison with the devolved governments. This could be a role he grows into rapidly. While he is easy to hate, he does get stuff done.

One posting I dislike is the perpetuation of the culture war over the BBC (Nadine Dorries, above). Public service broadcasting should be independent and seen to be so, not a government mouthpiece. Moves to turn it into one should be fought tooth and nail.


Letter from the Guardian includes the line THE INTERNET HAS REALLY CHANGED JOURNALISM.   
Perhaps the biggest change of all over these past 25 years is the sudden, overwhelming availability of information. As more and more facets of life are quantified, measured, digitised and stored, there is a vast ocean of numbers so rich in stories that it can be hard to know where to begin, or what subject to investigate: rioting patterns and restaurant cleanlinessmillennial income and money launderingpopulism and pollution

“Data as news is here to stay. And, take it from me, you don’t necessarily need to be a numbers person to do it.” 

...or in Covid victims. One obvious dataset that tells a story all of its own is the numbers of unvaccinated adults who are dying after being infected by the virus. The latest UK data shows that the vast majority of people dying with Covid have not been vaccinated - even though they are now a small minority of the population. 

From the linked piece,  people who were fully vaccinated accounted for just 1.2% of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England in the first seven months of this year.  That could usefully have some unravelling, since some deaths were of people who had a single dose and some had had their second, but not long enough for that to have had effect. Evidence then, that the vaccine is not perfect, but then we were told that up front. The plain count, deaths of the unvaccinated between 02Jan and 02July of 2021, 38964/51281 = 76%. Deaths of the fully vaccinated, (640), 1.2%. That leaves 11677 in the grey area between these extremes, which is because we were pursuing getting people jabbed just as quickly as we could.

There are about 1 million over-60s who are not fully vaccinated, he pointed out. Only two-thirds of black over-50s have been vaccinated compared with more than 9 in 10 white over-50s. People are four times more likely to not be fully vaccinated if they live in the most deprived areas, compared with those living in the least deprived areas.


Because of the jump in wholesale gas, essay 367, we have a jump in wholesale electricity price  which in turn hits the very big users of energy and of gas. This includes steel mills and large chemical plant. One such is the production of fertiliser; a by-product of fertiliser manufacture is food-quality CO. BBC explainer. But we use that CO in volume and all of a sudden we've lost 60% of our supply. This is not merely a UK problem, since the economic arguments, including why one would close a fertiliser plant, apply across Europe and probably wider still. Solutions include subsidising CF industries, who have closed their fertiliser plant because it's not cost-effective. Supply is dependent on fertiliser demand—emphasis here, the food CO is a by-product (from the production of ammonia and bioethanol) not the target product—and so we might well see that this demand is perhaps going to reduce as a climate change action. 

the drivers of supply are unconnected to the drivers of demand.  [15]

You would think that since CO is the declared problem feature in climate change, that abstracting it for any excuse at all would be a Good Thing. No doubt it is access to the gas in sufficient concentration that makes it cost-effective in the uses being fussed over at the moment.

The production of ammonia does burn the natural gas; it uses the methane. Steam and methane plus oxygen makes N₂H and then ammonia, NH₃, while giving off CO₂  in quantity. Production of ethanol  is simple fermentation, in which CO₂ is given off, followed by distillation. CO₂ is a low value product, only £15m a year wholesale; it is difficult and expensive both to store and to transport, which means that the supply chain is short because it cannot be stored long. It is widely used but, in effect, we allow it to be cheap and at all times treat it as a waste product. That is no surprise, but we really should value the quality we demand — or change that demand significantly. The UK is one of the largest users, a fifth of Europe's total and around 600 kilotonnes a year. That 600kt is 60% from fertiliser manufacture (ammonia), 20% from bioethanol and 20% imported.

Yes, there is food grade gas.  99.9% pure for food and beverage.  Source and table. That's FDO (USA) rules and I found it difficult to find the equivalent UK regulation. I think it might be 99% with the Food Standards Agency.

This has happened before, and here is the report, [15].  A surprisingly good read.

I wonder how much the price has to change before small scale fermentation like a brewery finds it cost-effective to capture and re-use its own CO  [15 p12] says that the use of CO within a brewery os far more than they seem to generate, that they are net consumers not net generators. I find that a surprise. The mass use is in the bottling / kegging processes. I suspect that the need here is for local generation close to the point of use.

Given the magnitude of the fuss in 2021, one must wonder how much notice was taken of the 2018 report. One fine point I picked up at the foot of the report referred to Drax power station, switching over from coal to biomass and (mess of reporting sorted out) that the pilot scheme is producing a tonne of CO a day, while the next scale up should raise this to 100t/day , which is 8% of the Billingham plant, 400kt a year. See [16], which suggests full scale capture will be a really large amount of CO captured,10 kt/day.  One wonders what 'capture and store' of CO means; I found application for licence to store it in 'empty' oilwells in the North Sea. 

There's more to discover here in capturing the gas from biomass generation. I need the demand for information to rise, or for proper professional press people to ring up the suppliers and ask. 

I observe that we 're not at a point where the gas stays captured yet; we seem to have ways of stealing it from incomplete combustion as in biomass generation at Drax and Ince. Holding this in a tank, given the proven difficulties in any form of long-term storage, is not a solution. “Over the next 5-10 years, there will be lots of developments where clusters of CO producers will have to come together in different locations to provide hubs, which can then take the CO via pipelines to the North Sea for storage in geological features, mainly depleted oil wells.” Prof Chris Rayner, Leeds U Chem Dept, [19]. When it is in a hole in the ground and shown that it is going to stay there, that is 'captured'. Until then, we must continue to add up what that costs. I'm not at all saying we shouldn't do it, but we need to recognise cost in both Joules and currency.

DJS 20210921

[15]   https://www.global-counsel.com/sites/default/files/Falling%2520flat%2520lessons%2520from%2520the%25202018%2520UK%2520CO2%2520shortage.pdf

[16] https://www.drax.com/sustainability/carbon-emissions/towards-carbon-negative/     .....our move away from coal (937 tCO / GWh), to biomass (120 tCO  / GWh) and hydro (0 tCO / GWh).  Drax Power Staton is now the largest single site generator of renewable power in the UK, producing 14.1 TWh in 2020. By 2030 we must: Have two biomass units operating with BECCS running at 90% availability, capturing and storing eight million tonnes of CO a year

[17] https://www.drax.com/press_release/world-first-co2-beccs-ccus/  says they use C-Capture at Drax. I suspect that they have found ways to capture a load of other stuff at the same time, so without processing, the CO is captured but nowhere near food grade in terms of purity. That doesn't mean no food grade gas is produced. 

[18] Ince Biomass https://bioenergyinfrastructure.co.uk/news-article/ince-biomass-plant-chosen-as-site-for-innovative-carbon-capture-technology-project-at-protos-in-northwest/  are users of C-Capture. No: will be users of....  to capture over 7,000 tonnes of carbon every year. That's not CO₂.

[19] https://www.c-capture.co.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/energy-industry-times.pdf  

This is [...] a two-step process. The first stage has an absorber column, where a shower of the new amine-free solvent comes down the column while the flue gas is blown upwards. When the solvent comes into contact with the flue gas, it selectively reacts with the CO2, leaving the remaining gases to continue upwards to exit the top of the column free of CO2. Solvent with CO2 attached to it remains at the bottom of the column. This is then pumped into a stripper column that operates at a much higher temperature, around 100-120°C, compared to 20-30°C in the first. At this temperature, the bond between the solvent and the CO2 breaks and the CO2 comes out of the stripper column as a pure stream that can be used or sequestered. This stripper column also serves to regenerate the solvent, so that “lean” solvent is ready to capture more CO2.

So quality CO is a likely product. What has not happened is scaling up, neither at Drax nor Ince.

Buried in the detail of [19] is a discussion of energy costs, 1.5-2 GJ/t, where amine processes are up round 2.5 GJ/t. It confirms that the pilot project is producing 1 t/day 




Why would people choose to move into known areas of wildfire? Here's the long version of that they do it, but why?

I wonder if this is yet another version of relative risk. I'll bet that the thinking stems from 'lightning doesn't strike twice', that a fire that has happened won't happen again there (because the wood is burnt) and that, because of the fire, there is 'more' space available at a lower price than wherever they're moving from. Maybe the people moving disregard fire risk altogether; if so that shows a marked lack of regard for the where it is they think they're moving to – a lack of homework, indeed.

I am not convinced that the figures are understood because the piece relates (often) 2021 figures to those of 2020 without looking at earlier trends or baselines. Short-termism extreme. Clearly one aspect of the climate change crisis coupled with the pandemic has caused people to want to live more 'in the country'; on the other hand, given that wildfire has been so prevalent in 2020, the US losing a whole 1% of its forest (ref other pages here), I wonder if they're underestimating the risk of fire versus whatever other risks they think they are succeeding in avoiding. Maybe they see opportunity in the rebuild?

Megafire is colliding with America’s demand for cheaper housing near the great outdoors, and the pandemic sharply accelerated that costly trend. In an investigation, Bloomberg CityLab found that during the first year of Covid-19, the number of U.S. households moving into areas with a recent wildfire history jumped 21% from the previous year. Meanwhile, areas without a recent wildfire history saw household moves decline by 15%. My colleague Marie Patino and I analyzed U.S. change-of-address patterns from March 2020 to February 2021 to see how they fit into wildfire perimeters over the last 11 years. All over the country, we saw that the pandemic sped up an ongoing exodus into the “wildland urban interface,” or WUI — the edge between highly developed communities and the highly flammable wilderness — including in areas that have recently burned. In this map, the bigger the red dot, the greater the number of Covid-era household moves into census tracts that have been touched by wildfire since 2010.

“These are places that have burned and will burn again and despite that — despite the very visible indication of that in many cases — people are still moving,” said Kimiko Barrett, a researcher of community wildfire planning and policy at Headwaters Economics, a think tank. These places include remote worker hotspots such as Boise, where new development is pushing further into the wilderness. It also includes Paradise, California, the city that was virtually obliterated by the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 86 people. Experts thought that level of destruction would put a damper on migration trends into the WUI. But it didn’t, and Paradise is now drawing residents back: In the first year of Covid, some 650 more households moved into the area than in the year prior.

People have different motivations for these moves. One common thread is pure economics: Americans can get more space for less in communities far from denser urban centers.  The fact that few people seem to weigh fire risk very heavily is perhaps surprising. Part of it has to do with a lack of information such as wildfire risk disclosures for home sales, and a lack of regulation around where development can occur. But there’s also another simple explanation: “People tend to value the amenities of a home more than the risks it might carry.” said Jesse Keenan, a Tulane University professor of real estate.

America’s Covid-era flight towards the flammable wilderness is part of a much longer-term pattern of growth in the wildland urban interface. But as climate change makes wildfires more frequent, destructive and harder to predict, the cost of the country’s appetite for roomy housing near the wilderness will rise. In 2020, wildfires damaged nearly 17,700 structures, leaving insurers with $7 billion to $13 billion in claims in four of the most fire-prone states. This year that trend is expected to continue. 


international shipping is one of the world’s worst industries. Its carbon footprint is equal to the whole of Germany. Source, second paragraph. Shipping emissions can be calculated using four principal factors: the weight of products transported, the distance they’re sent, the amount of fuel it takes to move one tonne of products one kilometre, and the amount of carbon released by making and using that fuel – known as the fuel’s carbon-intensity.

Here are ten areas to look at: 

1. Reduce the amount of fuel needed for shipping by transporting less stuff simply don't move a lot of unnecessary stuff 2. …over shorter distances and 3. …at slower speeds.

4. Retrofit ships so they use less fuel by simply being more efficient. Which retrofitting includes 5. Make use of the wind… Flettner motors and kite sailss for example;  6. …and “shore-power” which means not sitting in harbour running generators.

Changes that are in prospect include: 7. Carbon accounting which would caue a change in fuel choices, 8. Carbon taxes, which currently do not exist in the shipping industry (they're not in national waters so tax does not apply); 9. Green policymaking such as  zero-emission vessels ; and 10. Stronger framework amounting to international agreement to reduce this component of our collective pollution. That amounts to a genuine international agreement.

This could be added to Essay 358, but at the moment I prefer it here as a pointer.


Additions made to essay 308 on cancel culture.

Additions made to essay 246 on happiness



Winter of discontent. 

Associated issue, poor housing stock.



20211116 in the Guardian, where I'm delighted to see the Long Read resurface, this https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/nov/16/reconstruction-after-covid-votes-for-children-age-six-david-runciman?utm_source=eml&utm_medium=emlf&utm_campaign=MK_SU_SOINewsletterCanvas&utm_term=Email_RC_UK&utm_content=variantA ] describes a suggestion to lower the voting age by a lot. For headline-grabbing purposes, to the age of six.  In the hope of encouraging you to read it for yourself, here are some comments snipped:

• we are heavily divided, not least by age.  It was assumed that elections kept going against younger voters’ interests because they failed to show up at the polls. Now it’s as plausible to argue that they fail to show up because elections keep going against their interests. We  are also divided by geography as the young voters congregate in metropolitan areas, causing where they left to be more likely blue.

• the pandemic has highlighted generational imbalances without doing anything to resolve them.

• The reason the over-60s outnumber the under-40s at the polls is not because they represent a higher portion of the overall population. They don’t. The median age in the UK is 40.4, which means there are almost as many people under 40 as there are older than that. The over-60s, though far more numerous than they used to be even a generation ago, are still only a minority of the total. But democracy does not work like that. There is no cutoff at the top end, so that the over-60s includes the increasing number of people in their 70s, 80s and above. But we do exclude anyone under the age of 18 (or 16 in Scotland) from full democratic citizenship, including the right to vote. Which to me simply says that use of the median to make a statement is misleading, the age range should have been of potential voters.

• Why do we not permit children to vote? Interesting argument. I found little with which to agree, though. We could have tests for enfranchisement, but that conflicts with our cpncept of democracy ('one man, one vote' with a much longer list of exceptions) but it might serve to balance the very elderly against the very young. I see disenfranchisement as a very bad idea, but at the same time if you say I'm not fit to vote at 80+ and at 18-, I'd disagree at both ends. I viewed the right to vote at 18 as other rights; we don't look to put cessation of such things and that is really what this argument becomes.

I don't think the issue is with whether children could vote sensibly, I think it is more that it woudl be very difficult to prevent undue influence. But then I think that is the case for those in care, too. Children tend to act en masse, trying to conform; but then there is overwhelming social science evidence that all voters, old and young, educated and uneducated, make their political choices on the basis of loyalties, identities and forms of peer pressure that often have little or nothing to do with politics, and certainly are far removed from the political issues that are the focus of high-level debate. 

..and so on. Why not have voting as a right for all? I disapprove of the whole idea that having a baby would give one an extra vote, but then I'm strongly for reduced population already.

On the plus side, the under18s would vote overwhelmingly for climate-positive action.

Further reading: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/give-children-the-vote-9781350196308/ On Democratrizing Democracy, John Wall, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 9781350196308. 


This webpage https://theconversation.com/chinas-retail-revolution-innovations-which-could-change-the-way-the-world-shops-169480?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2018%202021%20-%202119520978&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2018%202021%20-%202119520978+CID_12a2d343c9dee41c13046bee607f4762&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=five%20concepts  looks at changes to shopping as demonstrated by changes observed in China. As ever with The Con I find that they have not lived up to their promoted mantra of academic rigour mated with journalistic flair. No mooted idea is followed up with supporting detail, so that what results is as much fluff as from any other site, even though apparently authored by academics. That suggests to me that the push at university to have something (anything) in print is displacing the rigour demanded when they publish papers in the academic press – and I'd like that accessible too. The issue of massive profits to publishers of academic work isa problem that needs to be properly addressed.

Mark Greeven of IMD says that there are five concepts to watch for: lifestyle commerce, merging on and offline, social commerce, celebrity selling and invisible selling. These have three things in common; First, they involve e-commerce platforms, third-party payment, express delivery and social media. So those nations already moving in this direction will see change sooner, obviously. Second, all of these retail concepts are responses to emerging consumer needs, which can be better satisfied with digital technology. In practice these concept would respond rapidly to change in needs. Third, all of these developments rely heavily on sophisticated algorithms and data analysis. At, one assumes, some cost to data privacy, something we often surrender in order to do business online.


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