South Beds FoE Homepage

Green Corner




An A-Z of the environment & issues

by Peter Hatswell



A  B  C  D

E  F  G  H  I  J

K  L  M  N  O  P

Q  R   S   T   U   V

W  X  Y  Z

E is for energy

To most of us this means our willingness to work or play but in the strict scientific world it measures the effort required to cause mechanical movement (work) or to generate heat which is simply the excitation of molecules.

Energy is the cornerstone of thermodynamics, the Laws of Thermodynamics being famously parodied in the song of the same name by Flanders & Swann – “Work is Heat and Heat is Work” being the First Law and “You can’t pass Heat from a Cooler to a Hotter” showing that the universe would come to an end if there were no more heat (Second Law).


All our energy comes directly or indirectly from chemical or nuclear reactions and it is the rate of these reactions that gives us the power to drive machinery or heating to keep us warm. Coal is the main provider in the UK being turned into heat by the combustion reaction with oxygen, boiling water to produce steam to drive turbines and alternators for our power supply. This complicated process has heavy losses - nearly 2/3 of the heat is thrown away in power station cooling towers and the smoke from the coal produces gases which are toxic and contain the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. We must stop wasting energy and polluting the Earth in this way.


At the Bishop of St Albans Conference on 13 July, designed to take the first steps in reducing the energy footprint of churches in England, clergy, churchwardens and others were shown the methods that could be used including free heat from geothermal sources (St Mary, Welwyn) solar power and wind turbines, energy savings from better insulation, micro heat & power, blowing warm air down from roof level, double glazing etc. Many of these are costly and would be most difficult to install in a listed building but, as a first step, we could nominate an electricity supplier who promises to provide power from ‘green’ sources.

Other measures might require a consensus based on heating/lighting needs against appearance but the traditional East-West alignment of many churches and a sloping South roof is absolutely perfect for solar panels!


But now for something really controversial...

Why do the energy supply companies give a discount to those who use most of a finite and rapidly reducing resource?

Surely it should be the other way round and those who use the least, (and pollute the least) should be rewarded by the lowest rates.


Friends of the Earth