Print Cartridges

The Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany is a fascinating place and well worth a visit.

It is a testament to our devotion to books and the printed word. As well as housing many of the city library’s rare and historic volumes, including two Gutenberg Bibles from the 15th century, the museum displays a wide collection of printing presses from the earliest times to the modern day.

When Johanes Gutenberg worked to build the first printing press, could he have foreseen the impact his invention would have on society, culture and democracy? Some 600 years on, we take for granted the fact that printers can churn out newspapers, cookery books, novels and, of course, Bibles at the touch of a button.

Perhaps more surprising to Gutenberg would be the fact that nowadays many households have a computer printer for when people working from home need a ‘hard copy’ of some document or other. They are, in comparison to earlier models, ridiculously cheap to buy. The real cost is in the printer cartridges. 

Am I the only one to eke out the printer ink for as long as possible, printing documents that get paler and more ghostly with every sheet of paper? That’s because a new set of printer cartridges can cost almost as much at the printer itself. But I’m not here to complain about the price of printer inks and cartridges. I’m here to highlight the fact that printer cartridges are part of the circular economy, assuming that people do their bit to complete this virtuous circle.

All you need to replace your printer cartridges and send the old ones back for recycling.

With every new printer cartridge, you receive a special envelope in which to return your empty cartridge to the manufacturer for recycling. This only works, however, if you actually put the old cartridge in the envelope, seal it and put it in a post box. On this occasion, I did recycle the cartridges but my photo of putting the white envelope into the post box on a sunny day was a washout, sorry.

Recycling cartridges will reduce their cost in the long term and stop such valuable items going to landfill. Our lives are full of opportunities to complete the circle in the circular economy. Be alert to them and do your bit.

The Colours of Hydrogen

Grey, Blue or Green; what’s your favourite colour?

Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant atom in the universe, accounting for about 88% of all atoms. It is a vital atom; hydrogen is burnt in the core of our Sun, providing us with ample light and warmth for life on Earth.

Despite its abundance, hydrogen is very difficult to produce in its pure form; all those pesky hydrogen atoms keep wanting to combine with other atoms and molecules. For example, in combination with oxygen it forms water, another vital part of life on our planet.

You might have heard that Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland is getting serious about a new hydrogen economy. The idea certainly has a lot of potential. Hydrogen can be used as a very clean and climate-friendly alternative for fossil fuels including transport, domestic and commercial heating, batteries for long-term storage of mains power, energy intensive industries such as steel making, turbines for electrical power, even as a substitute fuel for jet engines. So, hydrogen has a lot going for it.

 The controversy comes when you consider how best to produce the hydrogen. There are three methods of making hydrogen, corresponding to the three colours: grey, blue and green.

Grey Hydrogen

The most popular, and the cheapest, method of producing pure hydrogen is through a process called steam reforming. This is usually done at a chemical plant, applying vast amounts of steam to natural gas (methane) or some other hydrocarbon fuel. The result is, more or less, pure hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Rather than try to explain all the whys and wherefores of the process, I’m going to refer you to the excellent team at Real Engineering on YouTube:

Blue Hydrogen

This method of producing hydrogen is, put simply, the Grey Hydrogen method but the carbon dioxide is captured as part of the process and put back (sequestered) into the ground. This process is an example of Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS). Note that this method has not yet been demonstrated anywhere at a scale sufficient to make a difference. You may have heard of the Acorn project here in NE Scotland; this is an attempt to demonstrate the method by returning small quantities of carbon dioxide into exhausted offshore reservoirs under the North Sea. Again, the demonstration will not capture sufficient carbon dioxide to make a significant impact. The earliest demonstration of Acorn will be in 2024. As you can imagine, the cost of Blue Hydrogen is still unknown since it relies on unproven technology.

Green Hydrogen

This method relies on the process of electrolysis. It involves passing an electric current through water which separates the two atoms, hydrogen and oxygen. Each can be captured separately and used in other industrial processes. Note that no carbon dioxide is released in the process so carbon capture is not needed. At this time, Green Hydrogen is a very simple and proven process but relatively expensive compared to Grey Hydrogen. The main expense comes from the cost of electricity. The power industry is exploring ways of routing ‘surplus’ renewable electricity (wind, solar, hydro) to electrolysis plants; such electricity would be very cheap. The economics of this are uncertain and would require careful consideration.

As a Climate Action group, ACA supports the development of Green Hydrogen as the most sustainable option in the long term. I’ve no doubt we will return to this topic again.


My old man said: “Foller the van,
And don’t dilly-dally on the way”.
Off went the van wiv me ‘ome packed in it.
I walked be’ind wiv me owd cock linnet.

(This song about a couple moving home to escape paying the rent should be sung with a genuine cockney accent)

The job of a carrier has been with us for generations and is likely to be around for a good while yet. From flitting families to online shopping deliveries, vans are essential to our way of life. And they are a perfect market for electric vehicles.

Delivery companies and other carriers know the typical daily mileage of their vehicles and what ‘range’ they can reasonably cover before refuelling. One such company is UPS. It has recently announced a strategic decision to move its local delivery vans to 100% electric. Furthermore, it has placed an order with a start-up UK manufacturer, ARRIVAL, for 10,000 electric delivery vans. Yes, that’s right: ten thousand electric delivery vans.

The best way to explain what’s going on is to view this video clip from the ‘Fully Charged’ show:

Who would not appreciate delivery of their parcels on a clean, quiet and zero-emission van?

UPS is not the only parcels company moving into this space. The Royal Mail already has almost 300 electric vans in operation, mainly in English cities. And another big parcels carrier, DPD, is beginning trials of electric vehicles. The Volta Zero is the world’s first purpose-built full-electric 16-tonne vehicle designed for inner-city freight deliveries, reducing the environmental impact of freight deliveries in city centres and eliminating an estimated 180,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2025.

The vehicle will be tested by DPD within London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone at the beginning of 2021, supporting their micro-depot strategy. See the link below:

DPD Volta Trucks

Momentum is with electric vehicles. At the moment the economics of EVs are a stretch for many people but they already make sense to hard-nosed company financial directors. The lifetime cost of ownership for EVs is better than for combustion engines, and you get the kudos of being ‘clean, green and sustainable’ for free. What’s not to like?

By the end of the decade, petrol vehicles will have gone the way of another cockney favourite, Del Boy’s Reliant Regal from ‘Only Fools and Horses’:


“I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.”

Which would you rather believe; a book about anti-gravity or ‘Roadmap 2035 (A Blueprint for Net Zero)’ from Oil and Gas UK? Both ask the reader to suspend disbelief.

The North Sea industry is in the grip of a deadly vice. It has driven down costs to what would have seemed unimaginable a few years ago and yet they are still the highest in the world. The oil price has recently collapsed, as it does every few years, but this time it looks different.

At around $42 per barrel the price of oil and gas is down in the doldrums but the more the price tries to return to a level of profitability, the less competitive North Sea oil and gas are.

Over a series of blogs we will examine a lot of products from the North Sea starting with electricity from gas-fired power stations.

Oil and gas producers have spent so long competing with each other (usually on cost) that they have missed the serious competition; renewable wind, solar and hydro-electric. Together with industrial battery systems, these technologies are making oil and gas increasingly expensive for power production.

Power can now be bought from a renewables market that has a twenty-year record of reducing costs. And this trend appears to show no signs of stopping. Being no longer economic, all coal-fired power stations in the UK will have shut down by the middle of this decade. Recent UK government annual statistics have highlighted the performance of renewables that provided a record 37.1% of the UK’s electricity in 2019, up from 33.1% in 2018, with wind power playing a major role.

Let’s be clear about this. The National Grid does not prefer renewable energy because it’s ‘green’; it prefers it because it’s the cheapest in the market.

Yes, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine but industrial-strength batteries are already being deployed and are transforming the electricity sector. These batteries capture surplus electricity from the grid and hold it until demand exceeds supply. Then their speed of switching back online is within seconds, ensuring continuity of supply.

To add to the problems for the North Sea, the old reservoirs are depleting rapidly and any new ones being discovered tend to be uneconomically small, highly-fractured or otherwise awkward to exploit. And when a company eventually decides to shut down a reservoir and its platform, there is a large cost to decommissioning, typically in tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds.

No wonder that the oil and gas industry is disappointing the investment community. Over the past 10 years, returns for oil and gas stocks have been feeble in comparison to the overall stock market. Discerning investors are avoiding fossil fuel stocks not because it’s ethical but because it’s a smarter thing to do.

How can you take advantage of cheap renewable energy? Buy your electricity from a 100% renewable supplier, of course. Check out the ‘Energy’ section of this website to see the choices for your renewable electricity provider.

Finally, do you know where your pension and savings are invested? Do you read the literature from your financial provider? Are you exposed to fossil fuel stocks? If divestment from fossil fuels seems a little too radical for you, have you considered ESG investment? I know, that was too many questions. ESG investment is the management of funds according to Ethical, Social and Governance principles. A competent financial adviser would be able to offer you this choice (after thoroughly advising you on all aspects first).

Now, where’s that book I couldn’t put down?



Direct Action: What, Why, Who and How

Climate Cafe, 6 August 2019.

Who must act to tackle climate change? All of us. When? Right now. Why? Because there is no more time for waiting for plans or solutions. Climate change is happening now. Millions of living beings are currently suffering or dying because of climate change. We need to engage with our community to have a broader impact with our voice and actions. But how to act? Well, this was one of the questions discussed at the Climate Cafe in August. Aberdeen Climate Action gathered activists from different organizations who shared their perspectives about direct action. There were speakers from Faslane Peace Camp, the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and Extinction Rebellion Aberdeenshire.

Direct action comprises of a wide array of different tactics and actions. Using historical examples, Fiona Napier, showed us the impact and importance of some of the biggest examples of direct action and how different actions interact with each other: it is how all of these combine, which leads to success. The common characteristic of all though has been to raise awareness, gathering people, drawing attention and having an impact through the media leading to action from those in power. Gillian Siddons spoke on her ideas about wealth creation and invited us all to think about the foundations of our society. Paul Matter, Extinction Rebellion, reiterated the need to have direct action taken with love and respect at the very heart of it and spoke about the XR way and their ‘near’ future plans for action, which we were all invited to join in with. 

While it is clear that it was felt by all that our governments have not taken sufficient action on climate change, it was emphasized that everyone should be involved in this matter. As citizens, we can encourage the government to take public actions, nonetheless, it is not an exclusive matter of the government, it is about individual behaviour. All of us are facing climate change, so all of us need to act now.

This cafe was a passionate one, where the public discussed the actions already taken, and the actions needed still to be taken. Although there was a variety of perspectives on how to take direct action, there was a consensus about why and who needs to take action on the climate. This is about climate action, a matter that concerns everyone, so that everyone needs to act. To find out more on how you can live sustainably visit our sustainable Aberdeen website: and keep appraised of actions in our local area on the Aberdeen Climate Action facebook page.


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Is it time to get rid of the family car?

We dispensed with the family car three years ago and I’ve never regretted it. We are a family of four: two adults and two primary school children and we found we were able to walk or cycle to most of the places we wanted to go. We are lucky to live in Aberdeen where there’s a fantastic car club, a good bus service, and it’s reasonably flat which makes it good for cycling, although the cycling infrastructure could be better.

The best thing about not owning a car is you’re not tempted to use it for short trips that don’t require a car. It’s too easy to form bad habits and drive 300m up the road when there’s a car sitting in the garage. I know because I used to do that. Now I walk or cycle and get exercise for free. I use the word free in a non-monetary sense: it’s exercise without having to find the time to do it because it happens as a consequence of going from A to B. We’re also producing less pollution which is good for air quality and have lowered our greenhouse gas emissions. Even better, we’re saving money as we no longer have car-related expenses like petrol, depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and MOTs.

One huge cost of car ownership which is often ignored is the space needed to park the millions of privately-owned vehicles. Each parking space is 2m x 5m which is 10m2. Multiply this number by the 31 million cars in the UK and that’s 310 million square metres of land set aside just to park cars. This doesn’t includes all the roads and motorways needed to move them around. It’s an enormous amount of space. Imagine if that space was instead reserved for people, for parks, for trees, or for homes.

Living car-free is liberating. You’ll spend more time outdoors talking to people. You’ll also never have to vacuum the inside of a car ever again. It’s worth it just for that.