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Paul Mobbs &
Mobbs' Environmental Investigations –

Work Archive –
Themes Index:

Energy and Environment

I've worked primarily with community groups for many years – mostly in the UK, but also in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. The materials produced from that work have relevance not just to the people who commissioned them, but many other communities too. For that reason I maintain an on-line archive of my work.

For details of the licensing restrictions on using these resources, see the Copyright and Sharing page.

Work Archive:
'Themes' Index




Media Coverage









Ecological Limits













Video and Audio

The 'Energy and Environment' theme covers my work around nit just energy, but the links between energy and human sustainability. Energy is at the root of the human system, defining both how economic, social and technical systems function. In the pursuit of ecological sustainability, the issue of energy and environment is at the core of the matters which we must address.

More than any other, energy has been the issue at the heart of my work for the last thirty years – be that nuclear issues, resource depletion and peak oil, or investigating pollution. Ultimately it's the use of energy and resource by society that characterizes society's ecological footprint.

The work below covers a wide range of issues – from fracking to uranium resources.

The 'Energy and Environment' Theme

inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – The gaping hole in the middle of the Circular Economy'


Listening to Radio 4 this morning I heard the two juxtaposed keywords that I've learned to dread over the last couple of the years; 'circular economy'. It's a great idea, and I can't fault the true belief of those promoting it. My problem is that the way they describe it has little to do with the physical realities of the world, and hence it's really just a 'get out of hell free' card for affluent consumers.

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inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'For all its faults, 'fracking' is not the issue here...'


Approaching my tenth year of research on unconventional oil and gas in Britain, it has become clear that the true struggle has little to do with regulations, or technology, or the pursuit of fossil fuels, and everything to do with the failure of our national political dialogue.

file icon read the 'Musings' article
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inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Methane clathrate – the last desperate hope of the fossil fuels industry'


"Extreme Energy" is a term which encompasses many different forms of 'unconventional' energy resources. From fracking, to tar sands, to some types of renewable energy which take more energy and carbon to produce than they save, these 'extreme' energy sources represent the last hope of the global energy corporations. Why this is so tells a much greater truth about the global commitment to address the issue of climate change.

file icon read the 'Musings' article
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file icon download the A3 poster version
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inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Conservatives Planning 'Frackageddon' After Election'


Very few electors read manifestos, let alone debate the detail of them. That's a pity, as it might change the nature of the tired debates we see at every election. For this week's general election, the Conservative Party's manifesto outlines a sharp break in British planning and environmental policy of a scale not seen since the 1980s. Ostensibly their aim is to make 'fracking' require more exacting regulation. That sounds really great in theory. In practice it depends what your legal definition of 'fracking' is.

file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
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inc image Ecolonomics no.17: The 'Fracking' Election – Why the 2017 UK General Election is a ground-breaking test of British environmental policy


I have been researching the issue of unconventional gas and oil in the UK since 2009 – shortly after the Government's 13th On-shore Licensing Round awarded many of the petroleum exploration and production licences (PEDLs) which are being drilled around Britain right now. Over that time the Government has steadily 'lost control' of the issue by a combination of public resistance, industry failure in the US and elsewhere, and changing economics. Today though, the response to the inherent problems of the Government's oil and gas policy represents not only an unprecedented twist in this long saga, but also an unprecedented break in UK environmental and town planning policy. What the Conservatives propose in their election manifesto is to make the development of on-shore oil and gas, below the criteria of what constitutes a 'major' operation in The Infrastructure Act 2015, "permitted development". It's important to unpack this seemingly subtle change to understand its true impact – and why it is so significant.

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file icon South East PEDLs/contituencies map
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file icon South West PEDLs/contituencies map
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inc image Whitehall's 'Fracking' Science Failure: How the Government has misled Parliament and the public on the climate change impacts of shale oil and gas development in Britain – A report for Talk Fracking


This report seeks to explain how the debate over the gaseous emissions from 'fracking', and their impacts on climate change, has changed over the last few years – and precisely why that debate is critical to how the Whitehall Government has justified, and promoted, onshore oil and gas extraction in Britain.

file icon Original Paul Mobbs/MEI research report
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file icon Talk Fracking's published version
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file icon A3 poster summarising the report
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inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Whitehall's 'Fracking' Science Failure – How the Government has misled Parliament and the public on the climate change impacts of shale oil and gas development in Britain'


As the Conservative Manifesto portends a planning 'free for all' for shale gas, Talk Fracking launches its new report demonstrating the flaws in the Government's case on fracking and climate change. Research published over the last 18 months, outlined in Talk Fracking's new report, questions the accuracy of the data used in the Mackay-Stone report. As a result of this new information Whitehall's scientific case has arguably collapsed.

file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
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inc image Ecolonomics no.16: What, is peak oil dead? Then show me the body! (of statistical evidence)

May 2015

A decade ago my first 'solo' book, 'Energy Beyond Oil', was published. The text examined peak oil theory, but more widely the issue of ecological limits and energy and resource depletion. In some respects the content was prophetic; between then and now we've had record high oil prices, followed by an economic recession. What the book didn't foresee was the rise of 'unconventional fossil fuels'. In the wake of the economic crash, "fracking" and other forms of 'extreme' energy production were hailed by some as a saviour – liberating society from the 'limits to growth' mentality which was implicit within peak oil theory. This message had a strong resonance with the pundits who, around the same time, were dismissing the basis of peak oil theory, and ecological limits generally. Now, in 2015 – as Boëthius' consolatory history wheel turns full circle – on the back of fracking's collapse has the statistical evidence for 'peak oil' finally become apparent?

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inc image "Less" (is a Four Letter Word) – Economics, Ecological Limits and Politics


These are the slides from the 'new, improved' "Less is a Four-Letter Word" presentation. This version looks more towards the contradictions between the biophysical and conventional economic view of the world – and how the increasing prescience of the 'Limits to Growth' reports portends a future where existing economic rules become more dysfunctional.

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inc image Beyond Fracking: the next steps in the 'extreme energy' debate in Britain


These are the slides for the 'Beyond Fracking' presentation, outlining the issues and uninvestigated problems behind the UK Government's fracking agenda.

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inc image The Environmental Risks of 'Fracking' – A submission to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry

December 2014

A submission to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry into the environmental impacts of 'fracking'

file icon The Environmental Risks of 'Fracking'
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inc image Extreme Energy and Climate: A critical review of the UK Government's policy on unconventional fossil fuels and climate change

May 2014

This report provides a critical analysis of the evidence supporting Government's recent policy announcements on the issue of 'extreme energy' sources (tight oil and gas, shale gas, coalbed methane and underground coal gasification) in the UK – and the implications that the development of these energy sources may have on climate change. In addition the spreadsheet used to analyse the Mackay-Stone results is available as a native LibreOffice (ODS) file and an exported MS Excel file (XSLX).

file icon Extreme Energy and Climate report
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file icon Mackay-Stone review analysis (LibreOffice Calc file)
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file icon Mackay-Stone review analysis (MS Excel XML file)
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inc image A critical review of Public Health England's report – "Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction – draft for comment"

April 2014

This report provides a critical analysis of the report produced by Public Health England (PHE) on 31st October 2013 – "Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction – draft for comment".

file icon A critical review of Public Health England's report
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inc image A response to DECC's public consultation on the 14th On-shore Oil and Gas Licensing Round's Strategic Environmental Appraisal

March 2014

This report provides a comprehensive review of the Department of Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) Strategic Environmental Appraisal (SEA) of the 14th On-shore Oil and Gas Licensing Round. It has been produced as part of the public consultation on the SEA, and is intended to provide a technical evaluation of the SEA in the light of the latest global evidence on the impacts of unconventional gas developments. The report has been produced in support of various individuals and small groups around Britain who are concerned by the Government's push to develop various types of extreme energy developments. The specific purpose behind the drafting of this report has been to highlight the areas where the Government's viewpoint/data departs from the growing body of evidence regarding the impacts of unconventional gas technologies.

file icon A response to DECC's 14th Round SEA
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inc image Shale Gas: An Analysis of UK Policy and Cuadrilla Resources Exploration Activities in Lancashire

January 2012

In July I attended the trial of protesters who occupied Cuadrilla Resources drilling rig at Banks near Preston to give evidence on shale gas development in Lancashire. Due to delays with the case coming to court, whilst I wrote this report in January 2012 I couldn't release the text until after the conclusion of the trial. The report looks at shale gas/fracking developments in Lancashire, and the regulatory problems that surround the activities of Cuadrilla and other companies in England and Wales (Scotland takes a slightly different regulatory view of these processes).

file icon Shale Gas in Lancashire report
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inc image Jam Tomorrow: Unconventional Gas and Britain's Energy Future


These are the slides from my 2012 presentation/discussion on shale gas, coal-bed methane, gas "fracking" and the future of Britain's energy economy.

file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
1.7 megabytes

inc image Ecolonomics no.13: Hype, hearsay and hyperbolæ – shale gas and the UK energy economy


Out of the house, onto a bus and away to a distant hill; I've run off for the day to escape my work, but it seems to have followed me. I took the first out-of-town bus to arrive at the bus station; not caring where it went, just wanting to quickly go to the countryside so I could walk home again. Disembarking at Farthinghoe, a small village between Banbury and Brackley, I get out my sheaf of local maps and arrange them to idle my way home. Whilst doing so I find that I'm "in the zone" – an area currently under review for the licensing of oil and gas production using the hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", method.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E11: Fracking and Coalbed Methane – Unconventional gas in the UK

October 2011

When gas fracking and other "unconventional" energy resources are discussed in the media the focus is usually on the technology used to produced the energy, or the impact this might have on the environment. In fact, the significant feature of the exploitation of unconventional energy resources is that our present energy situation is so precarious that companies and governments consider these valid energy sources; public interest demands that this aspect of the problem be examined. Unconventional energy resources are being developed to supplement existing fossil fuel resources, but arguably, due to their lower energy return and high ecological impacts, they exacerbate the energy crisis by giving a false sense of energy security.

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file icon References/information PDF
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inc image Ecolonomics no.12: "Promulgating the Web's calorie controlled diet" – web design, environmental impact and the much ignored ecological efficiency of the Internet


I'm feeling pretty awful; for the last few days I've been laid low with a bug that just won't go away. As I sit, trying to find something to do, it occurs to me that I could catch-up on some of the really tedious, dead-head chores that I've been putting off for a while. If I feel so awful, how more awful can it be to do those things that I never feel like doing in any case? I begin by trying to write a long-overdue beginner's guide to the Linux command line interface – I get as far as designing a rather entertaining logo before realising this requires far too much brain power for my current state of mind! Then I remember the "design statement" for the Free Range Activism Web Site. That requires measuring lots of web pages to demonstrate, statistically, why the design system for the FRAW site is, ecologically, better than mainstream design methods. Hmmn, yeah, downloading lots of web pages, categorising their component parts and then spreadsheeting the results for later analysis. OK, as occupations go it's the digital equivalent of watching paint dry, but right now I feel that I can do that!

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inc image Ecolonomics no.10: When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?


Given his previous opposition, George Monbiot's shift towards a blithe acceptance – if not full support – for nuclear power, in spite of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, has left many environmentalists feeling a little betrayed; I've even had a few emails today, due to my long history of working on energy and nuclear issues, asking me to vociferously "take him on". I don't see the point of a personalised attack, or what purpose it would serve to advance the debate – although it might act as a conduit for people to vent their fear and angst at the seeming collapse of the ecological alliance against nuclear power. Right or wrong, George's opinions are rightly his own. However, if he is representing "opinion" as some sort of "fact", using his "green icon" status to lend credibility, then that's an entirely different matter (I'm not entirely sure if he is, given his rather diffident views on the whole nuclear issue of late). What matters then are the facts; George is free to interpret these as he wishes. Although, in that context, I'd expect him to apply the oft-quoted phrase from John Maynard Keynes; "When the facts change, I change my mind." So, looking at the whole nuclear issue, what "facts" have possibly changed to make us, or George, believe that nuclear power today – in contrast to last week, last year, or even thirty years ago (when I was presented with the arguments at school) – has any better chance of solving our various ecological problems?

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inc image The "Limits to Technology": The annotated workshop/presentation slides


"Limits to Technology" examines the role of resource depletion and the ecological limits to human society's future use of "technological systems" – a broad term covering not only our use of computers and mobile technologies, but also the electronics, metals and chemical components of everyday goods and products, and the latest "green technologies". Like the human system in general, our use of technology is subject to certain resource specific limits; by understanding these limits, and how they affect us all, we can address our minds to devising new ways to live our lives in an inevitably more resource-constrained future.

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inc image The Simple Future Beyond Oil

June 2010

The convergence of our economic and ecological futures and the importance of change – a presentation for the Adderbury Gathering, Sunday 13th June 2010. We are living through "interesting times"; credit crises, recession and rising debt threaten to destabilise nation states. What we need to understand is the way human ecology works within these natural physical processes, how the contradictions between human systems and these natural processes define what is "unsustainable", and what this means for our future as we adjust to the natural limitations of our environment.

file icon download handout
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inc image Face up to natural limits, or face a 70s-style crisis

January 2010

The Ecologist, January 2010. The original, unedited text of my 'Comment' article that outlines the parameters that will define our energy future. Recent gas shortages may have made politicians focus on energy security once more, but the deeper systemic problems of Britain's energy economy go far deeper than the limited capacity of our gas importation system. Energy represents far more to the economy than just a fuel source; understanding the biophysical limits on our future use of energy, and how this affects the general economy, is essential if we are to create a strategic vision that can address the ecological crises of the Twenty-First Century.

file icon Face up to natural limits, or face a 70s-style crisis (HTML version)
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file icon Face up to natural limits, or face a 70s-style crisis (PDF version)
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inc image Peak Oil, the Decline of the North Sea and Britain's Energy Future


Britain faces a series of problematic choices in order to re-negotiate our lifestyle within the biophysical limits that will assert themselves over the next few decades. These problems cannot be avoided, and they are complex because they affect so many aspects of our economic, social and material well-being today. For that reason they are innately political, and thus require the political parties of Britain to engage with these issues in order to map out a means of dealing with the crises these changes will generate.

file icon summary handout of presentation
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inc image Ecolonomics no.4: The "green-Prometheans"; better, but still a futile gesture?


An intellectual debate where a whole set of questions or positions are excluded from public examination is not a real discourse, it's a distraction to deflect criticism from the ideological viewpoints that constrain society. From the structure of building codes through to global climate negotiations, governments and lobbyists put emphasis on markets, or the marshalling of large resources – both vestiges of early industrialisation – to solve problems; but what if the true solution lay beyond this boundary? What if it's that very same structure of globalised markets and the growth paradigm that underpins their operation were to be the problem that we must solve? If the problem is the structure of modern society, and especially the global economy, how can "mainstream ideas" possibly solve the underlying trends driving the destruction of the Earth's ecosystem; more to the point, if these ideas work within this system to what extent will they perpetuate it?

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inc image Ecolonomics no.2: Thoughts stirred by an afternoon on Garreg Hir... and wind turbines


An afternoon walking in the hills of mid-Wales, inspiring thoughts on the problems with the debate about energy; people are not talking about the real "energy problem", and instead engage in a totemic debate that creates the pretence of action whilst ignoring the more unwelcome truths about how we consume in our "modern society".

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inc image Free Range Sheet E10: Energy and Transport – Re-designing our need to get around

October 2008

Although transport is the average individual's third largest use of energy (after food and housing), the transport sector is the largest user of energy in the UK economy. Peak Oil will hit the transport sector first, and hardest. This briefing looks at how energy depletion will affect our transport system and the underlying problems with our demand for transport today.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E9: Energy Delusions – The Trade in Pseudo-Solutions

October 2008

Members of the Energy Beyond Oil Project have been talking with different community groups for over 5 years. Over this time we've heard many "solutions" to the problems raised, and to be fair, we've looked into most of them to try and work them into the narrative of the Project. Most of these solutions, for want of a better term, are complete rubbish! Here's why.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E8: Energy, Food and Agriculture – The importance, and costs, of food security

October 2008

There is only one source of energy that is essential to the humans; it's not coal, oil or natural gas – it's food! This briefing looks at the importance of food, our dependence upon cheap fossil fuels for its production, and how Peak Energy threatens our increasingly technological food supply.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E6: Homes and Efficiency – Understanding How We Use Energy

October 2008

Judging by the media, we might think that the greatest energy offender in the UK was our homes. This isn't the case. Our homes do account for a small, but significant, part of national energy consumption, but if we are to adapt to Peak Energy we must be able to see the scale of household consumption into the context of total consumption, and then work to reduce it in the future.

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file icon References/information PDF

inc image Free Range Sheet E5: Nuclear Power – Why Nuclear isn't an Energy Solution

October 2008

Governments around the world are reviving nuclear power – and the fact that they're promoting such an unpopular form of energy production should be an indicator of the seriousness of our current situation! Nuclear power does not address the energy depletion problem. The resource constraints mean that nuclear is only a limited, short-term fix, with a long-term toxic legacy.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E4: Renewable Energy – The Potential and the Limitations

October 2008

As oil and gas production go into decline, and as climate change makes the use of coal untenable, renewable energy sources will be the only long-term option. But the fact is that renewable energy sources will never provide the same amount of energy that we are using today. For this reason, in developing our use of renewable energy, it is important that this fact is accepted and that we plan the introduction of renewable energy systems as part of a programme of energy descent.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E3: Energy in the UK – Putting consumption into perspective

October 2008

As well as looking at energy consumption within the UK it's also important to look at how the UK compares to other states – in order to give some scale to the situation in the UK. This sheet looks at energy trends in the UK compared to other states, and how energy use in the UK has changed in the past, and how it might change in the future.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E2: Energy and Climate – Energy is the Problem, Not Carbon!

October 2008

The world is warming, and almost certainly the human species is responsible for this. However, the public debate on climate change tends to focus on the "problem" of greenhouse gas emissions. In reality, for developed nations like the UK most of those emissions are the direct result of energy use. If we continue to treat the symptoms – the greenhouse gases – as the problem then we will engage in what is termed (in medicine) a "palliative response"; we'll cure some of the symptoms, but we won't cure the root problem. Instead we must focus on the problem of "energy" rather than "carbon" as it is our absurd use of energy, and our reliance on the use of fossil fuels, that is the root cause of climate change.

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inc image Free Range Sheet E1: Peak Energy – The Limits to Oil and Gas Production

October 2008

The laws of physics make it clear that once we degrade the value of an energy resource we can never use it again. So it is with oil and natural gas; we are using the reserves far faster than new reserves are being discovered, and eventually we will run out. However, geological deposits of oil, gas and other minerals are not like the petrol tank of a car. We will not suddenly run out. Instead global production will reach a peak and then fall away. Recent studies suggest that this point may be sooner than most governments wish to believe is the case.

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inc image Free Range Sheet O1: The Great Outdoors – Learning the skills of energy descent

September 2008

The problem with changing to a lower-resource pattern of living is that today we are immersed in a high resource lifestyle that makes it difficult to imagine how we could live with less, or see what skills we might require to live more simply. But there is an easy way that most people can get around the distractions of our everyday life in order to learn the skills of simplicity – go camping!

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inc image The "Less is a Four Letter Word" Presentation


The 'Less is a Four Letter Word' presentation was developed in 2005 for the Free Range Network. It follows on from the 'Energy Beyond Oil' (EBO) presentation, picking up where EBO leaves off, it starts with the simple question, "logically, if we're going to have to use less, how do we do it?". Problematically this collides with the primary obstruction to planning meaningful change – economic growth.

file icon "Less is a Four Letter Word" – presentation slides
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file icon "Less is a Four Letter Word" – annotated slides
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inc image Energy Beyond Oil


These are the slides for the 'Energy Beyond Oil' presentation, which I ran from 2003 to 2009. The presentation looks at how the energy 'system' works, and how the limitations on energy production ultimately limit how far the human system can grow.

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inc image Calor Gas Appeal, Canvey Island

September 2007

I represented the local community group in Canvey Island, People Against Methane (PAM), against the proposals by Calor Gas to build a new liquefied gas import terminal right next to the town. In the end Calor withdrew from the appeal before it began, and so the proof was never used

file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
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inc image Awel Aman Tawe Wind Farm Public Inquiry

Summer 2006

In 2005/6 I represented a local community group in South Wales who were opposing a wind farm. I took part because, as wind farms go, it was a stupid proposal; but more importantly it would have invalidated the new wind farms planning policy (TAN 8) in Wales. Here's my main proof of evidence and the closing statement.

file icon Proof of evidence
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file icon Closing statement
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inc image Keeping the Lights On: Nuclear, Renewables and Climate Change

September 2005

A memorandum for the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry, outlining the problems of both peak oil, peak gas and peak uranium as a factor in planning the UK's future energy supplies.

file icon Inquiry memorandum
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inc image Uranium Supply and the Nuclear Option

May 2005

Oxford Energy Forum (journal of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies), May 2005. A short paper on the global availability – past, present and future – of uranium, and the critical limitation that the likely future shortage of uranium represents to the much trumpeted "nuclear renaissance".

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file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
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inc image Turning the World Upside Down

December 2004

Published in The World Today, the journal of the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), vol.60 no.12, December 2004. An article I wrote for Chatham House, to which they added the snappy introduction, "Could you live with the same amount of energy now available to those in the third world? A dramatic change such as this is likely within fifty years as present energy sources are used up. So future generations will have to manage with just a third of the energy we use now."

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inc image "If the answer's wind turbines, someone asked the wrong question"

November 2003

How far is the vision of renewable energy presented to us by campaign groups a reality? To put it another way, are the activities of the mainstream environmental pressure groups to promote sustainable energy compromised by their need to promote it? And do these groups, and political leaders, really address the most important issue? – in 10 years oil will be running out.

file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
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inc image Free Range Practice Guide No.2: Switching to Low Energy Lights

October 2003

Changing your light bulbs saves energy and can cut your electricity bill.

file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
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inc image Free Range Practice Guide No.1: Beyond the Throw-away Battery

October 2003

Save money using rechargeable batteries and using main power supplies for portable equipment – and in the process save waste an pollution.

file icon click to download Paul Mobbs/MEI resource
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inc image Free Range Bulletin 03/2: Hijacking Green Energy

October 2003

We need to change how we use and produce energy in order to slow the impacts of climate change. 'Renewable energy' – energy sources that can be sourced from the environment perpetually – was the buzz word after the oil crisis of the early 1970s. In the 1990s, we went 'green', and green energy was promoted as the alternative for the environmentally conscious consumer. But now 'green' means something different – money. Have the mainstream environment groups lost the plot on energy? Are they compromised by their promotion of green energy into following the lead of the industry rather than promoting energy conservation ahead of production? And is green energy in the UK now dominated by the profits to be made from market subsidies?

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inc image The CLTC on tour at Tech 2

August 2002

'Tech 2' is a touring event. It brings together technical experts, media activists and artists to develop projects over a number of days. This year, Tech 2 has been primarily based at the Folly Gallery in Lancaster. But for its last week it moved to Grizedale Forest in the Lake District to experiment with wireless networks and Linux systems.

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file icon Erecting the wind turbine at Tech2
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file icon CLTC briefing sheet
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file icon Tech2 Variable Voltage Regulator
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inc image The Sea Empress Spill: The Potential for Human Health Effects

March 1996

A report for Friends of the Earth Cymru on the health hazards of the Sea Empress oil spill. At the time most of the concern was for the physical/amenity impact of the oil spill and not the toxic impacts. This report alerted many of those who were recovering oiled birds at the time without any protective equipment, as well as those living near the coast, as to why they were suffering conditions such as breathing difficulties and skin rashes. Please note that this report has been converted from a now redundant file format and so the pagination has been lost, along with any graphics.

file icon The Sea Empress Spill
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