A Green Train Of Thought

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It's safe to assume that nobody could accuse me of being an eco-warrior. I buy cars that have more engine than I need, and computers with more power than is required to run any software I might ever use. And I quite happily squander electricity on a waterfall in the pond and lights in the trees, just to make the garden look nice. The trouble is that the electricity company seems to think that I should pay an increasingly exorbitant price for it.

We've all seen those TV programs where people build eco-friendly houses that generate their own electricity, collect and re-use rainwater, and suck heat out of the ground instead of paying for gas. Meanwhile the government is gradually covering the entire countryside with huge windmills and solar farms in an attempt to meet some green target, yet all this free electricity just seems to cost more every month. The electricity company just sent me an estimate of my next year's bill, and they reckon it will be over 1,500 pounds. It's time I figured out how to either use less, or pay less, or even get some for free.

Working on the "no free lunch" principle, you'd guess that the only people who would benefit from the current fad around solar panels on the roof would be the installers and panel manufacturers. However, talking to some neighbors who have taken the plunge, they have seen a considerable reduction in electricity bills and get a payment for feed-in four times a year as well. So it's probably time I took the plunge and turned our south-facing roof into a miniature power station. At least it should generate enough to run my servers for a few months in the summer...

But where you have to wonder is that, in a country that will supposedly be unable to keep the lights on beyond 2016, we are planning to throw huge amounts of money we don't have at a project that will eat electricity and blight thousands of people's lives. Nobody can produce a realistic rationalization for it, yet it will probably cost the best part of a hundred billion pounds by the time it's done.

At a time when the world is moving towards driverless cars, all-encompassing digital communication, increasing home working and localization, and the need to lead a green lifestyle, we're going to build a high-speed railway to connect the North and the Midlands with London. Yet we can't afford to build a high-speed broadband fixed and mobile system that would cost a tiny fraction of that amount.

OK, so I'm lucky because we happen to have cable here, but half a mile away our local post office is struggling to use modern retail technology over a 1MB ADSL line. My ADSL provider just sent me a beautiful color leaflet explaining how I will soon be able to watch loads of new sports channels over their Internet connection. At the bottom in very small writing it says that all I need is a 2MB ADSL line. Yes please, when can I have one? What's that? You're planning to have fibre-to-the-cabinet installed sometime in 2015? Super.

In the meantime I suppose I can just go to London on the high-speed train and watch it live instead...

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A Green Train Of Thought