Saturday, December 19, 2015

Recession Statistics Ireland


Lest We Forget

As it would appear, Ireland looks to be on a steady pathway out of the recession - better IMHO termed the DEPRESSION, for what transpired over the last 8 years amounts to a DISASTER of enormous proportions.

500 Deaths

One single statistic alone serves to give us a clear impression of the enormity of the disaster. It has been estimated that there were 500 extra suicides as a result of the Recession / Depression. Those who helped cause the recession / depression have 500 deaths on their conscience.

Irish Youth Dispora

Add to that the 1000's of our youth and our finest minds who have fled the country in search of a better life, and who will not be in a hurry to return. Recent estimates put the figure at almost 10% of our youth had left the country. Then there are the many thousands of damaged families, the lost homes, the lost life-savings etc. etc.


Greed was the essential cause of the calamity. Along with a very imbalanced society. The gap between the rich and the poor is WAY WAY WAY too wide in Ireland. There is an elite in Ireland who are completely out of touch the what happened. The top elite actually benefited financially by as much as 7% during the recession, while others lost everything including in some cases their lives. Members of the Irish Parliament can be numbered among the elite, I say this based on their large disproportionate and self-appointed salaries and huge expenses. Many failed to apprehend the level of suffering that the people endured due to their financially insulated positions. 

The Irish Prime Minister draws €183,350 p.a. PLUS €296,000 in expenses. An ordinary member of the Irish parliament, who only attends the house for very short numbers of hours in a year, draws €87,000 p.a. PLUS average expenses of around €25,000 p.a. and some have claimed twice that amount - that salary exceeds what the Spanish Prime Minister is paid. Not-imbalanced? Small country - in deep recession - 500 extra suicides provoked by the hardships - can pay that sort of money to it's politicians - BALANCED compared to other countries - compared to the work involved - compared to those on minimum wage?

Faulty Political System and Gross Imbalances

Are we out of the depression? Perhaps we are seeing clear skies again after the deluge, but what worries me is too many of the imbalances still remain, and our politics are fundamentally faulty and incapable of delivering any real changes.

Compiled October 2012


(increased 42% in 5 years 2005 to 2010)

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE up from 2010 to 2011 by 15%
(11,000 women and children sought refuge in 2011 according to SAFE organisation).

UNEMPLOYMENT has increased by 352%
( from 4.2% in 2007 to 14.8% by October 2012)

UNEMPLOYMENT among 15 to 24y group nationally stands at 39%

UNEMPLOYMENT in the 15 to 25y group in some areas is at 74%

HOUSE BUILDING homes built 8,488 has dropped over 90% since 2006 at 93,000, and is 20% down in one year.

BUSINESS INSOLVENCIES Up 13.30% from 2010.
(1,684 companies failed in 2012 alone)

FUEL POVERTY, (the decision to Eat or Heat) estimated to affect 40% of citizens

FOOD POVERTY in 2010 was estimated to be at 10%

FOOD PRICES have risen by an average of 12% in the last two years.

HOMELESSNESS up by as much as 45% in Dublin.
(from 70 in 2010 to a current estimate of as much as 101)

RETAIL SALES are down by 5.50%

SUICIDES are up in 2011 from 2010 by 7%

TRUST in the Irish Government in a recent survey fell to a mere 20%


POLITICIANS are the 2nd least trusted profession in Ireland.
(Only 14% of Irish people trust politicians - I wonder why? How about 26 TDs, members of the Irish Parliament, each claimed €5,000 expenses for August - when there are no sittings of the House)

DISPOSABLE INCOME SURVEY: 1.60 million Irish have €50 or less left each month after paying for essentials. In other words, roughly 36% of the Irish population have disposable income of €600 or less per year.

DISPOSABLE INCOME in lower income groups effectively down by nearly 19%

By contrast the imbalance in incomes:

INCOME FOR TOP IRISH EARNERS is up on average by over 4%

DUBLIN CITY MANAGER salary €190,000

COUNTY MANAGERS salary €153,260

Compare salaries:



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ireland's Energy Future & National Security


Irish Energy Minister introduces 
"White Paper"
which outlines Energy Future

A moment of quiet reflection? Energy Minister Alex White

While introducing a Government paper outlining Ireland's energy future, Minister for Communications and Energy Alex White said:  

“Customers will have to pay more in their energy bills as Ireland moves away from fossil fuels in the coming years”.

According to the "White Paper" on Energy published today, Ireland will be using no fossil fuels by the end of the century. (I would imagine that plan might be helped by the fact that most of the fossil fuels will be used up by then).

The Irish "White Paper"outlines aspirations for long-term energy goals and proposed strategies for Ireland. Mr White also said in his statement that Ireland was still dependent on fossil fuels to the extent of 92 per cent.

The paper proposed over 90 lines of action. Among the big and bold proposals there are references to “improved domestic grant schemes and financing options for energy efficiency upgrades” and “a new support scheme for the development of renewable energy technologies”.

My focus and concern is with the impact these Clean - Green - and Carbon Reducing Policies will take on the less well off.

Simply adding taxes to dissuade the use of coal etc. is only going to add to fuel poverty in Ireland, and will ultimately fail as people will find ways to get cheap fuel.

What about 0% Disposable Income Families and Energy Costs?

I sincerely hope that the discussion and planning fully considers how carbon taxes and energy costs impinge on the less well off. "You cannot get blood from a turnip" and low income families cannot just go out and buy expensive heating systems - taking advantage of grants etc. There needs to be a LOW-TECH and LOW-COST strategy applied in addition to the high flying ones.

I hope also that any grant schemes would consider the real carbon value of the investment. The huge State grants schemes, of recent years, given for geothermal heating systems and wood-pellet systems, I am fairly sure, did not factor-in the carbon costs in terms of the heavy reliance on non-green electricity, or indeed failed to properly calculate the carbon costs of the machinery itself and its regular servicing and replacement.

Would the Minister consider the following?

1. A Scheme to eliminate all open fires and replace them with Stoves?

I hope that low-tech and low-cost green solutions might come into the focus for the planners. Solutions like encouraging the installation of simple and very inexpensive stoves to replace open fires would be one very important investment which would offer HUGE long-term pay back, and very low maintenance costs.

Advantages would include:

(a) A large reduction in fuel usage for home heating.

(b) A reduction in heat loss caused by the excessive airflow of an open chimney.

(c) An additional financial and social advantage of such a scheme is that it would substantially reduce fires and fire related accidents in the home, saving lives, suffering and money.

2. A Massive up-scaling of timber production in Ireland? 

Another long-term and perhaps initially costly investment would be in a massive up-scaling of forestry in fast growing timber to feed a wood-based solid fuel industry to replace coal in domestic heating. We are talking National Security here, so costs should reflect the importance.

Sally tree plantations would provide quality wood suitable for bio-mass use in a very short space of time and can be cropped repeatedly for several years before replanting is necessary.

In 2012 Ireland imported 2.4 Million Short Tonnes of coal. If we assume, (I do not have actual delivered price per tonne), a cost per tonne including shipping and transport of say just €100 - that would give us a figure of roughly €240 Million Euro leaving the country every year for coal.

Additional benefits from a 3x expansion of current managed forest acreage would include:

(1) an increase in wild life, pollinating insects etc.,
(2) additional oxygen creation,
(3) the re-building and stabilization of eroded soils,
(4) planned forests can add to amenity areas for the public, and
(5) provide many more jobs in that industry.

3. Investment in Super-Hard Fused Wood Briquette Production. 

The proposed type of wood briquette / log differs widely from the types generally available in Ireland at the present time. There are currently 3 types being sold. Non of which are good substitutes for coal products in stoves etc.

Below are 3 less satisfactory types of wood briquette.

The top two, of the above 3 photos, show briquettes, which are essentially compressed sawdust are the least desirable, as they expand up to twice their size in the fire.

Expansion of fuel in a stove etc. can present Carbon Monoxide poisoning danger by restricting the flue. The burn pattern is also quite poor. They tend to fall apart in the fire.

The bottom photo shows a slightly better type of wood briquette. This type is screw extrusion type and tends to hold its shape better. However, it burns much to quickly and is therefore not a good substitute for coal. While this type burns well, it is incapable of giving long duration burn and long duration of burn overnight is exactly what is needed when a stove is the primary source of heat in the home.

The proposal:

Along with massively developing timber production, the Minister might also consider investment in a wood-fuel production industry to produce primarily super-hard fused wood logs / briquettes, but also wood pellets. This type of briquette / log is not currently available in Ireland, as far as I am aware, let alone produced here.

Contrary to general belief, this type of fused wood briquette can 100% successfully be produced from most soft woods, and from waste wood or sawdust.

Fused wood briquettes are capable of fully replacing coal as a fuel for stoves and ranges.

Advantages in using this fuel include:
(1) It forms 'coals' in the burning process and therefore can burn for up to 10 hours,
(2) It releases heat in a pattern not too unlike coal,
(3) It does not expand in a stove or fireplace unlike most other forms of wood briquette and is therefore much safer in use.
(4) It is very easily stored and handled.
(5) It has a lower creosote deposit, and lower particulate release to the atmosphere.
(6) It is a 100% carbon neutral fuel.
(7) Replacing coal with this type of home produced briquette would save many millions of Euro leaving the country each and every year sustainably in perpetuity.
(8) An industry based on this type of fuel would create many long-term sustainable jobs in the country.

This would also represent a fairly large investment for Ireland to make, but if one was to think about it again, it could spell no less than an investment in the National Security, future economic stability, and help to ensure a sustainable energy future for the country.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Paris 2015 Implications for Ireland


Implications for Ireland + some suggestions

The recent highly acclaimed Paris climate agreement is certainly a big step forward in International Relations and its approach to environmental protection. The start of the end of the fossil fuel era!

What it will take to convert the words into reality will be another days work.

Cutting Carbon Emissions and the so called “cost of carbon” will become a really big issue in many countries. This will be especially true for rural Ireland where many households rely 100% on open solid fuel fires as the primary source of heat.

The poorer part of the population will, going on previous knowledge, be asked to proportionally bear more of the burden as has become the usual practice. Just like India and China, which are fairly recent polluters, are being asked to forgo on cashing in their fossil fuel deposits.

Implications for Ireland

Grant schemes in Ireland have tended to heavily favour the better off, where massive grants were offered for very expensive geothermal and wood-pellet heating systems, things that marginal earners cannot even begin to consider.

What is needed are schemes to entice the low earners away from fossil fuel usage. With not so much of the BIG STICK of more taxation.

I have suggested, several times over the years, on this blog that it would be a prudent investment for Ireland to invest in several areas that could impact positively on the situation.

1. A large-scale investment in timber planting and production.

2. Investment in high-density “fused” wood briquette production. This type of pressure fused wood briquette, and only this type of wood briquette is fully capable of properly replacing coal. Hammer mill and screw extrusion hollow briquettes simply do not measure up and will NEVER be widely accepted.

3. Subsidize the price of wood briquettes and keep them tax free.

4. A grant aided scheme to eliminate all open fires by installing multi-fuel stoves.

5. Get the price gougers and also the "expert" BER certificate issuers out of the grant picture. This is complicating the issue and adding cost.


Monday, December 07, 2015

Rich to Pay Heavier Court Fines?


I see in the news today a proposal by the Road Safety Authority to have a sliding scale of speeding fines based on the income of the offender, in order to act as a greater deterrent for the well off.

 Rich More Likely to Offend

Those who are better off financially tend to have an inflated sense of entitlement, and this has been shown to negatively affect behaviour on the roads. Piff. Berkley etc.

Interestingly, an online survey by "The Journal" suggests that over 60% of Irish drivers are against the sliding scale of fines - I wonder why?

In February 2015,  I wrote an article on this blog about Justice and Atonement. One factor in correcting and updating our medieval system that I suggested was that Court fines should be made proportional to the means of the defendant. The Justice and Atonement issue is so strongly felt by me, that I even went to the trouble of writing to the Minister for Justice and to the Justice Reform Commission. I just got the usual sort of stock replies.

I have very strong feeling about how the Law is currently administered. Our current system of law focuses on simply punishing the guilty parties. It however does little or nothing to compensates the victims and make atonement.

Fine Fines.

When a fine is imposed it usually is not linked to the resources of the guilty party. If a person on £10,000 a year is fined £5,000. By all justice and fairness, a person on £2,000,000 a year should receive a fine of £1,000,000. This should apply not just to motoring offenses but it should apply across the board. The funds from these fines should go, at least partially, into victim redress and compensation funds. It should be possible nowadays to operate such a system by linking with the taxation system etc.


Friday, December 04, 2015

Update on Calco Mix

An Update on 

It has come to my attention from several regular users of Calco Mix that there has been high level of stones and pieces of concrete etc. found in Calco. One lady told me that an exploding stone had broken the glass of her stove - that can cost a fair bit to replace depending on the type of stove..

I myself have found a collection of extraneous bits and pieces in my Calco-Mix of late. Some are harmless bits of wood etc.  - others are less benign. Either the agents or those making the mix are quite careless, or could it ever be possible that this EXTRA material is being added intentionally for some reason unknown??

Above is a photo I have just taken showing a collection of rocks and concrete I found in my Calco. The lignite briquette and the 1 Euro coin are there just to show scale. The two brownish stones are that colour because they came out of the fire. Luckily I had discovered the rest before placing them in the fire. That collection represents the use of perhaps 2 to 3 bags of Calco - that is a fair bit of extraneous matter. Apart from devaluing the Calco, there is always the dangers presented by an exploding stone in the fire.

I will reserve final judgement but suffice it to say I have lost some of my enthusiasm for Calco-Mix.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

Smokeless Coals and Solid Fuel Stoves

Of Smokeless Coal and Stoves
A Cheaper Way to Heat
A look at a New Smokeless Briquette
1st Part 

Left to Right: CosyGlo - HiBrite and Hi-Glo

When the stormy season starts blowing and the temperatures drop, it is the time I start to think of how to best maintain heat and hot water in the home at the lowest cost.

For 8+ years now I have heated our house on an increasing basis using solid fuels. Over 4 years ago I have gone to some 95% heating using solid fuels, mainly coal. I do recognize and accept that coal is not a good environmental choice in fuels. It is dirty and releases a very large amount of carbon and particulates. However, smokeless coal based fuels are, at the present time, still despite carbon taxes etc., the most economical fuels to use.

My Little Rant.

If the government or the more financially better off community want to protect the environment, then they should seek ways to encourage the use of wood based and other non fossil fuels by the poorer half of society. One way to do this is (a) to subsidize these wood based fuels, and (b) seek to have high-density fused wood briquettes introduced to the marketplace. But it seems the preference if for the STICK method over the CARROT method. Which do you think might work the better?

The general environmental debate is a little like the argument between the USA and India over climate change. For over 100 years the USA has belched massive carbon into the air without a thank you to the rest of the world. Now they want to stop India benefiting from it's coal deposits. They can do that OK, and easily too, if they are prepared to pay and compensate India.

An Initial Look at Hi-Glo 

I got two 40Kg bags of Hi-Glo just over a week ago and have been experimenting with it in both my 6 Kw Blacksmith stove and also in my fire with its back-boiler and fire-front door. Additional I have a friend also testing this coal and giving me feedback.

First and foremost the Hi-Glo which is in a full size 40Kg bag is currently on promotional offers by some dealers. Econ Fuels Monavalley Tralee are my local suppliers is, for a short time, offering this fuel at €17.50 a bag. This represents terrific value while it lasts IMHO.

The fuel looks very like Bord na Mona CosyGlo, it is also very like Eco-Glow - maybe even the same thing under a different name? Hi-Glo has a blacker and finer texture look to it than CosyGlo. See the photo above. It appears to have a binding agent holding the briquette together - this may explain the smell it gives off when burning. (see below)

Does the fuel match up? 

The feedback I have received to date gives the following indications:

1. This fuels burns really hot and with some flame.
2. It lasts through the night and up to 9 hours without quenching.
3. It burns to a fairly fine ash, no cinders or lumps left.
4. There is 0% waste and no stones or other foreign bits in it.
5. My initial perception is that is gives greater heat output than Bord na Mona CosyGlo.

HiGlo has an unpleasant smell when burning. The smell is something between burning paint and an electrical burning smell. It is not a problem in my big fire as the smell all goes up the chimney, however, in my little stove, there is a bit of a waft into the room when the door is opened and this can cause a very unpleasant smell in the room. I have since limited HiGlow in the Blacksmith stove to last fueling at night. That way the door of the stove is not opened again until morning when the fuel has burned down and no further smell comes from it.

I will come back to this again