Thursday, 19 February 2009

Guernsey Carnival - February

A round-up of recent stories in our sister Island. The full stories are in the links.
Source Recruitment Specialists says that it has 250 vacancies on its books, but admitted that the lower end of the job market was tricky, with over 400 unemployed. Last month, 343 people were registered as unemployed with Social Security. At this time last year, the figure was 255. Their Managing Director commented that "Although the unemployment figure has regrettably increased, it's important to stress that there are still a large number of vacancies in Guernsey at all levels, in all business sectors and companies continue to expand and create new opportunities.". It would be interesting to see a like comparison in the JEP, and perhaps this would go some way towards not just reporting redundancies, and providing a more balance picture.
Former farmer Peter Falla, 83, made a representation to the inquiry yesterday suggesting more land reclamation for landfill and calling on the States to look ahead more. Guernsey has reclaimed land at Longue Hougue, and as we know, once you have it, you start to think what you can do with it. Reclaim more land, is Mr Falla's opinion, and you can use this for extra landfill, which would be cheaper than building an incinerator. I've been out to the extremity of our own landfill area at La Collette in Jersey, and I'm not sure whether that is still slowly growing in the quiet. If not, what are all those diggers and lorries still trundling back and forth doing?

About 15 years ago, the island imported stone from France to build a breakwater at Longue Hougue so that many thousands of tonnes of solid waste could be diverted there from Mont Cuet. 'Less than £10m. spent on a containment area of land reclaimed from the sea would be preferable to £80m. to £100m. spent on an incinerator,' said Mr Falla. 'Remember, an incinerator will have smoke, ash and residue to dispose of on a site close to the island's bulk oil storage tanks.'

Now why does this seem familiar, all of a sudden?
THE Policy Council wants to defer debating the Government Business Plan after deciding at the last minute that it needs a radical rethink. It has long championed the plan, which has been developed since 2004, as key to prioritising government's work. It is now set to be simplified with Treasury minister Charles Parkinson in charge of a new political team. He put proposals to Monday's Policy Council meeting, which unanimously backed the concept of an overall strategic plan to guide how the States conducted its business and that departments' work needed to be coordinated. But it also agreed that to be successful it required widespread ownership together with understanding and commitment to a plan that was relevant and easily comprehended by the man in the street and States members.

This is the similar kind of talk we see from Terry Le Sueur - if you substitute "taking the Island along", and "inclusive" for the phrase "widespread ownership". It will be interesting to see if Guernsey manages to do this better than Jersey, where there is a lot of talk, but most of the action is simply to go with the status quo, the same old policies, the same old faces. Maybe Terry Le Sueur could learn from Guernsey?

Killer dogs drive Forest couple to quit keeping chickens. Francis Russell surveys the pile of feathers after a dog attack killed three and injured one of the 20 silkie chickens that survived a New Year's Day attack. Four were safe in their hen house when dogs struck again but the rest of the birds have vanished....He blamed the same animals that carried out the first strike and, by the size of the bite marks, he believed they were terriers. 'My wife was devastated,' he said. 'We aren't going to get any more.'

Wayne Le Cuirot, in Grouville, Jersey has also had attacks on his birds. It seems that in either Island, there is little policing that has been done on the issue, although it is difficult to see what could be done unless the dogs are caught in the act and their owners identified.

The incinerator is also a dominant issue in Guernsey, but the planning is not as advanced a stage as in Jersey. In the letters page, Laurie Queripel has a long letter on the subject, in which he looks at one of the alternatives mentioned. Wouldn't it be ironic if Guernsey ended up with a better system! Here is what he has to say - it is quite long, but worth hearing in full.

HAVE to report that I was thoroughly impressed by the Bio Plex waste solution presentation at the Vale douzaine room on Wednesday evening...There are serious environmental and health implications associated with mass-burn incineration, with children being particularly vulnerable. Of course this version of biogas digestion would not be a complete solution to our waste problems but it would deal with several thousand tons of our food waste each year in a clean and sustainable way and produce energy as a by-product.  The public really needs urgently to re-engage on this topic and then lobby their deputies. It has to be said that there does not seem to be the political will to furnish the public with all the relevant facts and details. Whatever the reason for this determination among certain politicians to push for a mass-burn incinerator, I can assure the reader that such a choice would not be in the best interest of the community. The Bio Plex representatives seemed to answer every question and query in a most satisfactory manner, including the fact that this process would not endanger our water supply, as the compost by-product would be sufficiently sterilised.  It was also pointed out that once this system was running, it would be most cost effective as opposed to a large incinerator, which would not.  Of course, as with all new initiatives, there would be a cost allied to the logistics and practicalities of setting up such a scheme. A small problem to overcome would be in persuading people to make the small adjustment needed to their lifestyles to support the scheme, i.e. food waste separation, however, this need not be onerous and would be to our and our children's long term benefit. This system has proved to be a success among all communities who have chosen to partake in it - indeed, it is a source of local pride and its proactive nature has a positive affect upon the spirit of the  ommunity. Plus, this is a modular system - it can be added to and adjusted as required and is so flexible as to where and how it is sited. One must remember this is not a new, untested approach. Anaerobic digestion has been in existence for many hundreds of years, the difference now is it has been allied to contemporary technology making it fit for purpose in the modern world. We must not settle simply for a mass-burn solution, it is the antithesis to the recycle, reuse, waste-avoidance preservation message that has previously been sent out. Remember the monster will have to be fed - once you burn you can never return. This is one of the most serious and far reaching issues Guernsey has ever had to face. It involves us all, therefore it behoves all of us to get involved.

Paul Lapage looks at a different option, not unlike our own kind of incinerator, but what is interesting is that he thinks the bulk of construction work should be done "in house". And why not? I've seen Geomarine on billboards over in Jersey. Shouldn't they be involved in our local project, whatever it is? With a downturn in the economy, and a weak pound, this would have made perfect sense.

To try and reduce our dependence on landfill, the States want to look at other processes, including recycling and energy recovery. This comes in the form of energy-from-waste, which is a process whereby energy is derived from burning waste.  The combustion process produces high-pressure steam that can be converted to electrical power by the use of a turbine and generator. This electricity can be fed into the Guernsey grid and supplied to local industry.  Energy-from-waste plants can also be used to supply high-pressure hot water or steam that can be used for industrial or domestic heating. This type of facility is known as a combined heat-and-power plant because of the two types of energy it produces. These plants are highly efficient. Brilliant idea, I hear you hark. Fantastic idea. But who is going to construct such a fantabulous plant? English or European companies? Well, I hope not, as Guernsey has sufficient skills in the construction industry. Fantastic, skilled, local companies to construct our fantastic energy-from-waste plant is what I say. We have a high-class civil engineering company in the form of Geomarine. We have superb construction companies in the form of R. W. Rihoy and R. G. Falla. OK, I agree some parts of construction may need to come from England but, by golly, we should demand that we (Guernsey) do a large chunk.

And a letter from the redoubtable Peter Falla. An interesting point he raises is the cable replacement. What is the lifetime of our own power cables from France? I've not seen any figures on that, but think there probably should be. Nothing lasts forever. Is the cost of replacement factored into the price of electricity?

Yes, we use nuclear energy from France but like all man-made materials, that cable will have to be replaced, while oil is getting more expensive.  China needs oil and Russia feels she can charge whatever she asks for it and gas. So will France for her electricity in future. We must consider a measure of self-sufficiency, including tidal power.

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