Sea life losses

THE recent mass deaths of various types of marine life on the North East coast have been attributed by Defra to algal blooms (D&S Times, Feb 11).

Tim Deere Jones, marine consultant begs to differ. He says that there is, “no empirical evidence to support the theory that it’s got anything to do with an algal bloom”.

Mr Jones, with over three decades of expertise in marine biology, has stated however that having taken sample crabs in Penzance and Teesside the former possess just 6mg per 1kg weight of the pollutant pyridine in their systems.

Here in Teesside, 400mg per kg of Pyridine have been measured, more than 66 times the levels in clean water.

The question then is why such high levels?

Pyridine is a chemical in use by many process companies based on the River Tees and has been for decades.

Anybody wondering just what the fuss regarding pyridine may be about, should look up pyridine and its safe limits for human exposure, it does not make comfortable reading.

The blame now is being laid at the port authority’s dredging of the River Tees, taking place as part of the Government's flagship freeport project.

Our Mayor Ben Houchen, very much involved in the freeport project, is quoted as saying: “I hope that we see our sea life and coast return to normal as soon as possible”

Well Mr Houchen we all do, but we common mortals are not in a position to do much about it. You however, in a position of power and as a major influencer in this port expansion, can do something, so let’s see you some communicate with Defra and Mr Deere Jones.

Let us also see suspension of all dredging until pyridine can be ruled out, or otherwise.

Do your job Mr Houchen, hand wringing is not an option.

Richard Baker, Middleton-One-Row.

Energy supplies

WITH everybody suffering the dire consequences of extortionate energy prices, the last thing we want to hear is that oil companies are announcing billions of pounds in yearly profits.

It just shows where our money is going in rip off prices, but I suppose the shareholders will be happy with their dividends.

It’s not that many years ago that it was announced North Sea oil fields came on stream with promises of cheap oil and gas, but alas we had to sell it to any highest bidder.

If only it had been kept in this country for our own use.

Recently on TV it was stated that when all the wind generators are built it will be cheap energy, I don't think so – especially when there is no wind.

Goodness knows what will happen when the green brigade get their way of all electric cars and heating, the wind stops and we have not got the infrastructure to generate power because of no oil gas and coal.

CP Atkinson, Great Ayton.

Oil prices

I WAS amused by Geoff Solomon's comments about oil prices and the fact that our political representatives have taken no notice of, as he puts it, "the increase in the cost of rural living," “Heating oil” (D&S letters, Feb 11).

Everyone, almost without exception, is facing increased costs at the moment and I don't think a case can be made that people living the countryside are disproportionately affected.

I say that as someone who lives in an isolated village where a private car is the only credible form of transport and I heat my old and draughty home with oil.

Mr Solomon seems to have forgotten that he may have paid 56p a litre on his latest oil order – a 50 per cent increase in a year – but a year ago was a different world with oil prices depressed by the economic impact of the pandemic.

Like Mr Solomon, I took advantage of that dramatic fall and managed to secure an order to fill my tank from a local oil supplier and paid less than 30p a litre. I considered it a little Covid-19 bonus.

Most recently I filled my tank and like Mr Solomon paid over 50p a litre – which is almost exactly what I was paying before the pandemic in the winter of 2019/20.

So nothing has changed in essence other than people who heat their homes with oil enjoyed had the benefit of cheap deals for more than 18 months thanks to the pandemic.

Mr Solomon also seems to have forgotten in the years between 2011 and 2014 we were paying over 60p a litre and apart from a brief dip in 2016 we were paying over 50p for most of that decade. A little perspective goes a long way.

Trevor Sellars, Bedale.

Heating changes

IT is quite understandable that in last week's paper your correspondent Geoff Solomon laments the cost of heating oil as it follows global crude prices and spikes to unfamiliar levels as the world economy rebounds and becomes ever more energy hungry.

However, like all of us with oil fired central heating Mr Solomon should treasure the flexibility and warmth his boiler brings while he can, given that in four years’ time in 2026, Rishi Sunak and his next door neighbour, Boris Johnson, intend to make replacement oil boilers illegal – Chapter 3 sub section iv clause 14 on page 140 of their Net Zero Strategy document: "...... phase out the installation of high-carbon fossil fuel boilers in properties not connected to the gas grid by 2026 (and 2024 for non-domestic buildings)."

What Mr Sunak and his neighbours are seemingly determined to force onto everyone are vastly expensive, inflexible and ineffective, garden wrecking ground source heat pumps which cannot provide the same level of heat as oil or gas fired boilers.

With the obvious distaste this government has for rural England, and given the million or so homes with oil boilers are almost exclusively in the countryside, no surprise at all that they should make such homes their first targets.

Additionally, given their track record of constantly interfering in energy markets, would it really be of any great surprise if Mr Sunak and his Treasury introduced a heating oil surcharge in pursuit of their Net Zero agenda – or perhaps I shouldn't tempt fate and even mention that.

A J Gobbi, Bedale.


MANY people will have recently read about the call from Lord Frost and 29 MPs for Boris Johnson to resume fracking in the UK.

Lord Frost has suggested that extracting domestic shale gas would give the UK a competitive and reliable source of energy.

International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said to even replace half of UK imports would require 6,000 fracking wells. It is hard to imagine what our countryside and communities would have to tolerate with all the infrastructure that would bring, including heavy industrial equipment, endless HGV movements delivering toxic chemicals and wastewater to and from sites.

Some make the argument our own produced gas would be cheaper. The fracked gas would have to be sold at international prices; it would have no impact on UK bills.

We are too small a country to have fracking. Communities would be living in close proximity to wells with all the health hazards and disruption that would bring.

If Lord Goldsmith and the 29 MPs are keen on the resumption of fracking, perhaps they would like to live next to a fracking site, which I doubt very much would happen.

Anne Nightingale, Helmsley.

Good idea

I WRITE regarding the letter from W Calvert, “Solar solutions" (D&S Times letters, Feb 11).

Yes! Such a lot of sense, the acres of roofs across this country which could be easily and quickly fitted with photovoltaic panels, inverters and even storage batteries, generating energy immediately.

Using these barren expanses would leave more land for vital increased food production, and would be hardly noticed or affect anyone's view.

Sharon Neale, Crakehall.

Dales lighting

IT is very sad that, during this year’s Dark Skies Festival there is one part of the Yorkshire Dales where the view of the night sky is impeded by the light pollution from what can only be described as a new settlement between Aysgarth and West Burton.

The light pollution from Aysgarth Luxury Lodges is far in excess of that from any Dales village.

When planning permission was given in 2007 for such lodges to replace the static and touring caravans which used to be on that site it would appear from the plans that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning department had expected a layout and screening which would have greatly reduced the amount of light pollution from large windows and glazed doors.

We have asked the authority what it intends to do regarding this light pollution so that all in that part of Bishopdale and Wensleydale will be able to look up and marvel at the beauty of our amazing night skies as would be expected in an International Dark Skies Reserve.

Pip Pointon, on behalf of the Committee of the Association of Rural Communities.

US interference

I AM slightly fed up with the diplomatic pressure imposed by the US in relation to Ukraine. Europe has a completely different relationship with Russia.

After all, they are Europeans, and we should aim to achieve cooperation between Europe and Russia, not expensive, sabre-rattling.

Ukraine was part of Russia for a long time and has a substantial Russian population in Eastern Ukraine. Similarly, the Crimea has been Russian for centuries and is mainly populated by Russian people.

We certainly need to reach a negotiated settlement which guarantees cooperation between all. The extension of NATO is a threat to Russia, and the German gas pipeline is a matter for Germany, not the US. To be constantly bullied by the US to follow their foreign policy is unacceptable.

Neither, indeed, is it very clever to threaten another NATO ally.

We need to make more efforts to work with Russia in the interests of Europe as a whole. Let’s spend British money in Britain rather than on intervention in the Ukraine as the latter can, and should, sort themselves out. I would rather see guidance from Macron than Biden.

I would suggest a free port in Kaliningrad with firm arrangements for EU trade, thus binding Russia more closely to Western Europe.

Mr Putin simply wants respect for himself and Russia.

Bernard Borman, Leyburn.

Voting system

MANY are angry and depressed by the dishonesty, incompetence, and hypocrisy of our national government. Many, including apologists, state that the focus should be on rising hunger, poverty, inequality of opportunity and crises in the NHS and care services.

Many are, rightly, concerned by external crises in Afghanistan, Ukraine and the fall-out from Brexit.

The behaviour of some MPs is appalling, destructive and frequently useless or self-serving; for example, Owen Patterson and the PM’s attempt to force a rule change. However, it is wrong and defeatist to believe that “they are all the same” or that nothing can be done.

There are many excellent MPs and candidates who would be excellent given the opportunity. It is significant that MPs representing marginal constituencies are more attentive to the needs and views of their constituents than those with safe seats.

Our first past the post (FPTP) voting system rewards the worst. Leaders of winning parties overestimate their righteousness as Tony Blair did with Iraq, and Margaret Thatcher with Poll Tax. FPTP encourages divisiveness, discreditation of others and discourages cooperation.

Essential, potentially unpopular decisions like social care or energy policy get deferred – a gross abdication of responsibility. FPTP drives ideological swings such as that between nationalisation and privatisation or endless NHS reorganisations. A small number of swing voters in marginal constituencies determine the government.

FPTP is inherently unfair. The Brexit Party had 600,000 votes but no MP. Labour needed over 50,000 votes for an MP, but the Conservatives only 38,000. The SNP only needed 26,000 votes but the Green Party, with 800,000 votes, has only one MP.

Many believe their votes do not count. The turnout for elections in which every vote counts, proportional representation (PR), is typically five to eight per cent higher than where FPTP is used.

The Conservatives' 80-seat majority is based on only 43.6 per cent of the votes. In 2019 they gained an extra 48 seats with only a 1.2 per cent increase in votes.

The most stable states in the world (Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland and Denmark) all use PR. We need PR to improve our lives. Support Make Votes Matter, a UK pressure group.

Mark Harrison, Swainby.