Erratum and updates

I knew there would be changes to information in my book. I knew there would be mistakes. I hope you appreciate an insight into both.


Oil spills are never cleaned up completely, we rely on bacteria to consume the oil or just let it settle onto the ocean floor and land. It could be some time before that changes, but this news story brings hope – if we magnetise the oil, giant magnets can collect it:


Well, Teresa May has culled the Department of Energy and Climate Change and created the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I can understand the synergies, but feel this move deflects attention from Climate Change and other forms of pollution. You may remember that the biggest expenditure for DECC was decommissioning nuclear power stations, so this move won’t have saved much money.


Better news. I predicted we wouldn’t see fully solar cars on the streets for years. So I was delighted to hear of a German start-up that is planning exactly that:

Sono motors  has the goal of enabling “sustainable mobility for all, without limiting the user”.


More good news for the UK, at the point of publishing we had some of the slowest mobile internet speeds in Europe – we are now No.1 with 27.9 Mbps on average.


Romania remains top of the fixed line internet charts and has increased its speed to 82 Mbps.


The proportion of UK oil used to make chemicals has dropped from ten to seven percent from 2015 to 2016.


Our electricity losses have increased by one percentage point from seven to eight percent.


I made a mistake in one of the 76 calculations that run through the VFUU Price of Oil.

As I explain in this blog post, I failed to divide by 365 and overestimated the number of UK homes that could heat all their hot water with the energy saved by recycling steel instead of making it from ore. While the number is still impressive, it is far short of the original estimate.

Original text with error highlighted: “Assuming all the steel made in the world in 2014 was made from scratch, and assuming we replaced all of it with recycled old steel, then we could heat 3.5 billion UK homes. And that, as they say, is enough.”

Correct number: 9.5 million, one-third of all UK homes.


Another, unacceptable error, was my claim that crisp makers use nitrous oxide. They don’t and I now come first in searches for this erroneous claim. Crisp packets are plumped up with nitrogen.

I also completely mis-transposed data from the World Data Bank. My original footnote read:

Food does so much more that sustain us day-to-day. In 2010 30% of all working people derived their living from agriculture, and that figure is heavily weighted to the industrially developing world (for example, only 1.5% of working Brits were employed in agriculture). Yet, in financial terms, food generated little more than 3% of global added value, which we call GDP.

In fact, 20% of the working world is employed by agriculture and they generate 4% of GDP.