To Tackle Climate Change, We should Start with Railway

An inventor who plans to convert the Isle of Man Steam Railway to run on green hydrogen has said the island can no longer ignore climate change.

Dr John C Taylor OBE put in a planning application for a building in Ballawoods to be made into a green restaurant, but in this mentioned his plans for the railway.

The steam trains, which have been running for just short of 150 years, currently run on Welsh high grade steam coal, however the pit in Wales that produced the coal has now closed.

With the UK having pledged to cease all coal burning by 2024, Dr Taylor has said the island will ‘likely follow that lead’ and discussions are taking pace as to where a museum for the Victorian era locomotives will be sited as they won’t be able to operate without the coal.ALSO IN

Dr Taylor is currently in the process of assembling a team to redesign the locomotive boilers to run on green hydrogen.

The 85-year-old said: ‘I would like to inspire young people that to do away with greenhouse gases, we’re going to have to change things like our steam railway from coal to hydrogen.

‘It’s easier to introduce the concept to young people who are open to learn, whereas the majority of people 30 and above just say “I’m not doing anything about it because nobody else is, so it doesn’t matter”.’

Dr Taylor stressed that converting the trains to run on green hydrogen wouldn’t change their appearance or sound.

The Santon resident stated in the planning application: ‘To my knowledge, there is no production of green hydrogen currently on the Isle of Man – hence the necessity to collect solar and wind energy to produce green electricity to run the green restaurant and turn any spare green energy into green hydrogen to run the steam locomotives.

‘The crisis with using oil and gas from Russia has confronted Europe in general and the Isle of Man in particular, making it even more important that the Isle of Man become self sufficient as far as possible. Using solar and wind green energy would help us do that.’

Dr Taylor said that burning coal causes pollution in the atmosphere and, now the island could no longer have the Welsh coal it had been using, this was a good opportunity to revolutionise the way it runs the railway.

‘You can’t ignore climate change,’ he said. ‘Somebody’s got to start saying, “you can’t run a steam engine unless it’s green” and the only way to run a steam engine that’s green is to provide green hydrogen.

‘Green hydrogen is made by electrolysis of water and use of green electricity, and green electricity comes from photo voltaic arrays from wind generators, primarily, and hopefully in the future from tidal generators.

‘At the moment they’re talking about having a new museum to put the trains in while they wait until they can get battery powered locomotives. In other words, “we don’t have to bother, we’ll just stop them”. We want to preserve our heritage.’

Dr Taylor added: ‘Some are asking “why can’t you run it on wood pellets?” Wood pellets are stored carbon, which you’re then going to burn and make into carbon dioxide. Just because it’s wood and you can grow more wood, it doesn’t help the planet.

‘It’s absolute nonsense. You can’t do anything by half measures – you’ve got to go completely green.’

The Isle of Man is a UNESCO Biosphere, meaning it’s a site for sustainable development, and will have an inspection by UNESCO in a few years to check if it still fits standards.

‘They’ll find we have a gas powered power station which pollutes with CO2 and there is virtually no green energy in the Isle of Man,’ the inventor said. There’s no encouragement to do any of it.

‘If you’re burning coal in a steam engine, you could imagine protesters coming across to the Isle of Man and seeing that we’re still burning coal. Aren’t we terrible?

‘And so rather than wait until something like that happens, why don’t we convert the steam locomotives over here to run on hydrogen?

‘Like I say we could use wind and tides, there’s huge tides around the Isle of Man – but there’s very little work being done.’

The government has responded and outlined ways it’s encouraging the use of green energy, including The Climate Change Act, DEFA’s energy efficiency scheme, the green living grant scheme, the business energy saving scheme, plus others.

Dr Taylor added: ‘I’m not a Manxman but I have lived here the majority of my working life.

‘I’ve noticed it’s great for saying, “we’re a little island, so it doesn’t matter”, but if everybody says that, then you’re going to do nothing about huge producers of carbon dioxide.’

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