Bulb Gas - a by-product of the meat industry!

Really disappointed to discover that the 10% environmentally friendly gas is a by-product of the meat industry! I suspect other vegetarians and people who find intensive farming unacceptable will be angry too.

Edit: We’re proud that we’re able to decarbonise such a high carbon industry as animal rearing. Animals will always exist and if this biomethane isn’t harnessed it will leak into the atmosphere where it has 30 times the negative impact of CO2.

Since writing this post, we’ve written up this comparison of our green gas to organic vegetables. We think it’s a useful way of looking at it.

Green gas is as veggie friendly as organic carrots

See below for my original answer


Hi Sarah, this is obviously something that you’re really passionate about which is amazing to see.

Unfortunately in this case, green gas and supporting vegetarianism in the way you’d like us to are mutually exclusive. We simply can’t support both at the same time.

Green gas is a very early days industry. There are very limited amounts of green gas that can be bought, especially at prices that allow us to be competitive. The only viable alternative to us using Green Gas from Oxfordshire piggeries would be to not use green gas at all. If there was other biomethane out there at reasonable prices then we would already be using it and we would have a higher proportion of our gas mix come from these renewable sources.

The only way we are able to promote renewable energy is by making a profitable business out of it. This way we can grow and bring more people over to renewables. To do this we need to make smart decisions about the price of energy we buy and the price that we sell it for. It can be easy to think “oh, well just spend more money then”, but that doesn’t work. We are a business and don’t have infinite money to throw at promoting renewables, especially since we’re pretty new and are still in start up mode. If we just spent more money getting vegetarian friendly renewable gas then we would have to sell it at unreasonably high prices so no one would want to join Bulb.

The upshot is that if we were to support vegetarianism in the way you would like us to we would either need to not be renewable, or we would have to have prices so high that we price ourselves out of the market. If we did the first one, then we wouldn’t be living up to the principles that we founded Bulb on. If we did the second then we wouldn’t be able to bring renewable energy to the world, so we would have failed our goal.

I know that this isn’t a satisfying reply for you. I’d love to be able to wave a magic wand, but we need to choose our fights and do what we can to do the most good for the world with the skills and knowledge that we have.

That said…

The meat industry is a huge contributor towards global warming. We’re all about helping people reduce their carbon footprint, and eating less meat is a great way to do that! Supporting vegetarianism isn’t something that we’ve looked into yet, but it’s something we’d be interested in looking into.

Do you have any suggestions on how we could help the average person reduce their meat consumption?

Thanks,

Will

Thats a very reasoned and fair reply I think

Will,
Thank you for your reply. You are right in understanding that your response does not satisfy my own ethical criteria and I imagine is at odds with the views of other people who do not eat meat and/or do not support intensive farming for compassionate reasons.
I am unhappy that the source of your 10% green gas was not made known until I’d signed up and had I been aware of your connection with the Oxfordshire piggery I would not have signed up at all. I understand that the ‘switch’ for my gas and electricity supply is not yet complete - can I cancel?
Regards
Sarah

Hi Sarah,

Yes we can cancel your switch. Amit just spoke with you on the phone so we’ll put that all through for you. You don’t need to do anything else, it’s all been cancelled.

I’m sorry that Money Saving Expert didn’t make it clear enough for you. We created this article for them to share with people, but sounds like you didn’t see it until you’d signed up. So sorry for that.

All the best,

Will

Hi @sarahj - as a vegetarian myself (transitioning to veganism) I totally understand your concerns about gas that is a by-product of the meat industry. And I struggle with the term “green gas” too, as burning anything isn’t especially green. Having said that, it is certainly greenER gas :wink:

I find my life is full of ethical conundrums. For me, although I would love to see the meat/dairy industry disappear, I think we may as well use this by-product while it exists. I wouldn’t buy meat, because that encourages the continuation of the animal farming industry, but I don’t believe that using this gas will encourage meat consumption at all, so it seems an acceptable compromise to me in this case.

Personally, I am in the process of eliminating gas from my property anyway, thanks to a new type of radiant heating system that uses electricity - thank goodness for government subsidies!!

Anyway, I also wanted to comment that I did appreciate one thing in particular in what @will said in his response:

I know that this isn't a satisfying reply for you. .... That said... The meat industry is a huge contributor towards global warming. We're all about helping people reduce their carbon footprint, and eating less meat is a great way to do that! Supporting vegetarianism isn't something that we've looked into yet, but it's something we'd be interested in looking into. Do you have any suggestions on how we could help the average person reduce their meat consumption? Will

I am really pleased that bulb are willing to look at how you can encourage people to reduce their meat consumption. A company actively working towards helping people to reduce their carbon footprint in a variety of ways is great to see. Often, it seems to me, companies don’t look at the bigger picture.

There are a range of bigger and smaller things you could do. A lot of it is around raising awareness I think. How about free one year membership of the Vegan Society in people’s welcome packs when they sign up. I am sure you could reach a deal with the society so that it wouldn’t cost you much, and it would be a great way to get people thinking about the carbon footprint of what they eat. Another thought actually, for your welcome pack, would be just an A4 sheet of “10 other things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint”, e.g. take a vow not to fly again for leisure, go vegan/vegetarian, buy an electric car, …" with info about how to make a start on each.

You might consider using your social media channels to post a “low carbon recipe of the week” each week - recipes that only contain plant products, and better still locally sourced ones, to have the lowest carbon footprint possible.

I’ll stop there as this has turned into an essay!

Mary x

@maryrcrumpton

I'll stop there as this has turned into an essay!

We like essays!

Lots of good ideas there, especially around including more info in our welcome packs and other emails. We actually did a brainstorm last week about big and small ways we can help people reduce their carbon footprint and flying, eating less meat and electric cars all came up. We’ll be posting content about them and promoting them to members and on social media too. Watch out for those. In fact our Blog is due to be ready for launch this week, although we don’t have this specific content ready for posting quite yet.

Low carbon recipes sound good. Maybe we could even get some of the local restaurants on board… who knows if they’d be interested. Do you have any favourites to get us started?

I am really pleased that bulb are willing to look at how you can encourage people to reduce their meat consumption. A company actively working towards helping people to reduce their carbon footprint in a variety of ways is great to see.
I too am very pleased about this - and all the more impressed because the greater their success in this the more their business is likely to be adversely affected by it. The "bigger picture" for most companies, and the bigger they are the more this is likely to be true, merely involves making as much profit as possible at whatever cost to the environment and to consumers' principles..

Exactly @renewab

The more I learn about bulb, the more impressed I am by them. And whilst I have seen some small companies lose their morals as they grow, I have a strong feeling that this won’t be the case with this team. Very pleasing to see.

Looking to sign up to a new supplier & like the concept but glad I ventured further & saw this thread, unfortunately as a Vegan I can no longer consider your company.
Still like the replies & the general outlook, & will continue to look at energy suppliers & maybe in the near future things may change to a point where I can consider signing up with Bulb.

Regards Bill

Sad to hear it @billwood

Is the fact that our gas comes from pig waste a complete deal breaker for you? Is there anything that we could do or confirm that would make this a good choice for you?

Cheers,

Will

I just think it’s fantastic to find a company that actually takes the time to get involved in this kind of conversation with their customers. I may be wrong, but I personally do not know of any other company that provides this service. I am personally against animal farming but the piggeries would continue to function despite Bulb’s custom, At least this has provided a way of providing something positive from the horrendous intensive farming practice.

Thanks @sparrow, I’m glad we’re coming off well. We just want everyone to have all the information they need or want about Bulb :slight_smile:

Looking to sign up to a new supplier & like the concept but glad I ventured further & saw this thread, unfortunately as a Vegan I can no longer consider your company. Still like the replies & the general outlook, & will continue to look at energy suppliers & maybe in the near future things may change to a point where I can consider signing up with Bulb.

Regards Bill

I understand where you are coming from @billwood . As a vegan myself it did give me pause for thought. And I have been chatting with other vegans about it too.

In the end I decided it came down to whether the piggeries are in existence, or more likely to be, because of bulb using the gas.

I don’t believe that to be the case. I hate that the piggeries exist, but in that they do (for now), I can’t condemn making use of the gas. Better that than other gas I think.

It’s a complex issue - Having embraced a plant-based diet, I now find myself asking which of my other choices might indirectly encourage animal agriculture and which won’t. I think this particular choice would not. Though, having said that, I am happy that I personally have now got rid of gas from my property, so I am not faced with this particular ethical dilemma as much as someone who will use the gas themselves.

Ideally, I think it would be nice if all bulb’s lovely customers got rid of their gas heating/cookers etc and we all just used lots of lovely green bulb electricity :slight_smile:

Mary.

Ecotricity supply vegan gas.

Very interesting thread with good points from both sides. I was considering signing up to Bulb because of their great ethics but must admit that learning about the use of non-vegan gas does make me think again. Before reading this thread I had no idea that any gas was made from animal by products!

I understand people’s points about the piggeries will still exist even if the gas is not used but I presume that some money goes to the piggeries for the supply of the gas. If so this is funding the meat industry and therefore making the meat more affordable and encouraging it’s consumption. This is kind of the same argument as a vegetarian using or not using leather products.

If I’ve got this wrong and no money goes to the pig farm and/or the meat industry then please correct me. It just concerns me that if they start to make money from the gas then I’m sure the corporate pressure would encourage more production of slurry and therefore the mistreatment of animals.

Would it not be possible to pay a premium to ensure none of my money goes towards the funding of a pig farm? I understand you would like to keep the pricing simple but offering this option would allow us to choose and still use Bulb.

It really encourages me that so many people are concerned about this :slight_smile:

Hi @tvr,

I’m glad you’ve found this discussion useful, even if it has made you rethink joining Bulb. And I completely understand your concerns about extra money going to the pig farms. At the end of the day though, we’ve decided as a business to focus on making renewable energy affordable, so that’s what we’re going to focus on. Cutting pigs out of our equation at the moment would mean we wouldn’t be upholding our promise.

Having separate tariffs that cost a premium for extra things isn’t something that I think we’re likely to do any time soon. At Bulb our promise is to bring renewable energy at an affordable price, and to keep our pricing simple. Simply put, everyone should be on our best tariff without having to worry about whether they could save more by juggling their tariffs about.

All the best,

Will

Hi @will

We’re just in the process of switched over to Bulb and found this discussion very helpful. I had a look at Ecotricity’s “Green Gas” and what Good Energy offers on the gas front before making our decision. For me its really important that any “Green” gas is made from genuine waste and not from a crop grown to make gas, no matter how beneficial that might appear to be (meadows cut at the right time are certainly a great asset to our environment). At least until such a time as we have exhausted our genuine waste streams that could make gas from (we’re nowhere near that yet).

The thing about what Ecotricity is doing is that when you look at the bigger picture as to why there is grazing land available to make gas from its not because folk are eating less meat, meaning we can now spare this land for other uses. Its because livestock farming has intensified and we increasing raise meat by feeding ruminant and other grazing animals with grains and soya because its cheaper to fatten animals that way (the environmental impacts of this are clearly not taken into account). Not only are the ruminants not designed to eat this kind of food (causing the production of far more of their own gas (ie farts!)), the way the feed crops are grown means that they generally have dreadful carbon footprints (ploughing to sow grain releases a lot more carbon than folk release (or farmers count) and as for soya most of us know there are massive impacts relating to its production in both tropical forest areas (like Brazil) and other countries with extensive native natural grasslands (like Uruguay).

The lowest carbon meat production system is letting animals eat grass as they are naturally designed to. They can convert grass to energy far more efficiently than a man made gas plant. Permanent grasslands (and not break crops) managed in the right way with grazing animals absorb and store a lot of carbon. We should be encouraging farmers to stick with or go back to their natural systems and not to make gas from grass as a sideline while they feed their cows corn and soya in the sheds.This is a great report for further information about the carbon footprints of natural verses intensive cattle rearing systems: http://www.campaignforrealfarming.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/NT-report-Whats-your-beef.pdf

I read you liked essays, good job hey!?

Anna

@anna amazing post, thanks!

We love essays and long posts :slight_smile: Really interesting to see your perspective on where green gas should come from. Everyone has such different opinions, it’s super interesting.

I think what we’re getting from all this is that it’s really important for us to be transparent about where our green gas comes from in order to allow members to make their own decisions. We always aim to be transparent about everything, but we should be especially proactive when it comes to green gas.

@will totally re the transparency, and add to that the fact you are listening. That’s why we chose to switch to you! :slight_smile: