help Ukraine

Shoe shops shouldn't put strange links right at the tops of their pages, so here they are instead, even though they are not about vegan shoes. 

Gazprom Fuel saving

For next time: "made in" labels make boycotts possible

Your local MP might be interested in this because it doesn't need an act of Parliament. If I remember right, The Revenue and Customs Act promises taxpayers that their data will only be used for tax collection, and not freedom of information requests or general attempts by the civil service to get trade directories written and allow people in the UK to see what is made in the UK. 

Ways of opening Russian web sites over-and-over in order to slow them down

  • opens in a separate page that's not indexed anywhere

Taking in lodgers from Ukraine


Reduce payments to Gazprom with shared travel, off-peak washing, solar panels, various odd thoughts starting "if you...". TOP

logo of Gazprom, the Russian gas-selling organisation

Shared travel: revert to pre-Covid public transport and lift sharing; pick up hitch-hikers TOP

After the obvious statement, it would be good to give a list of quick links for people who might give-up the car or share it more.

Intercity buses are cheap and make trains feel more comfortable,, Rome2rio, or the directions button on Google Maps or Bing Maps. If you think about going on a bus, and then go on a train, it makes the train feel a lot more comfortable.

Shared car journeys

Blablacar, and show offers of shared lifts for shared petrol, with a commission to the web site. For regular travellers on the same route, they are an introduction agency. tries to search the previous three for anyone with a free sign-in membership, but I have not made that work myself yet; I haven't found the email confirmation link. You can also pick-up hitch-hikers, if they still exist, at the exits of motorway service stations or try standing there yourself with a sign. Edgeware service station at the foot of the M1 can be reached by bus and tube. 

Another way into this is where people with the same employer offer each other lifts-in and lifts-out. I don't know much more than that, but the idea seems to be for a destination like an employer to promote or one of the lift sharing schemes and mention P2P car hire firms at the same time. A lot of people use cars for work. It's good that they know the alternatives for a back-up. An employer might even buy an electric car or two and get a P2P car firm to equip the things so that employees can use them.

Shared cabs

In Belfast & Derry there's a tradition of cab-sharing in five-seat black cabs that works on local knowledge of drivers and regular customers. In London, Viavan tried to do the same with software, Mercedes minibuses and smartphone apps but didn't get it working well before Covid and are still shut in London this spring 2022. Their web site looks more optimistic about Berlin and their electric minicab service in Milton Keynes. It looks as though they are running in both places. Maybe they or someone else will get the idea going in other places. might have some suggestions under their section.

If you pick-up a cab at a cab rank, it's not illegal  to shout "anyone going towards East Sheen?" to others behind you in the queue in the hope that someone is going nearby, you can split the fare to where the first person gets off, while the second pays for a new ride from there. I don't know what cab drivers make of this. I expect they want clarity, which is rather hard to organise with a stranger from a queue at short notice but maybe someone reading this has the people skills to make it work. I expect you need a bit of give-and take if strangers from the queue don't have the change to pay their exact share of the fare to point one, and you need a patient driver.

There used to be shared cabs in Malta, where the driver would hold different bank notes between the fingers of the left hand while driving with the right. It was a tourist attraction, but the government of Malta decided that it was too exciting and got a normal bus company in. I don't know if the freelancers are still working.


Here in London, 5-seat black cabs accept customers in the street in the town centre and north of the river or beyond, and seven seater cabs are the same price if you can find one maybe on an app, so they are good for groups of people or good if convenient and you can afford the money. They queue-up at big stations and airports for people who can afford them, I believe.

In every town there are cheap cab firms to use when public transport is a chore, but different ones; there is no quick link. The ones that use an app (if your smartphone is working) to make sure you're found and that you've paid for the journey have lower costs, and they are usually not Uber. Bolt is cheaper in London. Older cab firms have given-up their control offices and started using smartphone apps to keep costs down too. So anyone thinking of doing without a car needs to do some googling and get a few apps on the phone. When the smartphone isn't working, there are free phone lines to a local taxi firm from hospitals and some larger supermarkets. Phone boxes might have stickers in them advertising cabs or other options for spending the night locally.

Hire cars

  1. P2P: best option for hire cars.  Hiyacar, Karshare, Getaround or Turo are person to person or P2P car hire firms with very low costs. In Ireland there's Fleet, in the US there's Lyft and in Australia there's Drivemycar and Carnextdoor.  Hiyacar is in bold type because it's a discount link. At Gatwick airport, Karshare will borrow some kinds of car and pay you to rent them out instead of charging you to store them. Hiyacar and Karshare will lease you a car that you can rent-out, paying you back some of the leasing costs.

    If you are near a station or in a place that has parking permits and congestion zones, there's a good chance of making a profit even if you are still paying for the car or leasing it, and even if you use it sometimes yourself. Agencies vary in the kinds of car they accept, but a car with two keys is a good start because it can have a smartphone-robot key system installed. A car with low insurance costs could lower the price charged to hirers, and councils might give a different price for a parking permit if your car has the lowest emissions.

  2. Car clubs: backup option for hire cars Next up in price are the firms that own or lease all their cars and manage them, paying someone to check them every few days. They park them on the street and often on rented club bays in council-controlled parking zones. These councils tend to have a web page listing the clubs like Zipcar and Enterprise where I live, and Ubeeqo as another option in the next council along that used to rent space to Co-Wheels as well. These firms costs have to be higher. They are registered for VAT. The contractors work full-time, probably as formal employees with a commute, rather than part time on one or two cars in a way that might not feel like work. The firms buy or lease new cars and auction them at the end of some finance deal or when the mileage gets high. No wonder these firms are more expensive to use than the previous lot and often charge a monthly membership fee and call themselves clubs. Zipcar has a pay as you go option, but you have to pay to sign-up for it and there's a mixture of mileage costs and hourly costs. These firms might be worth signing-up as a pay-as-you-go customer if you rely on a cheaper firm and want a backup, because they have a lot of cars in some areas and there might be one still left at the last minute on a sunny bank holiday, but they're not the cheapest first choice. Obviously, they are not clubs with cheap rooms, sauna and private bar for members in a town centre. If they could offer that for a low monthly subscription it might be worth calling a club, but the Royal Automobile Club charges £1,400 a year for that. All Zipcar and Enterprise offer is a smartphone app for renting a car, just like cheaper P2P car hire firms.

  3. Car hire firms with advertised brands, places on comparison sites, counters and counter staff, cars, and car parks. These have the highest costs although they can look cheap on comparison sites. They manage that by making it hard to book for a single day, so you have to pay for two The worst ones pay commission to staff for spotting new damage like a small scratch, maybe over-and-over-again, and selling damage insurance. The smaller firms which don't advertise may be good for vans. It's hard to find other options if you have just arrived at an airport, although one or two car owners on the P2P car hire sites will deliver if you book in advance. writes much the same thing in case council decision-makers want to read it.

Efficient and tax-efficient cars

For anyone with a car who pays for car tax and maybe a parking permit and driving in a low emissions zone, there could be tax breaks on each of those for a car with lower emissions. 

The first job is to check your council parking web site for cheap deals on parking permits and emission zones, then apply those conditions when searching or Autotrader. They already have "running costs" search functions for car tax. Then a check on It's hard to know what to add, because so many already know this and have added 25% to the cost of secondhand cars recently, and even more for the ones with very low emissions that might qualify for some discount somewhere where others don't. 

The EU also suggest not going to work, which I can recommend from experience, and finding rail replacements for plane journeys. They didn't mention private jet journeys, but I will not be doing any of those. Oh, that summery was based on a tabloid report online. Here's the original link.


Set the washing machine to run at some time other than 6-10pm weekday evenings  TOP

The idea is that gas power plants work at peak times to generate electricity, in the UK at least, like winter evenings 6-10pm. If you can move something energy-intensive outside those hours, there's less need for UK power stations to use North Sea gas. More of it can be used in Europe instead of Gazprom gas. You might have to check with neighbours if they mind the sound of bedtime washing till the war ends - or maybe there is some obscure bit in the online instructions or your machine about setting it to run in the morning. It it takes extension leads and a timer switch, the mechanical ones are a lot more intuitive. Talking of obscure online instructions. Which magazine writes that some dishwashers have an obscure setting to open the door a little when the cycle is over, so plates dry quicker and more cheaply.

If you make tea in peak hours, maybe some thrifty way of boiling water like the microwave could help. If you design kettles, there are things you could do if customers will pay for the better kettles. If you make tea anyway, then pouring cups of cold water into an emtpy kettle before boiling could be good. Once you start thinking about the global kettle issue, then the re-use of vinegar option becomes more interesting. If you boil-up some of the cheapest vinegar you can find (or citric acid or whatever) to clean the kettle, you can keep this vinegar and use it again another time.

If you work in TV scheduling, Gas power stations start-up in the breaks between popular TV programs on winter evenings, I guess, when millions of people make a cup of tea at the same time while the heating is on, the sun isn't shining, and maybe the wind isn't blowing much. They're the power stations for peak demand.  If there is some way to vary the breaks between different viewers, the peaks of demand are lower and the need for Gazprom gas lower.

There is a government consultation on how to report electricity use over time. It runs till 28th September.
Also how to control things like night storage radiators remotely, so that they only turn-on when there's a cheap tariff even if cheap tariff times vary every day.

Join the queue for solar panels if you'll control surplus space for a long time  TOP
 estimates percentage returns: money back in 15-20 years.
Assumptions are electricity staying under 29p a kwh, which it won't, and installations starting under £3,000 for 2kw of peak power, which they don't; they've gone-up to £4500 I think. The estimates include a couple of changes of inverter over 20 years @ £795 including installation, so you might be luckier. If there's a way of getting a DIY-change-able inverter that could cut costs later.

The estimate for was someone who is in all day; someone who commutes back at 6pm only gets two thirds of the benefits and has to sell more back to the grid. Selling prices are another estimate.

The returns are less than you'd get on some P2P lending sites.
You can boost the return by checking on satellite dishes and TV aerials on the roof that you can use for Freesat or Freeview instead of any cable TV that you're paying for. Sites like spell-out the detail.

A lot of people are installing panels - all the change in UK solar capacity from February to March 2022 is installations under 50kw - although the same report mentions that there's no tax-break for commercial-scale installations so maybe they're just not tracked in the statistics. (

         UK megawatts capacity
        Feb 22  Mar 22 change
00-04kw 2908.9  2930.4 21.5mw
04-10kw  365.2   374.2 11.0mw
10-50kw  964.1   971.1 07.0mw 

If you control surplus space for a decade or more and can invest five thousand pounds or more

In England, solar panels under 1m high are permitted development on flat rooves, it says here, if the roof is not a "dwelling house".
Why not a "dwelling house"? It doesn't say.
Search "solar" and "permitted development" for Scotland, Wales, or wherever else the database covers and for sloping rooves. shows updates to the law better than came-up with an estimate just over £4500  for just over 2kw peak power over 8 panels to be confirmed after a few questions and a check of the roof area. A battery would cost more than half as much again. I didn't mention detail or whether they do flat rooves. came-up with a very similar quote excluding a structural survey for a flat roof. have a prices based on a questionnaire, starting at £4,000 £5,000; the price has just gone-up. They must have under-quoted or got too many customers. This year they've also stopped doing flat rooves because of the cost of structural surveys, and access is one of the complications that they need to talk about too. The estimate on their web site has some small print at the bottom about other complications: it assumes a strong cement roof for 20kg panels.

A good thing about Eon is that they offer free credit for people who can make monthly payments over three years, with most of the benefit at the beginning. You can pay-off the lot towards the end and not loose much.

 people have different ideas about "surplus space". Anyone would want panels on a warehouse roof, but "brownfield land" is often there because industry has been treated badly and should get a chance to return, particularly if boycotting China becomes an issue. Likewise good crop-growing farm land that doesn't make much money from farming but ought to. Fertiliser production isn't working at the moment, for example, wheat is harder to get from Ukraine and the government gives no prizes for a solution.

The UK government doesn't even keep a spreadsheet of UK farmers or miners or manufacturers so it's hard for anyone even to write a trade directory of who they are. Freedom of information requests are over-ruled by something called the Revenue and Customs Act which looks as though it was written to defend the privacy of Russian oligarchs.  On the other hand it allows this to be over-ridden in "the national interest", so the kind of data that helps trade directories get written could be made available if anyone persuaded the "commissioners for revenue and customs" that it's in the national interest.

There are bits of history about manufacturing, farming, or mining, that I think show UK government squashing these things because it hasn't a clue. They take their lead from newspapers, which count a high exchange rate as good or "strong" and a low one that lets people sell things as "weak".

So that's why surplus or brown-field space might be needed for growing wheat or for factories that make substitutes for Chinese consumer goods if we have to boycott those as well.

I thought I saw on Google News a photo-voltaic magazine's survey of warehouse roof operators and why they're not all putting-up panels. I can't find it now. If anyone knows the url please let me now on shop at veganline dot com so I can quote it here.

Problem: winter evenings / batteries / hot water tanks / night storage heater

The quote form suggests an electric battery as an optional extra, but that costs nearly half as much again and won't last as long as the panels. There will be big cheaper batteries around in ten years' time, as electric car batteries wear-out and look for a new home where their ratio of capacity to weight isn't so important, but that's no much help till then.

This is a problem people faced in the 1970s, before cheap gas, when they bought cheap night-time electricity and tried to store if in hot water tanks and night storage radiators. The system never quite went-away and in future it might become a money-saver again. puts the point under the heading "install a PV diverter" .

There is another way to make sure you save money and help Ukraine at the same time, which might use 1970s technology. 
If you are going to get on the roof or help other people get on it, you can check the 1970s TV aerial and any satellite dishes that may have been added since. These can help you cancel your paid TV satellite subscription if you don't much want it. Some fans of Sky Sports might want the paid channels, but most of us pay for satellite TV by mistake. In the UK the 1970s TV aerial gets the channels on and the dish probably gets a similar range on something called Freesat, according to . If you check your aerials and cancel your paid satellite TV at the same time as installing solar panels, you're much more likely to break even and help Ukraine.

Smart meters and maybe Economy 7 in future  TOP

"With smart meters comes a smarter energy grid, helping us to be more precise about the energy that everyone needs and reducing CO2 emissions", according to Eon Energy who offer them free to customers. That might free-up a bit of North Sea gas to replace Gazprom gas. Smart meters also teach you what uses most energy and what not.

There's no promise of a cheaper night-time tariff, but if one comes along in future you will be ready to use it because your timer will  know when you're using electricity. There may be a tariff that's cheaper and night and costs more during the day according to says that there is already a scheme for Octopus Energy customers and that the National Grid is lobbying other companies to try something similar.

"The power company is understood to be working on a new scheme that would pay households through their smart meters to reduce usage. It is hoped the plans, first reported The Times, will help to ration electricity this winter amid fears Russia will cut off gas supplies to Europe.

As part of the plan, run by National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO), households would be paid around £6 for each kilowatt-hour they save during peak times. Households normally pay 28.34p for each kilowatt-hour of energy they use.

This would theoretically incentivise households to prioritise energy-hungry activities, such as running a washing machine, tumble dryer or cooking, at off-peak hours.

It comes as the government has drawn up possible plans to ration electricity this winter if Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe over the war in Ukraine." tracks down where to get a smart meter; tracks-down what sort of smart meter you already have, if it is there with serial numbers to read on the back.

Problem with smart meters

The sign-up form says that installers need space to "hug" your old meter. I have never tried and it might not be possible, but the person who came-round to do it managed quite a tight space and I he he might have cut some planks and partitions out of the way if he asked and was allowed.

One in eight installed smart meters are set to be read manually. Why?
- Mark 1 versions could be locked to one supplier, some now defunct or moved-on-from
- Nobody checked the phone signal until it went wrong, apparently:The Guardian got a flood of letters about smart meter mistakes like adding two or three noughts to the bill
- People forget how to use this stuff or inherit it without a clue, so they choose the simplest option. It's not quite the simplest because a smart meter should save you typing-in meter readings and allowing meter readers to visit once in a blue moon, but I guess this seems simpler than getting the automatic meter reading system to work, if it can.

Off-peak tariffs in future

Anyone who remembers living before cheap gas will remember the system of two electricity meters on the wall and two immersion heaters in the hot water tank. Your granny or your strange uncle know this stuff. You may still have some of the equipment. One of the meters offered economy-price electricity between midnight and seven am and was connected to the bottom immersion heater on the tank. The tank was so badly insulated that you could do better by tying spare bedding round it, and the water got colder by bath time. You could set a timer switch on the top immersion heater to re-heat some water each evening ready for the bath, and RS components still sells heavy-duty timer switches for this.

If you had that system you might have night storage heaters as well, which were a pile of tiles in a modern-looking metal box that heated up and night and stayed warm during the day. 1970s ones were so fat you could sit on them. 

"There are broadly three types of storage heaters. The first is a manual one with only really basic controls – an input/output dial." ... writes Moneysavingexpert - "make sure the output is set to low before it comes on during the night. The output dial normally goes from 1-6, so make sure it's set at 1. This will ensure the storage heater charges up through the night "

Later generations were slimmer and sometimes more subtle, but not much more. They're called something different like "ceramic core"  in the hope that people buy them by mistake.

Another type "is a heater with a thermostat. This one releases heat depending on the temperature of the room it's in"

"The third type is a combination of the previous two. It has a convector heater to use as a booster during peak hours." helps you identify what generation of night storage heater you have, or see second-hand, or even buy new. Buying new with home delivery or even with installation would be a good option because they're heavy.

None of this saves money until better electricity tariffs, but hanging-on to the equipment and getting a smart meter keep you ready if cheap night time electricity is offered, or if you install solar panels.

If you are in government: emergency plans to restore closed coal and nuclear power, and more   TOP

The Independent warns of Russia putting up prices further and cutting off supplies more, potentially quadrupling fuel prices and causing a deep recession, soon. The response needs to find alternative energy supplies this year.

Restoring bits of the nuclear generation and coal generation and mining industries

I guess a quick solution is to restore recently closed bits of the coal and nuclear industry if possible, which might require nationalisation, changes to obscure laws and rules, judgements of risk, lots of phone calls and assembly of experts, and of course people willing to work in old nuclear power stations or coal mines and generators. Deep coal mining is at Knightly Colliery is an unusual job, but someone might want to do it along with the rather safer jobs in patched-up power stations.

Westminster ministries have already asked coal generators to do more, as a favour, and I expect they returned the favour by postponing deadlines for compulsory closure. 

  so the market should encourage mines to produce more coal as well, but getting more coal is a bit like getting more staff. It might not be available. Australian mines' capacity is fully booked. There might be a way to throw money at a scheme to re-open some UK collieries for a while, and re-start some of the coal generators that have been closed for a while. It might require nationalisation if there are skilled staff willing to work on the project, but not owners. It might take some incentive to persuade the owners to help. The same applies to nuclear power stations. The French government has nationalised EDF energy, possibly to force it to manage nuclear power stations which the firm's staff are not keen to do, I read somewhere. EDF is certainly not keen to keep older UK nuclear power stations open, even in an energy crisis. The UK government could do what the French government did and nationalise the older power stations, but only if staff and other experts think they can be propped-up a bit longer. Radweld, for example, is good for getting cars past their MOTs and might work on a nuclear reactor as well: If it doesn't work on a nuclear power station it might work on some old but tax-efficient car that you bought a paragraph or two up the page: pre 2017 models had a different car tax system that allowed £0-£30 car tax on the cars with lowest emissions. Post 2017 cars have to be electric for the tax break, if I understand right.

Wikipedia lists an extraordinary amount of recently closed or about-to-close capacity - list of coal mines - the list includes several that have failed their MOTs and are closing this year or closed recently. 
There might be a list of coal fired power stations on wikipedia as well. Well there is a kind of index, just for England:

There are certainly some mothballed, as though moths are a problem for power stations but that's what journalists write. Nuclear power stations have other problems which prevent them ever being properly closed, demolished, built-over and forgotten. This is why they are a terrible idea for the long-term future but a great idea for a short term fix.

The Planning Act

Why is it not permitted development to put a solar panel on the flat roof of a "dwelling house"? Who makes these decisions in between hosting climate change conferences and pledging net zero? I think we should be told. Panels less than 20cm from an angled roof are permitted development, and a minister has just allowed them up to one meter above flat rooves on non "dwelling house" buildings, but the same change on dwellings takes a lot of consultation and is scheduled to happen about the end of this year, subject to politicians getting-around to it. This could be done quicker.

Governments in London Cardiff and Edinburgh can loosen planning rules by passing new planning acts or looking for ministerial over-rides. The Dublin government has just done the same. Councils have discretion too: they can declare permitted developments in their area, say that they don't need planning permission, and make sure that people know it by putting it on their web site or on the back of letters and rates bills and such.

Governments can reduce the time taken for planning permission. They can merge the local and then national processes into one national process for urgent projects, like cheap power and more housing. The Westminster government can start giving planning permission to onshore wind farms again. The Scottish government still allows them, but has just refused on for being too tall. 

Governments can remove allowable objections to solar panels and wind turbines such as "eyesore", which is a subjective thing and likely to change in a generation. To someone who wants cheap power, they are beautiful.

If you are a member of a council with planning powers

There are still planning laws against solar panels without permission, which costs at least £206, where I live, even if you write your own plans and can rule against building them.

Permitted development doesn't include listed buildings by default. Kensington and Chelsea council has just written some of its own permitted development rules for listed buildings, but Medway Council hasn't and has been advised to turn-down its own application for panels on the town hall:

Solar schemes for big roofs look a good way to go, and government could be good at finding out why there aren't more of them. Tax-funded organisations might have a lot of big rooves already; councils can borrow money cheaply for public works: there should be schemes popping-up all over the place. I read that above a certain current, the National Grid needs a heavy-duty connection which is expensive. Government could make sure that there's no VAT on the connection and maybe even lend money at low interest to get it done.

VAT discounts on DIY panels could be a good way to go.

At the moment there is 0% VAT on panels plugged-in by a registered installer and 20% VAT on the rest, such as 
If you are a registered solar installer, there is another way round this: inspect people's DIY projects after selling them 0% VAT panels like the ones on or second hand ones. I am not quite sure how this would work and it might need a change in the law to make it work. 


For next time: "MADE IN..." labels make boycotts possible. Vegans are good at boycotts. TOP

Companies that buy coal internationally started boycotting Russia before any sanctions forced them to: "Self Sanctioning" is a new jargon phrase for boycott. Leaks from Russia say the central bank has trouble selling gold, even in private, at a discount, and that they have to sell their oil to China at a discount because so few other customers want to buy.

China, that sells consumer goods, is behaving exactly as Russia did a few months ago, except that it seems to want Taiwan instead of Ukraine or the Isle of Weight or anywhere, and it has a COVID problem preventing invasion for a few months.

UK trading standards departments have no way to force "made in China" to be written on Chinese goods in big letters, even at the time they are imported, for example on MG cars. This could be changed by a mixture of law and government encouragement and small grants, so that if China threatened to invade Taiwan, the government in Beijing would know that sales of "made in China" goods would fall very quickly before any formal sanctions happened. There could be grants for adapting software so that it allows search by country-of-origin, and laws to say that sellers have to show it when easy and economic to do so, and to require labelling on imported goods.

The same kinds of laws could help people find UK manufacturers (I am in the UK) of products as an alternative to Chinese, as a way of reducing inflation by making markets work better, and as a way of increasing UK job opportunities for people who prefer manufacturing jobs to service jobs. It's also a way of promoting goods made in a welfare state, and using the idea of a sympathetic home market to allow new companies to grow.

At the moment, government statistics do not help people in the UK find UK suppliers; the data from VAT and income tax is shielded from freedom of information requests under the Revenue and Customs Act, and there's no attempt to help people write trade directories. Companies House does let you search companies by category, which is quite new, but not enough because companies can write anything on their accounts; they don't have to say whether they make things in the UK in their own workshops.

How to put this to an MP or a minister or civil servant? It's difficult because they work in services, like most of us, and have no idea that it's hard to find UK manufacturers at the limit of price and order size that they're willing to supply, and hard for UK suppliers to get their details known without web sites and maybe advertising, which are rather chaotic in the information given and enquiries got back in return.

Taking-in Ukrainian lodgers who would not otherwise get a visa TOP

There is a grant of something like £350 a month and some constraints on exploiting lodgers. The main cost is awkwardness - it would suit someone used to taking-in lodgers, and not many vegans are used to that. There are vegans in Ukraine, though. A site called used to link to Veganline from there (thanks!) which is a vegan restaurant and cookery school. There's a Guardian article about hosting a Syrian refugee, and a google search finds pages from mumsnet. There might be an English for Ukrainians course at an adult education college.