Thursday, May 24, 2007

UK Energy Policy - the Key points and Counter-Points

The BBC has assembled a brief summary of the Government's latest paper on energy policy. Here I add (in italics) my counter-points where appropriate:

Mr Darling said the government had reached a preliminary view that it would be in the public interest to allow energy companies to invest in nuclear power. Preliminary? Plenty of weasel room there for a sea change in policy!

He said the government would consult further, in a process which will run until October, before making the final decision. More of the above. . .

He said the government wanted low-carbon sources of energy and would do everything it could to encourage renewables. But Mr Darling added they alone would not be enough to minimise the "cost and risks". Because renewables are not reliable, does he actually mean the costs and risks associated with that unreliability? Probably not.

The government would consult on the "significant role" new nuclear power stations could play in cutting emissions and diversifying power supplies. Again, enough weasel language here to stall the anti-nuclear lobby into thinking they actually will have a say.

Mr Darling said it would be for the private sector to initiate, fund, and construct and operate new nuclear plants. There were also important issues to consider, including waste. New Labour's way of saying, someone else can carry the can should things go wrong.

The amount of electricity from renewable energy will triple to 15% by the year 2015, he told MPs as he published the Energy White Paper. But the back up generating capability will have to be increased to compensate for potential black outs, he didn't mention.

Mr Darling said a decision was required this year because new nuclear stations took a long time to build. Duh!

New electricity meters will come with a real-time displays showing energy use from 2008 and there will be a short term offer of free displays from energy suppliers for households to 2010. Short term? Oh, yes, just like the short-lived subsidy on energy saving lightbulbs while they were being made mandatory in new homes. Oh, such political BS!

The government says it expects everyone to have a smart meter within 10 years. And they expect we will continually monitor them, hidden as they are under the stairs or wherever.

A mandatory carbon trading scheme for large organisations such as banks, supermarkets and central government departments. The new Carbon Reduction Commitment "will be a cost-effective scheme that will save over a million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020". But will it save money? If not, it is the consumer who will pay.

More support for wind, wave, tidal and other emerging technologies. Support?

Legislation to allow storage of natural gas under the seabed and the "unloading of liquefied natural gas at sea. Out of sight, out of mind?

Mr Darling said the government was in talks with a "half a dozen" companies about Carbon Capture and Storage technology. He said it would "take time" to set up a CCS system but Britain was at the "forefront" of developing such technology. The use of quotation marks here signifies that neither the Government nor the BBC actually means any of this to be factually true.

White Paper gives more details on competition to build the first CCS plant to be up and running by 2014. By which time the plant will be under water due to sea level rise?

£20m for public procurement of low carbon vehicles and extra £235m for green transport research. Peanuts. But come to think of it, why not use peanut oil?

He said he had changed his mind on nuclear power, saying "I used to be sceptical" but had been persuaded by the need to cut carbon emissions as "nuclear is low carbon". It was also needed as Britain was running out of oil and gas, he said. Convenient changes of mind here.

He said he was reluctant to say "let's abandon nuclear" because Carbon Capture and Storage "may never work" or be available. But he also said the first CCS plant should be up and running by 2014!

He said tidal power was "in its infancy" but the government wanted to encourage its development. The Morecombe Bay Barrage was already in the planning stage in 1968 and will be a 40 year old concept next year. Some infant!

He said there had not been enough research done on the benefits of reducing carbon emissions using tidal power, with all the emphasis placed on the negative impact on the immediate environment on the River Severn and other areas where wave power could be harnessed. An honest assessment. Wow!

He said "there is a lot coal still available to me mined" in the UK but he could not force energy suppliers to buy it instead of imported coal. Strange in that the population is being forced into using other forms of energy supply.

He said he wanted to "encourage" the extraction of UK coal where it was economically and environmentally viable. Sorry, mate, few miners left who know how to mine coal underground, which means all UK coal will likely be from opencast sites, potentially environmentally unviable.

So there it is, and I have not even tried to be cynical. Wake up, wake up to the new post petroleum era of black outs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Seen at the Re-cycling Center

Honestly! A man drives into the re-cycling center and empties a shoe box of cardboard into the huge skip marked "CARD". A shoe box! Such is the politics of re-cycling.

Gazumping and Climate Change

Yes, there is a connection - read about it here if you like, but at the end of the report you will probably not be much the wiser unless your name is Ruth Kelly.

The Home Information Pack (HIP) was touted ten years ago as the ideal remedy to stop "gazumping". Now it is the way forward in the fight against global warming, supposedly insuring that home buyers know just how energy efficient the property of their dreams may be.

Whatever you may think about the HIP concept, the change of the UK Government's tack towards implementing what is yet another financial burden on home ownership is nothing short of hypocritical.

(As an aside, the once socialist Labour Party states that large houses are less energy efficient than small houses. This is basically not true if the large house is simply a larger form of the same shape as a smaller house. Heat loss from a warm body (i.e. house) is dependant upon the ratio of its surface area to its volume. Small children and toy dogs both run the risk of hypothermia before their larger counterparts simply because the body mass is small compared to the surface area. The same applies to heat loss from buildings. End of lesson in basic science for politicians.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hungry for Numbers

So, the oceans are not acting as they are predicted to. The implications of this are none too clear and there may even be an interesting corollary to be made regarding CO2 concentrations and sunspot activity, so I bring to your attention this comment:

"We have been way behind the modellers, who are hungry for numbers. But now we are starting to catch up because of the new tools and instruments available."

Once again, climate change science stands accused of putting the cart before the horse - and by one of its collaborators, not one of its detractors.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Is the IPCC Doing Harm to Science?

There is an excellent article with this title in Speigel Online. It tries to be objective and pulls it off, raising more questions than answers, which is close to the norm in scientific debate.

In short, the emotionalization of climate change is seen to be a collaboration between vested scientists and politicians, with neither group fully understanding the other's modus operandi. I recommend the entire article.

Energy "Saving" Lightbulbs

The UK Government seems hell bent on introducing the Home Information Package very soon. A part of this basically useless piece of government interference in the free market place is that "experts" will assess the environmental value of the property and any energy saving light bulbs and fittings will be rated.

The UK is basically a cold country. We heat our homes and very few have air-conditioning. So if the home is well insulated, any heat generated in the building will be a welcome addition. In fact, any additional heat will reduce the need to have the central heating on, thus saving oil, gas or electricity.

Old-fashioned light bulbs give of light and heat. Energy efficient light bulbs only give off light and then with certain limitations. On the face of it, this seems good, but if we were to add up all the heat sources in a home:

Central heating + lighting + oven + hob + stereo + TV + hair dryer + computer + add-your-additional-items-here

Then it can be seen that any additional heat merely reduces the central heating requirement. The system's thermostat will switch off more often if there are other appliances switched on.

So if and when the Government trained inspector assesses your home, remember this post!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Climate Change "can be tackled"

This the the BBC's headline today reporting from the latest IPCC junket in Bangkok (oh, the carbon footprint of it all).

Putting phrases in "quotes" has a significant new meaning these days - signifying that what is "said" isn't really meant to be taken as "totally" true. And this is basically what the IPPC, via the BBC, is telling us.

Note also the comment about renewable energy - Renewable energy generally has a positive impact on energy security, employment and air quality. Generally? What does "that" mean!

The message being received is basically a sound one - save energy and we can all benefit - clothed in the guile of a terrible outcome if we don't. Otherwise known as the politics of climate change.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Let's wrangle!

Ah! The politics of climate change. Worth a good few first class seats on flights to Bangkok. Oops, more carbon footprints for the hairshirts to offset.

"450, 550, 650 ppm CO2

You haven't a clue!

Then just when you think you do -

Along comes Pinatubu!"

My god, poetry comes to "Global Warming is Good". Maybe I should stop while I'm ahead? (that should generate a few comments!)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Global Warming isn't Good. . . .

. . . it's great!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Modbury and the plastic bag

The small town of Modbury in the South Hams of Devon has come up with an interesting ban - on plastic bags.

This makes for interesting reading. It also shows how cuckoo some people have become. A few facts for the people of Modbury:

Plastic bags take up very, very little space in landfills. Analysis of landfills after they have been filled and compacted shows that plastic occupies a very small part of the bulk of the fill. Therefore, if plastic bags are used, their impact on the size and need for landfills is marginal.

Ah, yes, but plastic isn't biodegradable, you, the gentle people of Modbury, posit to support your argument.

Well, I'm sorry to deflate your plastic bag but there is such a thing as a biodegradable plastic bag. Here is an example:

Mountain Equipment Coop.

Note their comment about paper bags:

"At first glance, paper bags seem to be the solution: they're made from a renewable resource, and they're biodegradable and recyclable. But paper bags consume many times more energy to create and transport than plastic bags. Manufacturing paper also puts out a considerable amount of air pollution and consumes a lot of water. In addition, paper bags are not as durable as plastic in wet weather"

Blair on rubbish collection

The man who is "shortly" to leave office has doubts on fortnightly trash collection.

It is interesting that the entire concept of cutting down on trash collection frequency is in order to promote recycling. This is so much bulls**t. Trash collection frequency should be determined by more important issues, such as public health, risk of increased fly-tipping, etc.

The only better way to cut down on waste is to generate less of it in the first place.