James Delingpole : Going Underground

James Delingpole hardly ever sets his delicate foot in Wales, the country he archaically refers to as “the Principality”, apart from, ooh, about ten days a year when he holidays there, but nonetheless, feels he has some kind of inherited ex-colonial right to be affronted that large electricity generation and transmission infrastructure are going to be built there :-

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100088906/wales-is-in-danger-why-isnt-the-prince-of-wales-saving-it/

He gets top marks for being rather offensive himself – achingly rude, in fact, about the Welsh Assembly, besides his getting untethered about the wind farms and pylons for the transmission cables :-

“…The wind farms are bad enough on their own. But to make matters far worse […], in order for these bird-crunching, bat-chomping, view-blighting, rent-seeking monstrosities to be connected to the grid a huge 400kv power line is going to be constructed all the way from Montgomeryshire through some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery to the equally beauteous Shropshire…”

Continue reading James Delingpole : Going Underground

Renewable Gas in the UK

Although variability in Renewable Electricity generation is a real issue, it’s not a huge one, according to recent reports, that from the International Energy Agency (IEA) “Harnessing Variable Renewables” among them :-

http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=1533
http://www.iea.org/Textbase/nptoc/Harness_Renewables2011TOC.pdf
http://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/Harness_Renewables2011SUM.pdf

Even so, there is a need to improve cheap methods of energy storage – and one of the simplest ways to increase capacity in this area is to produce Renewable Gas – which can be stored as easily as Natural Gas.

Continue reading Renewable Gas in the UK

George Monbiot : Wrong Choice

Data Source : IEA via ESDS

This chart shows why George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stephen Tinsdale have all plumped for the wrong choice – new Nuclear Power cannot deliver more electricity or reduce carbon dioxide emissions for us at the time when we need it most – the next few years :-

0. Massive energy conservation drives – for demand management – are clearly essential, given the reduction in UK generation.

1. It is impossible to increase new Nuclear Power capacity in less than ten years, but total UK generation is falling now, so now and in the next few years is the timeframe in which to add capacity. We cannot go on relying on Nuclear Power imports from France – especially given the rate of power outages there.

2. The fastest growing generation sources over the next few years will be Wind Power, Solar Power and Renewable Gas – if we set the right policies at the government and regulator levels.

Continue reading George Monbiot : Wrong Choice

The toxic legacy of mined energy

We are stardust ? Well, not quite. As carbon-based lifeforms we’re actually the offspring of a young sun, composed of the lighter elements, with a low concentration of a few transition metals essential for our health and vitality. Irn Bru, anyone ?

The actual products of exploding old stars that got lodged in the crusty skin of the accreting Earth are often quite toxic to us. Over millions of years, heavy and radioactive elements, being of no use to the ecosystem, have been deposited at the bottom of lakes, seabeds, and ended up lodged in seams of coal, and caverns of petroleum oil and Natural Gas. Uranium ores and other nasties have been overlain by forests and deserts, and only rarely vent, like radon, from Vulcan’s infernal lairs.

And what do humans do ? We dig this stuff up to burn or fission for energy, and when we do it creates toxic waste, that hurts us, and the life around us. Why are we surprised that mercury from the coal power industry is killing fish and harming children ? Why is it a shock that the tailing ponds from mining tar and oil sands are devastating pristine wilderness and waterways ?

Continue reading The toxic legacy of mined energy

Carbon Dioxide – a virtual, negative commodity

http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=7999

I found this excellent little CATO Institute debate somewhere in my Twitter stream, and I watched the whole of it, despite the annoying accents and speaking styles of the speakers, and the insider economics references to Pigou and Coase (they’re only theorems, you know).

I thought that Kate Gordon made some excellent rebuttals to Andrew Morriss’ whining, pedantic free marketeering, and I was with her right up until the last few frames when she said that the Center for American Progress, of course, supports a carbon tax, as this is, of course, the best way to prevent Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Such disappointment ! To find that somebody so intelligent cannot see the limitations of carbon pricing is a real let down. I tend to find that American “progressives” on the whole are rather wedded to this notion of environmental taxation, “internalising the externalities” – adding the damages from industrial activities into the cost of the industrial products. I do not see any analysis of the serious flaws in this idea. Just what are they drinking ? What’s in the Kool-Aid ?

Continue reading Carbon Dioxide – a virtual, negative commodity

Thanks, The Energy Collective, but no thanks

I cannot waste my time counting how many cut-and-paste e-mails I receive, and usually I just junk them, but I thought this one seemed sufficiently personalised to actually respond to it.


from Energy Collective
to jo abbess
date Fri, May 27, 2011 at 2:29 AM
subject You Are Invited! Blog With The Energy Collective

Dear Ms. Abbess:

…I am…at The Energy Collective (TEC). TEC is a pragmatic anti-carbon, tech-agnostic blog that aims to stoke the discussion on climate and energy solutions by bringing together the smartest climate and energy bloggers on the planet. We are at about 70k hits per month, and growing quickly. Our users are smart, engaged, energy professionals located all over the world, but concentrated in the US.

I stumbled over your blog, I think through Twitter, and am delighted by it. I like your straight-forward, unflinching writing style, as well as your lack of tolerance for climate deniers. I would like to invite you to blog with us at The Energy Collective. The deal here is a trade: you grant TEC permission to syndicate selected posts from your RSS for free, and we post, promote and leverage your content to get it in front of as many eyes as possible. We strive to create as much value as possible for our bloggers, and often offer contract writing opportunities, chances to participate as experts in our webinars, free or discount conference access, professional connections, and more.

Continue reading Thanks, The Energy Collective, but no thanks

Shale gas toxic shocker

It appears that science has now caught up with shale gas extraction technology, and the result is a toxic shock :-

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fracking-for-natural-gas-pollutes-water-wells
“Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas Pollutes Water Wells : A new study indicates that fracturing the Marcellus Shale for natural gas is contaminating private drinking water wells : By David Biello, Scientific American, May 9, 2011”

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/05/09/09greenwire-study-finds-methane-contamination-rises-near-s-87464.html

This might come as a bit of a nasty blowback for Christopher Booker, who was singing the praises of “gamechanger” shale gas at the weekend :-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8500496/Shale-gas-could-solve-the-worlds-energy-problems.html

“Shale gas could solve the world’s energy problems : It’s anathema to environmentalists, but shale gas is a new fossil-fuel source that could power the world for centuries : By Christopher Booker 7:30PM BST 07 May 2011”

Continue reading Shale gas toxic shocker

Nuclear power price fudge

[ UPDATE : E-MAIL FROM THE COMMITTEE ON CLIMATE CHANGE POINTS TO THE SECOND DOCUMENT – AND IT’S DEFINITELY A FUDGE ON “CAPEX” – SEE PAGE viii FOR EXAMPLE ]

Today’s publication of the UK Government Committee on Climate Change’s “The Renewable Energy Review” report seems to me to contain some fudge on the cost of nuclear power.

Almost everybody agrees that the current cost of generating nuclear power from existing reactors and plant is reasonable. There are questions about how much, exactly, it’s going to cost to decommission ageing reactors as they become dangerous, and there are also questions about how much it’s really, really going to cost to safely “dispose” of the radioactive waste from over 50 years of nuclear electrical generation. Even so, the operations and maintenance costs, the “O&M” costs of keeping nuclear power stations ticking over is fairly reasonable – unless there are unplanned “outages”, or radioactive accidents, or problems with the price of uranium fuel…happily, these added burdens can be kept off the balance sheets for the most part.

However, it is in projecting the real costs of new nuclear power, from shiny, spanking, new glistening, glowing concrete reactors, that deep and discomforting questions arise, and the CCC report, I think, I’m sorry to say, fudges the issue.

Continue reading Nuclear power price fudge

BP : Politely Requesting an Interview

[ 02 JUNE 2011 : THIS POST HAS ALWAYS AND WILL ALWAYS FULLY RESPECT BP COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY, AND HAS NOT AND WILL NOT INCLUDE THE REPRODUCED TEXT CONTENT OF E-MAILS FROM BP, ARISING FROM AN E-MAIL EXCHANGE WTIH JOABBESS.COM. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS CLEAR ATTEMPT ON THE PART OF JOABBESS.COM TO CONSERVE THE FULNESS AND THE ESSENCE OF COMPANY CONDIENTIALITY, IT HAS BEEN DRAWN TO THE ATTENTION OF JOABBESS.COM THAT EVEN JUST MENTIONING THE NAME OF THE CORRESPONDENT AND THE DATES OF THE EXCHANGE MAY TECHNICALLY CONSTITUTE A BREACH OF BP COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY. SO, TO ENSURE THAT NO ACCUSATION OR COMPLAINT OF BREACH OF COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY COULD EVER BE MADE, AND TO ENSURE THE PROTECTION OF THE CORRESPONDENT, THE NAME OF THE CORRESPONDENT AND THE DATES OF THE EXCHANGE HAVE BEEN REDACTED AND REMOVED AS OF TODAY. IT CAN STILL BE DEDUCED FROM THIS POST THAT AN E-MAIL EXCHANGE TOOK PLACE. THAT FACT, I THINK, IS NOT COMPANY CONFIDENTIAL, ALTHOUGH I EXPECT BP ARE WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS TO TELL ME IF THEY BELIEVE OTHERWISE, AND OPEN UP A PERSON TO PERSON CONVERSATION ABOUT THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION. THEY KNOW MY TELEPHONE NUMBER. IT’S AT THE TOP OF THE POST. WHERE IT’S ALWAYS BEEN. ]

From: jo abbess
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, BP
Date: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Dear XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for your time on the phone earlier this week.

Last year in February, I was part of a small group of students that were grateful to have the benefit of an interview with XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX at BP, then XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

I am taking my research into the energy sector further for my MSc dissertation, and I would be grateful if I could have an interview with somebody in an engineering department who has an overview of the energy sector.

It doesn’t need to be a face to face interview, as I am quite willing to telephone people. It only needs to be 20 minutes in duration.

I have prepared a short list of open questions that I am considering would be suitable for my enquiry into the future of energy resources and technologies (see below).

I hope that you can point me in the direction of somebody within BP who would like to offer their thoughts.

Thank you.

Questions with a UK focus

1. What do you think have been the best developments in the energy sector in the last 20 years ?

(What do you think are the most significant developments in the energy sector in the last 20 years ?)

2. What positive or negative changes in energy production and supply will take place over the next 2 decades ?

(What do you think will be the most important developments in the energy sector in the next 20 years ?)

3. Which energy resources and technologies look the most troubled ?

4. Which energy resources and technologies look the most promising ?

5. Does the UK face an energy supply gap ? Can we keep the lights on ?



From: jo abbess
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Date: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXx

Hi XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for your helpful reply.

What I am trying to achieve is a real conversation with somebody within BP who has a general overview of the energy industry – sadly, the annual Statistical Review and company report do not answer the scoping questions I have.

I am offering an opportunity for BP to voice a vision, on record, of how the company intend to navigate future change, using parameters that are not generally the basis of shareholder reports.

I am sure that somebody in the organisation has a view on the onset of Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas – from conventional resources, and that there must be aims and objectives for BP to manage this issue.

I am convinced that BP has planned for a range of policy scenarios concerning climate change – both mitigation and adaptation measures.

I am also sure that somebody in BP has a plan for navigating political problems, such as the probability of continued unrest in the Middle East, with the accompanying likelihood of compromised oil and gas production.

In addition, I am sure that somebody from BP can speak on the company’s behalf about how it will deal with the threats of economic turbulence and still be able to meet the needs of shareholders.

Some sample questions that could take in part of this landscape :-

1. Do you think that we are heading for a period of global energy insecurity ? What are the factors that could cause this ? What are the timelines ? Who are the key players ?

2. What is aiding or blocking the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy ? What technologies look promising ? What technologies are stuck in the lab ?

3.. How do you think we will manage the transition to clean energy ? How will the economic actors be able to diversify out of fossil fuels and still retain balance in the world markets – and not disappoint their investors ?

4. Do you think that people generally are aware of the issues of energy security ?

It would be excellent if you could find somebody to speak to these or similar questions in a short interview with me. I can do interviews by telephone at very low cost, and I would e-mail the transcript for verification before using in my research report.

My central question is “are we ready for energy change ?” – major transition in the resourcing and use of energy – and I am seeking a full range of opinion on that question.

If you could point me towards somebody who is willing and able to speak for 20 minutes on the phone on energy security issues, I would be highly grateful.

Thank you.



Remember Chernobyl

[ UPDATE : Further embarrassing TEPCO revelations and Russia’s Medvedev calls for new world safety rules. ]

Image Credit : Tricon

Twenty-five years ago today, Reactor Four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ruptured, and explosions sent highly toxic and radioactive material up into the atmosphere.

We still live in the fallout plume of Chernobyl, a shadow that haunts us with future risk if the new Shelter Implementation Plan programme is not financed :-

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/features/chernobyl-15/shelter-fund.pdf

In the light of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Multiple Nuclear Accident in Japan, and the setting of an official exclusion zone, it is important to re-consider whether the low-risk-of-high-damage nuclear power technology should continue to be used in action taken against low-risk-of-high-damage Climate Change.

Governments and other institutions have been checking and re-checking nuclear power facilities and holding talks :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/15/european-union-stress-test-nuclear
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/15/european-union-stress-test-nuclear
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_nuclear-power-the-missing-safety-audits_1536223
http://www.newschannel9.com/news/nuclear-1000446-commission-watts.html
http://www.inewsone.com/2011/04/22/france-to-check-security-of-n-plants/45173

The central lesson of both Chernobyl and Fukushima is that over time, engineering systems degrade, constructions rust and crumble, human operations become slack, and small chances can add up to have big consequences.

Public information has been created to help the newsreading public get to grips with the new reality of nuclear power. We cannot rely on nuclear power. Nuclear power stations break down, sometimes without warning. Nuclear power always poses a risk. Sometimes there are spills, leaks and emissions of dangerous gas – sometimes there are fires or explosions – and there is always the danger that somebody might misuse the fuel or waste :-

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-google-earth-populations-nuclear.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13159407

The Japanese Government and nuclear power industry did not respond to the warnings issued in 2007 in Japan after an earthquake caused a radioactive leak at a nuclear power plant :-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8392730/Japan-nuclear-crisis-tsunami-study-showed-Fukushima-plant-was-at-risk.html
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2007/2007-07-16-04.html

Neither do they appear to have responded adequately to warnings of cracks in reactors, which have been known about for a long time. It is possible that reactor cracking, or other neutron damage, may have played a part in the release of radioactive chemicals still ongoing at Fukushima Dai-ichi. Only careful study will confirm or deny this, but engineers may not be able to get close enough to find out for some time as the radiation levels are so high :-

http://nuclearhistory.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/japan-nuclear-reactors-coverup-of-cracked-reactors-2002/
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/hamaoka-reading-the-news-and-things-to-come/blog/11303
http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/2010/04/nuclear_history_repeating.html
http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-2195746/METI-warns-TEPCO-over-damage.html
http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/
http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=845&catid=23&subcatid=152

Can the United Kingdom now listen to warnings about cracked nuclear power reactors at home ? :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2004/dec/02/energy.nuclearindustry
“Cracked reactors may force closure of nuclear plants : Terry Macalister : The Guardian, Thursday 2 December 2004”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/jul/05/energy.frontpagenews
“Documents reveal hidden fears over Britain’s nuclear plants : Unexplained cracks in reactor cores increase likelihood of accident, say government inspectors : John Vidal and Ian Sample, The Guardian, Wednesday 5 July 2006”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/jul/06/nuclear.freedomofinformation?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
“More checks on reactors ordered after cracks found : John Vidal and Ian Sample, The Guardian, Thursday 6 July 2006”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5149650.stm

It is being admitted that not enough is known about the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear power plant accidents. Let us only hope that our governments feel it necessary to spend the money to find out :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/26/chernobyl-lessons-missed-research-gaps

Remember Chernobyl.

Sunshine power

Solar photovoltaic cells based on semiconductor transistor junctions are becoming cheaper, more efficient and more widely relied upon. Mankind can thrive, drinking in the sunshine.

Yet, the solar power technology of today could still become a minor footnote if there is a revolution in Physics or Chemistry :-

http://socialbarrel.com/solar-power-discovery-dims-future-of-photovoltaic-cells/6382/

“Solar Power Discovery Dims Future of Photovoltaic Cells : Posted by Francis Rey on April 18, 2011 : University of Michigan researchers made a breakthrough discovery on the behavior of light, which could alter solar technology from now on. Professor Stephen Rand, Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics, and William Fisher, an Applied Physics doctoral student, found out that light, when traveling [sic] through a nonconductive material, such as glass, at the right intensity can produce magnetic fields 100 million times stronger than previously deemed possible. During these conditions, the magnetic field has enough strength to equal a strong electric effect, producing an “optical battery” that leads to “a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation”, Rand said…”

http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2011/04/13/um-says-solar-power-without-solar-cells-is-possible/

http://solar.calfinder.com/blog/solar-research/harnessing-solar-power-without-cells/

Mmm, love that solar radiation !

Energy Matrix #1 : Are We Ready for Energy Change ?

What is this survey ? This survey is about your views on the future of energy, and the changes that will take place. Why take part in this survey ? If you spend 15 to 20 minutes to give your opinion of the 30 statements in this survey, you will be contributing to an ambitious university study.

Please give yourself 15 to 20 minutes to complete the survey. With each statement, please click the option that best matches your view. Please don’t forget to answer the general questions at the end, which will help with making the final report.

NUCLEAR POWER

OIL (TRANSPORT)

RENEWABLE ENERGY

NATURAL GAS

COAL POWER

Background Information Please give a few brief details about what kind of person you are, to help us check that a representative sample of people have answered the survey.

What region are you living in ?
How old are you ?
What gender are you ?
How do you prefer to keep up to date with science ?

Is Climate Change really happening ?
Is Peak Oil really happening ?
Do you know a lot about energy  ?
Enter your e-mail address if you want the final results

General Questions This is your chance to explain in more detail what you think, and add any comments you would like to make. For starters, here are some sample questions you might have ideas about :-
1. In your view, what will be the most major change in energy systems in the next 20 years ?
2. Who is responsible for making significant change to the energy systems ?
3. How will the major changes in energy systems be paid for ?

Libya Futures

Outside the usual political and media circles, questions are being asked. Why has the United Nations sanctioned military engagement in Libya in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 ? Why the heavy firepower here, in Libya, when the ostensible rationale for intervention was only to implement a No-Fly Zone ? Why not gloibal military action elsewhere in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) arena where there are other despots making life unpleasant or endable for their citizens ?

I present to you two possible futures for Libya, both of which will require extensive cooperation with foreign corporate and political players, something that Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (or Qaddafi) threatens, or rather, depending on various news reports, “threatened”.

1. The Dash for African and Arabic Natural Gas (and Oil)

In a carbon-constrained world Natural Gas is a boon – it has roughly half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal when burned to produce steam to generate electricity. Any country that’s got Natural Gas, especially good quality Natural Gas that doesn’t have to be hydraulically “fractured” from rock strata, is a country we will learn to love and trade on significantly generous terms with.

There has been extensive surveying of Libya, and the whole of North Africa’s Maghreb region, including the type of offshore seismic surveying that found extensive gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean that Israel is now laying claim to (and preventing Gaza from exploiting). This has led to quite a lot of excitement in the fossil fuel energy industry, so, reading between the lines of the conference agendas, there is high dollar value under Libya’s maritime territory :-

http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/gsl/site/GSL/lang/en/page7792.html
http://www.geolibya.org/evdetails.asp?Myval=36

In addition to Natural Gas there may well be high levels of top quality oil – and keeping up the flow of crude oil, as we all know, is crucial to the health of the world’s economy. Threats of re-nationalising the Libyan fossil fuel resources therefore caused corporate shock :-

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/67d1d02a-5314-11e0-86e6-00144feab49a.html#axzz1HKdP1z5V

“Oil companies fear nationalisation in Libya : By Sylvia Pfeifer and Javier Blas in London : Published: March 20 2011 : Western oil companies operating in Libya have privately warned that their operations in the country may be nationalised if Colonel Muammer Gaddafi’s regime prevails. Executives, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the rapidly moving situation, believe their companies could be targeted, especially if their home countries are taking part in air strikes against Mr Gaddafi. Allied forces from France, the UK and the US on Saturday unleashed a series of strikes against military targets in Libya. “It is certainly a concern. There are good reserves there,” said one executive at a western oil company with operations in Libya. “We have lost some of our production [because all operations have stopped] but our bigger concern is what will happen to the exploratory work as that gives you a future rather than the immediate impact,” he added. Most of the world’s large international oil companies have producing assets in Libya, including Spain’s Repsol, France’s Total, and Italy’s Eni, which is the largest single investor there. Germany’s Winstershall – a unit of BASF – and OMV of Austria are also present. The country is the world’s 12th largest oil exporter, and the escalating violence there has triggered a jump in prices to nearly $120 a barrel. More than half of Libya’s oil was exported to Italy, Germany and France last year…”

BP had to evacuate its staff, and extend a favour to some British citizens, during the recent uprising :-
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8344391/Libya-Britain-borrows-BP-jet-to-evacuate-citizens.html

Production in the country has taken a hit due to the fighting, but order should soon be restored. Clearly, long-term stability in Libya, with unhindered, inexpensive access to the country’s oil and gas resources is an important part of the national security interests of many Western democracies.

2. Solar Libya

http://www.desertec.org/en/global-mission/milestones/

The DESERTEC project of the European Union seeks to roll out solar power in the desert sands of North Africa, and makes the promise of economic and social development of the countries that take part, although that dream has been questioned :-

http://www.ceu.hu/theses/1/2010/the-desertec-project-a-new-resource-curse-for-countries-in-north-africa-and-the-middle

Let’s face the facts here – massive new energy projects in North Africa will be financed and developed through large multinational, transnational corporations, companies who have contributed to the economic slavery of Africa for, let’s approximate here, centuries.

What guarantees can the Maghreb have that this is not a further land grab on Africa’s potential ?

In addition, the recent social and political volatility in the Middle East North Africa region could jeopardise the noble plans of the European Union to reach out in energy partnership.

Hang on. Wait a minute. Is the wave of uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa connected in any way to the interests of oil and gas companies who want Future #1 to prevail for the whole region, not just Libya ?

American companies have been so keen to sell nuclear electricity projects to Saudi Arabia and others around the Arabian Gulf – but has this been encouraged from the high-ups to keep the Arabs off the scent of Renewable Energy ? Forget nuclear power – it’s expensive and awkward. Iran only pursues civilian nuclear power to irritate the United States Government. A solar Arabia could give the Middle East and North Africa a second generation of being the energy princes of the world. I suspect they will go for this in a big way very shortly, uprisings or no uprisings. Why ? Two little words – Fukushima Daiichi.

So there we have it – two entirely probable, slightly competing, futures being mapped out for Libya by the big guns of NATO (a euphemism for the USA). If Libya is split into two countries, the fossil fuel Future #1 will be likely applied to East Libya, and the desert solar Future #2 will be foisted on West Libya.

Continued interference in the country is a certainty.

Energy Poll #1 : Coal

Results so far for Question 1 : Do you think that capture of carbon dioxide emissions from coal burning power stations will be widespread before 2030 ?


For the complete survey “Are We Ready for Energy Change ?”, click here.

Question 1 Do you think that capture of carbon dioxide emissions from coal burning power stations will be widespread before 2030 ?







Question 2 Is burning coal to make electricity just a stop-gap until renewable energy is widely available ?







Question 3 Do you think that “clean coal” is possible ?







Question 4 To protect future electricity supply we should be technology neutral.







Question 5 We should stop burning coal and concentrate on capturing emissions from Natural Gas power plants.






Background Information : please give a few brief details about what kind of person you are, to help us check that a representative sample of people have answered the survey.
What region are you living in ?
How old are you ?
What gender are you ?
Is Climate Change really happening ?
Do you know a lot about energy technologies ?
Please enter your e-mail address if you want to hear the final results









Are We Ready for Energy Change ? Survey Results #1

The survey “Are We Ready for Energy Change ?” has been running for roughly two weeks now, and so it’s time to announce some preliminary results.

For the complete survey “Are We Ready for Energy Change ?”, please click here.

Question 10 : Who should pay for Energy Change ?


For the complete survey, click here.



Question 24 : Which do you think would be the best way to cut down on your demand for grid electricity ?


For the complete survey, click here.



Question 25 : Which do you think could provide an effective substitution for petrol and diesel vehicle fuel ?


For the complete survey, click here.



Question 30 : Which energy source do you think we will be using the most of in 2030 ?


For the complete survey, click here.



Demographic Sampling Question 5 : Is Climate Change really happening ?


For the complete survey, click here.



Demographic Sampling Question 2 : How old are you ?


For the complete survey, click here.


Pakistan : Inundation Nation

[ UPDATE : Don’t tell me. I know the images are mostly from India, but the music is Punjabi… ]

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=32170&Cat=6&dt=2/21/2011

“Draft of national climate change policy finalised : Noor Aftab : Monday, February 21, 2011 : Islamabad : The draft of National Climate Change Policy has been finalised after two years of deliberations and now the Environment Ministry would present it to the federal cabinet for final approval, the sources told The News here on Sunday. The sources said the recommendations in the draft would certainly test the government’s commitment as it has been proposed to go for alternative energy resources instead of using fossil fuel, considered one of the major reasons for environmental degradation. The sources said the draft recommendations prepared by a core group of the Environment Ministry mainly focuses on two areas including adaptation and mitigation with an aim to enable the country to cope with fast increasing environmental challenges. One of the top officials of the Environment Ministry told this correspondent that continuity of casual approach towards environmental sector has now made economic managers and policy makers feel the heat as environmental degradation has started costing five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Pakistan…”

“Sunday, February 20, 2011 : UK to keep helping Pakistan’s flood victims: Sayeeda Warsi : LAHORE: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a British cabinet minister of Pakistani-origin, said on Saturday that the United Kingdom would continue supporting Pakistan in the post-flood operations. “Today I have been heartened to see and hear how the UK is helping millions of people in Pakistan rebuild their lives, but there is much more to do, with widespread malnutrition and the risk of disease outbreaks,” Warsi said while talking to reporters in Islamabad. The primary purpose of Warsi’s visit to Pakistan is to learn how the country is recovering, what more needs to be done, and to see how more than Rs 27.7 billion from British people is supporting the flood victims. “When I was here exactly six months ago in August at the peak of the floods with the UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell I saw scenes of devastation,” the British lawmaker recalled. She said that some areas of Sindh were still under water, adding that reconstruction of millions of houses, bridges and schools that were destroyed would take years…”

Are We Ready for Energy Change ?

Quite a number of visitors at this web log are sceptical of Climate Change Science, and are probably not very convinced by Renewable Energy Technologies, either.

However, to show I’m fair-minded, I’m giving you all the chance to take part in a research survey on the changes we can expect to see in energy in the United Kingdom in the next 20 years :-

http://energy.changecollege.org.uk?WEB

Please keep your comments civil, or they will be deleted from the database and won’t count in the statistical analysis !

Future Energy Tipping Points

Chart Credit : Jo Abbess

Making some very basic first order assumptions about liquid transport fuels, it becomes clear that a choke or tipping point will occur at around 2030.

The majority of the world’s road transport, and air and ocean-going freight will still be using liquid fuels, and the overwhelming majority of these will be hydrocarbons.

Around about 2030, a quarter of the world’s liquid transport fuel supplies will have evaporated, barring some miraculous new discoveries.

Even with some of the world’s Natural Gas and Coal supplies converted to liquid fuels, this point will still be reached at around the same time.

The world systems of trade will be severely affected, and that includes food imports and exports.

Chart Credit : Jo Abbess

The next breaking point will come in around 2040 (after Natural Gas has peaked on 2030) when BioMethane can no longer top up supply.

The depletion decline will be rapid.

This will affect electricity supplies and agricultural chemicals most of all. People will be able to get by without so much heating or hot water.

However, if a significant number of vehicles are running on compressed methane gas, they would be competing with food supplies.

Chart Credit : Jo Abbess

The generation of electricity could become the thing that tips the system back again – if the solar revolution kicks off seriously in around 2040.

However, for this to work, a lot of transport will need to become electric, as will space heating in homes and offices. Plus, increasing amounts of methane gases will have to be reserved for agricultural purposes, unless we can convert the entire world to organic farming.

Given the “battery problem”, a lot of transport will be public transport, running on rails with wires, not as electric cars – since batteries are heavy and require rare elements to make.

The world would have the most juice in the wires it will ever have in around 2060 – the right kind of decade for building everything we need to make our future totally renewable.

Note : pessimistic assumptions have been made about the amount of Carbon Capture and Storage that can be developed, given that coal consumption is very high. Pessimistic assumptions have also been made about nuclear power, as fuel supply is the main limitation. Extreme pessimism is on display as regards shale gas and the development of previously unworked Middle East oil fields.

Caveat Emptor : these charts were composed from a very basic modelling tool and are based on a number of assumptions that some people could dispute.

Note : If the flaring or emissions of Natural Gas from oil fields around the world were capped and piped to consumers, this would keep Natural Gas production higher for longer – but it would still peak before around 2050.

Note : The figure for Natural Gas Liquids is probably too high – the reality is that the deeper an oil field has been sequestered, the more Natural Gas there is in it compared to hydrocarbon liquids.

Note : There is actually a potential for a substantial quantity of Anaerobically Digested BioMethane, but the infrastructure needs building first…that includes all the sewage and water treatment plants around the world, all major animal farms, food waste disposal systems, all communal eating places and all major food manufacturing plants.

Shale Gas : Travelling Circus

Image Credit : Jacques del Conte

Flushing gas from sandy mud-rock, deep underground. Hmmm. Bet that’s energy- and resource-efficient. Not.

So…the whole caravan comes to town, builds the rig, pipes in water, pumps in chemicals, filters off the gas, pipes out the poisoned water somewhere unquantified, and then packs everything up after a few months because there’s no more gas coming up, leaving the area looking like a moon crater :-

So how carbon-intensive is this kind of operation ? It’s a bit like chopping down Indonesian and Malaysian tropical rainforest to grow oil palm and then burning dirty bunker fuel to ship it all the way to Europe to make “cleaner burning” biodiesel. In fact, it could be worse than that – it could be dirtier than coal :-

And what’s all this business about chemical adulteration of groundwater ? That could be to do with the “hydraulic fracturing” process from horizontal drilling :-

It’s true that the business needn’t resemble a travelling circus when there’s a large “play” of shale and horizontal drilling is used, but what about the possible side effects of chemical leakage into bodies of water and seismic activity, which doesn’t seem to get mentioned very often ? :-

There is some concern that shale gas is being promoted as a new “cure-all” for the energy industry, as gas is believed to be a cleaner source of fuel than coal, and gas shale is much, much cheaper than the proposed carbon capture projects and new nuclear power stations, which will only be developed with substantial tax breaks or subsidies or grants. (I mean, can you see a carbon price being set high enough to pay to make it worthwhile to fit Carbon Capture to every coal plant in the world ?) :-

http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/17317_r_0910stevens.pdf

“The recent ‘shale gas revolution’ in the United States has created huge uncertainties for international gas markets that are likely to inhibit investment in gas – both conventional and unconventional – and in many renewables. If the revolution continues in the US and extends to the rest of the world, energy consumers can anticipate a future dominated by cheap gas. However, if it falters and the current hype about shale gas proves an illusion, the world will face serious gas shortages in the medium term”

A Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) fan wrote to me, linking to the CCS industry :-

http://www.captureready.com/EN/Channels/News/showDetail.asp?objID=1972&isNew

“A British study indicates that cheap low-emission shale gas, with double the global reserves of conventional sources, will discourage investment in nuclear reactors and carbon storage. “In a world where there is the serious possibility of cheap, relatively clean gas, who will commit large sums of money to expensive pieces of equipment to lower carbon emissions?” Paul Stevens, senior research fellow at Chatham House, a London-based institute for the study of international affairs, wrote in the report published today.”

This is what the CCS fan had to add :-

“What this important article from the ‘CaptureReady’ international CCS news website fails to pick up (although other authors have) is that these prices will have an equal dampening effect on all renewables projects as well, […] never mind offshore wind power costs, while easily meeting all conceivable carbon dioxide reduction targets out to beyond 2050 and delivering reliable, dispatchable power, with none of the unreliability/unpredictability ‘down-sides’ of variable wind output. ‘I know which I’d pick’ as a power company today, especially given the low investment cost per kW […]. Looks like it may be ‘gas forever’ for at least the next couple of decades, so we need to lobby very hard for CCS from the start on every new gas powerplant and large industrial plant, followed by a big programme of properly-subsidised CCS retrofits, if that’s where the real industrial world is going…the quoted US conventional gas number is just plain wrong (far too high!), and the Shale gas price is very geology/location and project-scale-dependent (that is, variable), so that price in Texas does not mean similarly low shale gas prices everywhere – meaning the total resource quoted is certainly not available at that sort of low price. As with all resources, there’s actually a ‘staircase’ of amount versus price. Shale gas exploitation is ‘inherently costly’ (capital-intensive) due to the relatively larger number of wells needed, the poor permeability and the considerable cost of the ‘fracking’ operation itself. The poor inherent permeability inevitably means that the production rate will decline more steeply and quickly than conventional gas wells, meaning that costly multiple repeat fracking may be necessary, adding to costs.”

And as a summary of the shale gas downsides :-

=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=

Main conclusions [on shale gas] :

1. Huge levels of uncertainly on total reserves and future production rates, even in the USA.

2. Not at all certain that the large-scale US shale gas experience can be replicated in Europe/Rest of the World at all – environmental issues/local NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard] may stop it in its tracks.

3. Said huge uncertainties, on top of the recent recession, is significantly increasing commercial risk factors and inhibiting new production investment in all types of energy supply. Possibility of resulting very steep multi-year price rises, if shale gas ‘fails to deliver’, as demand rises and exceeds current supply, due to investment cycle time lag.

4. Particular over-supply problems in the LNG [Liquid Natural Gas – mostly from the Middle East] sector which should keep the cost of UK imported LNG low for a considerable time.

5.The EU has shown itself unable/unwilling to invest state funds in new gas production/transport projects of all types.”

=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=

Forget about price just for a moment…remind me again…where does all that fracking water, with all those toxic chemicals in it, end up ?

Shallow Waters versus SunShot

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/21827

“07 February 2011 : Energy Department Launches SunShot Initiative for Solar Power : The U.S. Department of Energy announced an initiative that aims to reduce the total costs of photovoltaic solar energy systems by about 75% over the next decade.”

“If successful, the so-called SunShot initiative would help make large scale solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy – without subsidies – by 2020.”

“…The SunShot program builds on the legacy of President Kennedy’s 1960s “moon shot” goal, which laid out a plan to regain the country’s lead in the space race and land a man on the moon. The program aims to aggressively drive innovations in the ways that solar systems are conceived, designed, manufactured and installed.”

“”America is in a world race to produce cost-effective, quality photovoltaics. The SunShot initiative will spur American innovations to reduce the costs of solar energy and re-establish U.S. global leadership in this growing industry,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu…”

Glimpsing the Future

Can we glimpse the future of energy ?

Ambient, sustainable energy is all around us, and sooner or
later we will find the ways to make use of it for the good of all.

The following is an appropriately edited transcript of a
conversation on the Claverton Energy Research Group
forum online, and was written by Nick Balmer, a consultant
in renewable energy.
__________________________________________________________

…The huge scale of the possible changes for all concerned is
causing all of the current Titans in the [energy] industry to deploy
the full force of the media [and their] PR [public relations] in an
attempt to manipulate the public and policy towards their own way
of thinking, or in such a way as to protect their own vested interests.

The great thing is that these issues are being aired out in the open,
and groups like [Claverton Energy Research Group forum] allow
people with knowledge of these affairs to debate these issues openly.

The big problem is that each of us has only a very detailed
understanding of some small fraction of the total issue.

Most of the public and government only has a very slight knowledge
of the total issue, and has had only limited access to ways to find out
in detail what is going on.

As Egypt is demonstrating today, everybody now has a voice and as
Wikileaks shows, sooner or later everything will come out into the
open.

All of us are struggling to come to terms with this explosion of
access to knowledge.

It is quite clear that lots of bubbles are being burst as a result of
the Global Financial implosion and the huge expansion in available
knowledge.

Just as banking and property has been shown to be an unaffordable
Ponzi scheme and to be vastly over-inflated, UK energy policy is now
coming under huge scrutiny.

We can now compare our energy systems with other countries.

Due to the huge geological accident of fate, since the 1700’s in coal,
and 1970’s in oil and gas, we have been extremely fortunate in being
able to live way beyond the lifestyle standards of most of the World.

We have not had to adapt.

Other countries that didn’t have this advantage had to change over
recent decades.

Places like Denmark, Austria, Germany [and so on] have made huge
changes because they had less energy from fossil resources.

Now we have reached the peak or crunch point, we find ourselves well
behind those countries that had to adapt earlier.

Everybody is concentrating on the Capital cost of deploying per
MW [megawatt] and overlooks the cost of fuels.

The cost of fuels over time is massively more important than the
CAPEX [capital expenditure on investment].

So even if windfarms cost 20 times per MW or GW [gigawatt] more to
build than nuclear or coal or gas, in the scheme of things,
[wind power] is always going to win, because the fuel is free and
unlimited for centuries to come.

Similarly [solar power technologies], or even more effective,
household insulation and cutting energy use.

And yet the media and government are blinded by the barrage of PR
and media from the energy vested interests who are working with
every muscle to stop this coming out into the open.

I often meet financiers in my work trying to promote and support AD
[anaerobic digestion of biological waste for the production of
renewable methane], biomass, solar and wind projects.

I am always struggling to prove to them that I have an offtake [return
on investment] and the fuel supply. This is often really hard to do
[but] I only have to do this for seven to 12 years to make my business
cases stack up.

I was really depressed at the end of one such presentation and
discussion, when one broadly sympathetic banker who had turned me
down said that he was having even worse problems with largescale
energy projects.

How do you predict the price and supply of coal forward for 25 years
or more ?

It has jumped 17% in recent months.

How do you prove that you are going to have offtake for huge power
stations in future years ?

Demand dropped 8% in 2009.

How do you raise the equity or debt for a billion [pound] project when
banks don’t want to lend more than £30 million each ? Imagine how
many banks that would take ?

We have reached a tipping point in our economy, sustainability and
future outlook.

Yes, the existing mega-power companies are fighting as hard as
Mubarak today to hold onto power, but they represent the past just
as surely as he does.

Those companies can rejuvenate themselves, unlike the Egyptian
President.

If they don’t, there are an increasingly large number of smaller and
more active players coming into the market.

The average household pays somewhere around £1,300 a year for
its heating and lighting.

The companies that come forward with a way to do that for £1,000 is
going to capture the market very quickly.

I have friends in Austria who only pay 65 Euros for services that I
pay £1,400 for.

They do this through insulation, triple glazing, solar and biomass energy.

Most [UK] households have less than £400 per year discretionary
disposable income. This prevents them making changes to their houses
they desperately want and know they need to make.
This can
drop their energy demands hugely.

If somebody can unlock that Gordian Knot the benefits would be
enormous as there are something like 27 million households.

At a time when household debt is at an all-time high, incomes are
shrinking, and 40% live on ether government salaries, state
pensions or benefits.

Energy is a very high part of these households’ outgoings – if you
pay £1,300 a year and your house only brings in £11,000 to £20,000
per year.

A 50% increase in the £1,300 could bring great distress, and
possibly even civil unrest here.

The increases fossil power [companies] need to make their systems
bankable will increase energy bills. This will feed straight through into
government liabilities because 40% of us live on government payouts.

If government can drop the cost of heating and lighting quite easily
by £100 to £500 per household per year while at the same time
provide employment for hundreds of thousands of White Van men
cutting energy uses, doesn’t this make far more sense than building
unsustainable power stations that will have to be [bankrolled] by the
government, who will then have to buy back electricity at a price our
communities cannot stand ?

Project a similar calculation onto transport fuels and you get even
greater problems.

At $80 a barrel [of oil] industry is shrinking and relatively few
renewable fuel business cases work. At $100 a barrel most renewable
fuels can compete.

At $120 a barrel almost any alternative beats oil, and that is before
you start to look at issues like fuel security and the environment.

Although the battle is one of David and Goliath, or the Dinosaur and
those early mammals, between the new energy industries and the
existing vested energy industries, [it] has only one outcome.

It is only a matter of the co-lateral damage along the way.

Like Mubarak, it is clear they must go. Are they going to go
gracefully, or are they going to smash the place up first ?

Nick Balmer
Renewable Energy Consultant

American Full Spectrum Dominance

The documentary evidence shows that America’s business interests often outweigh its political progress. Yet it’s perhaps more concerning that, increasingly, corporate America is at risk of damaging good environmental governance.

With all the talk of free markets in international trade, the Coalition Government in the United Kingdom has felt the pressure to open up the back door to American energy businesses, whose highly-paid sales representatives in slick suits want us to buy their dirty energy projects – just take a look at the upcoming UK Energy Bill and its proposals for Electricity Market Reform.

American companies seem poised to sweep in and take all our public non-subsidy “support” for building new nuclear power plants. Viewers of a sensitive political disposition should look away now as this is a Wikileak :-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/london-wikileaks/8305283/UK-RAMPING-UP-ON-NUCLEAR-POWER-BUT-CHALLENGES-REMAIN.html

The country that brought you the engineering industry that brought you the giant Gulf of Mexico giant oil spill now wants to bring you unsafe deepwater drilling in Britain’s Continental Shelf – and the UK’s new Energy Bill would let them do that without demonstrating any learning from the BP April 2010 fiasco :-

http://act.greenpeace.org.uk/ea-campaign/…

There’s lots of talk in the energy sector and the financial markets about the American shale gas miracle “gamechanger” and how it can be replicated in Europe and across the world, and not enough discussion about the environmental dangers :-

http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/shalegasreport

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12190810

It’s good to talk about local environmental damage from “unconventional” gas, but what’s not being discussed so widely is that these “new” resources of Natural Gas aren’t really very green, and neither are the “traditional” resources – in some cases they’re not much better than coal :-

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-benefits-natural-gas-overstated

http://www.propublica.org/article/natural-gas-and-coal-pollution-gap-in-doubt

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/25/natural-gas-clean_n_813750.html

We know that the Americans always seek to protect the interests of American-owned businesses – and we know they do that for the best of intentions – to keep America wealthy (except it’s really only a few people in America that have any wealth, but anyway…)

Yet I think there should be a limit to how far we have to bend over backwards to accommodate their needs for economic recovery.

To export all their dirty energy technology to Europe is just not helpful, and I think we should say no, no, no.