Mark Lynas : Turn Turtle

from : Jo Abbess
to : Mark Lynas
cc : George Monbiot
date : Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 8:07 PM
subject : You may not have properly understood Germany’s energy plan

Dear Mark,

From where I’m sitting, you appear not to have understood Germany’s energy plan, which centres on ramping up and rolling out as much renewable energy as possible.

You are quoted, and write :-

http://us.arevablog.com/2011/06/16/quote-of-the-day-42/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/jun/15/italy-nuclear-referendum

“If the German greens really took climate change seriously, they would instead be pushing for a phase-out of coal – which generates by far the largest proportion of the country’s power and consequent carbon emissions – from Germany’s electricity grid. Instead, the new nuclear phase-out plan will see a hefty 11GW of new coal plants built in years to come, with an additional 5GW of new gas. The only way emissions from these plants could be controlled would be through “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) – yet Greenpeace in Germany has already mounted a successful scaremongering campaign against this new technology, helping to ensure that future fossil emissions will go into the atmosphere unabated.”

How does having strong renewable energy ambition sit with commissioning new coal power plants ?

Well, as you probably know, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine – hence back up is required. Nuclear power cannot back up wind power or solar power because it is not very flexible.

Coal and gas are easily stored, and coal and gas power plants can be kept awaiting use as and when required by renewable lulls.

There is no point in fitting Carbon Capture (and eventually Storage) to coal fired power plants if they’re only going to be used for occasional wind back up – too expensive. And the tests are showing problems. And even though it’s claimed that CCS can take away 90% of the emissions, it’s more like 85% because CCS uses more coal fuel.

It would be better if Germany opted totally for new gas plant for their wind back up, but they appear to not want to be big importers of fossil fuels, so they’ve gone mostly for coal which they can mine, at a pinch, at home. In the UK we’re going for gas, because we believe in continued good relations with Qatar (via the House of Saud ?) and Russia (via BP ?)

The amount of time that coal and gas plants will be in use when renewable energy is fully developed in Gemany will be days per year in total. So in 20 years time when they’ve built all their wind and solar, they get to meet their carbon targets and still have operational coal and gas plant for when necessary.

How is it that you’ve missed this central plank of their policy ?

On the one hand, I could be asked to excuse this lapse of reasoning on your part – as far as I know you haven’t trained as an energy engineer, so how could you be expected to understand load balancing and load following in the real world ?

On the other hand, you’ve just written a book extolling the virtue of nuclear engineering, in effect dismissing the sensible decisions that Germany and other countries have taken, so I cannot let this pass by without commenting.

Sorry to report it, but you’ve just made it into my Little Book of The World’s Most Annoying Men because you appear to have no idea about the pitfalls of nuclear power, you do not seem to understand other approaches to the energy crisis; and in addition, you have built a generalist argument concocted from stereotypes to make the green movement the punch bag for your position. When I read a similar irrational rant in Anthony Giddens’ book “The Politics of Climate Change”, I became so angry, my reptile-inherited brain took over, and I threw the book across the room.

Why, I ask myself, are you following in Giddens’ footsteps and becoming so reactionary ? Are you adopting the position of George Monbiot, who seems to be evolving into a curmudgeon ?

I shall not be buying your new book, because your arguments are, to my mind, faulty.

Regards,

jo.

Mark Lynas : Mutant Ninja

Mark Lynas may call himself a “green”, and be a clean-shaven, respectable, politely-spoken Oxford academic type but he appears to be mutating into something very unappealing indeed. He’s written some good books on climate change – every schoolroom and university module should have one – but on energy, he is deep in the political woods, without even a wind-up flashlight.

His latest stunt is to join in with accusations from Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit that the IPCC’s report on Renewable Energy has been partly crafted by people without appropriate independence or expertise. Here, from Andrew Revkin :-

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/a-deeper-look-at-an-energy-analysis-raises-big-questions/

“The IPCC must urgently review its policies for hiring lead authors – and I would have thought that not only should biased ‘grey literature’ be rejected, but campaigners from NGOs should not be allowed to join the lead author group and thereby review their own work.”

And who is this nefarious untalented Non-Governmental Organisation ? Greenpeace, it appears, according to Mark Lynas, is not capable of writing about the future of energy (or even the current situation).

Daniel Kammen has weighed in and The Revkin has updated his post :-

“There is no Himalaya-gate here at all. While there are some issues with individual chapters, there is no ‘Greenpeace Scenario.’ The 77% carbon free by 2050 is actually more conservative than some cases. The European Climate Foundation, for example has a 100% carbon neutral scenario and Price Waterhouse has a very low carbon one for North Africa. Further, while the IPCC works from published cases, the scenarios are evaluated and assessed by a team.”

There have been a number of reports written in the last year that back the viability of Renewable Energy technologies in replacing the world’s fossil fuel and nuclear energy systems. Not all of them were crafted by Greenpeace researchers. In fact, virtually none of them. Nuclear…yes…maybe it’s that little word “nuclear” that’s the root cause of Mark Lynas’ problem with Greenpeace.

In the Guardian, he is quoted as saying :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/jun/15/italy-nuclear-referendum
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/13/greenpeace-foe-charles-secrett-criticism

“Many ‘green’ campaigns, like those against nuclear power and GM crops, are not actually scientifically defensible…”

And that’s where you are so wrong, Mark Lynas with the book coming out soon that you seem so desperate to publicise by saying things you know people will find annoying. Nuclear power is a TECHNOLOGY, not a SCIENCE. This is the same basic category error made by Dick Taverne and a number of other public commentators who don’t appear to have an engineering background.

TECHNOLOGY is where people decide that their designs to make something look like they’ll work, build them and don’t foresee flaws with them. SCIENCE is where people study the technology that they’ve built and research the flaws that appear and report on them. Science is what has shown the limitations with the original boasts about genetically modified crops. It turns out that GMOs are a ruse to sell chemicals. And on nuclear fission – the science is in and on the front of your daily newspaper : nuclear power plants pose a number of risks. The advice of the reputable scientists and engineers – old fission nuclear power plants should be withdrawn.

But returning to Renewable Energy, a number of organisations now believe that the demise of fossil fuels needn’t stop humanity from accessing abundant energy. Here is just a very short compilation :-

The Two Marks : Mark A. Delucchi and Mark Z. Jacobson :-
http://www.peopleandplace.net/on_the_wire/2011/2/5/mark_jacobson_and_mark_delucchi_wind_water_and_solar

PriceWaterhouseCooper :-
http://www.pwc.co.uk/eng/publications/100_percent_renewable_electricity.html

CAT Zero Carbon Britain 2030 :-
http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/

Roadmap 2050 :-
http://www.roadmap2050.eu/

European Renewable Energy Council R[e]volution :-
http://www.erec.org/media/publications/energy-revolution-2010.html

But oh, no, we can’t quote the last one because Greenpeace researchers were involved, and Mark Lynas wouldn’t approve of that. Mark Lynas appears to be living in a world where Greenpeace people can’t have engineering research skills because they have ideals, working for a world that uses safe, clean energy.

The IPCC report on Renewable Energy is here :-
http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/

Much as I respect turtles, I have to say it – Mark Lynas, you’re a turtle – slow-moving and easy to catch out and turn into soup. You should know by now not to get sucked in by spurious non-arguments from Steve McIntyre. The “cleantech” industry that’s ramping up to provide the world with green energy is worth billions, soon to be trillions of dollars worldwide, and this fact appears to have completely passed you by. The only future for energy is sustainable, renewable, non-nuclear, clean, quiet and safe. There is no other viable, liveable, option.

[ UPDATE : In the Independent newspaper, Mark Lynas is quoted as remarking “Campaigners should not be employed as lead authors in IPCC reports”. So, Mark, it’s really fine for employees of the major oil, gas and mining companies to take a leading role on major IPCC reports; but it’s not fine, according to you, that somebody working for much less money and much higher principles than mere corporate profit should contribute ? Denigrating somebody for being a “campaigner” is a stereotypical insult. Everybody’s got an agenda, campaigners included. What’s your agenda, Mark ? Selling your new book ? Don’t be dismissive about Greenpeace researchers. They may have ideals, but they’re not naive – they also have brains – and with their declared position on getting at the truth they can be trusted to be direct, decent and honest. Where’s your ethical compass, Mark ? ]

Viva Italia !

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

Adam Curtis : Nuclear Hero

Despite Adam Curtis’ curious views about ecology and democracy, and his enduring confusions between science and technology, (and between technology and industry), I must remind my readers that in one area he has been a keenly perceptive and accurate observer – in his 1992 “Pandora’s Box” research into the history of nuclear power “A is for Atom” :-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jUELZAdh_w
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT6uDjwkeBw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_8h_twNP_0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAFZEp7cwgU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwB6QAa2yww

Curtis correctly identifies mismanagement as being the root cause of problems in the nuclear power industry – a mismanagement of information, dismissiveness of whistleblowing, and a dangerous overreach of technological ambition.

Continue reading Adam Curtis : Nuclear Hero

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

Renewable Gas #2 : Fugitive urban emissions

Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, although it’s the one most scientists worry about on the long term scale. Its diversion out of deep storage into the active global carbon cycle is causing global warming, and that, the evidence strongly shows, is causing widespread and disruptive climate change.

But in short timeframes, methane is the gas on everybody’s worried lips. The sources of methane are affected by global warming, and methane emissions cause strong global warming in the short term, so it’s a positively augmenting feedback, self-amplifying, and causing grave concern in many environmental policy seminars.

People often point the finger at the digestive systems of ruminant livestock when they want to pinpoint a scapegoat for rising methane emissions, but they should perhaps look closer to their own bathrooms and kitchens and their underfloor gas pipelines.

Continue reading Renewable Gas #2 : Fugitive urban emissions

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.



One wedding and several funerals

[ UPDATE : SEVERAL NEW PLAUSIBLE FACTOIDS HAVE EMERGED NECESSITATING CHANGES. ]

Jubilant scenes across New York as mass flag-waving breaks out to celebrate.

Are they congratulating Wills and Kate ? The Americans probably reviewed the TV ratings for the right royal wedding and decided they too needed something to boost the morale of the nation. So they went and killed Osama Bin Laden.

Or not. He could have been dead for days, because the plans were made weeks ago. Was he killed pre-emptively ahead of the collective British regal marital hysteria ? Why did the young newlyweds ship out to an “undisclosed location” instead of jetting off on honeymoon, pronto ? Was there a “credible threat” made on their lives in retaliation at the death of the Al Qaeda spiritual leader ? Or was an unarmed Osama bin Laden murdered by a surprise military attack at night at his family home after an Al Qaeda threat was made on Prince William and his new wife ? You have to admit the timing of the news is interesting…

Bin Laden “buried at sea” ? Yeah, right. If his body was dumped at sea, that could cause considerable affront to his supporters, but at least it would cover the fact that he had been dead for well over 24 hours, which would be an even worse affront according to Muslim burial traditions. If the body was no longer fresh enough for a photo shoot a hypothetical burial is necessary, one that can obscure the facts from international cameras and mobile phones. The Americans sent in a hit squad rather than dropping bombs from drones. Why go in person ? To make sure they have video and photographic evidence of the killing to show to Hillary Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama a few days later ? And by what moral and legal justification did Barack Hussein Obama issue a kill order instead of capturing Osama bin Laden for trial for his alleged crimes against humanity ?

Meanwhile, back in Libya, several other funerals have taken place after a NATO bombing raid in Tripoli, at night, targeting the Gaddafi family home, the victims of which included a son and some grandchildren of Colonel Gaddafi (and possibly even Muammar Gaddafi, the Brother Leader, himself, was killed too, although we don’t know that for sure yet) and sparked massive protest, which may lead to foreign troops “on the ground” to “finish off” the war – maybe disguised by gas masks, or under cover of enacting war crimes warrants. Various world leaders have declared they want to see the end of the current regime in Libya. NATO might be used to protect energy supplies. It could get a whole lot nastier now. What had Libya and Libya’s leader done to deserve this ? Declare energy independence ? :-

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/67d1d02a-5314-11e0-86e6-00144feab49a.html#axzz1LD4mxQ1w
“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…”

Osama bin Laden was arguing for a end to foreign interference in Arab territories, which naturally would have involved reasserting national control of oil and gas resources, and retaining wealth in the countries of origin. And many western strategists believe that this “threat” should never be allowed to happen. Osama bin Laden, in poor health, had probably negotiated a deal where he was allowed to live peacefully in retirement, but things changed, and the American Navy stormed his house at night and killed him and attacked his family. If the United States go after a sick man, and nearly murder his wife just because she happened to be in the way when they shot him (no taking prisoners, then), what will they do now ? Take out Pakistan for harbouring him (even though they agreed to host Osama bin Laden’s retirement in the first place) ? Or cut international aid intended for disaster relief in Pakistan ? It is now a distinct possibility that by encouraging universal joy over the death of the “sinner” bin Laden, a great piece of media entertainment, the world audience is being warmed up for overpowering violence against Libya, whipped up by American hawks. The deal breakers. All the wrong actions for all the wrong reasons.

And what did Barack Hussein Obama say ? “No Americans were harmed“, whilst “bringing Osama bin Laden to justice…Justice has been done“. Internal moral compasses may flinch at these words. Justice normally involves a court of law, not the President of the United States watching an “enemy of America” being liquidated on a secure webcam. Two victims of extensive and enduring negative American propaganda have been attacked with full military might whilst tucked up in bed at home. Who’s next ? Julian Assange ? Hugo Chavez ? Some other man made out to be a demon ? And while Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader in the United Kingdom says the world is now a “safer place”, Americans are being issued with travel advisories.

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.

The spoils of war

See the rest of Gaddafi’s speech to the United Nations here

When did Colonel Muammar Gaddafi learn of threats from the world’s major oil consumer countries against his rule ? Was it in early 2011 ? Or was it several years earlier ? On the public stage, he has been deliberately reduced to a figure of fun, and his message advising non-aggression and protection from aggression is being lost. He is now a desperate man :-

http://www.youtube.com/?v=DTjpdUiILDw

Continue reading The spoils of war

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.

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.

Who Planned Pipeline Attack ?

[ UPDATE 3 : Israel has said it has already prepared for just such an Egyptian disruption scenario, and won’t suffer from shortages of gas… http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=206940 ]

[ UPDATE 2 : The Jerusalem Post says that it was reported that explosives were detonated at the terminal… http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=206940. Why does the Jerusalem Post article contain a history of gas production in the region ? Part of the gas that comes through Egypt has come from Gazan wells http://www.joabbess.com/2010/08/01/natural-gaza-3/. If that supply fails, then countries round about will have to buy their gas from Israel’s new wells… Israel will probably blame Iran for the Egyptian gas terminal explosion http://blogs.forbes.com/christopherhelman/2011/02/05/egypt-pipeline-explosion-cuts-gas-supply-to-israel/. Apparently the gas supply to Israel may not have been damaged http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-05/egypt-gas-pipeline-feeding-israel-explodes-in-sinai-desert-arabiya-says.html, but they’ve turned the taps off anyway, as a precautionary measure http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/crisis-in-egypt/pipeline-blast-in-egypt-shuts-off-gas-flow-to-jordan-israel/article1895902/?cmpid=rss1 ]

[ UPDATE : We now learn it was not an attack after all… http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8305962/Egypt-crisis-Sinai-explosion-blamed-on-gas-leak.html. Notice the propaganda – we are reminded in the video report that there may be dark fundamentalist forces at work, even whilst being told that this was not in fact the case.]

An unidentified group has taken advantage of all the turmoil in Egypt, gone undercover, and attacked a gas pipeline, which means that supplies to politically moderate Jordan (and the more hardline Syria) will be cut off.

Who planned this ? It’s probably too early to say, but I can think of several possible answers to the question, and none of them are pretty.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5huw-ts1Q5jlhNQ2IOUlli6gjl5gw?docId=CNG.36fe9f8bbc762c3ed9f469e5f80934c5.8f1

“Saboteurs attack Egypt gas pipeline to Jordan”

http://af.reuters.com/article/investingNews/idAFJOE71407020110205

“Jordan gas supplies to be halted a week after blast”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704843304576125510103424894.html

“Egypt Gas Pipeline Attacked”

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/02/05/egypt.pipeline/?hpt=T2

“Gas pipeline to Jordan, Syria set ablaze in Egypt…Unless the pipe is repaired quickly, it could become a big problem for Jordan, a country already spending heavily in fuel subsidies, a Jordanian senior official said….”