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 !

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.

Market Tinkering

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government in the United Kingdom have several competing interests to juggle when it comes to the electricity generation industry.

Any proposed tinkering in the electricity market will need to show it still promotes competition (even though new entrants will probably complain they can’t compete in auctions), even as it guarantees safe and stable power supplies, even as it needs to make sure consumers don’t get ripped off.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change have published a clearly-written consultation document on their proposals for an Electricity Market Reform (EMR), detailing various methods of intervening to ensure long-term objectives on carbon emissions and energy security :-

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/emr/emr.aspx

I’ve been reading some really helpful commentary on the system-wide effects of these proposals :-

http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/Consultations/emr/1043-emr-analysis-policy-options.pdf

http://www.parliamentarybrief.com/2011/01/thumbs-up-a-little-early-for-that-mr-huhne#all

So far, my conclusion is that the net effect of these proposals will be to make the electricity generators feel secure about future earnings.

I’m not convinced that anything I’ve read so far will help energy supply companies feel willing to leap the expensive investment hurdle to ensure the UK gets new low carbon power plants.

I’m not even sure if the carbon and power pricing described will deter companies from dirty power generation and direct them towards new low carbon investment.

When I happened on the levelised cost of power in the main DECC analysis document, I came to a very pragmatic conclusion :-

http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/Consultations/emr/1041-electricity-market-reform-condoc.pdf

Figure 2 (see top) shows that FOAK (first of a kind) new nuclear reactor plant designs (which is what we are told we will be getting in the UK) are probably going to yield similar unit electricity price values to Onshore Wind Power and Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plant using Natural Gas feedstock.

My question is : why do we need to intervene with the electricity market to incentivise low carbon generation if the cheapest technologies are the low carbon options anyway ? (Yes, I’ve deliberately forgotten to discuss Carbon Capture and Storage).

My second question is : are the financial instruments proposed for the electricity market simply a sop to the electricity generators to leverage investment in new and efficient low carbon power stations ? Come and invest in new power generation in Great Britain and see your earnings stable (or rising) !

And my third question is this : don’t the NIMBY campaigns against Onshore Wind Power realise their success means that the overall cost of electricity to the consumers will rise significantly as wind power has to move offshore ?

My conclusion is : it would be far cheaper simply to instruct the largely publicly owned banks to make investment finance available, but only for low carbon technologies and forget about trying to maintain the facade of a free market.

Power supply is virtually a monopoly – and the State is bound to maintain supply – DECC have even got proposals on the table in their main Energy Bill to buy up any power companies that fail…yet another bailout !

Polar Bear Co-Option

My print copy of New Scientist magazine slithers through the letterbox in its biodegradable plastic sheath and plops weightily on the doormat. Hours later I pick it up, and it crinkles with the promise of lots of juicy new information. What I’m not prepared for is the disappointment of the sell-out on the inside of the front cover :-

“Win a trip to the high Arctic and the deep sea : Ever wanted to see polar bears and whales in their natural habitats ? Or how about visiting the sea floor ? Here’s your chance : New Scientist has teamed up with Statoil, the global energy company, to offer one lucky winner and a guest the trip of a lifetime – to sail around the Svalbard archipelago inside the Arctic Circle, home to polar bears and whales, and to fly to the giant Troll platform, where you will visit the bottom of the North Sea. To win this amazing prize all you have to do is tell us, in no more than 100 words, which engineering project you think will have the greatest impact on human life in the next 30 years, and why. To find out more and to enter the competition go to www.newscientist.com/engineeringgreats. The closing date for entries is 2 March 2011.”

A large part of the page is taken up with a photograph of a polar bear, a poster child for Climate Change.

The implication-by-association is that Statoil want to protect the environment. But what’s their real business ? Shipping large quantities of Natural Gas – not exactly zero carbon fuel.

Not only that, but pages 10 and 11 of the magazine are an “advertising feature” on behalf of Statoil. The infommercial is in exactly the same style and typeface as the rest of the magazine, which I think is plain deceptive. Perhaps it is there to make sure that people entering the prize competition nominate Statoil’s technology as the “engineering great” for the future. That’s a bit rich. In one fell swoop the global energy industry have co-opted not only polar bears but the New Scientist magazine into the bargain !

The “advertising feature” features Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which is what Statoil is famous for with their Sleipner facility, where they inject excess Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from Natural Gas back into the field to store it. The “advertising feature” attempts to sell the “good idea” of CCS, but cleverly injects a bit of “balance” to take the reader along with it.

“…The conclusion so far is that the CO2 is safely stored…It’s not possible to be 100 per cent certain about this…”

I would have thought that if it’s not 100% locked down that some people might be quite unsure about relying on it. But anyway. It appears that the European Union and several other key players really believe in CCS technology, and are willing to put public funds into it :-

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/technology/initiatives/doc/implementation_plan_2010_2012_eii_ccs.pdf

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/technology/initiatives/initiatives_en.htm

The only way that any business would buy into CCS would be if there is a carbon price differential implemented – as CCS adds costs to everything :-

“…Statoil made the choice to lock up the field’s CO2 for good business reasons: the Norwegian government would have levied a tax of $50 for every tonne of CO2 it emitted…”

But fitting CCS to power plants is going to be a lot different than the Sleipner project :-

“…Then there is the question of whether the technique can be extended to CO2 produced by combustion, in particular from fossil-fuel power stations…handling flue gases from power plants is going to require significant extra cost…”

So what kind of carbon price would support Carbon Capture and Storage ? $80 per tonne ? $120 per tonne ? That’s the kind of money our leaders are willing to shell out from tax revenues to support the continued burning of coal to make electricity. Wouldn’t it be better, more cost effective, to put the money into Renewable Energy technologies and just stop burning coal ? After all, coal could get a lot more pricey in the next few years :-

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-chinese-coal-monster-running-out-of-puff-2010-11

If I were in charge, I would recommend that nobody builds any new coal-fired power stations, and that we start a phase of withdrawal from coal-burning for power generation, forget about Carbon Capture and Storage and put the public money into financing the development of Biogas, BioSyngas and Renewable Hydrogen – zero carbon gas products that could replace Natural Gas and coal entirely.

The Gamechanger

Gasland at the ICA London : 17 – 27 Jan, 4 – 6, 11 – 13, 16 – 17, 19, 26 – 27 Feb 2011

The public propaganda budget for most energy and mining companies is eensy weensy compared to the profits they can make by polluting and stealing.

Are you ready for another American energy myth ? Yes, the country with the energy production “community” that brought you the Gulf of Mexico spill disaster of April 2010, is now threatening groundwater pollution and seismic shocks at a county near you in the United Kingdom.

A glimpse of the public relations that have led up to this can be seen very easily by using an Internet Search Engine using an Internet Browser (like Google running on Google Chrome, for example), using the search term : “shale gas gamechanger”.

That little word “gamechanger” has been soaking through the business, engineering and financial press in relation to “unconventional” gas for at least six months. Everybody digests this word in connection with information touting the magical promise of virtually free gas in the rocks beneath our feet. And then they repeat the concept and this little sales word to others. It’s gone completely viral.

Roger Harrabin of the BBC (thanks, Roger) brings word that the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has recommended a moratorium on shale gas operations until more science is known about the results of the engineering :-

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

“…”We are aware that there have been reports from US of issues linked to some shale gas projects,” a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) told BBC News. “However, we understand that these are only in a few cases and that Cuadrilla (the firm testing for shale gas in Lancashire) has made it clear that there is no likelihood of environmental damage and that it is applying technical expertise and exercising the utmost care as it takes drilling and testing forward.”…”

So who is this company “Cuadrilla” ?

It is an entity formed from one Australian engineering giant and one American financial giant, seeking to propagate the American way of life of developing “new” energy resources :-

http://www.mining-reporter.com/index.php/component/content/article/653-lucas/2867-riverstone-llc-invests-us58-million-in-cuadrilla-resources-

“…Lucas announced that the Riverstone/Carlyle Global Energy and Power Funds, a group of energy-focused private equity funds managed by Riverstone Holdings LLC, has committed to subscribe US$58.0 million for equity in Cuadrilla Resources Holding Ltd, the holding company established by Lucas to hold its investment for unconventional hydrocarbons exploration and development in Europe.”

“Lucas was a founding shareholder in Cuadrilla and has supported the management team since the company’s inception. Lucas’ total investment as of today’s date amounts to A$52.4 million.
Cuadrilla has applied for, and in some cases been granted, exploration licences totalling in excess of 1.5 million acres in the UK, Holland, Spain and Poland. In addition, Cuadrilla has designed, overseen the manufacture of and delivered state of the art cementing and fracture stimulation equipment and is soon to take delivery of a DrillMec HH220 top drive rig.”

So, does this technology actually work safely ?

Nobody really knows, is the short answer.

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

“…Funded by the Cooperative, the Tyndall report demonstrates how the extraction of shale gas risks seriously contaminating ground and surface waters. In this regard alone, there should be a moratorium on shale gas development until a there is a much more thorough understanding of the extraction process…”

Why do we continue to have American companies imprinting their business models on the UK ? We have to have their “independent” nuclear deterrent, their behemoth nuclear reactor construction companies, their health insurance companies, their failed genetically modified crops, their privatised prison and school and health centre management policies, their tax concepts, their social control policies, even their zeal for state terrorism…sorry…”The War against Terror”. And nobody seeks to question why we have to copycat everything the Americans do, even when it goes badly wrong.

Why can’t we have a War against Error ?

We need a real “regime change” here – we need to say a big no to American energy policy. And that starts with asking a few questions about the way American companies do business.

Here’s just one example of the sort of practice that the people behind Cuadrilla get up to :-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlyle_Group

“In 2000, Carlyle entered into a joint venture with Riverstone Holdings, an energy and power focused private equity firm founded by former Goldman Sachs investment bankers. In March 2009, New York State and federal authorities began an investigation into payments made by Carlyle and Riverstone to placement agents allegedly made in exchange for investments from the New York State Common Retirement System, the state’s pension fund. It was alleged that these payments were in fact bribes or kickbacks, made to pension officials who have been under investigation by New York State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo. In May 2009, Carlyle agreed to pay $20 million in a settlement with Cuomo and accepted changes to its fundraising practices.”

And you trust these people with the right motives when agreeing to finance shale gas exploitation in Europe ?

A. J. Lucas Group is the engineering partner in this enterprise :-

http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/businessProfile.asp?s=AJL:ASX

“The Company’s Oil and Gas segment is engaged in the exploration for and commercialization of hydrocarbons in Australia, Canada, United States and Europe. As of June 30, 2010, the Company held 56.95% interest in Cuadrilla Resources Corporation Limited (Cuadrilla).”

Starting with Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, they appear to want to dig up the whole of Lancashire :-

http://www.channel4.com/news/shale-gas-striking-gold-in-blackpool

“Mr Cornelius said Cuadrilla would begin the extraction process in early January and would hope to have its first flare – gas burning at the surface – by early February.”

“If successful, the find would be extremely significant given Britain’s dwindling energy resources and our increasing reliance on imported gas. Cuadrilla had previously said the amount of shale gas in the Bowland site could meet as much as 5 to 10 per cent of Britain’s energy resources.”

“Now, after the first samples have been analysed, the suspicion is that the Lancashire fields could hold a lot more.”

“Now one site has been explored, the drilling rig will be moved to another site on the Bowland Shale to assess the size of the gas field overall. If those explorations also prove successful, then Cuadrilla will look to sell the entire operation to a large exploration company, like Shell, to carry out the expensive and time-consuming production process.”

Somebody has to say no to this. That somebody could be you.

What does shale gas “fracking” do to land, peoples and communities ?

Come and find out :-

http://www.culturecritic.co.uk/competitions/win-a-pair-of-tickets-to-the-premiere-of-gasland/

“GASLAND : Opening 17 January 2011 : Winner – Special Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival 2010 : Nominated – Grand Jury Prize – Sundance film Festival 2010 : A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Another in a long line of essential environmental documentaries – each of which seems to be more alarming and compelling than the last…”

Come along and watch your own hellish future if you are unlucky enough to sit on top of gas-bearing rock formations :-

http://www.ica.org.uk/?lid=27269

“Gasland
17 – 27 Jan, 4 – 6, 11 – 13, 16 – 17, 19, 26 – 27 Feb 2011
A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Director Q&A plus panel discussion : After the premiere on 17 January there will be a discussion panel afterwards comprising the director Josh Fox, along with representatives from The Co-operative and WWF.”…”

Here’s just a few links to peoples groups opposed to the engineering of unconventional gas :-
http://nofracking.com/
http://durangoherald.com/article/20110116/NEWS01/701169903/-1/s
http://www.marcellusprotest.org/
http://www.atlantic.sierraclub.ca/en/we-are-fracking-out
http://dearsusquehanna.blogspot.com/2011/01/fracking-to-pollute-water-air.html

It’s time our authorities read between the lines and regulated this practice away from Europe.

If we had a sparsely populated continent with lots of unused land, then maybe it might be OK. But with the risks still fully unquantified, we should keep this engineering out of well-populated and ecologically sensitive areas, particularly areas with water courses and farmland.

Carbon Capture Report Card : Fail

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as known as Carbon Geosequestration, or more simply Carbon Sequestration was put forward as a “leading edge” technology to the IPCC from the energy industry way back in 2002 :-

http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/ipcc/ScopingPaper-SRCCS.pdf

A Special Report was published by the IPCC in 2005 :-

http://www.ipcc-wg3.de/publications/special-reports/special-report-on-carbon-dioxide-capture-and-storage

http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml#2

The reasoning was as follows : coal is cheap and abundant, allegedly, and everybody (especially the Chinese) are going to continue burning it for energy for another 200 years, so we better find ways to mitigate the emissions using engineering.

The first big fail on the score card : it’s expensive. You have to spend heaps more money on not only the CCS pumping and storage infrastructure, but you have to spend heaps more money on fuel as a coal-fired power station with CCS fitted will burn something in the region of 20% to 45% more fuel (analyses vary) :-

http://www.worldcoal.org/carbon-capture-storage/ccs-technologies/

“Around 10-40% more energy is required with CCS than without…”

The second big fail, and this could be the clincher : it uses even more water than un-mitigated coal power generation, and in some places (notably China and the USA), water competition between population, agriculture and industry is appearing :-

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/ETIP-DP-2010-15-final-4.pdf

See pages 42 and 46 (Conclusion).

And all this just to justify continuing to burn coal, when supply is stressed and prices are at risk of rising…

Tell me please : is anybody seriously demonstrating large volume CCS anywhere in the world apart from people burying Carbon Dioxide as a means for Enhanced Oil Recovery in old petroleum wells ?

It seems that the only way to finance CCS will be through a ridiculous international subsidy known as the Clean Development Mechanism – although why dirty coal should get it, I really don’t know. It would be much, much cheaper to stop using fossil fuels and start using green power…

The Cancun IPCC get-together ruled CCS projects into the CDM :-

http://www.climaticoanalysis.org/post/towards-consensus-integrating-carbon-capture-and-storage-into-the-cdm-at-cancun/

And this after it having been ruled out in the 2009 IPCC hook up in Copenhagen :-

http://www.euractiv.com/en/climate-change/carbon-capture-ruled-un-clean-projects-list/article-188403

How’s Australia doing ? :-

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8185689/bligh-spends-more-on-carbon-capture

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/cost-blowout-hits-clean-coal-vision/story-fn59niix-1225973604223

And what’s the deal about “cleaner” plants ? :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/14/un-carbon-offset-coal-plants

For more news and views from the inside :-

http://www.ccsassociation.org.uk/news/latest_news.html

(but don’t believe the map – most of the projects won’t be happening)

http://www.captureready.com/EN/Channels/Home/index.asp

(Download the newsletters – link top right)

How ready is Carbon Capture ?

http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/sccs/Capture_Ready_CCS_power_plant_Report_for_WWF_(FINAL)_May08.pdf

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/library/position/120154.aspx

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/FutureGen-narrows-potential-apf-2858992453.html?x=0&.v=1

http://solar.calfinder.com/blog/solar-information/futuregen-clean-coal/

Fail number 3 : doesn’t look like it’s even close to getting off the starting blocks yet in the race to a lower carbon future.

Looks like we’ve all been captured by the concept of Carbon Capture, but that it’s a gossamer filament of ethereal phlogiston, wafting away in the breeze.

Bypass coal, and go straight to the concentrated solar powerhouse, I’d advise.

The New Climate Alliance

Green jobs, green energy, greening communities.

Forget Nigel Lawson and his struggle to keep the British energy system in the privatised 1980s by denying the realities of Climate Change.

The lords (and sadly, some of the ladies) of this land want to stay rich from their shares in fossil fuels and mining. They’ll say anything to protect the value of their holdings.

But where’s your new North Sea Oil and Gas, Nigel ? Do you want to bankrupt this country by forcing us to ramp up our imports of energy as the North Sea production falls away ?

The chief executives of the “traditional” energy companies of these islands are just trying to keep themselves in a job when they decry wind power, biogas, marine energy projects.

No, Vincent de Rivaz of EdF, we don’t want expensive, inflexible and toxic Nuclear Power. No, Dorothy Thompson of Drax, we don’t want dirty coal continuing to heat up the world, poison fish and raise coughing kids. No, Rupert Soames of Aggreko, we must maintain the Renewable Energy obligations we have agreed at the European level, and raise the bar even higher, to protect the economy going into an uncertain future, by having homegrown energy.

We need an energy evolution in this country.

And so, what is needed is a social movement – involving ordinary, working people, unions, communities, academics, trained professionals from the engineering trades, local political activists and faith communities.

This is the emergence of Green Power.

We Will Get To You

Video Credit : Brooklyn Space Program

Eventually we will reach you.

Scientists are proverbially poor at communication, but we will eventually be able to explain to you what is happening to the Earth in a way that you will understand.

You need to give some time to the data, to the arguments. You need to read the significant research papers, learn how to read graphs, learn the acronyms, abbreviations, technical terms.

You will need to be able to weigh in your mind the significance of probabilities, the risks of extremes, the trends, the changing patterns.

After a while, you will start to reappraise the evidence, and start looking into the data and see the conclusions for yourself.

You will begin to appreciate the strong line of reasoning, and come to be in awe of the minds of many who work on Climate Change.

I’ve become impressed by the body of scientific evidence, that’s why I will always be aligned with the Climate Change science community.

We’re not going anywhere. We’re here, and we’re right. There has already been significant change in the Earth’s climate due to humankind’s mining-to-burn activities, and the projections are for further, possibly very dangerous change.

The scientists know what the problems are, and what the engineering solutions are. Some companies/corporations, economists and politicans and sadly even some compromised “environmentalists” promote non-solutions like carbon pricing, Carbon Taxation, Carbon Trading, Carbon Capture (and Storage), GM Crops, Nuclear Power, geoengineering – but the academies of scientists are telling you they won’t work, or won’t solve all the problems.

What is needed is wholesale removal of Fossil Fuels from the global economy in order to prevent further deterioration and disruption in the global climatic conditions. Either BP, Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil hang up their boots forever, or they need to embrace new clean energies (not Nuclear Power) to stay in business.

Oil, gas and coal depletion in the production facilities of those countries that are national players will mean that they will go bust, because a consistently high price for Fossil Fuels is not supportable, because the global economy is so Fossil Fuel-dependent currently. This is both a buyer’s market and a seller’s market, so the price will be governed by the operation of this two-sided cartel, not by the theories of “scarcity economics”.

Either Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, China, Venezuela and so on are on their way to extreme poverty, or they will embrace new clean energies (not Nuclear Power) to stay economically developed.

Meanwhile, the project of empirical scientific enquiry continues apace, and even though rich fossil fuel businesses are financing doubt, even though people with pension funds in mining pour scorn on Climate Change science, and even though the mainstream media can’t recognise uneducated propaganda when they meet it; you need to trust the intellectual community of Climate Change science researchers.

Stop listening to accusations of malpractice, dodgy data, weak methods, poor models. Do you really know what you are talking about when you pass judgement on the scientific community ? Who told you that scientists were wrong ? Can you really trust the people who tell you not to trust the scientific community ? Do you have the right or the authority to lay somebody else’s fabricated blame at the door of those whose whole lives are devoted to discovering the truth ?

Why don’t you do an integrity check on your sources, before replicating myths ?

Read the science journals and not the newspapers, is my advice.

And when it comes to the Internet, search wisely. You can’t believe every website you come across – there are some web loggers who are misled, and there are others seeking to mislead.

If you want to filter out the nonsense, try this :-

True Science

Repower Al Gore

Help Al Gore out, won’t you ? He’s looking quite tired and worn out in this video urging the good people of California to “Vote No on Proposition 23”. At one point he gives a little hack, and his speech seems a little slurred, like he’s fighting flu and on the meds.

God bless you, Al Gore, and give you rest and strength.

We hear you.

Dearth of the Oceans

An incomplete recording of the BBC Horizon programme “The Death of the Oceans ?” narrated by David Attenborough is below.

It’s about Global Warming, of course (and overfishing, and sonar making whales deaf – which is the bit that’s missing at the end). But it’s also about Global Warming’s evil twin – Ocean Acidification.

Believe what you will about the Anthropogenic component of Global Warming, and I know some of you resist the Science as if it were a hairy, sweaty, alcoholic dentist threatening to pull your teeth without Novocaine, but there’s no way you can deny that the increasing concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, most of it a direct result of humankind’s burning of Fossil Fuels, is turning the Oceans into a giant bucket of fizzy soda, and is threatening marine life, which is a huge risk to the whole of Life on Earth.

The only solution is to stop burning so much Coal, Oil and Gas. Really, that’s the only way.

Oh, you can fight this inevitability with every brain circuit you have, trying to force others to believe that everything’s still OK, that the Earth is not dangerously heating up, that Life on Land and in the Oceans is not on the cusp of mass extinction, and that Progress is just fine, and Economic Recovery, or Shiny New Technology, or Geoengineering will save us, but one day you will understand. You will accept. The global systems of production, transport and agriculture have to change. The Carbon-based Industrial Age will be gone in only a few decades, only a couple of hundred years after it started.

You can relax. Everything will be fine – eventually. When we have Wind Farms on every ridge top, Solar Power plants in every desert, Geothermal stations in our Town Halls, Combined Heat and Power running on Biomass in every street, Marine Power-gathering machines, Organic food, small electric cars, useful 24 hours-in-a-day networks of electricity-powered public transportation. The time is coming for the new human world to be born – and it will be green, clean and less energy-hungry than before.

It’s going to be a bit of a traumatic birth and the Climate Medics are working hard in the delivery suite, but soon, very soon, Green Investment will see the light of day – those who are wealthy will, as one, put their finances towards Renewable Energy and Energy-efficient machines and Energy Demand Management, real assets, with real returns on investment, and the future will be secured.

Part 1/4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4rloPBrA6w

See at top for video.

Part 2/4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdn1RpqKziE

Part 3/4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKPNcQyljds

Part 4/4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIKOKG3L3zo

Ride the Future

Video Found At : Energy Bulletin

The Earth keeps turning, the Sun keeps burning, and the future will look a lot different than today as we drag down Carbon Dioxide emissions “by hook or by crook”.

We have to be wary of possible “crooks”. There are still technology “snake oil salesmen” out there, trying to impose Genetically Modified crops on us, or Nuclear Power, or Carbon Capture and Storage (to justify the continued use of Coal), and using the vehicle of science to push their wares :-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/8048917/Climate-change-threatens-UK-harvest.html

“Climate change threatens UK harvest : Climate change could push up food prices by causing large-scale crop failures in Britain, the Met Office has warned. : By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent : Published: 08 Oct 2010 : Rising temperatures could mean events such as the drought in Russia this summer, which pushed up grain prices, hit countries like the UK. But they said the worst effects of climate change could be limited by investment in better farming and the development of new drought resistant or heat tolerant crops. This could be done by aid money, breeding and new technologies like genetic modification (GM)…”

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/908/crop_failures_set_to_increase_under_climate_change

Look out for terms like “new crops”, “crop development” or “modified crops” :-

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101007092817.htm
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/5/3/034012/

See the use of the word “biotechnology” in the actual research paper :-

http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/5/3/034012/pdf/1748-9326_5_3_034012.pdf

But, as everybody can probably guess, most farmers in the world will not be able to afford Genetically Modified crops, and anyway, nobody really yet knows if GM crops confer the benefits claimed – there is some evidence that “life scientists” don’t know the full range of effects on organisms from gene splicing.

Continue reading Ride the Future

Wind Power : Material Fatigues

Image Credit : Cape Cod Living

James Delingpole follows in a long line of commentators with zero engineering experience in pouring scorn on a technology that could quite possibly save our skins :-

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100056158/wind-farms-yet-another-brewing-disaster/

I don’t know what he harbours in his heart against wonderful wind turbines, but he seems to be part of a movement who delight in their failure. Just ask the Internet to show you “exploding wind turbines”.

For example :-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKkTUY2slYQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nSB1SdVHqQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkGXoE3RFZ8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOfHxINzGeo

Clearly, you need to be in full protective fatigues when battling this kind of bad press…in fact “fatigue” is exactly the right word to come back at Mr Delingpole’s cracked warning (of cracks in wind turbine bases).

Continue reading Wind Power : Material Fatigues