Eco-Socialism #1 : Public Service, Private Profit

Public infrastructure and utilities are the skeleton of the national economy; the spokes of the wheel; the walls of the house.

Private corporations can in many cases put muscle on the body, a tyre on the bike, and furnish the rooms, but without the basic public provision, private enterprise cannot thrive.

Without taxes being raised – asking everybody for their appropriate contribution – there would be no guaranteed health service, education system, roads, water supplies, power networks.

Federal or central government spending is essential, and often goes without question or inspection – including subsidies, cheap government loans, tax breaks and even rule-bending and regulatory exemption for specific sectors of the economy. This policy lenience also applies to private companies that take on the provision of public utilities.

This explicit, but often glossed-over, support for public services means that private business can rely on this national infrastructure. Small businesses can rely on a power supply and waste disposal services, for example. Large businesses can rely on a functioning postal service and road network.

It is questionable whether for-profit enterprise would be able to survive without the basic taxation-funded provision of public services and utilities.

I can understand why governments feel the need to get public spending off the balance sheet, and outsource public utilities to the private sector.

There is a lingering belief that private enterprise makes public services more efficient; makes manufacturing more reliable; makes construction better quality.

In some cases, this belief in privatisation is justified. Where companies can genuinely compete with each other, there can be efficiencies at scale. However, the success of privatisation is not universal.

Many parts of a developed economy are monolithic – there is no real competition possible. You get electricity through your power socket from a variety of production companies – you cannot choose. The road between your house and your office is always the same road – you don’t choose between different tarmac suppliers. Your local hospital is your local hospital, regardless of who owns and runs it – you have no choice about who that is – and the government contract tendering process is not something open to a public vote.

Added to this lack of competition, in some cases, it is impossible to make a profit by operating a public service by a private concern.

There should be no rock under which private business can hide when it claims to be operating profitable train and bus services – without public subsidies, public transport cannot be run at a profit.

Liability for daily operations may have been outsourced to the British private train companies, but not the full cost of the services. Costs for locally-sourced services cannot be driven down because they cannot be made fully open to global competition.

By contrast, the globalisation of labour has been making manufacturing industry significantly cheaper for decades.

In order for globalised trade to work, finance has to be liberated from its nation-bound shackles, and so along with the globalisation of labour to nations where it’s cheapest, there has been the globalisation of finance, to the tax regimes less punitive.

The globalisation of trade is a two-way bargain between those that want to see the development of primitive economies and those who want to create wealth for their companies and their shareholders.

Globalisation has created a booming China, for example, and filled the pockets of any Western company that imports from China.

However, the tide of globalisation has reached the shore, and the power of the waves is being stilled by solid earth realities. Labour costs in previously under-developed economies are starting to rise significantly, as those economies start to operate internal markets as well as maintain export-led growth.

It could soon be cheaper to have manufacturing labour in the United States of America than China. But when that happens a curious problem will arise. Manufacturing industry has been closed down in the so-called industrialised countries – as companies have taken their factories to the places with the cheapest labour and the most lax tax.

Wealth creation potential in developed countries has been destroyed. And it is for this reason that Western governments feel the urgent need to privatise everything, because their economies are collapsing internally, and public budgets may no longer be able to sustain current government spending.

However, privatisation doesn’t work for everything. It doesn’t work for health, education, water, public transport. The European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a vehicle to compensate for agricultural sectors than cannot make a profit. I would contend privatisation doesn’t work for the energy supply and distribution sector either – but for a special reason.

Normally, it is possible to run energy stations at a profit. The privatised sector inherited power stations and grid networks that were fully functioning, and the sales of power and Natural Gas were almost pure profit.

However, much energy plant needs to be lifecycled after decades of use – replacements are in order, and this demands heavy public investment, in the form of subsidies, or pricing controls, or tax breaks or some such financial aid, in order to avoid crippling the private companies.

Like the rail network, there is direct public investment in the power grids. This is to support new access for new energy plant. However, I think this doesn’t go far enough. I would argue that much more public tax-and-spend is required in the energy sector.

In future, most electricity generation needs to become low carbon and indigenous. The primary reason for this is the volatility of the globalised economy – it will no longer be possible to assume that imports of coal, Natural Gas and oil for power station combustion can be afforded – especially in economies like the United Kingdom, where much wealth creation has been destroyed by de-industrialisation.

It used to be easy to ignore this – as the North Sea was so productive in oil and Natural Gas that the UK was a net energy exporter. This is no longer the case.

To avoid the risk of national impoverishment, energy independence is dictated, spelled out by a deflating British economy and by the depleting North Sea reserves.

The easiest and fastest way to a power supply that is low carbon is by healthy investment in wind power and solar power. Yet with the turbulence in the global economy, spending on renewable energy has also been rocky.

Now is the time for the UK Government to stop tickling corporate underbellies to get them to invest in British energy, and to start collected tax revenues to spend explicitly on the energy revival.

It can be “matched” funding – the Renewables Obligation, for example, has drawn in massive levels of private investment into wind power. And the feed-in tariff scheme for solar photovoltaics had, until recently, been pulling in high levels of personal individual and private company investment.

This is the kind of public-private financing that works – create a slightly tilted playing field to tip the flow of money towards new energy investment, and watch the river flow.

Without public money ploughed into public infrastructure in non-profitable areas such as public transport and energy, private enterprise will not be able to make a contribution – they would quickly bankrupt themselves.

The result of capping public subsidies for renewable energy is a halt to renewable energy deployment. Those who resist wind farms are in effect destroying the country. Those who cap public subsidies for solar power want to break the nation.

We need socalist financing of new energy technology deployment, for the future wealth of our country.

Alchemic for the people

I was less than a metre above current sea level, rooting about in the holy bookshelves of my Evangelical host, searching for a suitable title.

I pulled out “Who Made God ?” from underneath a pile of books on their sides, letting the column slump downwards, alerting my companions to the fact that I had definitively made my choice for the evening’s reading.

We were treated to gentle Christmassy music for an hour or so as we all gave up talking to read by candlelight and compact fluorescent.

I didn’t read fast, as at first I didn’t have my newly-necessary reading glasses, and when I was encouraged to fetch them, the light was too dim to make reading easy. Those fashionable uplighters.

I read into the second part, and I had already formed in my mind several disagreements with the author, Professor Edgar Andrews, despite him having taken several good lines of reasoning and made some humourous points which I had duly responded to with a slight audible giggle.

I instinctively didn’t like his pitch about the impossibility of organic chemistry and I froze a little : personally I see no need for God’s personal, literal, physical intervention to make the ladders and spirals of genes – the DNA and RNA forming from the appropriate nucleotide bases – A, T, G, C.

And then the book’s author blew away his credibility, for me, at least, by getting bogged down in the absolutes of Physics, and ignoring Chemistry. He quoted the Laws of Thermodynamics, and claimed Entropy as proof that God doesn’t play dice because he’s in the garage playing mechanic. The direction of the universe, the arrow of time, plays towards randomness, the author of the book proclaimed. Order cannot come from inorganic matter – Life is the organising force.

At this, I took several forms of dispute, and immediately found in my mind the perfect counter-example – the formation of crystals from saturated solution – the building of the stalgamite and stalagtite from the sedimentary filtering of rainwater. Another example, I think, is chiral forms of molecular compounds – some chemicals behave in different ways if formed lefthandedly or righthandedly. The different forms behave predictably and consistently and this is an ordered behaviour that I believe – without the necessary university instruction in Chemistry – is an imposed denial of chaos.

In fact, the whole of Chemistry, its world of wonder in alchemy, I think points to a kind of natural negation of the Laws of Physics. There is the Micro World, where Newton, and more introspectively, Einstein, are correct in their theoretical pragmas. But in the Macro World, there is Chemistry, and there are precursor compounds to organic essentials. Life forms itself from dead stone. For a Physicist this is “just not cricket”, it is a whole new universe.

Why can Aluminium be used for containers in microwave ovens, but steel cannot ? And why is Aluminium so light ? Why does water expand when it freezes ? Here the Physicists can help out. But they cannot, when it comes to explaining, or even accurately predicting, all the chemical properties of alloys and compounds.

I have been pondering, in a crude, uneducated way, about industrial chemistry for the last couple of months. How large volume reactions are encouraged, catalysed. How fluids work. How gases breathe. My conclusion is that most chemical engineering is a bit brutish, like the workings of the internal combustion engine. Things are a tad forced. It is probably not possible for chemical engineers to replicate photosynthesis entirely – it’s too dainty for them. But that is the kind of chemistry we need to overcome our climate and energy problems.

We may not be able to match the leaves on the trees, but we can do gas chemistry and electricity and semiconductor physics, and it is gas chemistry and electricity and semiconductor physics that will save the planet. Electricity to replace much fuel. Semiconductor physics to bypass photosynthesis. And Renewable Gas chemistry – engineering the chemical building blocks of the future and providing backup to the other green energies.

2012 : Greenier and Peace-ier

My dear family.

They think I’m an environmentalist, a bit radical, a bit confrontational.

So for a fun wintertime gift they bought me this lovely cloth tote(m) bag for grocery shopping.

I think I might have failed to communicate myself clearly enough.

Although I try to be frugal and efficient in my way of life, recycling is not my central agenda.

I studied physics, but I don’t have a laboratory. The things that I believe need to be developed are technologies in the field of clean, green energy. I am an engineer without a workshop – although my home is now a power station.

Recycling is important, but reducing the use of resource materials is far more important.

Recycling is important, but energy waste is far more important. Digging things out of the ground and burning them in order to keep civilisation moving is the ultimate misuse of natural resources.

Recycling is important, but so are international relations, especially around the sourcing of commodities such as fossil fuels, rare metals, timber and freshwater.

The world needs to work together – to make friends, not invent enemies – even more so when those so-called opponents sit on vital energy resources.

May you have a year that is greener and has more peace.

Urbanity, Durbanity

People working for non-governmental, and governmental, organisations can be rather defensive when I criticise the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC. What ? I don’t back the international process ? Climate change, after all, is a borderless crime, and will take global policing. Well, I back negotiations for a global treaty in principle, but not in practice.

The annual wearisome jousting and filibustering events just before Christmas do not constitute for me a healthy, realistic programme of engagement, imbued with the full authority and support of global leadership structures and civil society. People can try to spin it and claim success, but that’s just whitewash on an ungildable tomb.

The Climate Change talks that have just taken place in Durban, South Africa, were exemplary of a peculiar kind of collective madness that has resulted from trying to navigate and massage endless special interests, national jostling, brinkmanship, unworkable and inappropriate proposals from economists, communications failures and corporate interference in governance.

The right people with real decisionmaking powers are not at the negotiating table. The organisations with most to contribute are still acting in opposition – that’s the energy industry, to be explicit. And the individual national governments are still not concerned enough about climate change, even though it impacts strongly on the things they do consider to be priorities – economic health, trade and political superiority.

Over 20 years ago, the debate on what to do to tackle global warming and still maintain good international relations was already won, by the commonsense approach of Contraction and Convergence – fair shares for all. Each country should count on their fair share of carbon emissions based on their population – and we would get there by starting from where we are now and agreeing mutual cuts. The big emitters would agree to steeper cuts than the lower emitters – and after some time, everybody in the world would have the same, safe emissions rights.

What has prevented this logical approach from being implemented ? Well, we have had the so-called “flexible mechanisms” pushed on us – such as the Clean Development Mechanism which essentially boils down to the idea that the richer high-emitting countries can offset their carbon by paying for poorer low emissions countries to cut their carbon instead. Some have been attempting to make the CDM carbon credits into a commercial product for the Carbon Trading market. Some may contest it, but the CDM and carbon trading haven’t really been working very well, and anyway, the CDM doesn’t aim for emissions reductions, just offsets.

Other carbon trade has been implemented, such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which doesn’t appear to have caused high emissions industries to diversify out of carbon, or created a viable price for carbon dioxide, so its usefulness is questionable.

Many people have put forward the idea of straight carbon pricing, mostly by taxation. The trouble with this idea should be obvious, but rarely is. Over four-fifths of the world’s energy is fossil fuel based. Taxing carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would just make everything, everywhere, more expensive. It wouldn’t necessarily create new lower carbon energy resources, as the taxes would probably be put into a giant climate change adaptation fund – a financial institution proposed by several people including Oliver Tickell and Nicholas Stern, although in Stern’s case, he is calling for direct grants from countries to keep the fund topped up.

On the policy front, there has been a continuing, futile attempt to force the historially high-emitting countries to accept very radical carbon cuts, as a sign of accountability. This “grandfathering” of emissions responsibilities is something that no sane person in government in the richer nations could ever agree with, not even when being smothered with ethical guilt. One of the forms of this proposal is “Greenhouse Development Rights“, essentially allowing countries like China to continue growing their emissions in order to grow their economies to guarantee development. The emissions cuts required by countries like the United States of America would be impossible to achieve, not even if their economy completely toppled.

Sadly, a number of charities, aid and development agencies and other non-governmental organisations with concern for the world’s poor, have signed up to Greenhouse Development Rights not realising it is completely untenable.

The only approach that can work, that both high- and low-emitting countries can ever possibly be made to agree on, is a system of population-proportional shares of the global carbon pie. And the way to get there has to be based on relative current emissions, ignoring the emissions of the past – your cuts should be larger if your current emissions are large. And it should be based on the relative size of the population, and their individual emissions rates, rather than taking a country as a whole. Yes, there will be room for a little carbon trade between nations, to enable the transfer of low carbon technologies from wealthy nations to un-resourced nations. Yes, there will be space for enterprise, as corporations have to face regulation to cut emissions, and will need innovation in technology to divest themselves of fossil fuel production and consumption.

This is Contraction and Convergence – and you ignore it at our peril.

A few suggestions for further reading :-

Contraction and Convergence The Global Solution to Climate Change” by Aubrey Meyer. Schumacher Briefings, Green Books, December 2000. ISBN-13: 978-1870098946

The Greenhouse Effect : Science and Policy” by Professor Stephen H. Schneider, Science, Volume 243, Issue 4892, Pages 771 – 781, DOI: 10.1126/science.243.4892.771, 10 February 1989.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/243/4892/771.abstract
http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/
http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/Publications.html

“Climate Change : Science and Policy“, edited by Stephen H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, Michael D. Mastrandea and Kristin Kuntz-Duriseti. Island Press, 10 February 2010. ISBN-13: 978-1597265669

“The Greenhouse Effect : Negotiating Targets” by Professor Michael Grubb, published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) in London, 1990.

“Equity, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Global Common Resources” by Paul Baer, Chapter 15 in “Climate Change Policy : A Survey” by Stephen H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz and John O. Niles, Island Press, 2002. ISBN-10: 1-55963-881-8 (Paper), ISBN-13: 978-1-55963-881-4 (Paper)

Kyoto 2 : How to Manage the Global Greenhouse” by Oliver Tickell, ISBN-13: 978-1848130258, Zed Books Ltd, 25 July 2008
http://www.kyoto2.org/
http://www.kyoto2.org/docs/the_land_1.pdf

Solar FIT to Bust #7

Here we go again – time to compare apples and oranges :-

Ask Leo and Lucy

So when will solar power attain “grid parity”, then ?

Renewable electricity generation plant has to be paid for up-front, remember, whereupon it becomes a asset. Conversely, anything that burns coal, oil or Natural Gas remains a liability, despite its ticket price and longevity, owing to the price of the fuel.

Carbon Capture and Syngas

Back in the 1970s they were expecting global cooling – of the economy. There were oil shocks and shocking prices, and petrochemists beavered away, sweating over test tubes the size of football fields, whisking up synthetic fuels.

It was not the first time that the world had tried to synthesise liquid vehicle fuel. Hitler famously did it during the Second World War, and had it not been for Bergius and Fischer-Tropsch, Nazi Germany would have collapsed much sooner under the anvil of global economic sanctions. I mean, the history books insist the multi-pronged military assault was responsible for the Victory in Europe, but the final push would never have succeeded without the suspension of energy trade.

Various syngas and synfuel projects have continued in various places, mostly America, and although the first plants used coal and Natural Gas to make other things, these days the emphasis is on biomass.

We can expect to see a dramatic rise in the amount of Biogas and Bio-syngas produced over the next few decades, along with renewably-sourced hydrogen. It will all get fed into the global syngas refineries, and out will pop power, vehicle fuel and chemistry.

Continue reading Carbon Capture and Syngas

Solar FIT to Bust #5

Germany can do it, but not the British. The Collected Republic of the People can install solar power with great will and nerve, but not Johnny English.

Let’s be clear here – the people in Scotland have a vision for future Renewable Energy, and so do many people in Wales and Ireland, but it appears English governance listens to fuddy duddy landowners too readily, and remains wedded to the fossil fuel industry and major construction projects like nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage.

What precisely is wrong with the heads of policy travel in Westminster ? Do they not understand the inevitable future of “conventional” energy – of decline, decimation and fall ?

It really is of no use putting off investment in truly sustainable and renewable power and gas. There are only two paths we can take in the next few decades, and their destination is the same.

Here’s how it goes. Path A will take the United Kingdom into continued dodgy skirmishes in the Middle East and North Africa. Oil production will dance like a man with a stubbed toe, but then show its true gradient of decline. Once everybody gets over the panic of the impending lack of vehicle fuel, and the failure of alternatives like algal biodiesel, and the impacts of a vastly contracted liquid fuel supply on globalised trade, then we shall move on to the second phase – the exploitation of gas. At first, it will be Natural Gas. But that too will decline. And then it will be truly natural gases. As gas is exploited for vehicles, electricity will have to come from coal. But coal, too, is suffering a precipitous decline. So renewable energy will be our salvation. By the year 2100, the world will run on renewable electricity and renewable gas, or not at all.

Continue reading Solar FIT to Bust #5

Renewable Gas : Balanced Power

People who know very little about renewable and sustainable energy continue to buzz like flies in the popular media. They don’t believe wind power economics can work. They don’t believe solar power can provide a genuine contribution to grid capacity. They don’t think marine power can achieve. They would rather have nuclear power. They would rather have environmentally-destructive new oil and gas drilling. They have friends and influence in Government. They have financial clout that enables them to keep disseminating their inaccuracies.

It’s time to ditch the pundits, innuendo artists and insinuators and consult the engineers.

Renewable Gas can stand in the gap – when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine and the grid is not sufficiently widespread and interconnected enough to be able to call on other wind or solar elsewhere.

Renewable Gas is the storing of biologically-derived and renewably-created gases, and the improving of the gases, so that they can be used on-demand in a number of applications.

This field of chemical engineering is so old, yet so new, it doesn’t have a fixed language yet.

However, the basic chemistry, apart from dealing with contaminants, is very straight-forward.

When demand for grid electricity is low, renewable electricity can be used to make renewable hydrogen, from water via electrolysis, and in other ways. Underused grid capacity can also be used to methanate carbon-rich biologically-derived gas feedstocks – raising its stored energy.

Then when demand for grid electricity is high, renewable gas can be used to generate power, to fill the gap. And the flue gases from this combustion can be fed back into the gas storage.

Renewable gas can also be biorefined into vehicle fuels and other useful chemicals. This application is likely to be the most important in the short term.

In the medium-term, the power generation balance that renewable gas can offer is likely to be the most important application.

Researchers are working on optimising all aspects of renewable gas and biorefinery, and businesses are already starting to push towards production.

We can have a fully renewable energy future, and we will.

The Distributed Renewable Energy Bank

Today, the Department of Energy and Climate Change of the Coalition Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government of the United Kingom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland made two announcements. The first was to tell us that over a 1,000 jobs would be created in the construction of two new centralised power plants by very large energy companies, who will almost certainly receive generous state financial support.

The second was to tell us that the full feed-in-tariff for home solar power installations would be pulled early, effectively meaning that 1,000s of jobs will be lost in the small-scale energy companies.

The very generous full-rate Feed in Tariff that was expected to be granted until April 2012 persuaded many individuals and communities to borrow money to purchase solar power installations. People have been waiting for months for their systems, as demand has been so high. With the rug pulled from under this deal, many people and local power groups will now be out of pocket. Worse still, they could also lose deposits, if their installers become insolvent because high numbers of customers demand their money back. Greg Barker MP, of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, borrowing extensively from Gordon Brown, wrote in The Guardian newspaper that he wanted to see the end of boom and bust in the solar power installation sector. Obviously, he prefers just to see the bust part.

Well, me too, I’m going to make an announcment today. It is clear from today’s British energy policy news that the Government favours big business over small enterprise. All the little people, the individuals with little spending power, and powerless opinions, do we ever have the chance to really change the spending decisions on energy in this country ?

Here is my proposal. Don’t send me your money. But do send me your pledges. If you have £50, £500, £5,000 or £50,000 that you want to spend on small-scale renewable power investment, tell me. Save the money in an ethical bank, and send me an e-mail telling me you pledge to spend this money on community or local renewable energy installation. I will keep an online list updated with the sum total of potential investment money to be dedicated to small renewable energy projects. And when the figure reaches a potent amount, for example £500,000 or £5,000,000, I will gather a team to begin a dialogue with other investors, engineering firms, energy firms, financial institutions and the Government demanding appropriate structures for directing that money most efficiently into distributed renewable energy.

Community groups need to have control of their bills, and generating electricity for themselves is a way forward. Transition Town energy projects want to make power at home rather than buy it from abroad. Householders want to support the national move towards renewable energy, so that we don’t need to have our taxes raised to pay for new costly nuclear power plants, or expensive Carbon Capture and Storage. Local power works for everyone, even the big energy companies. Large power companies prefer local grid generation as it prevents them having to load the main grids by running increasing costly fossil fuel plant on standby, and it makes it easier to load balance regional grids by having a number of local generators.

Distributed power generation, on peoples’ roofs, on the tops of schools, hospitals and Town Halls, this is how to protect the UK from the rising costs of importing progressively more fossil fuels. Distributed power generation can be efficient, and very low carbon, and be a personal and community response to the risks of climate change. Small scale local power can create a million good quality jobs.

Don’t wait for the Government’s Green Investment Bank. I predict it will be underfunded and less-than-optimal. Let’s save money with ourselves, the distributed way.

Here’s the first personal pledge :-

Jo Abbess : My personal pledge to distributed UK renewable electricity generation is £5,000. I am holding this money in an ethical account until an appropriate cooperative project is agreed by the Distributed Renewable Energy Bank.

Join me.

You cannot pay for carbon

http://e3network.org/social_cost_carbon.html
http://coolgreenmag.com/2011/07/13/study-you-are-already-paying-9-per-gallon-for-gas/

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

from: Jo Abbess
to: Andrew Pendleton

Hi Andrew,

…I don’t like being told that carbon should be priced to solve climate change, because I simply don’t think it will work. All attempts so far haven’t worked, and for one very simple reason – nobody wants to be forced to buy a negative, virtual commodity.

The history of environmental fines is poor. What makes anybody think that carbon can be cleaned up by pricing, when oil spills and air pollution cannot be cleaned up by pricing ?

What’s the name of your Harvard economist again ?

Continue reading You cannot pay for carbon

Energy Poll #10 : Solar and Wind Power

Question 1    How often do you see news about the global rise in solar and wind power ?







Question 2    Do you think that campaigners will need to drop their resistance to wind turbines ?







Question 3    Would you be happy to have more solar roofs in your area ?







Question 4    Are you considering, or do you already have, a solar panel or a wind turbine at home ?







Question 5    Do you think the energy companies can install enough wind and solar power to meet the UK’s renewable energy targets ?






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

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

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










Renewable Gas #5 : Beyond Biogas

I was speaking to a nuclear power “waverer” the other day. They said that George Monbiot or Mark Lynas was saying that since Germany has cancelled its nuclear power programme, Germany’s Carbon Dioxide emissions will increase, because they will be using coal and Natural Gas power stations :-

http://www.davidstrahan.com/blog/?p=1130
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20665-germany-will-use-fossil-fuels-to-plug-nuclear-gap.html
http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/germany-italy-greens-nukes-and-climate-change/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/jun/15/italy-nuclear-referendum
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/04/nuclear-industry-stinks-cleaner-energy
http://www.monbiot.com/2011/07/04/corporate-power-no-thanks/

I explained that this was a common misconception, and that Germany is still planning to meet their carbon targets, and that it can be done even with coal and gas power plants because in a few decades’ time the coal and Natural Gas power plants will only be used a couple of weeks a year in total to back up all the renewables, such as wind power and solar power, that Germany is building.

This is not the end of the story, however.

Continue reading Renewable Gas #5 : Beyond Biogas

What I Do, I Do For My Country

Recently, pro-nuclear, anti-wind power climate change-sceptic and early publisher of Resurgence magazine, Hugh Sharman, announced to the Claverton Energy Research Group forum that he had been published in European Energy Review. “The clock is ticking”, reads the headline, “Energy policy has become a hotly debated topic in the UK. No country in Europe has more ambitious climate change goals. But the UK has taken few concrete steps yet. It is estimated that £200 billion is required until 2020 to start the UK on the its energy transformation. […] Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is expected to come out with a White Paper setting out the framework that should persuade utilities and investors to sign on to the government’s vision. Will it work? Energy consultant Hugh Sharman has grave doubts. With some like-minded specialists, he has started a website bringing together people who are alarmed at the UK’s energy situation. He […] sketches a sombre perspective…”

Continue reading What I Do, I Do For My Country

The Dearth of Sense

While everybody’s busy discussing ethics in the media, today’s been a great day to bury bad news – the shelving of the Energy Bill – and with it the Green Deal, the only hope Britain had left of economic recovery in the short-term.

And what of the Electricity Market Reform white paper and the National Policy Statements on energy ? Into the round wastepaper-bin-shaped recycling receptacle, possibly.

What next ? The revocation of the Climate Change Act and the dissolution of the Committee on Climate Change ?

I don’t know whether I should make overt political statements, but I think this news sugar ices the brioche, so I will : David Cameron’s “greenest government ever” has failed.

We need Van Jones, right here, right now.

Steve McIntyre : Plan Beak

[ UPDATE : SKEPTICALSCIENCE HAVE DEBUNKED STEVE McINTYRE. ]

Steve McIntyre, probably the only person on the planet who might grumble about the cost of Barack Obama’s suit rather than his all-American wars, has suddenly become an expert energy engineer, it seems.

This month, he’s taking aim at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, regarding their special report on Renewable Energy, questioning the contributions of an engineer, Sven Teske, and basing his objections on the fact that Teske works for Greenpeace :-

http://climateaudit.org/2011/06/14/ipcc-wg3-and-the-greenpeace-karaoke/
http://climateaudit.org/2011/06/16/responses-from-ipcc-srren/
http://climateaudit.org/2011/06/18/lynas-questions/
http://climateaudit.org/2011/06/20/the-carbon-brief-a-first-coat-of-whitewash/

Flinging any kind of pseudo-mud he can construe at the IPCC is not Steve’s newest of tricks, but it still seems to be effective, going by the dance of the close cohort of the very few remaining loyal climate change “sceptics” who get published in widely-read media :-

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/18/lynas_greenpeace_ipcc_money_go_round/
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/18/lynas_greenpeace_ipcc_money_go_round/page2.html
http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/Lost+desmog/4968296/story.html
http://thegwpf.org/the-climate-record/3231-ipcc-used-greenpeace-campaigner-to-write-impartial-report-on-renewable-energy.html
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100092809/greenpeace-and-the-ipcc-time-surely-for-a-climate-masada/

He even pulled the turtleneck over Andrew Revkin’s eyes for a while :-
http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/a-deeper-look-at-an-energy-analysis-raises-big-questions/

And Mark Lynas has been joining in, in his own nit-picky way :-
http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/new-ipcc-error-renewables-report-conclusion-was-dictated-by-greenpeace/
http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/questions-the-ipcc-must-now-urgently-answer/
http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/new-allegation-of-ipcc-renewables-report-bias/
http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/the-ipcc-renewables-controversy-where-have-we-got-to/

The few comebacks have been bordering on the satirical, or briefly factual, with the exception of Carbon Brief’s very measured analysis of the IPCC’s communication expertise :-
http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/06/the-ipcc-and-the-srren-report
http://www.jeremyleggett.net/2011/06/mark-lynas-questions-hether-greenpeace-expert-should-be-an-ipcc-author/
http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/06/16/246665/ipcc-renewables-2/

Leo Hickman’s being bravely evenhanded :-
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/jun/21/peace-talks-climate-change-sceptics

It’s not a total surprise that New Scientist and The Economist wade in deep :-
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20583-conflict-of-interest-claimed-for-ipcc-energy-report.html
http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/06/ipcc-and-greenpeace

Sven Teske’s explanation has not been accepted by Mark Lynas, although it seems really OK to me :-
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/climate/the-ipccs-renewables-report-finds-a-clean-ene/blog/35322

The Daily Mail digs out the usual emotive terms :-
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2004440/Leading-climate-change-group-used-Greenpeace-campaigner-write-impartial-report-renewable-energy.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Steve McIntyre is playing out the “Princess and the Pea” narrative, complaining about a few wrunkles in a process of international collaboration, and distracting us from looking at the actual report, which I would encourage you most warmly to do :-

http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/
http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report

It is full of the most incredible case studies and intriguing engineering discoveries. It makes cautious, conservative calculations, and looks at conditions and caveats in a very transparent manner. For a work that relied on the contributions of over 120 people and managed to compose a document so helpful and illuminating, I’d say it’s a work of profound achievement, and should be read in every school and university. Four scenarios from a collection of 164 are studied in depth to compare their strengths and weaknesses – and the conclusion of the SRREN team is that :-

http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/press/content/potential-of-renewable-energy-outlined-report-by-the-intergovernmental-panel-on-climate-change

“Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies…”

Somehow, though, Steve McIntyre believes otherwise. I suppose it’s not completely fair to berate him, because he might be suffering from a delusion, given that he seems to believe his opinion trumps that of over a hundred of the world’s authorities on what is possible in Renewable Energy technologies; and I’m the last person who would criticise somebody for having a mental illness.

I’m wondering, however, since he often sticks his nose up at IPCC matters, and since the world is suffering from stress in the supply of fossil fuels, whether he has a “Plan Beak” for the world’s energy crisis ?

Come on Steve McIntyre, tell us what your plan is to provide energy for humanity. Don’t tell me you believe that Nuclear Power is the way forward. I just won’t believe you, and a large number of the citizens of the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and help us all, even Switzerland, would share my doubts.

As everybody can clearly see from the Columbia University graph at the top of this post, the IPCC are right about emissions, and the global warming data shows they’re right about that too. Why should they be wrong about Renewable Energy ?

I mean, I detect there are a few issues with the way the IPCC organises itself, and the style of its reports, but hey, where’s the viable alternative ? I don’t see one, anywhere. And don’t go pointing me to groups with pretensions.

We may just have to get used to complex international bodies, formed of complex, intelligent people, and learn how to read their complex, intricate reports with care and attention. And not get distracted by grumpy semi-retired mining consultants.

Mark Lynas : Turtleneck Enchainment

Mark Lynas’ increasingly entangled, highly chained argument about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is beginning to look like it could be one big prank to me. Either that or he’s hiding inside a very large turtleneck and hasn’t had much air lately.

http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/the-ipcc-renewables-controversy-where-have-we-got-to/

“Some green-tinged commentators, in trying to protect the IPCC from any criticism – legitimate or illegitimate – are now seeking to deflect attention by putting blame elsewhere. Carbon Brief, a sort of PR rapid-response service which takes on climate sceptics (and which has former Greenpeace campaigner Christian Hunt as its main press contact), admitted that there were “legitimate issues with the organisation’s communications” – but tried to pin the blame on the media…”

So…let’s get this straight – according to Mark Lynas – Christian Hunt, who used to work with the Public Interest Research Centre, and helped edit the first Centre for Alternative Technology report “Zero Carbon Britain“, which PIRC published, is now a mere ideologue ? You mean he is incapable of reporting accurately on the work of thousands of British and international renewable energy engineers because he used to work for Greenpeace ?

Sorry. That argument doesn’t hold. Why does Christian Hunt now have to be in the “bad boy” box ?

Previously, Mark Lynas was confident of a renewable energy future for Britain, but was “agnostic” about Nuclear Power :-

http://www.heatmyhome.co.uk/solar-panels/is-a-zero-carbon-britain-possible/336

““Localism will become the buzzword,” says Mark Lynas, the environmentalist and author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. “It is technically possible to achieve a zero-carbon Britain by 2050 as we are blessed with abundant renewable resources, especially off-shore wind in the shallow North Sea – although it will be a harder task without nuclear, on which I am agnostic. This largely covers electricity generation, but weaning ourselves off fossil fuels for our transport needs is much harder to achieve.”

Now, it appears, he’s in love with the dreamlike future of Nuclear Power :-

http://www.scotsrenewables.com/blog/book-reviews/the-god-species-review/

“Lynas belives we can now claw our way back below the 350ppm CO2 boundary – and that we can do it without cutting consumption or radically changing our habits. Nuclear-charged electric cars, biofuelled jets and continuing economic growth mean it will be business as usual in the low carbon future he envisages.”

What changed ? Fukushima Daiichi happened, or rather, started happening and got progressively worse, halfway through writing his new book, but that didn’t put him off the atomic power trail. He’s on a very lonely island. Perhaps he’s there with David MacKay, the author of the book “Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air” which I think has some pretty unrealistic visioning about harvesting uranium from seawater. Have they both drunk the Kool Aid ? I can see no other reason for their unsuppressed belief in the March of Nuclear Progress, unless they’ve spent too long talking to Matt Ridley, who could probably even be optimistic about Fukushima Daiichi…Oh…wait… He has been ! But I digress.

Mark Lynas believes in the power of Renewable Energy, even though he’s been snared in the cult of Atomkraft :-

“Personally I think that 80% of the world’s energy probably could be met by renewables by mid-century – but the IPCC’s renewables report singularly fails to demonstrate that. (So I’m not a clean energy ‘unbeliever’ – denier? – even by [Greenpeace’s Sven] Teske’s standard above.) Instead, the figure comes from one of 167 [no, 164, actually] different energy scenarios, none of which are assessed in terms of their likelihood or feasibility. They are just ‘scenarios’, not plans, strategies or even projections.”

An international group of experts have put together a collection of 164 potential pathways, but how can Mark Lynas possibly know which is the most likely ? Which is the best ? Which the most optimal ? Who better than the people on the IPCC to assess the best options ?

A lot of our energy future rests on choice – the choices that governments, companies and people make – about the best energy technologies to invest in, about the regulations for environmental protection, and about how best to match and marry energy resources.

Without care and composure and strategic policy, these choices will probably be made on a step-by-step basis, with limited systems thinking. This has been the way throughout the development of the use of fossil fuels and uranium, and we have ended up with heinously wasteful power generation networks, and rapacious resource scavenging around the world.

It’s right that we give priority not to particular, favourite technologies, but to packages of options that fit well together and have synergistic effects on resource optimisation, environmental protection and climate safety.

Many groups are working on this very problem, and not just the non-governmental organisations. We now have government departments, engineering companies and energy systems analysts around the world looking at economy-wide responses to climate change, and how to effect the changes in the energy systems that can meet the challenge.

There are many experts out there. Many of them resist new Nuclear Power as costly, dangerous and defunct, and propose strategies similar to the Greenpeace [r]Evolution, which, as Sven Teske explains, was written by an alliance that spanned industry as well as Civil Society.

What gives Mark Lynas (and his New Best Friend, Steve McIntyre), the authority to say that Sven Teske’s judgement on the best way forward is wrong ? And why shouldn’t the IPCC prefer a scenario similar to the one proposed by Greenpeace ?

Nuclear Power is not a very pragmatic choice. It’s lumpy, costly, unreliable, risky and lots of the expenses are stacked up towards the end of a reactor’s life. It’s part of the dying paradigm of centrally-provided electricity generation. It’s proved it’s uselessness. Let’s move on from Nuclear Power.

A Green Van for all the People

Green Jobs ! Green Energy !

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

The History of Renewables

If you want one good reason why there are not more resources of Renewable Energy in industrialised countries, you could simply look at the amount of Research and Development (R&D) spending that (doesn’t) go into sustainable energy, as the International Energy Agency have done (see above).

Continue reading The History of Renewables

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

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

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 !