When do micro-seismic events add up to earthquakes ? Landslips ? Tsunamis ? Who really knows ? These are just a few questions amongst many about underground mining techniques that will probably never be properly answered. Several mini-quakes were suggested to be responsible for the shutdown of Cuadrilla’s activities in Blackpool, north west England early in 2011, and there have been unconfirmed links between tremors and fracking in the United States of America, where unconventional gas is heavily mined.
It is perhaps too easy to sow doubt about the disbenefits of exploding rock formations by pressure injection to release valuable energy gases – many legislative and public consultation hurdles have been knocked down by the merest flick of the public relations wrist of the unconventional fossil gas industry (and its academic and consultancy friends).
The potential to damage the structure of the Earth’s crust may be the least attributable and least accountable of hydraulic fracturing’s suspected disadvantages, but it could be the most significant in the long run. Science being conducted into the impact on crust stability from fracking and other well injection techniques could rule out a wide range of geoengineering on safety grounds, such as Carbon Capture and Storage proposals. If we can’t safely pump carbon dioxide underground, we should really revise our projections on emissions reductions from carbon capture.
[ Camp Frack is under canvas in Lancashire protesting about the imposition of hydraulic fracturing on the United Kingdom. ]
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 :-
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.
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…”
What’s wrong with this map ? Yes, the same old question. And the answer is again the same – the lack of geographical accuracy in the map reflects the lack of legal accuracy on the part of Israel in appropriating marine Natural Gas that belongs to the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
The map is taken from a new research paper by Brenda Shaffer, of the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa, which has been accepted for publication in Energy Policy at some point in the near future :-
“Energy Policy : Article in Press, Corrected Proof : doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.05.026 : Israel – New natural gas producer in the Mediterranean : Brenda Shaffer : Received 7 November 2010; accepted 16 May 2011. Available online 2 June 2011”
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.
It is a newer, clearer tone that George Monbiot uses in his piece “The nuclear industry stinks. But that is not a reason to ditch nuclear power“. He seems to have lost his dirty annoyance with filthy anti-nuclear activists and moved onto a higher plane of moral certitude, where the air is cleaner and more refined.
He is pro-technology, but anti-industry. For him, the privately owned enterprises of atomic energy are the central problem that has led to accidents both of a radioactive and an accountancy nature. “Corporate power ?”, he asks, “No thanks.” The trouble is, you can’t really separate the failings of nuclear power from the failings of human power. It’s such a large, complex and dangerous enterprise that inevitably, human power systems compromise the use of the technology, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned. For a small amount of evidence, just look at the history of publicly-managed nuclear power in the United Kingdom. Not exactly peachy. And as for those who claimed that a “free” market approach to managing nuclear power would improve matters – how wrong they were. In my view, on the basis of the evidence so far, nobody can claim that nuclear power can be run as an efficient, safe, profit-making venture.
2nd November 2008
Browsing at a newsagent on a mainline railway station…
The question on the front cover of Fortune magazine, Europe edition Number 20, November 2008, already on the stands is “Who Pays for The Bailout ? You do, of course”. Of course, as this Credit Crunch means Bailout argument plays out, the issue of Energy and Climate Change is lost. But the question should be all about how to create a new green economy. Who pays for the re-powering ?
A sign of the greening times – another story teaser on the Fortune magazine advises “10 Green Stocks to Own Now”, and the front of the Independent on Sunday quotes Obama claiming that Energy is his “number one priority” in his bid for presidential election, with his “Apollo” project :-
“Obama’s green jobs revolution : Democrat will lead effort to curb world’s dependence on oil; Plans to create five million new posts in clean energy projects : By Geoffrey Lean in San Francisco and Leonard Doyle in Washington : Sunday, 2 November 2008 : Obama has pledged to create five million new ‘green collar jobs’ if elected : Barack Obama is promising a $150 billion “Apollo project” to bring jobs and energy security to the US through a new alternative energy economy, if his final push for votes brings victory in the presidential election on Tuesday. “That’s going to be my number one priority when I get into office,” Mr Obama has said of his “green recovery” plans. Making his arguments in a radio address yesterday, the Democratic favourite promised: “If you give me your vote on Tuesday, we won’t just win this election. Together, we will change this country and change the world.”…”
“Gulf petrodollars help UK go green : Brown calls for Saudis to give more cash to IMF : Gaby Hinsliff, political editor : The Observer, Sunday 2 November 2008 : The fight against climate change will get an unexpected boost today from oil-rich Gulf states which will pledge to invest some of their petrodollar profits in British green energy projects. The surging oil price over the past year has left parts of the Middle East awash with cash as the rest of the world is squeezed by the credit crunch, making Arab royals some of the few active investors worldwide. The Gulf states have enjoyed a $1.4 trillion windfall from higher oil prices since 2003. Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday with Gordon Brown at the start of a tour of the region. He said some of that cash would now ‘help our firms reap the rewards from going low carbon and providing green energy to thousands of families’ under a so-called ‘green Gulf deal’ to be announced today…”
But that’s not the real reason why they are there. Ostensibly, the delegation’s serious business is about asking Saudi and other Arab oil states to contribute more towards the International Monetary Fund :-
“Gordon Brown in the Middle East : Brown hopeful of Saudi cash for IMF : Allegra Stratton in Riyadh, guardian.co.uk, Sunday 2 November 2008 15.30 GMT : Gordon Brown said today he was hopeful of success in his attempts to persuade dollar-rich Gulf states to prop up ailing national economies through a massive injection of capital into the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The prime minister spent three hours in one-to-one talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, trying to persuade the monarch to invest in a revamped IMF. On the first leg of a four-day visit to the Middle East, and aiming to secure hundreds of billions of dollars for the fund, Brown called off a planned dinner with business leaders accompanying him so as to allow maximum negotiating time with the Saudi king. The IMF currently has around $250 billion in its emergency reserves but there are fears that, with Hungary, Iceland and Ukraine having already sought assistance and more nations expected to follow, the sum might not be sufficient. Brown hopes to persuade Gulf leaders to use some of the estimated $1 trillion they have made from high oil prices in the last few years to boost the reserves, indicating that he would like to see the current sum increased by “hundreds of billions” of dollars. The prime minister said following the talks that he was hopeful of having secured Saudi backing…”
But hang on, what’s this ? :-
“…Brown, who is accompanied by a high-level trade delegation seeking Gulf investment, including the CEOs of BP and Shell…”
What on earth are BP (formerly British Petroleum) and (Royal Dutch) Shell doing in a delegation to the Arab states begging for the IMF charity fund and green energy investment ? Is it that BP and Shell won’t pay for green energy and it’s too hard to ask the British people to pay extra tax, so they’re coming to the Arab countries for a green energy bail-in ? What is going on here ? If OPEC countries are all in the “Axis of Evil”, and no foreign oil and gas companies can get a toehold, why are BP and Shell in the government delegation to Saudi ?
Paying for new energy systems can be expensive. The European Union Emisssions Trading Scheme is saying they want 100% of carbon emissions auctioned by 2013 to pay for larger projects – Carbon Capture and Storage and new Nuclear Power. However, the costly deadweight “white elephant in the room” is not nuclear power, but dead wells.
Are they all talking about Peak Oil in the OPEC Gulf, and proposing business opportunities to the King of the House of Saud to offset the Middle East’s future total loss of business as the wells empty – offering them compensation in the form of green investment deals ? Asking the Saudis to join the green energy race now and get ahead ?
BP and Shell have benefited from the recent rise in the price of oil, profiting even as the oil price has hit millions and created impoverishment. But they’re going to have to spend a very large amount on exploration for new oil and gas from now on. So why is there still resistance to spending more on renewables ? Can BP and Shell ever be convinced to go green ? Would a barrel load of toxic news work ? No. BP and Shell can’t pay for green energy because they have to maintain the profits of their shareholders. Pensions are going to be bad enough without forcing major “British” oil companies to pay for such things as bioethanol, algae biodiesel, solar panels and wind farms.
Action to tackle climate change must be a “tight shadow” on Peak Oil and its fall – tighter than the 9.1% depletion of the largest wells projected by the International Energy Agency (IEA) To reverse the oil decline, and more so to take action on climate change, investment is required. Banks are becoming owned by oil-rich nations, but this is simply a natural outcome of poor financial regulation that led to the Credit Crunch. However, it doesn’t mean that the future will be oil and gas necessarily. This new layer of ownership of financial bodies is not significant, as it will not seriously impact the greening of energy, if people are serious about it.
What is of value here is not banking but energy itself, which underpins the entire economy. The scenario is this : Saudi Arabia will not admit in public that it’s going down because of “Peak Oil”. They would prefer to keep up the revenue, but they’re not “engineering” a reduction of supply. It’s reducing anyway.
From their perspective, allowing supplies to weaken, by not doing any new investment into raising production, would be protecting their reserves to sell in future. A good strategy – even more so as prices rise against losses of supply but strong demand (even despite the blooming recession).
I figure that what BP and Shell are doing in the Middle East is making the case to the major oil-producing states to keep on pumping.
I guess that what Gordon Brown is doing is making the Saudis an offer they can’t refuse – either the major western states will implement measures to control oil prices which would make OPEC lose revenue, or the Saudis can underwrite the global bailout.
This mission is not about green energy investment. It’s about keeping the oil flowing.
Thank you, Coal.
Thank you for the asthma, the mercury, the mountain top removal, the birth defects, the mine fatalities, the grossly inefficient electricity networks, the lack of investment in electricity networks, the smog, the heat, and above all, thank you for giving us Glenn Beck, on a platter – this is so much fun to watch !
When people like Mark Lynas accuse Greenpeace and other green campaign organisations of failings, there is any underlying theme – accusations of manipulation – both of facts and people. The sub-text harks back to the combat against fascism and Nazism in Europe.
We’re never going to make any progress on climate change if those advocating for energy change are equated to early 20th Century dictators and totalitarians.
Energy is a Social Good
I recently wrote an essay called “Energy for Democracy” making a first attempt at connecting the dots on grassroots democratic mobilisation and energy change. The subject set was in the field of “Environmental Communication”, and so I went back and looked at the development of mass media, advertising and public persuasion. I then went on to think about how propaganda and governance are interrelated. And I also looked at philosophy, and politics. I looked at the early 20th Century ideological splits in Europe, and the part that industrial development played. I looked at how democratic and other forms of socialism dealt with the problem of energy.
I posited that, since energy is produced for the Common Good, it should be subject to democratic management. I found myself “channelling” the spirit of Ramsay Macdonald, and going back to the questions of society and the integration of new industries that were pervasive before the two so-called “World Wars”.
Energy Of A Similar Wavelength
And today I find this very theme picked up by Ulrich Beck in The Guardian newspaper, along with the expression “energy change”, which is a term I am using increasingly to encapsulate the pivotal and essential response to climate change :-
“Germany is right to opt out of nuclear”, he headlines, “The rejection of nuclear power is a result not of German angst but of economic thinking. We must invest in renewable energy”.
I was gladdened when he stepped from economics to democratics :-
“…Ultimately, the rejection of nuclear is not a result of German angst but of economic thinking. In the long run, nuclear power will become more expensive, while renewable energy will become cheaper. But the key point is that those who continue to leave all options open will not invest…People everywhere are proclaiming and mourning the death of politics. Paradoxically, the cultural perception of the danger may well usher in the very opposite: the end of the end of politics…what is denounced by many as a hysterical over-reaction to the “risks” of nuclear energy is in fact a vital step towards ensuring that a turning point in energy generation becomes a step towards greater democracy…The novel coalition between the state and social movements of the kind we currently see at work in Germany now has a historic opportunity. Even in terms of power politics, this change of policy makes sense…”
The British are stumbling towards democracy, too, but they keep tripping over old divisiveness, and create new divisions too, just to complicate matters.
People Power – Not Potty Nor Puny
The Climate Camp has just been a baby step on the pathway to democratic movement on energy. Camping in coal trucks and dropping banners from power station cooling stacks has been a sign that democracy has been ailing – if there were genuine engagement between the governments, private enterprises and “campaign” groups over the future scenarios for energy, then people wouldn’t need to camp outside banks and coal-fired power plants.
As a consumer of mainstream media, all you see is the blockade of a Biofuel refinery, or people gluing themselves to the entrance of the Royal Bank of Scotland, or the occupation of a plant nursery at the site of a proposed runway. If you think “what a ramshackle bunch of unwashed hippies, straining the last of their voices, railing at the State, in a vain attempt to roll back the tide of industry, progress and Thorium reactors”, then you haven’t understood the bigger picture.
People want to be engaged in the decisions made about energy in this country – properly engaged. People want to use their knowledge to influence decisions. If the only means they have of expressing their democratic will and their opposition to hydraulic fracturing is to D-lock themselves to Shale Gas drilling equipment, then perhaps they might just do that. This might happen in Poland too. The alternative would be a proper discussion between the people groups and the governments. Where’s the European Union environmental legislature while all of this is happening ? Shale Gas could destroy Poland.
Energy Collectives – Expressing Collective Democratic Will
Groups like Fair Pensions are building momentum between people groups and investing institutions – raising the flag for clean energy. This isn’t about fighting – let’s drop the battlefield language, including that word “campaign”, which is so often used in a derogatory, dismissive, belittling way. This is about getting people working together on a new, sustainable future, and it requires all the righteous anger rising up to be channelled into a positive, productive movement, fully expressing the will of the people.
Consultations and placard-waving demonstration protests are not the way forward – we need energy change, and that’s going to require a whole lot more democratic energy. People don’t want dirty energy, and they don’t want nuclear power. Dirty energy should be asked to leave the building, nicely, politely. Firm but fair.
Group Thinking – Democratic Intelligence
Investment in renewable and sustainable energy is creating long-lasting assets for the UK and other countries. We don’t need and we don’t want dirty, radioactive energy any more. A thousand cheers for German democracy !
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
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 :-
“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.
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 :-
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…”
I receive another letter from Iain Duncan Smith MP on vellum yellow with sickly pale green type. “Dear Mrs [sic] Abbess”, the letter reads, “Further to our previous correspondence regarding Stop Climate Chaos Big [sic] campaign, please find enclosed a reply from Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary.” I asked Iain Duncan Smith in person for his own and personal support for a strong Energy Bill. What did he do ? Pass my letter on to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). I would have prefered a personal commitment to the issue, but, sadly, it was not to be.
The Rt Hon continued, “I hope you find his letter reassuring…” Reassuring ? What ? Am I some kind of emotionally incontinent complainant ? “…and helpful. However, please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.”
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 :-
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.