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It’s got to be gas

Public Enemy Number One in energy terms has got to be burning coal to generate electricity. Although the use of some coal for domestic heating to supplement varying supplies of biomass in home stoves is going to continue to be very useful, using coal for power production is wasteful, toxic and high carbon.

Public Enemy Number Two in energy terms is nuclear power – a weight round our collective neck. Costly to build, costly to underwrite, costly to decommission: although its proponents claim it as a low carbon solution, even they admit the management of nuclear power can be polluting, risky and wasteful.

Public Energy Number Three in energy terms has to be the incredible amount of water required to keep the first two enemies in operation. Climate change is already altering the patterns of rainfall, both in geographical areas and in seasons. Any energy solutions that don’t require water supplies will be preferable.

Many environmental researchers oppose a growing dependence on Natural Gas for power generation in industrialised countries – they claim it will lock in carbon emissions production without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Carbon Capture and Storage is way off in the never-never land at present, so it should not be factored in to analyses of carbon management. Ignoring CCS, it can be seen that substituting in Natural Gas power generation where coal has been the principal fuel is in fact a very good way to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the near term.

Natural Gas is not forever, not even with environmentally-ensured unconventional production, such as shale gas. Yet the Natural Gas infrastructure is highly important for developed and some parts of developing countries too. If we can re-imagine the future of gas, making gas fuels renewable, the already existing distribution of gas and appliances and equipment that use it, become a valuable asset.

The climate change crisis is an energy crisis. My position is that we need three vital things to solve this energy crisis : rationalised energy, renewable electricity and Renewable Gas. My key projection is that a 100% renewable energy world is possible, and in fact, inevitable, and to get from here to there we need to use gas fuels, but they need to become progressively renewable in order to meet the climate change crisis.

Natural Gas can not only be a “bridge fuel”. Supporting its use now, on the understanding that it will be replaced by Renewable Gas in the medium term, will enable links to be made between society and the energy industry, and break down the barricades between those who are against high carbon energy and those who sell high carbon energy.

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On Being Climate Pragmatic



When it comes to proposals for climate change policy, most studies indicate technological efforts : some, fiscal measures.

Few, if any, really consider the pragmatic likelihood of their proposals being taken up.

I’d like to offer the first in a series of totally made-up statistics to show my view on the likelihood of some of these proposals being implementable (or is that “implementible” ?) and efficacious (effective).

I honestly don’t know why the media continue to discuss and discuss the merits and/or disbenefits of new nuclear power and geoengineering (which includes Carbon Capture and Storage or CCS).

They are not likely to be able to help in the next few decades, and so they might as well not be on the proposals table or board.

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From Gridlock to Robojelly

Panic buying of vehicle fuel in the United Kingdom before a possible Easter weekend tanker driver strike has commenced.

The Coalition Government appears to be fanning the flames of anxiety, perhaps glad to deflect media attention from sliding-overturned-tanker type Hollywood crash scenes from their special version of crony capitalism.

“You mean to say that business people can pay money to have dinner with the leaders of the Conservative Party ?Well, strike a light !”

https://www.scotsman.com/news/tanker-drivers-strike-plan-for-fuel-shortages-downing-street-says-1-2198355
“…Asked whether motorists would be well-advised to rush to the petrol stations and fill up their tanks in the wake of last night’s vote for industrial action, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “I think people should draw their own conclusions.”…She added: “Businesses and those who rely on vehicles for their work should ensure contingency plans are in place. It is always prudent.” …”

For me, the fuel strike of 2000 was spectator sport, as I was Working In Mainland Europe at the time. I was told it was Apocalyptic, in the nicest, visionary sense of the word – a reminder of how quiet roadways used to be and could be again, but also, how scary it was for the house-bound who rely on social services.

Supermarkets, naturally, became emptied. We were three meals from anarchy.

I would have thought it would be in everybody’s best interest to calm things down, sort out a deal with the people threatening strike action, but no, the Government appear to be bowling blindly on, perhaps incompetently provoking a massive traffic crisis by giving advice about stockpiling petrol and diesel.

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Apocalyptic Apoptosis

Image Credit : Carl-A. Fechner, fechnerMedia

The Evangelist : “Climate change is so serious, we need to tell everybody about it. Everybody needs to wake up about it.” The Audience “We have heard this all before. Do pipe down.”

The Social Engineer : “Everybody should be playing their part in acting on climate change.” The Audience : “This story is too heavy – you’re trying to make us feel guilty. You’re damaging your message by accusing people of being responsible for causing climate change.”

The Social Psychologist : “By making such a big deal out of climate change, by using Apocalyptic language, audiences feel there is no hope.” The Audience : “Climate change is clearly not a big deal, otherwise the newspapers and TV would be full of it all the time.”

The Post-Economist : “Climate change is caused by consumption. We need to reduce our consumption.” The Audience : “We don’t want to be told to live in cold caves, eating raw vegetables by candlelight, thanks.”

The Defeatist : “It’s already too late. There’s nothing we can do about it. All I can do is sit back and watch it happen.” The Audience : “Isn’t that being a little too negative ? If you think there’s nothing that can be done, what hope have we got ?”

The late, great Hermann Scheer said that “Today’s primary energy business will vanish – but it won’t give up without a fight…the greatest and the worst environmental pollution of all is when countless so-called energy experts keep on trying to talk society out of even contemplating this scenario [of 100% renewable energy] as a possibility for the near future – because that is what makes society apathetic and unmotivated…”

So who or what is making us passive and unmoved ?

Is climate change really our fault ? Or is it something we’ve inherited because of the irresponsible energy companies ?

Are we responsible for responding to climate change or is it somebody else’s responsibility ?

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Energy Independence : Scheer Truth

Image Credit : Carl-A. Fechner, fechnerMedia

Renewable energy pessimists are everywhere.

Some commentators, government leaders, energy companies and representatives of international institutions are keen to show that not only is the renewable energy deployment glass half empty, the water hasn’t even wet the bottom of the glass yet.

Yet there are renewable energy architects – developers, promoters, politicians, scientists, engineers and academics – who document the evidence of the rapid growth in zero carbon energy – who show us that the sustainable energy glass could be brimming over.

What do experts say ? Here’s the belated Hermann Scheer from the film “The 4th Revolution : Energy Autonomy” :-

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Carbon Captured #2 : Socialising Cost, Privatising Profits


Image Credit : Michael Sterner

Carbon dioxide is a fuel. And I don’t mean plant food.

As petroleum oil and Natural Gas production hit peaks that cannot be surpassed, and the world begins to realise that depletion is inevitable, the world’s energy producers will turn to alternatives, including various forms of fuel and gas made from carbon dioxide, chemically adjusted with hydrogen derived from renewable resources.

It seems to me hypocritical for the large oil and gas companies to pitch for public funds to support their investment in Carbon Capture and Storage. Why ? Because this public funding will get converted into private profits the day they start to pump the carbon dioxide back out of storage to make Renewable Gas.

From a personal perspective, I find the argument for public financing of Carbon Capture and Storage particularly toxic when it is proposed to raise the revenue by placing an artificial price or tax on carbon. This would mean that the taxpaper-consumer pays for the emissions burden of hydrocarbon fossil fuel energy, and then gets to pay again for alternative energy, produced using the stored waste gases that they already paid for.

Charge energy customers twice. What a great bailout for fossil fuels !

I suspect that the only reason that Royal Dutch Shell and BP admit to climate change is so they can push their Carbon Capture and Storage schemes – bid tendering for public subsidy.

Forget the subsidies currently in place around the world for wind and solar power. Global carbon finance pushed at Carbon Capture and Storage will be of a much higher order of expenditure.

If the oil and gas companies want to build Carbon Capture and Storage facilities – let them pay for them themselves. After all, in many cases, they have been able to economically justify them by using carbon dioxide pumping to increase oil production – what’s known as Enhanced Oil Recovery.

Or if they insist on public finance for geo-sequestration of carbon dioxide in Carbon Capture and Storage projects, let them give us the carbon dioxide back for free when we need it for Renewable Gas production in the coming decades.

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Academic Freedom #5 : More Natural Gas power stations is a Good Thing

Energy policy in the United Kingdom is a constant battle. A number of environmental commentators and campaign groups are up in arms about the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Again.

Somebody with influence should have a quiet word with DECC about their public relations – they seem intent on leading people a merry dance about their true policy intentions – and then blasting everybody with piecemeal pronouncements, without giving the concerned public the full picture.

Personally, I think the strategy of building new Natural Gas-fired power plants is rather good. Yes, I will explain why. But first I will cover some of the complaints.

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How little progress has been made since 1973

Last year I was watching a couple of TEDs, and I came across this one given by Richard Sears, former Vice President of Royal Dutch Shell.

When he showed a chart of depletion curves for various energy resources, I thought to myself “I’ve seen this somewhere before”. As indeed I had. Nearly 30 years ago. How time flies.

Memory is a patchy thing – the past is a set of blurred images of places, people, things – snapshots and summaries, little stories that we retell ourselves to encapsulate the moment. Things people said. I seem to recall emotional responses with the most clarity, so I cast myself back, trawling through my internal notebook for clues, hooks on which to recall.

This may be a false memory, but it may not be, considering it allowed me to research the past. There I was, in the University Library, with all its institutional glass windows, and the sun beating down. It was too hot to think. In my hands I had an article from my undergraduate Physics degree reading list, probably provided by the Engineering Department for our study module on Energy. I recall that for some reason it was a translation. And had some complex formulae. My head buzzed. I couldn’t quite take it in.

It didn’t take much Googling to remind me : Marchetti.

Back in the 1970s, engineers were promising a hydrogen economy for the 21st century, and Cesare Marchetti was optimistic about Carbon Capture and Storage.

How little progress has been made since the First Oil Shock of 1973.

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Renewable Gas

Renewable Gas : Metallic Academy

The maximum potential for the production of Renewable Gas depends a great deal on efficient, cheap methods of producing Renewable Hydrogen.

This is because increasing the fraction of hydrogen in a carbon-rich gas mix opens the way to a gas stream with a higher energy density – either with or without chemical reaction, heat treatment or refinery.


Although hydrogen gas is often considered as a replacement for hydrocarbon fuels, a mix of carbon-rich Renewable Gas resources with hydrogen offer a wider scope. For example, gas grid networks can certainly take around 5% hydrogen, and maybe even more, without altering gas distribution infrastructure or gas-burning appliances.

A number of materials are currently under investigation as catalysts for the electrolysis of water, which would mean inexpensive high volume production of hydrogen – these materials need to be plentiful in the Earth’s crust and relatively cheap.

A combination of computer modelling and physical experiment is pointing the way to several classes of chemical compounds and molecular compositions – such as nano-structures on substrates and metallo-organic matrixes (or should I say “matrices” ?)

Expect more of this kind of research.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Rooftop Solar : Summer Highs

Image Credit : Intelligence Squared

George Monbiot is right about a lot of things, but on rooftop solar power, I believe he is wrong.

Yes, he’s right that solar photovoltaic systems are being incentivised more than other micro-generation, but there are several good reasons for that. For a first, the unit price of an adequate rooftop solar power system is in the region of the price of a car.

Most people use finance schemes to purchase cars, with monthly charges for example.

Similar schemes are not available for solar PV, where you have to borrow the whole amount for the system up-front – or take it from a savings account if you’re lucky enough to have one.

It is the sheer size of the cost of home solar that means that people won’t do it without subsidy. The one overriding concern of people when I ask them about what green energy they could consider buying, is the size of the initial outgoings.

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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.

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Renewable Gas : Backup Storage

To me, the future of renewable gas is clear – the methanation of a combination of carbon-rich and hydrogen-rich gas feedstocks.

Sticklers for detail will be asking “Why go to the bother of upgrading biomass-derived synthesis gas via methanation ? Why waste the energy ? Why not simply burn the BioSNG as it is ?”

My answer is, well, it’s like fast-forwarding hundreds of millions of years.

Instead of the fossil fuel process – where great extinctions of Life on Earth led to the deposition of biomass that got subducted under moving plates of the Earth’s crust and then cooked into useful hydrocarbons – making renewable gas does this in an instant.

It’s the addition of the extra hydrogen – split by electrolysis from water, then combined to the carbon-rich gas by methanation – that raises the energy content of the biologically-sourced gases.

The resulting methane-rich BioSynGas is a much more valuable fuel for electricity generation and, when cleaned of impurities, for use in vehicles and the gas grid network. It is easily stored, and readily available on demand.

It can be used to burn in power stations, to provide backup, as and when required, for variable and intermittent sources of renewable electricity generation, such as wind power.

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Renewable Gas : Hydrogen Economy

Image Credit : Audi e-gas Project

Hydrogen Fuel Cells have their fans and their research projects, and the “Hydrogen Economy” will no doubt have a share in the world’s energy pie, but methane is an altogether more interesting fuel.

Some will dispute this, but methane is easier to store and transport than hydrogen gas, and will play a very important role in balancing electricity supply in networks that have a high proportion of variable and intermittent renewable generation.

After energy conservation (through efficiency and waste reduction) and renewable electricity generation, the use of renewable gas with a high methane content can act as the stabilising third leg of a sustainable energy tripod – raising the upper limit of zero carbon energy possible.

Natural Gas is generally 80% to 85% methane, and many developed countries already have gas networks, gas appliances and power stations that can make use of renewable gas without modification. This is a pragmatic consideration that should not be ignored when choosing future fuels.

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You cannot pay for carbon

https://e3network.org/social_cost_carbon.html
https://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 ?

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Energy Poll #8 : Renewable Gas

Question 1    Have you heard reports about how vehicles can run on compressed Renewable Gas made from animal and plant waste ?







Question 2    Do you think we will need to give up using petrol and diesel burning cars in cities for air quality reasons ?







Question 3    Are you keen to see cleaner-burning engines in vehicles ?







Question 4    Would you be ready to save money to buy a new compressed gas car ?







Question 5    Do you think that compressed gas cars could have the same performance and economy as diesel and petrol cars ?






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  ?
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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 :-

https://www.davidstrahan.com/blog/?p=1130
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20665-germany-will-use-fossil-fuels-to-plug-nuclear-gap.html
https://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/germany-italy-greens-nukes-and-climate-change/
https://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/jun/15/italy-nuclear-referendum
https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/04/nuclear-industry-stinks-cleaner-energy
https://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.

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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…”

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George Monbiot : New Clear

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.

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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 :-

https://climateaudit.org/2011/06/14/ipcc-wg3-and-the-greenpeace-karaoke/
https://climateaudit.org/2011/06/16/responses-from-ipcc-srren/
https://climateaudit.org/2011/06/18/lynas-questions/
https://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 :-

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/18/lynas_greenpeace_ipcc_money_go_round/
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/18/lynas_greenpeace_ipcc_money_go_round/page2.html
https://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/Lost+desmog/4968296/story.html
https://thegwpf.org/the-climate-record/3231-ipcc-used-greenpeace-campaigner-to-write-impartial-report-on-renewable-energy.html
https://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 :-
https://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 :-
https://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/new-ipcc-error-renewables-report-conclusion-was-dictated-by-greenpeace/
https://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/questions-the-ipcc-must-now-urgently-answer/
https://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/new-allegation-of-ipcc-renewables-report-bias/
https://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 :-
https://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/06/the-ipcc-and-the-srren-report
https://www.jeremyleggett.net/2011/06/mark-lynas-questions-hether-greenpeace-expert-should-be-an-ipcc-author/
https://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/06/16/246665/ipcc-renewables-2/

Leo Hickman’s being bravely evenhanded :-
https://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 :-
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20583-conflict-of-interest-claimed-for-ipcc-energy-report.html
https://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 :-
https://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 :-
https://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 :-

https://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/
https://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 :-

https://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.

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Renewable Gas

Renewable Gas #4 : CBG

Terminology is important, which is why I use the term “Renewable Gas” to describe all sustainable resources of gas, rather than the clutch of acronyms that are being sprayed about at engineering conferences. I chose “Renewable Gas” as it is a parallel term to Natural Gas, which is in common use, and which most people are aware comes from mining operations, often from the same wells as petroleum crude oil. And by using the word “Renewable”, it is clear that I am talking about sustainable sources.

Since this is an emerging field of energy research and development, much of the engineering language could be opaque to the average Joe Blogger, particularly since people are using different terms and acronyms to describe the same things.

Over time, the descriptive language and the acronyms and categories are becoming consolidated – one such term being CBG, which stands for Compressed Biogas. It’s derived from the rather more well-known term CNG, which stands for Compressed Natural Gas.

CNG is used as a correlate to a very well-known term, LNG, which stands for refrigerated Liquid Natural Gas, of which the UK imports rather a lot by ship, so has entered common language. CNG, by comparison, is not liquid, just very compacted gas, and is becoming a solution for urban air quality around the world, used in large public service vehicles (buses), originally, but now in a range of transport options.

However, despite the fact that fuelling by CNG helps improve air quality, it’s still derived from Natural Gas, which is a fossil fuel, and therefore finite in supply. And this is where the many sources of Renewable Gas can be useful, in prolonging the use of remaining resources of Natural Gas, by mixing with or substituting for the fossil fuel.

There are varieties of Renewable Gas, depending on the source material and the chemical process used to collect or create the gas. One of the most well-known is Biogas, which is drawn from the composting of plant and animal waste, and is divided into categories, such as Landfill Gas and Sewage Gas, and where the process can be augmented and accelerated by various Anaerobic Digestion treatments.

But besides the microbiological breakdown of formerly living tissue, which creates Biogas, it is also possible to create what are called synthesis, synthetic or substitute gases, generally from plant waste, such as forestry residue. This is being referred to as BioSNG in places, where SNG refers to Synthetic, Synthesis or Substitute Natural Gas. However, it can also just be called Syngas, and it’s up to us, the audience, to work out whether this particular syngas has been renewably sourced.

Gassy fuels will become essential in the near future, as liquid petroleum fuel products are going to come under significant supply stress due to depletion and geopolitical factors.

The key point is that, as the Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MAC) at the top of this post shows, the drive towards using gaseous rather than liquid fuels for Heavy Goods Vehicles (and other large vehicles such as buses), will probably cost more than any carbon price or tax that can be agreed at the political level. The chart seems to suggest that a carbon price of £ 150 GBP per tonne of Carbon Dioxide will be reached.

What is not considered is that the cost of petroleum-derived fuel products could cost around $ 300 USD a barrel in the not-too-distant future. If that becomes the reality, then it won’t matter if a carbon price is set or not, CNG, CBG and mixes of these gas fuels will quite possibly become the cheapest option for the world’s trade and transportation systems.

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Renewable Gas

Renewable Gas #3 : Saving the Northern World

Imagine a world, not far into the future, when Climate Change starts to make large areas of tropical and sub-tropical land uninhabitable. Imagine that the United Nations comes to an agreement that people’s access to settlement and agricultural land is a human right – and international law bans land grabs and corporate and military enclosure of farming land.

Then ask yourself, where will people migrate to ? The largest newly accessible lands will be in the north, Northern Canada and Siberia. And think it through – what will people find when they get there ? Former paper goods forests ravaged by pine beetle; tundra outgassing ancient methane; the toxic tailing ponds and polluted waterways of tar sands development; the remains of Arctic oil and gas ocean spills and onshore pipeline leaks.

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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 :-

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