Tom Heap : Panoramic Nonsensity

Date: 9 November 2011
From: tim b
To: jo abbess

Hi Jo,

Just picked up on your blog following leads on Tom Heap – I’m writing a piece for my website (www.biggreenbang.co.uk) on the panorama / KPMG saga – just wanted to say what a great blog it is~!! Don’t find so many to-the-point sites in the UK – have picked up on guys like Joe Romm in the States but you seem to have your finger right on the pulse in the UK!

…Should explain that my site has been initiated by a load of IT techie nerds who are already working in telecoms and are about to launch a zero carbon mobile phone company (by a combination of using low carbon technology, buying into renewable power and carbon offsetting) They are committed to putting part of their profits into green projects and are setting up BGB in the hopes that it will be a vehicle for making sustainability issues available to a wider public – they have ambitions to develop it as a community resource too – They obviously hope to get spin-off business for their mobile phone network but I believe their motives are genuinely good and they seem to be giving me a fairly free rein!

look forward to hearing from you

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

Date: 10 November 2011
From: jo abbess
To: tim b

Hi Tim,

Good luck with the Panorama research.

Another person to follow on this is Christian Hunt at Carbon Brief :-

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/11/looking-into-panoramas-sources
http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/11/kpmg-not-sure-if-written-report
http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/11/another-correction-from-the-mail-group-on-energy-bills

…Keep the green flag flying !

Continue reading Tom Heap : Panoramic Nonsensity

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

Thorium Trolls Hypnotise Environmentalists

Kirk Sorensen is apparently a one-man propaganda machine. His personal energy must be immense. He keeps turning up everywhere.

Never since the days of Tesla versus Edison has there been such an energy-related public communications coup.

He is a social media god. He has to be – he’s running an enterprise start-up marketing an unproven energy process.

It appears that Bryony Worthington has been scooped up. But then she backed carbon offsetting and Carbon Capture and Storage. Can we ask if her judgment has improved lately ? And Friends of the Earth have been hypnotised. Or maybe not. George Monbiot was taken in a while back.

From now on, I can predict British environmentalists from every sector of society to call for the development of the Thorium Fuel Cycle – although I think it’s a waste of time and resources, and in my view cannot be scaled up quickly enough to be of any use in dealing with the global energy crisis.

All we have so far is a massive, well-researched sales pitch. And Kirk Sorensen’s done his homework on networking the institutions. In fact, I think that’s all he’s capable of – talk. I sense he is a Master of Spinology.

Continue reading Thorium Trolls Hypnotise Environmentalists

The Nuclear Trolls Are Out Tonight

This web log’s Google Analytics hit rate rocketed on Sunday evening.

What on Earth is going on, I thought ?

I normally only get massive web click counts when somebody’s written something critical about me, or I’ve written something that a lot of people disagree with.

Last week, for example, it appears many people frequented http://www.joabbess.com, only to read my not-entirely-supportive comments about the Occupy movement :-

http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/12/occupy-your-mind/
http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/14/occupy-your-mind-2/
http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/15/occupy-your-mind-3/
http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/17/occupy-your-mind-4/
http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/18/occupy-your-mind-5/
http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/19/occupy-your-mind-6/

So what was with the Sunday evening crowding ? And why so many new visitors (as evidenced in the frequency data) ? It seems the “fourth generation” nuclear power fanatics were out in full flight formation last night, judging by the number of comments I received in relation to old posts :-

http://www.joabbess.com/2011/05/10/george-monbiot-bites-thorium-bait/
http://www.joabbess.com/2011/09/30/george-monbiot-corporate-sell/

So, I’ll say it again, only louder and more clearly : non-nuclear molten salt technology should be used as energy storage in concentrated solar power plants. It’s something that can be done to smooth over renewable energy variability now, efficiently, sustainably. We don’t need to wait four decades or more for working, widely-available Thorium reactors – if they ever get built – for a major non-fossil fuel energy supply. Thorium nuclear power is a red herring, a technological cul-de-sac. We don’t need it and we don’t want it (all of us, apart from the Thorium Trolls, that is).

The Problem of Powerlessness #2

On Wednesday, I received a telephone call from an Information Technology recruitment consultancy. They wanted to know if I would be prepared to provide computer systems programming services for NATO.

Detecting that I was speaking with a native French-speaker, I slipped into my rather unpracticed second language to explain that I could not countenance working with the militaries, because I disagree with their strategy of repeated aggression.

I explained I was critical of the possibility that the air strikes in Libya were being conducted in order to establish an occupation of North Africa by Western forces, to protect oil and gas interests in the region. The recruitment agent agreed with me that the Americans were the driving force behind NATO, and that they were being too warlike.

Whoops, there goes another great opportunity to make a huge pile of cash, contracting for warmongers ! Sometimes you just have to kiss a career goodbye. IT consultancy has many ethical pitfalls. Time to reinvent myself.

I’ve been “back to school” for the second university degree, and now I’m supposed to submit myself to the “third degree” – go out and get me a job. The paucity of available positions due to the poor economic climate notwithstanding, the possibility of ending up in an unsuitable role fills me with dread. One of these days I might try to write about my experiences of having to endure several kinds of abuse whilst engaged in paid employment : suffice it to say, workplace inhumanity can be unbearable, some people don’t know what ethical behaviour means, and Human Resources departments always take sides, especially with vindictive, manipulative, micro-managers. I know what it’s like to be powerless.

Continue reading The Problem of Powerlessness #2

Daniel Yergin : Revisionist Comb-Over

Image Credit : cache.daylife.com

I don’t have anything against balding people. Anybody can start losing hair, and will most likely feel embarrassed about it and start doing silly things like combing strands over the patch – the classic comb-over : not a sign of vanity, more a sign of vulnerability. It’s a kind of disguise, not admitting to the facts, even as the facts become more and more apparent. The balding person does not accept what is happening, and is seeking to delay the inevitable.
I’ve read the Introduction and Prologue (and a little of Chapter 1) of Daniel Yergin’s new book “The Quest : Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World”. I have found it very hard-going, and I keep having to pause. The reason ? I am far too critical of the writing, and it keeps making me some kind of cross between a tad narked and full-blown irritated.

Continue reading Daniel Yergin : Revisionist Comb-Over

Book Review : The God Species by Mark Lynas

[Book Review by Jonathan Essex]

The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans By Mark Lynas, July 2011, Fourth Estate, ISBN 978-0007375226

Mark Lynas’s last book, Six Degrees, helped foster a widespread acceptance that climate change is real and we have to act together to do something about it. In The God Species he sets out how we often underestimate the scale of global environmental issues as we fail to truly appreciate the scale of 6 billion individual impacts on the planet. This book updates the scorecard of human impacts and relocates climate change within a wider set of planetary boundaries, as first set out in the Limits to Growth report produced nearly 40 years ago. Yet 40 years later the sum total of all our visible signs of action don’t even come close to addressing the scale of the problem. Perhaps Lynas, who represented the Maldives at the failed climate talks in Copenhagen [UNFCCC, December 2009], has come to believe that we won’t change our behaviour, we can’t change our economic system (as eloquently set out in Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth) and that there is no political support for a much wider programme of action such as that set out in the Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain 2030. So Lynas has only allowed himself to consider what remains: for us to put our faith solely in technology. As I read I had two main questions: will this really save the day and, if so, at what price?

Continue reading Book Review : The God Species by Mark Lynas

Camp Frack : Who’s afraid of hydraulic fracturing ?

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. ]

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

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.

Continue reading George Monbiot : New Clear

Mark Lynas : Oxford Ragwort

Image Credit : Mark Holderness

Mark Lynas betrayed more of his intellectual influences this week, when he tweeted as @mark_lynas “Colony collapse disorder – honeybees – not quite the environmental story it seemed:
http://breakthroughjournal.org/content/authors/hannah-nordhaus/an-environmental-journalists-l.shtml

Hmmm. That’s a piece from a new generation of Nordhaus-es, Hannah, writing for the Breakthrough Institute, founded by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of “The Death of Environmentalism“, a document I truly regret wasting the paper to print. As I read it, I started scratching hot red comments in the margins, so many, that in the end the pages were more red than black-and-white.

Hannah’s piece, like her book, “The Beekeeper’s Lament“, is more delicate and considered, I think, but still shreds decades of environmental thought and much science, without any justification in my view.

She writes, “…very quickly, many journalists settled on neonicotinoids — pesticides that are applied to more than 140 different crops — as the likely culprit. It seemed a familiar story of human greed and
shortsightedness. With their callous disregard for nature, big chemical companies and big agriculture were killing the bees — and threatening our own survival. The honey bee’s recent problems have occasioned a similar rush to judgment. Before any studies had been conducted on the causes of CCD, three books and countless articles came out touting pesticides as the malady’s cause. Had I been able to turn a book around quickly, I might have leapt to the same conclusions. But I was late to the party, and as more studies came out and I came to better understand the science, I became less and less convinced that pesticides provided a convincing explanation for beekeepers’ losses…”

Her argument appears to be that pesticides are bad for other pollinators, not bees; but that this makes life harder for the bees, who then have to do all that pollination instead :-

http://naturebeebookclub.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/the-beekeepers-lament-nordhaus-hannah/

“In steps John Miller, a boundingly energetic and charismatic beekeeper, who tasks himself with the care and the sustainable keeping of honeybees. He is descended from America’s first migratory beekeeper, N.E. Miller, who, at the beginning of the 20th century, transported thousands of hives from one crop to another, working the Idahoan clover in summer and the Californian almonds in winter. Back then beekeepers used to pay farmers to keep a few dozen hives on their land. But now farmers pay beekeepers millions of dollars to have their crops pollinated by upwards of ten thousand hives. With the rise of the monocrop and increasingly efficient pesticides, there are simply not enough natural pollinators to complete the massive task of sexing-up millions of acres of almond groves.”

This kind of writing seems to me like a lot of anti-green writing, where a straw man is set up, only to bow down and worship it. The central framework of fallacy appears to be :-

a. Environmentalists are zealous, and therefore crazy.
b. They believe pesticides are dangerous to bees.
c. They must be wrong, and pesticides can’t be all that bad for bees.

Let’s just read a little around that idea, shall we ? Let’s start with Wikipedia, just to make it easy :-

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

“For the majority of pesticides that are registered in the United States, EPA only requires a short-term contact toxicity test on adult honeybees. In some cases, the agency also receives short-term oral toxicity tests, which are required in Europe. EPA’s testing requirements do not account for sub-lethal effects to bees or effects on brood or larvae. Their testing requirements are also not designed to determine effects in bees from exposure to systemic pesticides. With Colony Collapse Disorder, whole hive tests in the field are needed in order to determine the effects of a pesticide on bee colonies. To date, there are very few scientifically valid whole hive studies that can be used to determine the effects of pesticides on bee colonies.”

Actually, it’s not just “mad environmentalists” who are concerned about the effect of pesticides on honeybees. Here’s just one scholarly paper :-

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0009754
“High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health”, Mullin et el., 2010.

What has this got to do with Climate Change. I can hear you asking ?

Well, it’s like this – in order to do intensive farming, agricultural chemicals are used on crops. Specialised herbicides, pesticides and fungicides are used on genetically modified crops, along with chemical fertilisers.

In order to convince people to accept Genetically Modified food, they’ve got to be encouraged to believe that pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are really alright.

Hence, pesticides cannot be fingered as a problem for bees, otherwise people might not accept GM crops…

Yes, it’s coming back round to tampering with our food genes. And it’s being sold to us as a cure for Climate Change.

At the bottom of this page there’s a transcript of a snippet from a television programme I was unlucky and incensed enough to have viewed yesterday. Called “The Wonder of Weeds”, it took us through the basic logic of modern-day plant breeding, including the role for genetic modification of plants – without once mentioning the words “life sciences”, “bioengineering”, “biotechnology” or even “genetic modification”.

The GM crops are presented as being the saviour of humanity, without once mentioning why conditions in the world may be damaging crops in new ways in the future, a lot of which will be due to climate change.

There was the usual category error – of confusing science with technology. Let’s repeat that one again. Technology is when you play with the genes of a crucial staple crop like wheat. Science is when you discover, maybe 25 years later, that it has had knock-on effects in the food chain. Oh dear. Too late for remorse – the genetically modified genome is now globally distributed.

The presenter of the programme, Chris Collins, didn’t even spot the cognitive dissonance of his own script. In the first part of the programme he talks about common weeds that are foreign invaders in the UK and cause untold trouble. In the second part of the programme he doesn’t even blink when he talks about modifying crops at the genetic level – not questioning that introducing foreign genes into vital crops might have detrimental, unforeseen impacts – rather like a microscopic version of the imported “plant pariahs”, Buddleia davidii, Rhododendron ponticum and Japanese knotweed. Oh yes, Oxford Ragwort, another introduction to the UK, is not such a hazard, but you can’t guarantee what happens when you get plant invaders.

I find it astonishing that such obvious propaganda on behalf of corporate plans to modify crops for their own private market profit is allowed into BBC television programming.

Climate Change is being used as the Trojan Horse rationale in which to bring GM crops to the UK, and elsewhere, as part of international agricultural development programmes. This is the ideological equivalent of a rogue gene inserted into the DNA of science. I find this an outrage.

I recommend you check the work of GM Freeze to counter this braintwisting manipulation.

And if you want a little bit more of an insider on what Dr Alison Smith, featured in the BBC show, is actually doing with her amazing knowledge of plants – it seems her work encompasses improving the production of alcoholic beverages, not feeding the world. I kid you not :-

http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/news-events/news/2011/110615-pr-improved-crops-food-security.html
“Glucosidase inhibitors: new approaches to malting efficiency : Alison Smith, John Innes Centre : Improving the efficiency with which barley grain is converted into beer and whisky would reduce waste and energy consumption in the brewing industry, as well as ensuring profitability. This project aims to improve the efficiency of malting, the first stage in beer and whisky production, by building on new discoveries about how barley grains convert starch to sugars when they germinate.”

What is the BBSRC ? This is a research programme that’s “infested” with corporate people – whose agenda is money-making, not philanthropy.

And what’s genetic modification of crops got to do with Mark Lynas ? Well, just read his new book, “The God Species“, and you’ll find out.

The plain fact in my view is that we do not need genetically modified crops in Europe. In Africa, they’re too poor to afford the chemicals to use with the GM seeds. And in the not-too-distant future, the price of the chemicals will shoot up because of Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas, making GM crops inaccessible to those North Americans who currently use it. So this particular technology takes us nowhere forward at all. We need to manage water and the root causes of poverty rather than tamper with genes.



http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01224kv/hd/The_Wonder_of_Weeds/

BBC 4 TV
Saturday 25 June 2011

“The Wonder of Weeds”

“Travelling around the UK and meeting experts in botanical history, genetics, pharmaceuticals and wild food, Chris Collins tells the story behind the plants most people call weeds.”

45 minutes 20 seconds

…And the massive irony of all this is that the very crop that has become a monoculture at the expense of weeds, wheat, was once a weed itself…

Plant scientist Professor Nick Harberd of Oxford University has researched the moment a weed became wheat.

Nick : “About half a million years ago, there was spontaneously, in the wild, nothing to do with human beings, a cross-hybridisation, a cross-pollination if you like, between two wild grass species…”

“…So one can imagine that humans were cultivating this wheat [10,000 to 12,000 years ago] in a field and then by chance a weed was growing within that field. And there was again a spontaneous hydridisation event beteen the cultivated wheat and this wild grass that was growing in that imaginary field.”

“The whole process made a plant that was bigger and more vigorous. And as a result of this we ended up with the wheat crop we all grow and feed off today.”

Nick can exactly recreate exactly how wheat and weeds crossbred in a lab today…

47 minutes 40 seconds

Weeds helped us out millenia ago and now scientists in the 21st Century have turned to weeds once again for one of the most important discoveries in plant biology ever.

It could save lives by creating a super wheat.

It all took place here, at the John Innes Institute in Norwich.

Alison : “So come on in Chris. You need to sterilise your feet here…”

Chris : “So this means we’re not bringing in anything nasty from outside…”

Alison : “That’s right. No thrips or viruses or anything else that might come in.”

Dr Alison Smith is head of Metabolic Biology here.

Chris : “This is the first time I’ve ever dressed up to go and see a weed.”

Alison : “We look after our weeds very carefully here.”

Alison’s team have been studying a small common weed called Arabidopsis [thaliana] or Thale Cress, which is now used as the model to map the DNA of all plants on the planet.

Alison : “Well this weed is incredibly easy for us to work on. And all plant scientists almost in the world take information from this weed. And many plant scientists only work on this little weed.”

“The reason why it’s really useful is that like a lot of weeds it goes from seed to seed really quickly, so we can get through lots and lots of generations, and that makes it easy for us to do genetic studies to understand how the weed behaves and what all of its genes are doing.”

“But also, about 20 years ago, plant scientists got together. And at that time they were working on lots and lots of different plants. And they decided, let’s work on one plant together that can become the model from which we can develop our understanding of plants.”

“So about the same time as we were sequencing the human genome, we started to sequence the genome of this little weed. So in 2000 we got the entire gene sequence of this weed, all of the genes are known, the same time as we understood the human genome.”

Chris : “So really then, this small weed is a blueprint for all plants ?”

Alison : “This is the model for all plant life, that’s right.”

But the sequencing of the Arabidopsis genome is not just for the sake of it. Alison and her 600 colleagues are unlocking the secrets of the plant’s success, like its speedy growth rate and its hardiness, and are transfering those abilities to the crops that matter to us, like wheat.

This is one of the most important discoveries in plant biology ever, where one of the humblest weeds could save millions of lives around the world.

Chris : “Now we’ve seen our magic weed and you’ve got this genetic blueprint. How do you take that blueprint and apply it to arable crops like this wheat ?”

Alison : “Well we can start to tackle, using this blueprint, some of the real problems that we have with our crops like disease, for example. Our crops are quite susceptible to some diseases. We’ve been able to breed for that, but we haven’t known what genes we’re breeding for.”

“In Arabidopsis, Arabidopsis gets diseases as well, we can understand exactly how it’s resistant to those diseases. We know what genes it needs. And we can say right, where are those genes in wheat ? Can we make sure that our new wheats have the genes that make them resistant to disease ?”

“Another example would be how the wheat exactly makes its seeds. Obviously, this is the really important bit of wheat. This is what we eat. This is human food. We understand a bit about the process of about how these little seeds are formed, but in Arabidopsis we understand in absolute molecular detail how those seeds are made, and that helps us to understand how we make to make better seeds, bigger seeds, more nutritious seeds in wheat. We can apply that knowlege in wheat.”

Well, I know scientists don’t like to be too dramatic, but I’m going to be, because of simply what I’ve found out. Weeds can play a big role in arable crops like wheat, or even maybe the future of humanity.

Alison : “I think it was the starting point for what has to be a revolution in our crops, a revolution in understanding how they work and making them work better and doing that fast.”

“It’s taken our ancestors, you know, millenia, to get to this point. We can’t afford to take the next step in millenia. We have to take it in tens of years or less. And in order to do that, you’re absolutely right, the information from Arabidopsis has been the key to pushing us forward.”

It’s the resilience of weeds and the insights they give us into helping crops survive that makes them amongst the most useful plants on the planet…

Selling Thorium to China

Kirk Sorensen, formerly of Teledyne Brown Engineering, now of Flibe Energy

To: Claverton Energy Research Group
From: Jo Abbess
Date: 24 June 2011
Subject: “Don’t believe the spin on thorium being a ‘greener’ nuclear option”‏

Hi Clavertonians,

As you are, I’m sure, aware, context is everything.

I was so sure we’d escaped the clutches of the “Thorium Activist Trolls” a few years ago, but no, here they are in resurgence again, and this time they’ve sucked in George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stephen Tinsdale, all apparently gullible enough to believe the newly resurrected Generation IV hype campaign.

They should have first done their research on the old Gen IV hype campaign that withered alongside the “Hemp will Save the World, No Really” campaign and the “Biodiesel will Save the World, AND You Can Make it at Home” brigade. Oh, and the Zero Point Energy people.

I was, I admit, quite encouraged by both the Hemp and Biodiesel drives, until I realised they were a deliberate distraction from the Big Picture – how to cope with the necessity of creating an integrated system of truly sustainable energy for the future.

Hemp and Biodiesel became Internet virally transmitted memes around the same time as the Thorium concept, but where did they come from ?

Where does the Thorium meme originate from this time round ? I found some people took to it at The Register, where they spin against Climate Change science a lot – watch the clipped video :-

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/01/china_thorium_bet/

I would suggest that there are connections between the Thorium campaign and the anti-Climate Change science campaign, and I have some evidence, but I’m too busy to research more in-depth just now, so I’m not going to write it all up yet.

The key issues with all energy options is TIME TO DELIVERY and SCALEABILITY, and I think the option presented by the Thorium fuel cycle fails on both counts.

Yeah, sure, some rich people can devote their life savings to it, and some Departments of Defense (yes, Americans) and their corporate hangers-on can try selling ANOTHER dud technology to China (which is the basis of some Internet energy memes in my view).

Remember Carbon Capture and Storage ? The British Government were very keen on making a Big Thing about CCS – in order to sell it to the miscreant Chinese because (WARNING : CHINA MYTH) China builds 2 !! coal-fired !! power stations a week/day/month !!

THORIUM – A Brief Analysis
TIME TO DELIVERY – 20 to 50 years
SCALEABILITY – unknown
USEFULNESS ASSESSMENT – virtually zero, although it could keep some people on the gravy train, and suck in some Chinese dough

The Tyndall Centre say that global emissions of greenhouse gases have to peak AT THE LATEST by 2020. We should be thinking about rolling out the technology WE ALREADY HAVE to meet that end.

Don’t believe the hype,

jo.

PS What other evidence do we have that the Thorium meme is most likely just a propaganda campaign ? Nick Griffin of the British National Party backs it, and the BNP are widely alleged to promote divisiveness…

Glenn Beck : “Dangerous and Evil”

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/glenn-beck/transcript/beck-americas-energy-under-attack

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 !

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 : 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 !

Retour au Latour

In the realm of conspiracy theories, one branch is particularly difficult to unseat – suppositions of technological risks to health – or what I am naming “technocankery”, since a good number of them attribute cancer to the use of technology. Why, it is clear to see : cancer is caused by small, unseen mutations, and it’s hard to pinpoint causal effects. “Carcinogen” is therefore a useful accusation to hurl at any technology you don’t like, even if you have no proof or evidence.

But we’re doing science. How we know what we know is through a long chain of experimentation and monitoring, data gathering that can lead to reasonable claims that can then be subject to further testing and assessing. People rightly assert that we need to keep our minds open to possibilities unconceived, or mistakes unknowingly trodden. As the Dalai Lama Tweeted 25th May 2011 : “To arrive at certainty, you need to start from a skeptical posture. The best scientists are impartial, not swayed by their own beliefs.”

Continue reading Retour au Latour

Adam Curtis : Nuclear Hero

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

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

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

Continue reading Adam Curtis : Nuclear Hero

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

George Monbiot bites Thorium bait

George Monbiot in his new role as an apologist for the twice-bailed-out-of-insolvency British Nuclear Power industry, has now taken the Thorium bait, quite probably the most well-funded piece of astroturfing propaganda in existence :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/09/coalition-greatest-threat-to-environment

“This ‘greenest government ever’ is the greatest threat yet to our environment : The coalition is preparing to bin Britain’s climate change targets. After all, ministers have corporate sponsors to take care of : George Monbiot, guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 May 2011”

“…we should start considering other options for decarbonising the electricity supply: especially new nuclear technologies such as thorium, integral fast reactors or travelling wave reactors…”

“New”, George, “new” ? The only thing that’s “new” is the desperate rush to try Thorium power out, now that there are doubts about “classic” nuclear reactor design. Here’s what James Birkin has to say over at the Claverton forum, where they have real energy experts discussing Thorium reactors :-

Continue reading George Monbiot bites Thorium bait

Shale gas toxic shocker

It appears that science has now caught up with shale gas extraction technology, and the result is a toxic shock :-

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fracking-for-natural-gas-pollutes-water-wells
“Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas Pollutes Water Wells : A new study indicates that fracturing the Marcellus Shale for natural gas is contaminating private drinking water wells : By David Biello, Scientific American, May 9, 2011”

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/05/09/09greenwire-study-finds-methane-contamination-rises-near-s-87464.html

This might come as a bit of a nasty blowback for Christopher Booker, who was singing the praises of “gamechanger” shale gas at the weekend :-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8500496/Shale-gas-could-solve-the-worlds-energy-problems.html

“Shale gas could solve the world’s energy problems : It’s anathema to environmentalists, but shale gas is a new fossil-fuel source that could power the world for centuries : By Christopher Booker 7:30PM BST 07 May 2011”

Continue reading Shale gas toxic shocker

Nuclear power price fudge

[ UPDATE : E-MAIL FROM THE COMMITTEE ON CLIMATE CHANGE POINTS TO THE SECOND DOCUMENT – AND IT’S DEFINITELY A FUDGE ON “CAPEX” – SEE PAGE viii FOR EXAMPLE ]

Today’s publication of the UK Government Committee on Climate Change’s “The Renewable Energy Review” report seems to me to contain some fudge on the cost of nuclear power.

Almost everybody agrees that the current cost of generating nuclear power from existing reactors and plant is reasonable. There are questions about how much, exactly, it’s going to cost to decommission ageing reactors as they become dangerous, and there are also questions about how much it’s really, really going to cost to safely “dispose” of the radioactive waste from over 50 years of nuclear electrical generation. Even so, the operations and maintenance costs, the “O&M” costs of keeping nuclear power stations ticking over is fairly reasonable – unless there are unplanned “outages”, or radioactive accidents, or problems with the price of uranium fuel…happily, these added burdens can be kept off the balance sheets for the most part.

However, it is in projecting the real costs of new nuclear power, from shiny, spanking, new glistening, glowing concrete reactors, that deep and discomforting questions arise, and the CCC report, I think, I’m sorry to say, fudges the issue.

Continue reading Nuclear power price fudge

BP : Politely Requesting an Interview

[ 02 JUNE 2011 : THIS POST HAS ALWAYS AND WILL ALWAYS FULLY RESPECT BP COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY, AND HAS NOT AND WILL NOT INCLUDE THE REPRODUCED TEXT CONTENT OF E-MAILS FROM BP, ARISING FROM AN E-MAIL EXCHANGE WTIH JOABBESS.COM. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS CLEAR ATTEMPT ON THE PART OF JOABBESS.COM TO CONSERVE THE FULNESS AND THE ESSENCE OF COMPANY CONDIENTIALITY, IT HAS BEEN DRAWN TO THE ATTENTION OF JOABBESS.COM THAT EVEN JUST MENTIONING THE NAME OF THE CORRESPONDENT AND THE DATES OF THE EXCHANGE MAY TECHNICALLY CONSTITUTE A BREACH OF BP COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY. SO, TO ENSURE THAT NO ACCUSATION OR COMPLAINT OF BREACH OF COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY COULD EVER BE MADE, AND TO ENSURE THE PROTECTION OF THE CORRESPONDENT, THE NAME OF THE CORRESPONDENT AND THE DATES OF THE EXCHANGE HAVE BEEN REDACTED AND REMOVED AS OF TODAY. IT CAN STILL BE DEDUCED FROM THIS POST THAT AN E-MAIL EXCHANGE TOOK PLACE. THAT FACT, I THINK, IS NOT COMPANY CONFIDENTIAL, ALTHOUGH I EXPECT BP ARE WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS TO TELL ME IF THEY BELIEVE OTHERWISE, AND OPEN UP A PERSON TO PERSON CONVERSATION ABOUT THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION. THEY KNOW MY TELEPHONE NUMBER. IT’S AT THE TOP OF THE POST. WHERE IT’S ALWAYS BEEN. ]

From: jo abbess
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, BP
Date: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Dear XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for your time on the phone earlier this week.

Last year in February, I was part of a small group of students that were grateful to have the benefit of an interview with XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX at BP, then XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

I am taking my research into the energy sector further for my MSc dissertation, and I would be grateful if I could have an interview with somebody in an engineering department who has an overview of the energy sector.

It doesn’t need to be a face to face interview, as I am quite willing to telephone people. It only needs to be 20 minutes in duration.

I have prepared a short list of open questions that I am considering would be suitable for my enquiry into the future of energy resources and technologies (see below).

I hope that you can point me in the direction of somebody within BP who would like to offer their thoughts.

Thank you.

Questions with a UK focus

1. What do you think have been the best developments in the energy sector in the last 20 years ?

(What do you think are the most significant developments in the energy sector in the last 20 years ?)

2. What positive or negative changes in energy production and supply will take place over the next 2 decades ?

(What do you think will be the most important developments in the energy sector in the next 20 years ?)

3. Which energy resources and technologies look the most troubled ?

4. Which energy resources and technologies look the most promising ?

5. Does the UK face an energy supply gap ? Can we keep the lights on ?



From: jo abbess
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Date: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXx

Hi XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for your helpful reply.

What I am trying to achieve is a real conversation with somebody within BP who has a general overview of the energy industry – sadly, the annual Statistical Review and company report do not answer the scoping questions I have.

I am offering an opportunity for BP to voice a vision, on record, of how the company intend to navigate future change, using parameters that are not generally the basis of shareholder reports.

I am sure that somebody in the organisation has a view on the onset of Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas – from conventional resources, and that there must be aims and objectives for BP to manage this issue.

I am convinced that BP has planned for a range of policy scenarios concerning climate change – both mitigation and adaptation measures.

I am also sure that somebody in BP has a plan for navigating political problems, such as the probability of continued unrest in the Middle East, with the accompanying likelihood of compromised oil and gas production.

In addition, I am sure that somebody from BP can speak on the company’s behalf about how it will deal with the threats of economic turbulence and still be able to meet the needs of shareholders.

Some sample questions that could take in part of this landscape :-

1. Do you think that we are heading for a period of global energy insecurity ? What are the factors that could cause this ? What are the timelines ? Who are the key players ?

2. What is aiding or blocking the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy ? What technologies look promising ? What technologies are stuck in the lab ?

3.. How do you think we will manage the transition to clean energy ? How will the economic actors be able to diversify out of fossil fuels and still retain balance in the world markets – and not disappoint their investors ?

4. Do you think that people generally are aware of the issues of energy security ?

It would be excellent if you could find somebody to speak to these or similar questions in a short interview with me. I can do interviews by telephone at very low cost, and I would e-mail the transcript for verification before using in my research report.

My central question is “are we ready for energy change ?” – major transition in the resourcing and use of energy – and I am seeking a full range of opinion on that question.

If you could point me towards somebody who is willing and able to speak for 20 minutes on the phone on energy security issues, I would be highly grateful.

Thank you.



Remember Chernobyl

[ UPDATE : Further embarrassing TEPCO revelations and Russia’s Medvedev calls for new world safety rules. ]

Image Credit : Tricon

Twenty-five years ago today, Reactor Four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ruptured, and explosions sent highly toxic and radioactive material up into the atmosphere.

We still live in the fallout plume of Chernobyl, a shadow that haunts us with future risk if the new Shelter Implementation Plan programme is not financed :-

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/features/chernobyl-15/shelter-fund.pdf

In the light of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Multiple Nuclear Accident in Japan, and the setting of an official exclusion zone, it is important to re-consider whether the low-risk-of-high-damage nuclear power technology should continue to be used in action taken against low-risk-of-high-damage Climate Change.

Governments and other institutions have been checking and re-checking nuclear power facilities and holding talks :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/15/european-union-stress-test-nuclear
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/15/european-union-stress-test-nuclear
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_nuclear-power-the-missing-safety-audits_1536223
http://www.newschannel9.com/news/nuclear-1000446-commission-watts.html
http://www.inewsone.com/2011/04/22/france-to-check-security-of-n-plants/45173

The central lesson of both Chernobyl and Fukushima is that over time, engineering systems degrade, constructions rust and crumble, human operations become slack, and small chances can add up to have big consequences.

Public information has been created to help the newsreading public get to grips with the new reality of nuclear power. We cannot rely on nuclear power. Nuclear power stations break down, sometimes without warning. Nuclear power always poses a risk. Sometimes there are spills, leaks and emissions of dangerous gas – sometimes there are fires or explosions – and there is always the danger that somebody might misuse the fuel or waste :-

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-google-earth-populations-nuclear.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13159407

The Japanese Government and nuclear power industry did not respond to the warnings issued in 2007 in Japan after an earthquake caused a radioactive leak at a nuclear power plant :-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8392730/Japan-nuclear-crisis-tsunami-study-showed-Fukushima-plant-was-at-risk.html
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2007/2007-07-16-04.html

Neither do they appear to have responded adequately to warnings of cracks in reactors, which have been known about for a long time. It is possible that reactor cracking, or other neutron damage, may have played a part in the release of radioactive chemicals still ongoing at Fukushima Dai-ichi. Only careful study will confirm or deny this, but engineers may not be able to get close enough to find out for some time as the radiation levels are so high :-

http://nuclearhistory.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/japan-nuclear-reactors-coverup-of-cracked-reactors-2002/
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/hamaoka-reading-the-news-and-things-to-come/blog/11303
http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/2010/04/nuclear_history_repeating.html
http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-2195746/METI-warns-TEPCO-over-damage.html
http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/
http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=845&catid=23&subcatid=152

Can the United Kingdom now listen to warnings about cracked nuclear power reactors at home ? :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2004/dec/02/energy.nuclearindustry
“Cracked reactors may force closure of nuclear plants : Terry Macalister : The Guardian, Thursday 2 December 2004”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/jul/05/energy.frontpagenews
“Documents reveal hidden fears over Britain’s nuclear plants : Unexplained cracks in reactor cores increase likelihood of accident, say government inspectors : John Vidal and Ian Sample, The Guardian, Wednesday 5 July 2006”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/jul/06/nuclear.freedomofinformation?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
“More checks on reactors ordered after cracks found : John Vidal and Ian Sample, The Guardian, Thursday 6 July 2006”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5149650.stm

It is being admitted that not enough is known about the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear power plant accidents. Let us only hope that our governments feel it necessary to spend the money to find out :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/26/chernobyl-lessons-missed-research-gaps

Remember Chernobyl.

Polar Bear Co-Option

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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