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.
Of all the macroeconomic proposals put forward over the last two decades for consideration by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the most ridiculous has to be Carbon Trading.
To imagine that a market can be created for something that the industrialised country economies are highly dependent on is an hallucination.
Carbon Dioxide emissions are in lock-step with economic growth, the creation of liquidity, if not wealth. To try to price Carbon Dioxide emissions would be to attempt to give a negative value to a positive commodity. It just won’t work. Nobody will want to buy it. And if they’re forced to buy it, they won’t want to pay much for it. And nobody can think of a way to force the developed countries to pay for their Carbon Dioxide emissions.
Even before the “serious” negotiating week of Cancun begins, the Kyoto Protocol has been pronounced dead on arrival :-
Nobody ever said the “KP” was perfect – it only committed countries to a very small level of emissions cuts. Some commitment ! Few of the countries in the KP have taken their responsibilities to cut emissions seriously. And if they have, they’ve just outsourced them to China.
But the Son-of-Kyoto Post-Kyoto Protocol Protocol could have been something, you know, if the industrialised countries admitted they needed to back down significantly from rising and large emissions profiles – if developed nations had not tried to lean on the “flexible mechanisms” that effectively legalised offsetting their emissions with emissions reductions in other peoples’ countries.
It appears from Wikileaks that the United States of America have been scuppering the United Nations’s best efforts :-
“Secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have revealed new details about how the United States manipulated last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen. The cables show how the United States sought dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming, how financial and other aid was used by countries to gain political backing, and how the United States mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the “Copenhagen Accord.””
If, as reports state, the United States are continuing to use any leverage they can to push countries to accept the doomed Copenhagen Accord, there can be no progress on Climate Change.
We may have just found the real Climategate.
You cannot buy or sell the atmosphere.
There is only one solution – that is to displace High Carbon Energy with Low Carbon Energy and that means goodbye to Tar Sands, Shale Oil, Tight Gas, deepwater Petroleum, dirty Petroleum, Coal, Coal-to-Liquids, anything that you can dig out of the ground and burn.
We have to stop mining for energy.
And that has serious implications for a number of international energy corporations and state energy enterprises.
Unless this basic issue is addressed, we are all heading for hell and high water.
The Climate Change talks have been window dressing for unworkable hypothetical macroeconomic policies, and continue to reduce chair people to tears :-
Forget Nigel Lawson and his struggle to keep the British energy system in the privatised 1980s by denying the realities of Climate Change.
The lords (and sadly, some of the ladies) of this land want to stay rich from their shares in fossil fuels and mining. They’ll say anything to protect the value of their holdings.
But where’s your new North Sea Oil and Gas, Nigel ? Do you want to bankrupt this country by forcing us to ramp up our imports of energy as the North Sea production falls away ?
The chief executives of the “traditional” energy companies of these islands are just trying to keep themselves in a job when they decry wind power, biogas, marine energy projects.
No, Vincent de Rivaz of EdF, we don’t want expensive, inflexible and toxic Nuclear Power. No, Dorothy Thompson of Drax, we don’t want dirty coal continuing to heat up the world, poison fish and raise coughing kids. No, Rupert Soames of Aggreko, we must maintain the Renewable Energy obligations we have agreed at the European level, and raise the bar even higher, to protect the economy going into an uncertain future, by having homegrown energy.
We need an energy evolution in this country.
And so, what is needed is a social movement – involving ordinary, working people, unions, communities, academics, trained professionals from the engineering trades, local political activists and faith communities.
The Earth keeps turning, the Sun keeps burning, and the future will look a lot different than today as we drag down Carbon Dioxide emissions “by hook or by crook”.
We have to be wary of possible “crooks”. There are still technology “snake oil salesmen” out there, trying to impose Genetically Modified crops on us, or Nuclear Power, or Carbon Capture and Storage (to justify the continued use of Coal), and using the vehicle of science to push their wares :-
“Climate change threatens UK harvest : Climate change could push up food prices by causing large-scale crop failures in Britain, the Met Office has warned. : By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent : Published: 08 Oct 2010 : Rising temperatures could mean events such as the drought in Russia this summer, which pushed up grain prices, hit countries like the UK. But they said the worst effects of climate change could be limited by investment in better farming and the development of new drought resistant or heat tolerant crops. This could be done by aid money, breeding and new technologies like genetic modification (GM)…”
But, as everybody can probably guess, most farmers in the world will not be able to afford Genetically Modified crops, and anyway, nobody really yet knows if GM crops confer the benefits claimed – there is some evidence that “life scientists” don’t know the full range of effects on organisms from gene splicing.
Unlike the United Kingdom, where political sensibility can quash the most logical enactment of energy policy, plans for progress voiced so tentatively you can bearly feel a ripple, or hear it over the whispering swoosh of a new wind turbine blade, over in Deutschland, what they say, they intend to happen, and they’re making serious proposals about how that’s going to be done :-
“09/07/2010 : Green Visions : Merkel’s Masterplan for a German Energy Revolution : By Stefan Schultz : Giant windparks, insulated buildings, electric cars and a European supergrid: the German government on Monday unveiled an ambitious but vague blueprint to launch a new era of green energy for Europe’s largest economy. SPIEGEL ONLINE has analyzed the plans…”
It appears to be time to wave bye-bye to German coal, incidentally, even as a strong commitment to renewable, sustainable energy is put on the table.
I wish the British Government could take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror of the future and realise what a bunch of dithering duffers they appear to be.
What we need is a proper Energy Policy, chaps, and since you’re in the hot seat you better come up with it. Elected or not, our ministers and officials need to get up out of their deep leather chairs, extinguish their pipes, don their working breeches and get digging for Britain, and I don’t mean Shale Gas or Old Coal.
Further clue : the author was Tom Burke, “Mr Clean Coal” to those of us that know of him.
The article was great, up until the paragraph :-
“Without deploying carbon capture and storage technologies for coal and gas, Europe has no workable climate policy…”
Well, we knew Tom Burke was going to say that, didn’t we ?
But why was the article “in association with Shell” ? Is this the start of advertising masquerading as opinion articles ?
What could possibly link Royal Dutch Shell to Carbon Capture and Storage ? The “Enhanced Oil Recovery” (EOR) angle, possibly – Shell offering to pump Carbon Dioxide down into its depleting oil and gas wells in an attempt to raise the pressure on the remaining hydrocarbon, to squeeze it out.
We all love the inputs, but what about the outputs ?
Fossil Fuels have been providing an easy life and easy pickings for the citizens and enterprises of the industrialised world for some time.
People love their jet-fuelled lives. One man will move one kilometre from his home to a restaurant in two and a half metric tonnes of steel and glass believing he is admired for his larger-than-car-sized car. He will wear sunshades, and oil-slicked hair (if he has any) and sport a tan from his recent holiday over the ocean. A life of glory and feeling good about himself.
But what about the emissions ? What, indeed, about the environmental devastation at the places the Fossil Fuels (and metal and glass) were mined and refined and manufactured ?
Shock ! Horror ! Major Climate Change Scientist spotted at Climate Camp…ah, but which one… ? How to distinguish one dressed-down, unwashed individual with dishevelled locks from any another ?
Any sign of Climate Change sceptic-denier Andrew Montford, as affectionately known as “Bishop Hill” ? Can’t make him out, but he might have responded to the banner appeal to “Come On Over for Lunch”. You never know. That might be him chopping potatoes, right in the thick of it.
Of course, Pat Michaels is “right-wing”, but that’s not what I meant.
Some folk will be surprised that I agree with anything that Patrick Michaels says, as he is consistently inaccurate about the Science of Global Warming.
However, he is right that a Carbon Tax is the wrong way to proceed.
Carbon pricing, whether by direct taxation or by a trading scheme, effectively creates a double disincentive for change.
We have a large number of companies and organisations that are highly dependent on the use of Fossil Fuels. Carbon pricing will make these companies and organisations less financially efficient, and they will try anything they can to pass on the costs of Carbon to their consumers and clients, in order to remain profitable.
Carbon Taxation will therefore stimulate cost offsetting, but not Carbon reductions.
Moreover, if companies that make and sell energy are forced to pay for Carbon, they will have less funds available to deCarbonise their businesses; less capital to invest in new lower Carbon technologies.
Carbon Pricing will not alter the patterns of emissions significantly, if at all.
We have to face facts : the economists are largely wrong about environmental taxation. Record fines and levies demanded of Fossil Fuel companies in the last ten years have not stopped the spills, the leaks, the poisonings of waterways; nor have they helped the companies change course and start to develop Renewable Energies.
The pricing of large scale environmental pollution is a failed disincentive.
Image Credit : Gilbert & George, “Nettle Dance”, White Cube
I’m in the Climate Union. Are You ?
Soon we could all be, if the expansionist plans of a group of social campaigners come to fruition.
Taking in the unions, faith communities and the usual rag-tag bunch of issues activists, the Climate Union aims to establish itself as a political force for Low Carbon.
First of all, however, it has to tackle the uneasy and prickly problem of the exact name of the movement, and the principles under which it will operate.
The flag has been flown : a set of principles has been circulated for discussion amongst the “Climate Forum”. I cannot show you the finalised document yet, but I can offer you my comments (see below).
If you want to comment on the development of this emerging entity, please contact : Peter Robinson, Campaign against Climate Change, mobile/cell telephone in the UK : 07876595993.
Comments on the Climate Forum Principles
28 June 2010
I am aware that my comments are going to be a little challenging. I made similar comments during the review of the ClimateSafety briefing, which were highly criticised.
I expect you to be negative in response to what I say, but I think it is necessary to make sure the Climate Forum does not become watered-down, sectorally imprisoned and politically neutered, like so many other campaigns.
Burning things wastes a lot of energy – even burning waste.
1. Plain Old Inefficiency
The systems and infrastructure for the generation and distribution of electricity in the United Kingdom is extremely poor, nigh on immorally wasteful. See the diagram above from the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report :-
Policy strategy for controlling risky excess atmospheric greenhouse gas (Gowdy, 2008, Sect. 4; McKibben, 2007, Ch. 1, pp. 19-20; Solomon et al., 2009; Tickell, 2008, Ch. 6, pp. 205-208) mostly derives from the notion that carbon dioxide emissions should be charged for, in order to prevent future emissions; similar to treatment for environmental pollutants (Giddens, 2009, Ch. 6, pp. 149-155; Gore, 2009, Ch. 15 “The True Cost of Carbon”; Pigou, 1932; Tickell, 2008, Ch.4, Box 4.1, pp. 112-116). Underscoring this idea is the evidence that fines, taxes and fees modify behaviour, reigning in the marginal social cost of “externalities” through financial disincentive (Baumol, 1972; Sandmo, 2009; Tol, 2008). However this approach may not enable the high-value, long-term investment required for decarbonisation, which needs adjustments to the economy at scale (CAT, 2010; Hepburn and Stern, 2008, pp. 39-40, Sect. (ii) “The Consequences of Non-marginality”; MacKay, 2008, Ch. 19; Tickell, 2008, Ch. 2, pp. 40-41).
“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says not to get science from Glenn Beck : By Josh Smith : Deseret News : Published: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 : Don’t get your science from Glenn Beck. That’s the message environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wants to bring to citizens and media across the country, and recently he brought it to Utah. Americans should be trying to prevent further global climate change and environmental destruction for economic and national security reasons, but an “18-year propaganda campaign” by oil and coal companies has misled the public and media on their dangers, Kennedy said. “The science on global warming is stronger than it is on tobacco and cancer, yet we still have these myths that create doubt…Our children will pay the price for our joy ride,” he said. “Incumbent” energy companies, such as those using oil, coal and nuclear power, are hogging taxpayer resources and hiding the true costs of such energy, Kennedy said. “When they say it’s clean, we know it’s a dirty lie. When they say it’s cheap, we know it’s a bigger lie,” he said…
The options are clear : either rapidly commence the largest, most complex and resource-hungry engineering infrastructure ever conceived to do Carbon Capture and Storage, or simply halt the burning of Coal to generate electricity.
Simple choice, you would have thought; yet governments around the world have been sucked in by the slick allure of the all-expenses-paid lobbyists for Old King Coal. Politicians and civil servants roam the halls of power with that glazed look in their eyes as they recite the mantra “Clean Coal. Clean Coal. Clean Coal…”
Yet all is not a done deal. In Scotland, common sense and good, open debate have led to a rejection of all that is lumpy and sooty; and that can only bode well for the future of Energy policy.
Coal is not clean. It never has been and it never will be.
Earth Hour 2010 will be on Saturday 27 March 2010 20:30 8.30pm everywhere
Being involved in a collective effort may yet help the human race overcome its problem with excessive emissions.
It will look like the United Nations’ Climate Change Conferences, yet it will be an standing session, not just one fortnight a year. And it will be distributed over the entire world, not just in one location. And it will involve a whole lot more people than just official national delegates.
Help start the process by taking part in a token gesture of support for a cleaner, greener, cooler Earth : switch everything off for an hour on Saturday 27 March 2010, starting at 8.30pm 20:30 where you are, in your time zone :-
“Coal-fired power to win carbon capture grants By Fiona Harvey and Ed Crooks : Published: March 2 2010 : Two coal-fired power plants, including Eon’s controversial Kingsnorth project, are to be given government support that could be worth tens of millions of pounds to develop technology for storing carbon dioxide emissions, the Financial Times has learnt…Although much of the technology needed to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and store it underground is already available, there are questions over whether it can be developed for widespread use, and over its expense. A provision of the energy bill passing through parliament would allow for a levy on consumer bills to pay to install the technology. The levy could raise £9.5bn, Ed Miliband, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, said. CCS development would “require the right combination of private sector and government investment”, he added…”
So, Carbon Capture and Storage is not fully tested, and will take a long time to be sure it can be implemented. Meantime, all that Coal is being burned to make electron juice, and the emissions are fouling up the skies, locally and globally warmingly.
It’s time we put our collective foot down, loudly, and demanded an end to Coal combustion.
It’s 19th Century dirty, smoking technology, and we really have to give it up.
In other news…Members of Parliament have refused to regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the major power plants in the UK. What a sorry, sorry mess :-
“February 19, 2010 : Drax power plant suspends plan to replace coal with greener fuel : Ben Webster, Environment Editor : Britain’s biggest power station has suspended its plan to replace coal with greener fuel, leaving the Government little chance of meeting its target for renewable energy. Drax, in North Yorkshire, which produces enough electricity for six million homes, is withdrawing a pledge to cut CO2 emissions by 3.5 million tonnes a year, or 17.5 per cent…”
I don’t know about you, but I would have thought that zero should mean zero. Zero tolerance on smoking in restaurants shouldn’t allow one corner of La Dolce Vita, Peckham to have a smoking table.
No, there isn’t an Italian dining establishment called “La Dolce Vita” in Peckham. I made that bit up. But I’m not making this bit up – the Zero Carbon Homes standard will only mandate a 25% reduction from ordinary energy efficiency standards :-
That means that new residential buildings will still emit 75% of the amount permitted today. Seventy-five is not even close to zero, in my book. Even I learned that much at school. Seems like a misnomer to call them “Zero Carbon Homes”.
Someday, all journalists who report on Climate Change and Energy will not only have relevant Science and Technology training, but they will also be allowed the time to fact-check corporate-sponsored-academic-research Press Releases before being asked to publish articles written around those Press Releases.
I absolutely adore Alok Jha writing for the The Guardian newspaper. He’s young, smart, good-looking, intelligent, and studied Physics at Imperial College, London. He writes well. His heart is clearly in the right place. Some of the things the The Guardian publish with his name under them could, however, be a little more incisive.
“Free Thinking – David Miliband : Last broadcast on Tuesday 3rd November 2009, 21:15 on BBC Radio 3. In an interview given in front of an audience at The Sage Gateshead as part of the 2009 Free Thinking festival, Foreign Secretary David Miliband talks to Philip Dodd about his family background, his life in politics and his vision for democracy – both home and abroad. A rising star in the Blair government, Miliband has become a government heavyweight under Gordon Brown. He is among the youngest foreign secretaries in history.”
Somewhere during the interview David Miliband utters what I consider to be a myth. He said something along the lines of “…China…building four coal-fired power plants a month…or a week.”
Is there any truth in this ? And how could we verify it ? And why does pointing at China let American and European Coal expansion off the hook ?
Since the book “Climate Cover-Up : The Crusade to Deny Global Warming” by James Hoggan does not appear to be available in the United Kingdom as of now, I have taken the liberty of transcribing a brief passage about Carbon Capture and Storage.
The thrust of the passage, and in fact two whole chapters of the book, which everybody should read, is that
(a) even with Carbon Capture, Coal will never be “Clean” and
(b) that there has been a deliberate propaganda campaign amongst the public and in the corridors of power to promote Carbon Capture even though it cannot clean up Coal.
Looks like some people are waking up to the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) spin : it’ll be late, costly and still nobody can promise it will all work…but it’s a superb opportunity to ask for handouts from the State :-
“Clean coal more costly than first thought : Bronwyn Herbert reported this story on Thursday, October 29, 2009 : TONY EASTLEY: The vision of clean coal powering our future electricity has copped a blow, with new costings revealing that the technology won’t be viable for 20 years. The Federal Government’s own global carbon capture and storage institute says clean coal power generation won’t be commercially worthwhile unless the carbon price hits at least $60 a ton and that’s not expected until 2030. Clean coal advocates want the Government to lend a hand to make the first commercial size plants affordable…”