Category Archives: Energy

Let them eat cake

While the West and China and India gorge themselves on fossil fuels to power their industrial growth, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank expect, nay dictate, that Africa’s one billion inhabitance must power their industrial revolution by wind turbines and solar panels.

The UN’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative has aspirations of two light bulbs a fan and a radio. Well go Africa! Why not an air-conditioning unit, a chest freezer and a 2Kw kettle? No sod that, I would want a blast furnace an aluminium smelter and a glass bottle plant. Try powering those using wind turbines and solar panels. Heavy industry runs 24/7 the sun and the wind do not. At a time when Germany is building 10 new coal fired power stations these same Germans are telling Africans they will only lend them money to build power grids based on renewable energy.

The Centre for Global Development reports that $10 billion spent in Sub Saharan Africa on renewable energy projects will provide electric power for 30 million people. The same money spent on gas fired plants would provide power to 3 times that number.

Africa is entitled to its own Industrial Revolution. We in the West have had ours and it was powered by cheap coal. China and India are having theirs and it is also powered by cheap coal. Let Africa have its industrial revolution so that it can lift 100s of millions out of poverty and let them do it quickly using their abundant natural resources of coal oil and gas. Let them be spared the piety and holier than thou preachings of the ever so comfortable green movement.

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The Sultan of Spin

An article in yesterday’s Irish Times quotes Brian Motherway, the Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland making three outrageous claims about wind power in Ireland:

  1. Wind Power has saved Ireland more than €1 billion in imported energy costs – sort of wrong (these are weasel words)
  2. Wind Power has cut greenhouse gas emissions – sort of wrong (now I am being weasely)
  3. Wind Power has not added to customer’s energy bills – just plain wrong

Looking at point one, what is he saying? Has Ireland saved €1 billion? That is what it appears to mean, that is why it is worded that way. That is what spin is all about, appearing to mean one thing but actually saying something different. Looking at the mechanics of wind energy, wind turbines are at the best 25% efficient while gas, coal and oil are about 85% efficient and nuclear 92%. These figures all take into account down time for maintenance/breakdown etc. So we can be absolutely certain that wind power has not saved the tax payers of Ireland €1 billion. It is more likely that it has cost Ireland €1 billion (and some) in extra energy costs. Every Mega Watt of wind energy generated is heavily subsidised by the Irish tax payer. So while €1 billion may have been saved in imported energy it has cost substantially more than €1 billion to make that “saving”.

Point two. Has wind power cut greenhouse gas emissions? Not unless the wind turbine is more than 16 years old. This is because it takes 16 years to pay back the CO2 debt created when the turbine was built. The vast quantities of concrete required to build the enormous base of a wind turbine generates as much CO2 as the turbine will save in its first 16 years of life. The turbine will only become carbon negative in the final 9 years of its, average, 25 year life span. I too can spin.

Point three. Of this final point I can be utterly certain. How so? It is the note at the bottom of my gas bill that reads “Carbon Tax” levied at over 7% (on which I pay another 13.5% – double taxation) which goes to pay the subsidies on green energy, plus the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy which I pay on my electricity bill. Airtricity kindly put a little explanatory note “The PSO levy is a charge relating to the costs of purchasing peat generated electricity and the output of renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy purchased under various government schemes…” For various government schemes read wind energy subsidies.

I shall be asking the Irish Times to print a correction of the article in their next edition – don’t hold your breath!


We burn corn not Witches!

During the Middle Ages climate change had a devastating impact on the world’s population. The Little Ice Age caused famine across the globe, and severely weakened citizens succumbed in their millions to the Black Death and other diseases. In an attempt to understand the problem the great and the good of the scientific and religious communities got together to come up with a solution. Sort of the Medieval equivalent of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The best idea it seemed was to burn witches. This practice continued for several hundred years and in light of the ending of the Little Ice Age around 1850 it could be claimed to have been something of a success.

Our own IPCC believes that if we could only reduce carbon dioxide emissions then we could end a 150 year rise in world temperatures. To those naysayers who would question the collective wisdom, the head of the IPPC (Ragendra Pachauri) has declared their methods “voodoo science” A campaign of burning 4% of the world’s corn production each year (in the form of ethanol), has been initiated, to mitigate a perceived 3% fall in world corn production due to excess carbon dioxide. Perhaps in a few hundred years we will see whether this has worked. Who know such methods have appeared to be effective in the past.

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It’s about time the IPCC looked at the Sun

I know your Mother told you not to look at the sun but maybe it is about time the IPCC set aside this maternal advice and began considering that variations in solar radiation may have something to do with the fluctuations in earth’s temperature.

It has long been the IPCC’s contention that while there have been minor fluctuations in the energy output from the sun this is more than compensated for by magnification of the so called ‘greenhouse effect’ by increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by human activity.

A paper produced by the National Academy of Science has challenged that assertion. Using Beryllium 10 and Carbon 14 isotopes (found in ice cores and tree rings) as proxies for Solar radiation, the academy has determined that Solar radiation at the end of the 20th Century is the highest it has been in the past 9,400 years.

But let us be careful. Just because we are seeing correlation with temperature rise does not mean we have causality, however this data surely merits serious consideration in the overall study of climate by the IPCC. Perhaps it’s the old cynic in me, but somehow I don’t think they will bother.

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Moratorium declared on UK onshore Wind Turbines

Last week the new UK Energy Minister John Hayes slapped a moratorium on any new (that have not already been sanctioned) onshore wind turbines. I do not imagine that this decision will go unchallenged. The British Conservative parties coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, will have something to say about it as well as the myriad of vested interests that are going to suffer from this decision. Expect skin and hair to fly over the coming months as Hayes attempts to make his radical manoeuvre stick.

This is not the end of the wind energy boondoggle, No Siree, Bob! Notice the weasel word ‘onshore’ used in the announcement. The British Government are still ploughing ahead with the equally wasteful and vastly more expensive ‘offshore’ wind farms, but at least it’s a start. Perhaps we will get some more dialogue on the subject and move it more into mainstream politics so that Joe and Joanna public can see where there tax pounds are being wasted.

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North American Energy Independence.

North America is heading towards a new independence day; the day in the not too distant future when it will once again be self-sufficient in oil and natural gas supplies.

In the 1960’s the US congress had laws against dependency on foreign oil supplies. As these laws were relaxed and restrictions were introduced on drilling on state owned lands the US became dependant on oil from the Middle East and suffered from the inevitable geopolitical fall out.

Shale gas, shale oil and oil shale have changed all that. New extraction techniques have made the US self-sufficient in gas, confounding predictions that the US would have to import LPG (liquid petroleum gas) from abroad and making the coastal gas terminals (built in anticipation of this requirement) redundant.

Natural gas in the US is around $3 per million BTUs in Europe that is $11 and in Pacific East Asia the price is $15. The numbers speak for themselves.

With Canadian tar sands and Mexican deep water oil production, North America can bask in a new found energy security while Europe are looking at increased dependency on Russian Gas and Middle Eastern oil. Both regions will not hesitate to extract every last ounce of political leverage from their energy strangle hold.

Watch out for a resurgent US and diminishing European Union and a new “New World Order”.

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