Do you remember the heady days of the general election campaign, back in April when all three party leaders vied with each other to assure a troubled nation that, if they were elected, our devastated economy would be restored to robust health by the creation of ‘green jobs’? Figures of hundreds-of thousands, and even millions, were bandied about. Terms like  ‘energy efficiency’, ‘energy security’, ‘de-carbonisation’, ‘low carbon economy’   and ‘green industrial revolution’ were duly trotted out. But those of us who were watching carefully noticed that these initiatives were only mentioned in passing, and the politicians seemed relieved when they could move on to other parts of the policy agenda.

It’s true that Nick Clegg’s commitment to this bright new world shone through rather more convincingly than the others, but then he could not have seriously expected to become deputy prime minister in a coalition with the Tories a few weeks later.

On Wednesday, George Osborne delivered his much heralded statement on spending cuts to a packed House of Commons and a nervous nation. It quite soon became clear that a ‘statement’ was not quite what all this was about. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was in fact delivering a budget, and one on a scale that dwarfs the usual annual event of that name. The sums of money he was juggling were huge, and the consequences of his strategy failing far more perilous.

So how have the heady aspirations that revolve around all that is most green and sustainable fed through into the cold reality of economic planning for the next five years? Here are the relevant passages from the Chancellor’s speech; they won’t take long to read.

Long term investment in the capacity of our transport, our science, our green energy will all help move Britain from its decade long dependence on one sector of the economy in one part of the country – and the ruin that has led to.

….. when money is short we should ruthlessly prioritise those areas of public spending which are most likely to support economic growth, including investments in our transport and green energy infrastructure, our science base and the skills and education of our citizens.

Do the references to ‘greenness’ herald major initiatives that will transform the economy, the energy infrastructure of the country and the way that we live? Or are they just necessary platitudes to stave off trouble with the more environmentally minded half of the coalition? The answer becomes all too clear when Mr Osborne gets down to specifics.

Britain is a world leader in scientific research. And that is vital to our future economic success. That is why I am proposing that we do not cut the cash going to the science budget. It will be protected at £4.6 billion a year.

Building on the Wakeham Review of science spending, we have found that within the science budget significant savings of £324 million can be found through efficiency.

If these are implemented, then with this relatively protected settlement I am confident that our country’s scientific output can increase over the next four years. We will also: invest £220 million in the UK centre for Medical Research and Innovation at St Pancras; fund the molecular biology lab in Cambridge; the Animal Health Institute in Pirbright; and the Diamond synchrotron in Oxford.

Research and technological innovation will also help us with one of the greatest scientific challenges of our times – climate change – and it will support new jobs in low-carbon industries.

So today, even in these straightened times, we commit public capital funding of up to £1 billion to one of the world’s first commercial scale carbon capture and storage demonstration projects.

We will also invest over £200 million in the development of off-shore wind technology and manufacturing at port sites.

Yesterday, protestors scaled the Treasury urging us to proceed with our idea for a Green Investment Bank.

Mr Speaker, it’s the first time anyone has protested in favour of a bank. We will go ahead. I have set aside in this Spending Review £1 billion of funding for that Bank, but I hope much more will be raised from the private sector and the proceeds of future government asset sales.

The aim of all these investments is for Britain to be a leader of the new green economy. Creating jobs, saving energy costs, reducing carbon emissions.

We will also introduce incentives to help families reduce their bills. We will introduce a funded Renewable Heat Incentive.

Our Green Deal will encourage home energy efficiency at no upfront cost to home-owners and allow us to phase out the Warm Front programme.

Overall, the total resource settlement for the Department for Energy and Climate Change will fall by an average 5% a year – but there will be a large increase in capital spending, partly to meet unavoidable commitments we’ve been left on nuclear decommissioning.

DEFRA will deliver resource savings of an average 8% a year – but we will fund a major improvement in our flood defences and coastal erosion management that will provide better protection for 145,000 homes.

When you strip out the window dressing, what is left amounts to this:

The science budget is to be frozen at £4.6bn a year, with the forlorn hope that efficiency savings will allow research effort to help combat climate change and support new green jobs will grow nonetheless. Taking inflation into account, this looks like a year-on-year reduction in spending on scientific research even though the chancellor goes on to say that research is just what we need at the moment. It sounds as though business as usual with a tightened belt is the new order of the day for scientists.

Four research projects will attract £220 million. None have anything to do with green energy or climate change.

The apparent pledge of £1 billion for ‘commercial scale carbon capture and storage demonstration projects’ is hedged with the weasel words ‘up to’. If I was a green activist that would worry me.

Allocating £200 million to offshore wind infrastructure is no more than tossing loose change to the crowd. It may be significant that this is likely to be spent in the North East, an electorally very sensitive area for both Liberals and Conservatives.

Just £1 billion has been ‘set aside’ those weasel words again for the green bank that is supposed to finance the green energy revolution, with a pious hope that something will turn up from the private sector or asset sales. To put this in context, £30 billion was allocated to transport infrastructure in other parts of the speech.

To qualify for the Warm Front scheme, you needed to be on benefits, which isn’t very fashionable at the moment so it’s being dumped, which seems a pity as it helped those on low incomes, and the especially the elderly, with insulation and new efficient heating systems.

The new Green Deal doesn’t arrive until 2012. It is a government sponsored mortgage scheme that allows people to borrow money from the government to make their homes more energy efficient. Repayments are made via utility bills over twenty-five years. The likely take-up rate is anyone’s guess, and Chris Huhne’s Department of Energy and Climate Change press release,  suggesting that the new scheme will create a quarter-of-a-million new jobs by 2030 makes amusing reading. Significantly, the Chancellor did not mention Huhne’s job creation claim in his speech.

If the government is serious about a green energy revolution, then one might expect that DECC would have escaped the axe. Instead it faces a cut which is magnified by the fact that much of the department’s budget is consumed by nuclear decommissioning liabilities incurred decades ago. DECC are to receive further help with this, but no mention of more money for green projects.

DEFRA, the ancestral home of climate alarmism, faces an even more swinging cut. Those who remember the havoc caused to new housing unwisely built on flood planes over the last few years, and the last government’s neglect of coastal defences, will not be surprised that there is an allocation albeit an unspecified amount to address these problems.

With major statements on the economy from government, it is often days before the true impact emerges, so I’ve been keeping an eye on the media to see what priority the green revolution would receive in interviews with the main protagonists.

First up was a rather worried looking Danny Alexander on Newsnight. In response to a series of taunting questions from Jeremy Paxman about the half-million jobs in the public sector that will be lost as a result of the cuts with maybe another half-million to come , the Chief Secretary to the Treasury reeled off a list of ways in which the government would help the private sector grow and provide new jobs: supporting the creation of small businesses, tax breaks for businesses, a ‘falling path’ for corporation tax, supporting exports ……. All this, claimed an increasingly flustered Danny, would create two million new jobs in the private sector. Only when a persistent Paxo asked whether the people of Swansea would have to get on their bikes to look for work when the Passport Office there closes did the chief secretary remember the Green Bank, and suggest that might be able to help. His tormentor didn’t let up, “Your finding an awful lot from a single billion, aren’t you’, he sneered. Alexander insisted that a lot more than that would go into the bank from asset sales, but he looked as though he was trying to convince himself rather than the audience. He certainly wasn’t suggesting that the £1 billion ‘set asside’ for the bank was a realistic sum.

The next morning George Osborne was interviewed at length by the ever astute and well-informed Evan Davis on the Today programme. The green revolution got very short shrift when the Chancellor said that capital going into transport infrastructure and green investment would help us through the bad times. No specifics were offered, and no follow-up question was asked by the interviewer.

The Chancellor’s statement seems to contain just enough greenwash  to keep the Liberals quiet, and with other measures that are already in place, will allow the claim that this is the ‘greenest government ever’ to be wheeled out when necessary. But the real situation is far more worrying. The only thing that is worse than a full-blown green revolution that would have an enormous impact on the cost of energy and the competitiveness of industry is a half-blown green revolution that is heading nowhere and cannot be halted because of the momentum that it has gained.

For the moment, the glorious prospect of us all having a windmill at the bottom of our garden and probably a solar panel where the sun don’t shine too now seems to exist only in the realms of political rhetoric.

33 Responses to “George Osborne’s spending cuts: the green revolution’s obituary?”

  1. TonyN Your last paragraph sums up the situation well and I think you are spot on about the correct amount of greenwash given out to keep the Liberals in line. And as you point out are we to get something worse than a full blown green economy?

    The answer to this is I don’t think we will over the long run but in the short term we will. Because the government has such a shortfall in funding they are unlikely to ditch any taxes that the previous government put in place. Ultimately they will have to because I don’t think any of them have given enough thought to the destructive effects of a carbon tax on the economy. In manufacturing it is either energy that is the big cost or labour. In the UK labour is high so we have to rely on smart ways of doing things to be competitive. If that involves using energy then we are shot down before we even start. So no new manufacturing jobs.

    Large companies are currently “shocked” that they are all going to have to pay a Carbon tax. Apart from this being a stupid idea, our large organisations have only themselves to blame. They have been all too ready to take advantage of the “green revolution” in the market place, and have looked to suck every subsidy possible out of the economy but now it is coming back to revisit them. They should have known better, as Gordon did it to them over the use of Gas powered commercial vehicles after a number of large companies had made large investments on the back of no excise duty on the fuel only to see it reversed with duty applied to automotive gas.

    But of course it is we the consumer and tax payers and especially those of us that are savers (pension payers mostly) that are bearing the brunt of the correction in the economy. Politics created this mess, aided by the Banking system that ran out of control whilst implementing the Politians master plan.

    But here is the rub. The Government cannot afford any inflation to get into the system as this will just be the straw that breaks the camels back. Nor can they put interest rates up to control it as this will hit growth and bankrupt us all. Yet it is the governments very own policies that are going to put inflationary pressures on the economy with high energy pricing. At a time when a glut of Gas has forced a decoupling of the Gas price from oil, and Russia and Qatar are having to halve their price, and are no longer able to charge a premium during the Northern winter, do we see a reduction in our domestic gas prices? No! And will private money come into green energy projects? No as despite the eye watering subsidies they still don’t work.

    We may get some money wasted on a carbon capture project, and there may even be a market for CO2 in forcing oil out of the ground, but ultimately any scheme that reduces efficiency and requires even more fuel to generate the same level of energy is doomed to failure. You can’t say on the one hand we are running out of fossil fuel and then on the other say we must install carbon capture that forces us to waste the fuel. This is stupefyingly stupid logic. And as of this moment no one is sure it will work on an industrial scale. My betting is private investors will pull out once they see the contracts.

    I think we may get another big wind farm started but over the next few years interest in these monuments to AGW and stupidity will become less attractive to investors as they realise that operating costs and returns are not in tune. I also predict people power will prevail and we will punish the political class if they don’t continue the dismantling of the green state, even if it is by stealth.

  2. If the capital cost of Nuclear power is ~£1.4 billion / gigawatt (according to Prof David MacKay) and the newly commissioned array off Thanet cost £0.78 billion and is rated at 0.300 gigawatt but even using a generous load factor of 35% is only capable of producing on average 0.105 gigawatt , it appears that in capital cost terms alone offshore wind costs ~£7.5 billion / gigawatt or more than 5 times the cost of the equivalent nuclear production.
    This of course ignores the additional costs of the essential parallel backup generating capacity as well as the costs of continuing feed-in tariffs.
    Supporting renewable energy, especially wind farms, is something that this cash strapped government should re-examine very carefully.
    The French seem to manage it pretty well with 85% nuclear generating capacity, the lowest electricity cost in Europe and the lowest carbon footprint of the developed world.
    Paying more than 5 times as much for an unreliable energy source must make economic nonsense.

    The FUTILITY of Man-made Climate Control by limiting CO2 emissions

    Just running the numbers: watch

    On average world temperature is ~+15 deg C. This is sustained by the atmospheric Greenhouse Effect ~33 deg C. Without the Greenhouse Effect the planet would be un-inhabitable at ~-18 deg C. The Biosphere and Mankind need the Greenhouse Effect.

    Just running the numbers by translating the agents causing the Greenhouse Effect into degrees centigrade:
    • Greenhouse Effect = ~33.00 deg C
    • Water Vapour accounts for about 95% of the Greenhouse Effect = ~ 31.35 deg C
    • Other Greenhouse Gases GHGs account for 5% = ~1.65 deg C
    • CO2 is 75% of the effect of all accounting for the enhanced effects of Methane, Nitrous Oxide and other GHGs = ~1.24 deg C
    • Most CO2 in the atmosphere is natural, more than ~93%
    • Man-made CO2 is less than 7% of total atmospheric CO2 = ~0.087 deg C
    • the UK contribution to CO2 is 2% equals = 1.74 thousandths deg C
    • the USA contribution to CO2 is ~20% equals = 17.6 thousandths deg C

    So closing all the carbon economies of the Whole World could only ever achieve a virtually undetectable less than -0.09 deg C. How can the Green movement and their supporting politicians think that their remedial actions and draconian taxes are able to limit warming to only + 2.00 deg C?

    So the probability is that any current global warming is not man-made and in any case such warming could be not be influenced by any remedial action taken by mankind however drastic.

    So if the numbers above are even close to the right ballpark, the prospect should be greeted with Unmitigated Joy:
    • concern over CO2 as a man-made pollutant can be discounted.
    • it is not necessary to damage the world’s economy to no purpose.
    • if warming were happening, it would lead to a more benign and healthy climate for all mankind.
    • any extra CO2 is already increasing the fertility and reducing water needs of all plant life and thus enhancing world food production.
    • a warmer climate, within natural variation, would provide a future of greater opportunity and prosperity for human development. This has been well proven in the past and would now especially benefit the third world.

    Nonetheless, this is not to say that the world should not be seeking more efficient ways of generating its energy, conserving its energy use and stopping damaging its environments. It remains absolutely clear that our planet is vastly damaged by many human activities such as:
    • environmental pollution.
    • over fishing.
    • forest clearance.
    • industrial farming.
    • farming for bio-fuels .
    • and other habitat destruction.

    And there is a real need to wean the world off the continued use of fossil fuels simply on the grounds of:
    • security of supply
    • increasing scarcity
    • rising costs
    • their use as the feedstock for industry rather than simply burning them.

    The French long-term energy strategy with its massive commitment to nuclear power is impressive, (85% of electricity generation). Even if one is concerned about CO2, Nuclear Energy pays off, French CO2 emissions / head are the lowest in the developed world.

    However in the light of the state of the current solar cycle, it seems that there is a real prospect of damaging cooling occurring in the near future for several decades. And as power stations face closure the lights may well go out in the winter 2016 if not before.

    All because CO2 based Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming has become a state sponsored religion.
    And now after “Splattergate” thanks to the 10:10 organisation everyone now knows exactly how they think.

    Splattergate is classic NOBLE CAUSE CORRUPTION. It is probably the most egregious piece of publicity ever produced in the Man-made Global Warming cause. This short film shows doubting schoolchildren being blown up and having their entrails spread over their classmates because they may have been less than enthusiastic about the CAUSE.
    So any misrepresentation is valid in the Cause and any opposition however cogent or well qualified is routinely denigrated, publically ridiculed and as we now see literally terminated.

  3. Peter Geany

    Just after I put up this post, I noticed something that Christopher Booker had to say in the Sunday Telegraph about increases in government spending:

    The one which has rightly drawn most flak is the colossal 47 per cent jump in our spending on overseas aid, due to rise from £7.8 billion to £11.5 billion. This includes, for instance, a further rise in the £800 million a year we already donate to India, one of the world’s fastest growing economies. This will be spent, inter alia, on promoting gender equality, assisting the Indians with their space programme, and of course on climate change (such as the £10 million free gift the Department For International Development is making to Dr Rajendra Pachauri’s Teri research institute).

    This includes, however, only a part of the £2.9 billion that will be spent, along with the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), as part of an EU scheme “to help developing countries pursue low-carbon growth and adapt to climate change”, which is a hefty part of the 27 per cent rise in the DECC budget over the next four years.

    Speaking from memory,this EU initiative was Gordon Brown’s idea as part of he Copenhagen negotiations. A fund of £7 billion was to be set up, with the UK providing £3 billion, regardless of whether other countries signed up to an agreement.

    I assume that the commitment was inescapable, but it still sounds as though ‘green revolutions’ elsewhere will benefit more from George Osborne’s statement than the one at home.

  4. Very good article and comments. Reading about Chris Huhne and the Green Deal, I was wondering about the economic sense (or lack thereof) behind it, and found this article on the Adam Smith Institute site.

    “Mr Huhne has committed the so-called ‘broken window fallacy.’ The broken window fallacy is a common error made in economics, and it neglects the unseen consequences of our actions. Breaking windows does not help the economy through giving glass manufactures more work, but actually means we lose out on the other goods that could have been produced instead of the extra glass. Unlike businesses and workers who earn their revenue through peaceful and mutually beneficial trade, government only takes its revenue from others by force and is by definition a drain on others. To put it simply, the Government cannot create jobs without first destroying others.

    Frédéric Bastiat pointed this out back in 1850. He wrote that whenever the government tries to create jobs, “it gives jobs to certain workers. That is what is seen. But it deprives certain other labourers of employment. That is what is not seen.” Bastiat concluded that such job creation programmes were “a ruinous hoax, an impossibility, a contradiction.””

  5. I find it hard to believe that any greenwash statement by the Conservatives will have practical consequences of a positive kind. For instance, the simple proposal to apply a variable charge for rubbish disposal, so that people who recycle more would pay less, while those who send more to landfill would pay more. I believe the idea was discussed, agreed in principle, and then later rejected by the Tories, for reasons that (to my knowledge) have never been disclosed. The costs of administering the scheme, possibly – but would it be that difficult to organise? Surely not.

  6. Ed

    Your post (2) remarking on the “green revolution’s obituary” article is spot on and I would agree with your calculations as well as the conclusions you have drawn from them.

    The “green revolution”, as envisioned by the politicians of this world (incl. those of the UK), was a “pipe dream”, based on false premises, from the start, as TonyN’s lead post points out.

    First of all, fossil fuels are limited, but we are not about to “run out”. At projected future usage rates, we have enough for 150 years or more (see calculation on NS thread #2372-2374). Plenty of time to switch electrical power generation to nuclear (as France has done successfully), plus develop new technologies (fast breeder fission reactors using thorium and generating almost no waste, nuclear fusion plus other technologies not even dreamed of today), without putting up ugly, expensive and inefficient windmills all over the place.

    Secondly, atmospheric CO2 from human emissions will not cause alarming warming and does not represent a serious threat to human society, as some are trying to make us believe.

    There is not enough carbon in all the fossil fuel reserves of our planet to get higher than 1,000 ppmv concentration, and this increase will only cause a theoretical greenhouse warming of around 1°C (all other things being equal). And, as we have seen from the cooling of the atmosphere plus ocean over the past decade despite record increases in CO2, “all other things” are not “equal”.

    Thirdly, you are correct when you write that

    warming could be not be influenced by any remedial action taken by mankind however drastic

    There have been no actionable proposals for “remedial action”, which would result in more than even 0.1°C temperature impact. James Hansen has proposed that no new coal-fired power plants be built in the USA after 2010, plus that half of all existing coal-fired plants be shut down by 2050. This drastic two-step “remedial action” would cost an estimated $1 trillion, while reducing atmospheric CO2 by 5 ppmv and temperature by a theoretical 0.05°C by the year 2050 (will supply calculation basis if interested). So it is a hare-brained proposal.

    But even if one is truly concerned about atmospheric CO2 increase or would like to extend the life of our fossil fuel reserves, nuclear power generation presents an immediate solution, and there is no worldwide shortage of nuclear fuel. And there is no reason to “chase windmills” until “the lights go out”.

    And with the billions we would save by not investing in environmentally unsightly and economically non-viable wind turbines we could improve our overall energy efficiency and address the many other real environmental problems you listed.

    Will the politicians in the UK be astute and strong enough to use the current financial crisis (plus some common sense, as they are being pressured by their constituents to show) to withstand the powerful lobby groups TonyN mentions and re-direct the “green revolution” away from its current hysterical and myopic obsession with CO2?

    Let’s hope so.

    Meanwhile, they can always invest in transmission lines across the Channel and enter long-term power supply contracts with France to keep the lights from going out when the wind isn’t blowing (or blowing too hard).


  7. TonyN #3

    Yes I had also spotted this and forgot about it when doing my reply. Perhaps I wanted to believe it wasn’t true, but it is just the sort of stupid thing that Cameron and Clegg would do thinking it is going to impress the electorate. Nothing could be further from the truth and just confirms for many that the pair of them are light weights when it comes to critical thinking. It also gives them a grating condescending tone when addressing the public, even though I believe they are sincere in their own way.

    Jason #5

    When government attempts to modify the market the only way that works is the carrot. And the carrot can only be used if it is to remain and not withdrawn. Withdrawing the carrot has always resulted in unexpected consequences and the stick approach also results in unexpected turns and twists. The best recent example of the carrot was the differential in the duty on unleaded fuel. Until the carrot of reduced duty was introduced no one was particularly interested. Once introduced uptake took everyone by surprise.

    Withdrawing the carrot as Gordon has tended to do always turns up the unexpected. In the example of the Gas Powered HGV’s I used above a large investment had been made by the operators in gas handling equipment as the infrastructure was not in place in the market. Gordon thought that once committed he had these companies where he wanted them and they would continue to convert and “invest”. However he and his advisors displayed a dismissive regards for the facts and poor grasp of technology and where it was going The operators quickly ditched all the Gas power vehicles and cut their losses, as they paid the bills and could not see the economic sense in continuing. Similarly with the pottery industry that had converted to state of the art Gas kilns, then along came Gordon and put a tax on starting a Kiln. So they were faced with keeping the kiln fired up and wasting fuel and money or shutting it down and only firing it up when needed as it was designed to be used and paying a punitive Tax. A no win situation that was just another unnecessary nail in the coffin of the industry forcing production overseas. Good one Gordon, but it did help them pretend they were doing their bit to reduce carbon emissions, a misnomer if ever there was one.

    So as we can see if the current government is serious they will offer the carrot that will stay in place. If they don’t understand any of this we will get continuing rhetoric about green jobs with sticks such as the carbon tax that will NEVER work, and never have worked.

  8. Hi Manacker

    Thank you for your kind comments: we clearly are on the same page. I only wish we could get the message across more cogently to a wider audience.
    You may like a book review I did last year on Prof David MacKays book Sustainable Energy: without the hot air, see below:


    By ED
    I have been reading a book which is crucially interesting and which sadly bodes ill for the future, particularly for our children and our children’s children.
    “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” by Professor David J C Mackay ( an important advisor to the UK government), see:, the entire book or subchapters can be downloaded free on the internet. And, also see a recent review in the Economist at

    Professor Mackay does believe in Man-made Global Warming and considers that reduction of CO2 emissions are essential to control possible future global warming. He clearly supports the IPCC (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other institutional party lines.
    Sustainable energy to address the problem is a vast subject, much pontificated over, but what is interesting about Professor Mackay’s book is that it dispels the many myths that have grown up particularly from within the Green movements and as such it is truly fascinating.
    “Sustainable energy without the hot air”, applies the numerical mind of a physicist to the problems, the solutions and the policies that are being promoted to combat global warming, carbon dioxide emissions and avoiding the burning of valuable fossil fuels, which will continue to be needed as the feed-stocks for industry.
    Mackay makes things straightforward, using round numbers and the concept of personal daily energy requirements, taken in the context of the UK and Western Europe. To maintain current lifestyle the 60 million people in the UK needs about 170 Gigawatts (GW) of energy supply, (ie the equivalent to about 170 nuclear power stations).
    Right across Western Europe people are currently using about 125 Kilowatt hours per person per day. By comparison energy usage in the USA is at double this rate, whereas China is now about 1/3 of the European level and India is half of that level again.
    At long last Professor MacKay has done the maths and presented the figures in an understandable form. As he says, “with numbers not adjectives”. This is what appeals to me so much about his approach. He weighs in on both sides of the equation, both energy consumption and energy production
    Energy Consumption
    Mackay envisages that the current levels of consumption could be significantly reduced, perhaps by as much as 45% in the following ways. They are radical.
    • Improved efficiency, can reduce heating and cooling costs by at least 25%. This means much improved insulation in new build, which can virtually eliminate heating costs, but which is not often an option in older building stock.
    • Turning down thermostats, and putting on an extra sweater, 10% of the average heating bill can be saved by a 1Cº reduction in the internal thermostat.
    • Of course cooling in summer to below winter temperatures, (very common in the US), with air conditioning is a real waste of energy.
    • The use of air source and ground source heat pumps is a choice for change made by individuals and can be very effective. Currently the equipment is costly but with enhanced take-up they could become much more economic.
    • Lighting Energy usage, is only about 3% of current overall consumption, nonetheless energy saving bulbs make a difference, mini fluorescent bulbs are at least five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and the LED bulbs coming on stream promise even greater efficiency and reliability.
    • Using electricity for transport, MacKay’s calculations show that electric cars are about 4 times more efficient than using any hydrocarbon fuel. But to give an idea of the scale of alternatives, if we were to convert all road transport in the UK to bio-fuels it would require a cultivated land area about the same size as Wales. MacKay regards hybrid cars as an insignificant possible stop gap. He sees the use of hydrogen as a fuel to be worthless and particularly misleading, (in spite of its clean emissions on the road), because of the energy requirements needed to generate and distribute hydrogen, give an actual energy consumption of some 2.5 times as much as an ordinary petrol car.
    • Incidentally keeping head lights on in the daytime increases fuel consumption by about 2%.
    • Thus providing well-loaded high-speed electric trains are really efficient ways to get around.
    • Not flying: David MacKay’s calculations show that a single long haul flight, (for example London – Johannesburg – London), in a year uses as much energy per person as motoring an average of 50km every day. So when we Europeans gaily commute 5 or 6 times across Europe on airlines that charge us next to nothing, we are really contributing massively to the energy usage problem. Some time soon cheap flying will have to be a thing of the past.
    • MacKay also notes the laws of physics simply make it unlikely that there can be any significant efficiency improvement in flying as a means of transport. Whatever money is spent on research and development, the new materials, the new engines etc. all improvements will be marginal whatever the manufacturers may say.
    So only radically changing habits could make a real difference in energy consumption.
    But such a change will also require a greatly increased scale of electricity generation, doubling UK electrical generating capacity to about 90 Gigawatts from the current 45 Gigawatts.
    The question then is where can this increased electricity generation come from and what the likely alternate sources are going to cost in terms of finance, use of land and security of supply. David Mackay draws a scaled map of the UK showing the vast land areas that would be taken up even by a rational combination of various alternative energy generation schemes.
    He makes a further crucial point that some alternative energy sources only generate heat energy rather than the higher grade more valuable and transportable electrical energy. However probably his most important point is that whatever is done, it will only ever be effective if it is on the grand scale. Turning off battery chargers and not leaving equipment on standby or other minor gestures are not going to dent the problem or save the planet. As David MacKay says only “every BIG helps”.
    Energy Generation
    So what are the main alternatives for sustainable power generation. These can be compared by their likely cost / Gigawatt and by their land area requirements.
    Wind power: the wind is intermittent and thus can only ever be about 20% effective.
    • Wind power requires equivalent back-up standby generating power or storage capacity for the times when the wind does not blow or blows too much. The investment and massive subsidies for wind power seems to be utterly misguided. The energy companies are beginning to realise this and are cancelling projects.
    • On-shore wind farms: in average generating capacity these are reasonably cost effective (rather the less than the total equivalent cost of nuclear power, but this does not count the essential “spinning” back-up generating, grid or storage resources). Wind farms take very large areas of land and are environmentally obnoxious. To provide the 90 Gigawatts, (without the essential backup) would mean covering 2/3 of the of the land area of the UK with wind farms. Incidentally they don’t kill that many birds, domestic cats are 1000 times as effective.
    • Off-shore wind farms: are at least twice as expensive as those built on land, but they are probably a somewhat more consistent source of power. However they require massive engineering, and they still need backup generating or storage capacity. Offshore wind farms have very considerable maintenance problems and are subject to much heavier wear and tear and corrosion difficulties.
    Using water power: water is a 1000 times denser than air, the tides and their associated currents are therefore much more powerful and more importantly entirely predictable when compared with the power from wind. Better still the tides around the UK are out of phase so tidal power has potential to provide continuous power day and night. The use of waterpower for electricity storage by pumped storage on demand schemes is well understood and effective:
    • Tidal lagoons could be used in a similar manner. Estuarine barrages and tide lagoons use the outgoing and incoming tides released through turbines to generate electricity.
    • These projects have the potential to be of sufficient scale to make worthwhile contributions. It has been estimated that the Severn barrage alone could well contribute 5% of UK power needs: then there are the Wash, Morecombe Bay, Strangford Loch, etc. However the schemes would not be cheap, at their average output estimated at as much as 5 times the cost of nuclear generation. Such schemes will also run into massive environmental protest.
    • Tidal stream: there are many locations around the UK where tidal currents are powerful and predictable. These could be exploited by submerged fields of free-standing turbines but a great deal of research and investment in development still needs to be undertaken. They are likely to be costly, at about twice the price of nuclear power and are also likely to be subject to maintenance problems.
    • Wave power: the technology has been developed on a small scale. One established form operates with long snakes of jointed floating caissons, which generate power as they flex in the waves. The scale necessary to generate worthwhile power would be enormous about 70 kms / Gigawatt. They are also entirely dependent on the weather and sea-state and so can only ever give irregular output and like wind energy would require back-up generation. Current costs for average output are about 5 times cost of nuclear power. They will also have all the maintenance problems of off-shore wind power.
    • Hydroelectricity: is well established, but in the UK the uplands sites for generation are comparatively limited in comparison to the generating capacity needed. However they can be controlled to provide backup energy on demand.
    Heat pumps: extracting heat from the air or the soil is a very effective way of using electric power for heating and possibly the reverse for cooling. The technique only produces lower grade heat energy but the costs are comparatively low, a quarter of nuclear energy. The use of such equipment is an individual decision and pumps are integrated into new or existing housing and thus make no demands on land use.

    Energy Storage: storage of electricity is notoriously difficult, sources of standby capacity are essential for most renewable energy sources, (wind, solar etc.).
    • Pumped storage: There are a few operational UK schemes where pumped storage is achieved very effectively. These are essentially two water reservoirs one above the other with reversible generators / pumps. When there is excess, “cheap” power in the grid, it is used to fill the upper reservoir and later the water is released to recover the power via the turbines. The largest UK installation at Dinorwig in North Wales has an output greater than 1GW. The technology is reasonably priced, needs suitable upland sites, but is replicable and does not use much land.
    • Other storage: the most promising of these is the future use of battery storage in a large fleet of privately owned electric vehicles as mentioned earlier using intelligent charging and control technology.
    Solar energy: the sun is intermittent day by day and not particularly effective as far North as the UK. The value of solar input potential in Southern Spain, the Southern USA or the Sahara is more than twice the UK level.
    • Solar hot water: individual domestic and industrial water heating systems can make a contribution even in the UK. They would absorb a lot of urban roof space, which objectors would find unsightly. In cost terms although they would be individual purchases, they are expensive for their relatively small productive capacity of low-grade thermal energy.
    • Photovoltaic farms: with high technology it is possible to convert sunlight directly into electricity and there are some small scale examples. Of course these systems work better the further south you go and returns in the UK would be comparatively small. They would take up significant but not enormous land area. The estimated cost is about 3 times that of nuclear power generation.
    • Solar power in deserts: a serious proposal is that solar power could be collected and imported from other peoples deserts and transmitted north to Europe, (the long distance transmission technology does work). Also technology is available to ensure local overnight local storage to improve the consistency of supply.
    • The scale would have to be enormous, (a plant area of plant the size of Wales would be needed to provide the UK with its power needs), and the costs also are very high, about six times that of nuclear energy. Of course having such plants on other peoples’ territory would raise security of supply problems.
    Waste incinerators: incineration of household and agricultural waste has real potential for a limited amount of power generation. It costs about twice as much as the equivalent nuclear generation. So far the UK has some limited success but is lagging far behind the best. In Denmark for example, where waste incineration is already 11 times more effective than the UK. Incineration of collected waste seems much more effective than attempts to gather gas from rotting landfill sites. Incinerators may not be thought to be the best of neighbours but they need only take up a limited amount of urban land.
    Clean coal: there are very substantial fossil fuel coal reserves in the UK and around the world, but the normal way coal is burnt results in significant CO2 release. It is conceivable that the waste gasses could be collected and sequestered underground. It is not easy and it will be expensive. The cost is estimated to be about twice current generating costs and at least half as much again when compared with nuclear energy. However the land take would be modest. As the CO2 produced is a plant fertiliser, sequestration of CO2 would seem to be a particularly pointless exercise unless it can be conclusively proven to be the cause of climate change.
    Growing plants for fuel, biomass: photosynthesis, though effective in nature on a world scale, is a very poor way of converting solar energy and atmospheric CO2 into fuels useable for electricity generation or transport, (about 0.2 watts / sqm as opposed to almost 20 watts / sqm for photovoltaics in Southern California).
    The fossil fuels we burn now are the result of many billions of years of photosynthesis. When burnt, the biomass probably increases CO2 levels even though to arrive as a fuel carbon capture has taken place so the process is essentially carbon neutral:
    • Wood: growing wood for fuel requires about 2500 sq km to produce a Gigawatt of energy in other words 8 times current UK area of forestry for the 90 Gigawatts required.
    • Biofuels: growing crops to generate liquid fuels diesel or ethanol for example is possible and proven but is even more space consuming at about 6000 sq km per Gigawatt. This would mean about 12 times the UK arable land area for the 90 Gigawatts required.
    But we also need arable land to grow food. The devastating effects of replacing food crops are already being seen and their replacement for biofuels is leading to rapid food price rises especially in the developing world: biofuels are not a solution but a real disaster in the making.
    Nuclear fission: in spite of all the adverse publicity and protest, it seems that nuclear fission:
    • is about a million times more effective at energy production than any fuel chemical reaction
    • is effective and capable of constant continuous production
    • is comparatively cheap compared with more “environmentally acceptable” alternatives
    • absorbs very little land
    • produces a small amount of waste that can be handled comparatively easily in spite of the propaganda
    • produces no CO2 from its production
    • has a virtually unlimited fuel supply
    • is immediately available
    • has potential for greatly increased efficiency (up to 60 times current output levels) in the future even enhancing current known technologies using fast breeder reactors and / or thorium technology
    • does not pose security of supply problems.
    David MacKay does not say he is a supporter of nuclear energy but his arithmetic shows that it is likely to be the only real and currently available answer of sufficient scale to tackle the impending energy problem facing the UK and the world.
    As the former director of Greenpeace International Patrick More, (now much vilified by his old movement), has said “we made the mistake of lumping nuclear energy with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil. I think that is as big a mistake as if you lumped nuclear medicine with nuclear weapons”.
    At last David MacKay has done the world a great favour in clearly laying out the numbers involved in sustainable energy.
    His book does not make for comfortable reading. It clearly explodes many of the myths promoted by Green campaigners in the past years and negates many of the policies that governments are now pursuing, (particularly, for example the subsidising of wind energy). I sincerely hope that the world’s policy makers will sit up and take notice. Fat chance ???

    In Conclusion
    The greatest tragedy is that the Green Movements have so effectively negated the nuclear energy option in much of the Western world for so long. If, (and this is a very big if), the production of CO2 from fossil fuels is in fact posing a major the problem and inducing climate change, nuclear energy seems to be the only viable alternative for mankind. Without the malign influence of the “well-meaning” green movements, something might have been done to ameliorate the planet’s position as far as its CO2 emissions were concerned.
    Indeed, if CO2 emissions are the real problem, Green objections to Nuclear Energy will bear a very heavy responsibility for the damage they have done to the future of our planet.
    There is even, a not unreasonable, conspiracy theory that Alexander Litvinenko was murdered using the very exotic radioactive element Polonium, simply to make sure that the West remained fearful and antagonistic towards anything nuclear and thus help maintain the full dependence of Western Europe on Russian energy supplies.
    France is one of the few countries that has wisely resisted pressures from the environmental lobbies, as a result 85% of all their electricity generation is nuclear. Thus it is the most enlightened in the world. Their nuclear industries now hold the most advanced technologies in the field, (a position once held by the UK, but which was sold off for a pittance by the last Labour government). The French are also fully involved in the next round of fusion power generation at Cadarache, which is a great hope for clean energy generation for the future.
    There is already a transmission line from France to the UK capable of carrying the output of two French nuclear power stations, but of course, the French will be able to set the price when the brown-outs start and the lights go out in the UK in only a few years time, (that is likely to start in about 2015, see the earlier diagram).
    The French have even embraced high-speed electrically powered trains as an acceptable alternative to medium distance flying within Europe.

  9. Hi Ed,

    Thanks for your post with the excerpts from the MacKay book. I will download it and read the whole book.

    I agree fully that nuclear fission is the most economical and most environmentally sound way to go today (as France has already seen). It is too bad that there is this hysteria in Germany, for example, against the planned extension of the nuclear moratorium there. A similar hysteria against nuclear power seems to exist in the UK, some other European countries and possibly North America.

    I live in Switzerland, where we have the advantage that hydroelectric power can be generated inexpensively. There are no fossil fuels to speak of in Switzerland and hardly any electric power is generated from fossil fuels today, so our second source is nuclear. Since we have the same “green” pressures opposing permits for new nuclear plant sites, our government has wisely decided that there will be no new sites, but only renewal (and expansion) of nuclear plants at existing plant sites, where no new permits will be required.

    MacKay apparently does not believe that using electrolytically generated hydrogen as a motor fuel makes economic sense, and I would agree (also for safety reasons, having worked directly with hydrogen in the past).

    He has apparently concluded that human CO2 emissions could cause major future climate problems. My conclusion, based on the empirical evidence at hand, is that there is no real serious danger from anthropogenic greenhouse warming (AGW) from human CO2 emissions, despite the claims made by IPCC.

    This is based on three observations.

    The first has to do with the historical temperature record since the modern record started in 1850 (Hadley). Even if one assumes that there have been no spurious warming signals from the urban heat island effect, the many station relocations and shutdowns, the poor coverage in many locations, land use changes, poor station siting and possible manipulations and ex post facto “adjustments” of the raw data by the “keepers of the records” (who are also AGW activists), this record does not give a robust correlation with the increase in atmospheric CO2. There are multi-decadal warming and cooling cycles resembling a sine curve on a slightly tilted axis showing a warming trend of 0.04C per decade, with an overall warming/cooling cycle of around 60 years and an amplitude of ±0.2C. There is no robust statistical correlation with atmospheric CO2, which has increased at a fairly constant compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.4% per year since measurements were started at Mauna Loa in 1958, and is estimated based on ice core data to have risen at a lower CAGR of around 0.1% from pre-industrial time to 1958. Statisticians have concluded that the correlation is, statistically speaking, a “random walk” rather than a robust correlation. Without “correlation” there is a very weak argument for “causation”.

    The second has to do with empirical data derived from actual physical observations on clouds by Spencer et al., which were published after the latest IPCC report and which conceded that “cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty”. Despite this large uncertainty, all models cited by IPCC assumed that clouds would exert a strongly positive feedback with warming, strong enough to increase the 2xCO2 dT (climate sensitivity) by 1.3C, from 1.9C (without cloud feedback) to 3.2C (on average) including cloud feedback. Now that actual physical observations have provided empirical data that the net overall cloud feedback is strongly negative instead of strongly positive, these assumptions can be corrected. Instead of a 2xCO2 dT of 3.2C we now have a climate sensitivity of below 1C. This means that the theoretical warming from CO2 increase one can expect from today until year 2100 is around 0.5C, so nothing to worry about.

    Subsequent satellite observations on the Earth’s radiation budget by Lindzen and Choi confirm this net overall negative feedback and a 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of less that 1C.

    The third observation has to do with our planet’s most recent cooling, despite record increases in atmospheric CO2. The atmosphere has cooled at both the surface (HadCRUT) and in the troposphere (UAH, RSS) after 2000. The upper ocean has also cooled since comprehensive Argo measurements replaced the less reliable expendable XBT devices in 2003. Latent heat from melting ice or increased net evaporation is too small to make a difference, so our planet is losing energy, despite the CO2 increase. Pro-AGW climate scientist, Kevin Trenberth has called this “absence of warming” a “travesty” and has indicated that the “missing energy” is probably going out into “space”, with “clouds acting as a natural thermostat” (thereby indirectly confirming the observations of Spencer et al.).

    So the hypothesis that AGW has been a major cause of past warming and represents a serious potential threat has been directly falsified by empirical data based on physical observations. Until these falsifications can be refuted scientifically, the “dangerous AGW” premise remains an “uncorroborated hypothesis”, and may eventually become an “invalidated hypothesis”, which can be discarded.

    So, I agree with MacKay that the nuclear option is a logical way to go to ensure a long-term safe and economic supply source for electrical power. And I would agree that this option should help to avert possible future “peak oil” problems.

    However, I do not agree that human CO2 emissions present a real problem for our society or our environment.

    But let me read the whole book first.


  10. Hi Max and Ed

    I’m a member of the focus fusion society.

    It seems an interesting way to generate power without the potential problems of nuclear. The web site is informative


  11. TonyB

    Although I have not yet seen the projected economic evaluations, I’d agree with you that power generation by fusion technology will most likely be the way to go, once this technology has been developed for commercial use.

    Will this be in ten years, in five years, or even sooner?

    Your “focus fusion society” is right, and if only half the money went into R+D work for fusion that is now going into the whole “anthropogenic climate change” boondoggle (including building wind farms, etc.), the time could probably be shortened considerably.

    But there are other, already available, technologies, which could bridge the gap and essentially get rid of the main objection to nuclear fission (i.e. the spent fuel problem), namely fast breeder technology with or without thorium.

    I’m sure that the transition from a primarily fossil fuel economy to new nuclear technology will come, even without all the AGW hysteria, and without having to cut back our global GDP or growth by setting arbitrary “caps” on CO2 emissions.


  12. Max #11

    We need a ‘new’ main stream power source as the old tried and tested ones are deemed to be unacceptable.

    If there were an ‘Apollo’ type project to find alternative sources rapidly-and there are compelling security reasons for doing so- fusion is probably some three years away from meaningful trials.

    It would cost much less to develop than carbon capture technology which, despite all the assurances, is at a very early stage of development and the indications are that it will prove highly expensive.

    I think sensible cost effective renewables are something all sides can agree are necessary, but for different reasons.


  13. TonyB

    I agree with you on nuclear fusion.

    The “focusfusion” site you linked gives some very interesting information.

    If is really is true (as it appears) that nuclear fusion could become a viable reality within 3 to 5 years, we should be spending our billions supporting this development, rather than pouring it down the totally non-value added hole of carbon capture/sequestering or slapping up inefficient and ungainly windmills all over the landscape.

    The “good news” is that this development would provide the “paradigm shift” to make the whole AGW discussion meaningless (and cause the multi-billion dollar AGW business to crumble, along with the prospect for trillions of dollars of direct or indirect carbon taxes).

    However, the “bad news” is that paradigm shifts do not come painlessly, and TonyN’s influential “convenient network” will not just go away without putting up resistance.

    How dependent is this R+D work on government support (the topic of this thread)? This might present a problem, as politicians see the tax trillions from global carbon regulation slipping away.

    The many powerful vested interests (solar panel and windmill producers, “green” energy companies, carbon traders, etc.) will not simply let their golden goose slip away without a fight.

    The political leadership of venerable scientific organizations will also have a hard time accepting the fact that the multi-billion dollar AGW gravy train for “climate research” has dried up.

    Environmental activist groups are not going to give up their ideological fight against evil industry – will they simply switch to lobbying against nuclear fusion research, by conjuring up all sorts of imaginary nuclear hobgoblins and marshalling ideologically indoctrinated “foot soldiers” to carry out highly visible “civil disobedience” protests against nuclear fusion?

    And the media, what will they do? Will “disastrous tipping points from AGW” be replaced by “dire warnings of potential thermonuclear apocalypse”, with pictures of the Bikini Atoll tests and a caption “could this happen here?”

    Will self-appointed “saviors of the planet”, such as Al Gore, make another Oscar-winning movie, warning us that nuclear fusion is the road to the end of human civilization?

    And finally, will well meaning but misguided government regulators backed by groups of anti-nuclear lawyers make it difficult or even impossible for nuclear fusion plants to be built?

    I sincerely hope that there are private industries (with deep pockets and a healthy profit motive) supporting this R+D work and that it does not rely too heavily on government support, itself dependent on a “paradigm shift” in the thinking of our politicians.

    But, with all the negative thoughts expressed above, I think that power generation from new economically and environmentally viable nuclear fusion technology would be a major boon for mankind. And I am optimistic that we will be able to continue to grow our global economies and improve our standard of living by having a growing and reliable source of energy (rather than embarking on a guilt-driven path of forcing ourselves to use less energy in order to fight the imaginary carbon hobgoblin).

    It would enable the industrially developed world to cover new energy requirements plus gradually replace older and less efficient fossil fuel plants, thereby extending the life of the fossil fuel reserves we have. China and India could supply their growing energy needs as well.

    The poorest nations of this world would probably still need to build up their energy infrastructures with energy-efficient and cost-effective fossil fuel plants, based on local resources, where available (I doubt if the world would want every African, Middle Eastern or Central American nation, for example, to have nuclear fusion technology if it could be misused for military or terrorist purposes).

    Keep us all informed, as you learn more about the progress of the work on this very interesting and very pertinent new development.


  14. tonyb that looks an interesting site. You have my attention but it will take me a fews days or a week to get through all that stuff.

    Max you have as always summed matters up well.

    I would like to add a couple of thoughts on how I think energy matters will play out in the west in the next 10 to 15 years. The Key to what happens is the US, and as those of us who are keeping just half an eye on what’s happening over there know the elections on the 2 Nov could change the political landscape completely.

    Leaving aside the Politics I think the US is set to reinvigorate its own home grown oil industry. It has now become self-sufficient in Gas, and may be able to export some. This has decoupled the price of gas from the price of oil, much to the chagrin of Russia and Qatar. This is good news for European consumers so long as our governments don’t load the price with “carbon taxes” Here in the UK we are yet to see any benefit, but if it doesn’t come soon I am sure it will heap pressure on the current Government.

    Also if the US manages to produce more of its own oil, (this may take 5 to 10 years to kick in) this will then further depress the oil price. I know China and India are currently set to take up the slack but their continued growth is going to have to come on the back of domestic demand rather than on western demand based on cheap credit. Also pressure is building in both the US and Europe for politicians and business leaders alike to stop exporting jobs.

    So the notion of having to switch to alternate energy sources because of “peak oil” is off the agenda for the foreseeable future. The whole AGW momentum is slowing down with politicians looking for an honourable way out from some of their thoughtless positions. This will take the pressure off dealing with some of the questions over Nuclear. The UK will fill some of its gap in production with further Gas power stations, although personally I find this a wasteful way of using Gas. Coal will make a comeback and Carbon Capture will be consigned to the waste bin.

    Running concurrently with this will be a movement politically throughout the west to rid ourselves of self-serving grand standing Politicians. Those here in the UK have learnt nothing from the expenses scandal, and continue to take the electorate for granted and talk to us as if we are idiots. My only regret will be that science will be damaged unnecessarily due to the Royal Societies mishandling of AGW.

  15. Peter Geany

    I find your thoughts “spot on”, regardless of how quickly nuclear fusion can become an economically and environmentally viable commercial reality.

    I agree fully that “peak oil” hysteria is “off the agenda”. It was a misguided anxiety in the first place, as we have well over 100 years’ of fossil fuel reserves even at increased future rates of consumption. This would be even longer if technology to commercially recover natural gas from methane hydrates (clathrates) from the ocean bottom is developed.

    I also agree with you that politicians in many countries will still have to fight the nuclear bugaboo, and “nuclear fusion” will most likely carry this same political burden, even though it does not have the problem of spent fuel handling and disposal that current nuclear fission plants have.

    You may be right that, if the elections in the USA go as is now expected, the cry of “drill, baby, drill!” will be heard again. This may possibly also open ANWR plus oil shale development activities, creating a lot of new (if not necessarily “green”) jobs.

    Your thoughts on China/India switching from producing solely for export (on credit) to producing increasingly for home consumption are interesting. American economist, Peter Schiff, has expressed similar views. Whether the USA will be able to redevelop a viable manufacturing industry will probably depend on how quickly new high tech products can be developed and marketed. But I doubt if the old “rust belt” industries or those with a significant manpower component will ever be revived there again.

    Using natural gas for standby power generation makes sense, since these plants are easy to switch on and off, but I agree with you that natural gas is probably too valuable a commodity to use simply for power generation. Will it become the motor fuel of choice as it apparently is for trucks in Australia (and as T. Boone Pickens tried to instigate for the USA)?

    And, yes, CO2 capture/sequestering is about the dumbest thing we could ever consider. We know that CO2 is a harmless natural trace component of our atmosphere, but we do not have any idea what would happen if we injected, at high cost, massive amounts of CO2 into geological formations.

    No. I’ll take that back. The absolutely dumbest thing we could do is to implement the Carnegie Institute proposal of injecting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to fight global warming, which was apparently suggested by John Holdren, President Obama’s “science czar”.



    PS Yes. “Science”, and in particular “climate science”, has gotten a black eye as a result of pandering to the politicians and (even more) fudging the data. But I believe that a venerable organization, such as the Royal Society, can easily replace its political leadership with a cleverly worded “mea culpa” and regain most of this lost credibility.

  16. Peter Geany,

    You complain “Those {politicians} here in the UK…. continue to take the electorate for granted and talk to us as if we are idiots.”

    Not all of the the UK electorate are idiots by any means. But all countries have their share of them. In Australia the two major parties are just about even in the polls and the ‘idiot vote’ certainly can’t be ignored and may well be a factor which is on your side! Churchill is often quoted as saying “The best argument against democracy is a five minute talk with the average voter”.

    Incidentally I wouldn’t be too sure about peak oil just yet. The recession is taking the sting out of world oil prices but the trend is still upwards.

  17. You’ve gotta love the turn down the thermostat bumper sticker thinking.

    Notice how they never say what a good temperature is. Just lower than what you have now.

  18. The peak X theories always seem plausible.

    The only problem is that there has never been peak anything.

    The Bronze Age never ran out of bronze.
    The stone age never ran out of stone.
    The horse age never ran out of hay…

    It’s just more apocalyptic tosh from the Ned Flanders crew in the green corner.

  19. PeterM

    Yes. It is reasonable to predict that we will run out of petroleum (and other fossil fuel) reserves some day 150 years or so from now (based on expected growth of consumption rates, optimistically estimated long-term reserves, and “all other things being equal”).

    But it is highly unlikely that “all other things will be equal”.

    Remember the 1860 forecasts that Manchester (plus London and New York) would be covered by two meters of horse manure by 1920, due to the rapidly increasing number of horse carriages.

    Peter Geany, Jack Hughes and TonyB have all got it right.

    “Peak oil” is as unlikely as inundation of cities by horse manure was, for the reasons cited plus the development of new technology.

    And that is why the IPCC model projections for year 2100 are so silly (and arrogantly presumptuous).

    And (along with the recent slowdown) also why the political emphasis on “fighting AGW” is beginning to wane in the UK (topic of this thread) as well as elsewhere as politicians are gradually waking up to the fact that “fighting AGW” has little popular support and, even more, that the whole dangerous AGW premise is based on flawed and fudged “science”.


  20. PeterM

    You may be right. In democratic societies it is (what you condescendingly call) the ‘idiot vote’ that decides elections.

    One can only hope that this vote does not always send ‘idiot politicians’ into office, as has happened in the past, especially those who consider themselves part of the ‘intellectual elite’ and think they therefore know better what is good for their constituents than the constituents themselves. These are the real ‘idiots’. (But fortunately they do not remain in office too long.)


  21. Jack Hughes,

    What do you mean there has never been peak anything? World Oil production peaked in 2005!
    Just whether the peak has caused the present financial crisis, or whether it is the other way around, is still a matter of some debate. However it is pretty clear that it has peaked.

  22. PeterM

    Peak oil consumption (and production) peaked in 2005?

    Sounds reasonable.

    Has nothing to do with how many years of reserves we still have left, however.

    In fact, if consumption (and production) decrease, the number of years left actually increase, right?

    As far as whether our consuming a bit less oil has anything to to with the investment banking excesses and sub-prime mortgage idiocies that resulted in the recent bank collapse and current recession, I doubt it, Peter.

    Why not say the recession was caused by the 0.2C increase in “globally and annually averaged land and sea surface temperature” from 1990 to today; that would be just as silly.


  23. PeterM

    The current financial crisis has its roots with the Clinton administration and is a totally political issue. Only Politicians and those who hang on their every word continue to blame the Banks. Did some banks behave badly; of course they did because the regulators let them and in some cases helped them. In some instances it was a case of take big risks and improve profits or be taken over and it will happen anyway.

    Peak oil, AGW, etc etc is a political issues, not one of science or engineering. In fact we are now moving from the Age of Stupid to the Age of Unintended Consequences where many of the measures introduced to prevent the imaginary problem of the planet warming due to human activity is actually causing the real problems of rising food prices and deforestation. Both these issue will affect the poor and impoverished, those very people our gormless politicians pretend they are trying to protect.

  24. Peter Geany

    I agree with you (23).

    Sure, there were greed-driven excesses by investment banks selling non-transparent “products”, but politicians (during the Clinton administration) created the “easy money for everyone” environment that resulted in the sub-prime mortgage problem in the first place.

    I have seen this theory in several articles. Here is one:

    But it sure as hell had nothing to do with “peak oil”, regardless of what some hare-brained economists might theorize.


  25. PeterM and Peter Geany

    Has “oil demand” peaked?

    This study by Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency seems to think it has.

    It cites “more fuel efficiency and the use of alternatives” as part of the reason.

    Birol said the economic crisis had played a role in curbing OECD demand but the main reasons were more efficient cars and the increasing use of electricity and gas instead of oil in areas outside transport.

    “It did play a role. The recession had a one-off effect,” said Birol, who spoke to Reuters from the sidelines of the Davos conference of business leaders. “But the main factors are structural.”

    Makes sense to me.

    But it does not sound like a “crisis”, does it? (Just means that the remaining oil reserves of our planet will last a bit longer.)

    Important to note is that this is a natural economically-based “structural” development, not one forced down the throats of humanity by political edict. This confirms that the “free market” usually solves supply/demand issues, often with new technology.

    And I agree with you, PeterG, that the best thing is to keep the “self-serving grand standing politicians” out of the act.


Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



8 × = twenty four

© 2011 Harmless Sky Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha