Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The 2011 election manifestos 4. Little choice

For those who are not aficionados of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) the manifestos present little choice.  The question is not "Who represents me?",  for none of the parties do, but "Which party is least enthusiastic about CAGW?"

The Green Party, (which I have not always included, though they are expected to pick up at least one seat in the Lothians), is, of course, closest to a full-on CAGW position.

The full SNP manifesto is full of little things designed to be seen as business incentives as well as 'green' measures.  They are proud of piloting through the 'groundbreaking' 2009 Scottish Climate Change Act with its emissions targets, at that time, beyond those of any other country. And their manifesto indicates they are keen to keep up that momentum with a pledge for 100% renewable regeneration of electricity by 2020 (up from the 40% target when they were elected in 2007).

Despite the criticism of the inequitable and iniquitous feed-in tariffs, the Lib Dems and Labour are particularly keen to extend this particular style of public subsidy.  There is a review under way which will begin to tame them at the UK level.  On another issue Labour, of course have now joined the Conservatives as being in favour of nuclear energy, at least in principle.

And the Conservatives (despite my best efforts) are still worshiping at the feet of the Great Green God of global warming - but at least more cautiously than the other parties.

Still, some of the measures proposed might lead to more efficiency - which is good.  The problem is locating those which might have good impacts when you strip out the CAGW belief system, based as it is on flawed science and sentiment.

The 2011 election manifestos 3. Carbon Capture

Carbon Capture:

Conservative (2)   ["Let's get a slice of what is already committed up to Scotland!"]
"Our colleagues at Westminster are spending £1bn on CCS.  That's more than any government anywhere in the world is giving to a single plant, and we want that to be invested here in Scotland, at Longannet."

Labour (2)   [ "Not sure about this CCS.  No more coal until you prove it can be done".]
"We will not consent to new, non-replacement fossil-fired power stations unless they can demonstrate effective carbon capture and storage technology from the outset."
Lib Dem:    [No room for additional use of coal (I think!)]
"Support the development of carbon capture and storage technology for existing power stations and as a potential avenue for export.  We do not see the need for a new coal fired power station at Hunterston." 

 SNP (3)   ["We'll keep the door open just a tiny bit for new coal]
"Any new coal-fired station would need to demonstrate Carbon Capture and Storage on at least 300MW of its capacity from day one and retro-fitting for those stations by 2025, with 100% CCS expected from new builds by 2020."

Greens (2)   ["Unproven technology, this CCS.  Beware of it becoming a Trojan horse for coal!"]
"Carbon Capture and Storage technology remains unproven and, while research continues into its viability, the possibility of success must not be an excuse for new unabated coal generation."

The 2011 election manifestos 2. Nuclear

 Nuclear generation of power

Conservative (4)
"We will end the policy of the current Scottish Governement of refusing to consider the replacement of existing nuclear power generating capacity."
Labour (1)
"Any application for consent for new nuclear capacity will be considered on its merits. . ."
Lib Dem (1)
"Continue to oppose the construction of new nuclear power plants in Scotland."
SNP (8)
"We will continue to oppose. . ." 
Green (10)   [Fulmination!]
"No nuclear."

The 2011 election manifestos 1. Emissions

With just over a week to 5th May when Scotland votes in the Holyrood elections here is a look at the manifestos of the main parties on a range of climate change issues.  I will compare on emissions and then, in later posts, look at views on nuclear generation followed by carbon capture.   The fourth post will be my own brief comment.  (The numbers in round brackets are the number of times a phrase or word appears in the main manifesto)  [Square bracketed comments are mine]

Emissions (targets and measures)

Conservative (0)  No target mentioned but measures to
  • Improve take up of Green council tax discount
  • Retain Home Energy Reports
  • Consolidate energy efficiency schemes into one system
  • Require LAs to produce heat maps
  • Require all publioc bodies to publish details of energy consumption and commit to a target
Labour (5)  Measures to
  • restates Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 of 42% reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 
  • create a new feed-in tariff to promote the expansion of household renewables and investigate further council tax discounts
  • create 'New Energy' quango
  • loan scheme for energy efficiency
  • consult on raising building standards
  • commit to Green New Deal to create new jobs and provide low carbon electricity for 10,000 homes
  • require LAs to produce heat maps
  • introduce schemes to capture and use surplus heat via new smart heat grids
  • encourage infrasturture for electic vehicles
Lib Dems (10) No target mentioned but measures to
  • provide a single streamlined model for the delivery of energy efficiency in Scotland
  • encourage the use of feed-in tariffs 
  • new buildings to be zero carbon by 2016.  Introduce minimum standards for existing buildings by 2015.
  • divert £250m money from Investing in Scotland's Future Fund to insulation.
  • improve Renewable Heat Incentive
  • improve grid connections
SNP (7)
  • restates Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 of 42% reduction of carbon emissions by 2020
  • develop infrastructure to support electic cars
  • renewable electricity target to be 100% by 2020
  • spend to create a single Universal Home Insulation Scheme and a Future Generations Fund
  • 2GW target for renewable energy consumption by 2020
  • Increase funding for the Climate Challenge Fund and create a District Heating Loan Fund
  • Make use of carbon sinks (sea, peatbogs and more forests)
Parts 2, 3 and 4 to follow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nuffield report dubs biofuel policy unethical

Palm oil is used in Scottish produced food
Edinburgh Professor Joyce Tait chaired the just published report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

The  EU Renewable Energy Directive sets a target of 10% of transport fuel from biofuels by 2020.  Currently, UK biofuels are estimated to account for 3% of UK road fuels. 

The problem is that biofuels are often heavily subsidised and grown at the expense of food crops, driving up the cost of food - often for the world's poorest (as reported in this blog post last month).

The report, which has called the biofuels policies unethical, can be accessed here.

From the press release announcing the report:
The two main transport biofuels currently in use are bioethanol, made from maize and sugar cane, and biodiesel, made from palm and rape seed oil. The European Renewable Energy Directive states that 10% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources by 2020. In the UK, 5% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources by 2013. To meet these targets, biofuels are being imported from countries that do not all have responsible or enforceable policies on climate change or human rights. The targets also rely on voluntary agreements on environmental sustainability for biofuels produced outside the EU.
 Ethical behaviour is another casualty of the rush to honour the global warming god.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nosebleeds and windfarms

Matt Ridley graphically suggests that in response to a problem which might be likened to a nosebleed, we have adopted policies akin to applying a tourniquet round the patient's neck.  He highlights a couple of recent papers.  The first is on sea level rise.
"To translate: sea level is rising more slowly than expected, and the rise is slowing down rather than speeding up. Sea level rise is the greatest potential threat to civilisation posed by climate change because so many of us live near the coast. Yet, at a foot a century and slowing, it is a slight nosebleed. So are most of the other symptoms of climate change. . . "
The second peer reviewed paper addresses the impact of the move to biofuels for energy as reported in a paper in the :
“The production of biofuels may have led to at least 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost disability-adjusted life years in 2010. These estimates are conservative [and] exceed the World Health Organisation’s estimates of the toll of death and disease for global warming. Thus, policies to stimulate biofuel production, in part to reduce the alleged impacts of global warming on public health, particularly in developing countries, may actually have increased death and disease globally.”
A report by the John Muir Trust last week indicated that assumptions for energy produced from wind turbines has been over estimated - at least if the last three years are anything to go by.  The report lists five challenges  to Government claims which are reproduced below.

As you read them think of the public money which has been pumped into this effort to kick start the industry. Perhaps a contributory factor is that 2010 may have been one of the least windy years since 1824.

1. 'Wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year'In fact, the average output from wind was 27.18% of metered capacity in 2009, 21.14% in 2010, and 24.08% between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive.
2. 'The wind is always blowing somewhere'On 124 separate occasions from November 2008 to December 2010, the total generation from the windfarms metered by National Grid was less than 20MW (a fraction of the 450MW expected from a capacity in excess of 1600 MW). These periods of low wind lasted an average of 4.5 hours.
3. 'Periods of widespread low wind are infrequent.'Actually, low wind occurred every six days throughout the 26-month study period. The report finds that the average frequency and duration of a low wind event of 20MW or less between November 2008 and December 2010 was once every 6.38 days for a period of 4.93 hours.
4. 'The probability of very low wind output coinciding with peak electricity demand is slight.'At each of the four highest peak demand points of 2010, wind output was extremely low at 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity at peak demand.
5. 'Pumped storage hydro can fill the generation gap during prolonged low wind periods.'The entire pumped storage hydro capacity in the UK can provide up to 2788MW for only 5 hours then it drops to 1060MW, and finally runs out of water after 22 hours.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"We owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairy tales"

George Monbiot
The words above are from yesterday's Guardian where George Monbiot, in his column,  announces his conversion from his previous anti-nuclear stance.  Here are some of his startling statements:
"The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged, and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice. . .
". . . Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate-change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don't suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.

"We have a duty to base our judgments on the best available information. This is not only because we owe it to other people to represent the issues fairly, but also because we owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairytales. A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right."
  Now for some speculation.  Notwithstanding Monbiot's unpleasant comments about 'climate change deniers' - not all who are climate change sceptics can be accused of the actions he alleges - one wonders if his instability of views might sooner or later extend to climate change science.

After all how does he now look back on his previous views about nuclear - which he now finds so abhorrent?  Might he be humble enough to admit that other cherished and much fought for certainties might equally be wrong?  Like IPCC assertions about the science of climate change.  As George would say: "We owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairy tales."

An article in the Wall Street Journal  this week by Douglas J Keenan is another strong argument against the 'science' which underpins the scare about global warming.   Access it here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"These people are important so they must be right"

From Josh

Last week I was in London for a meeting and took the opportunity to attend a Spectator debate conducted by a selection of the great and the good in the current debate on climate change.  Herewith my brief notes of the evening, including the remarkable claim by Simon Singh (science writer, BBC) that policy on poorly understood issues should be decided according to the reputed authority of a selection of 'experts'.
The motion was "The global warming concern is over - time for a return to sanity".
Speaking for the motion were Lord Nigel Lawson, Dr Benny Peiser, Graeme Stringer, MP. Against were Professor Sir David King, Professor Tim Palmer and Simon Singh (Science writer, BBC).
In a poll taken of those entering the figures were
For: 423
Against: 149
Undecided: 101
In a poll taken during the summing up speeches the results were
For: 428
Against: 214
Undecided: 31 (Actually no one voted undecided - it was just the remainder after the for and against votes were counted)
Lawson: Telling points, good arguments, but not as fluent or persuasive as he might have been. 7/10
Peiser: Made the mistake of arguing the motion (!) and overstated the abandonment of global warming concern. Perhaps it will come but its not there yet. Arguments were economic and political. They don't necessarily persuade. 5/10
Stringer: Superb instant riposte to the argument from (alleged) authority. Well marshalled arguments. Focus on the failings of the science. Not flowing. 8/10
King: Persuasive. Played the fear factor ruthlessly and spoke from (pseudo) authority. Sounded inaccurate on issues of the link between CO2 and warming and some of the graphs seemed to my eyes misleading. 2/10 for argument and 7/10 for persuasiveness. Summary 5/10
Palmer: Played the fear factor and spoke from (pseudo) authority. Arguments logically challenged(!) and a mark deducted for trying to infer that Prof Lindzen agreed with him. 3/10
Singh: Used Powerpoint to superb effect and was very persuasive 8/10. Shame about the arguments (summary: I don't have a clue about the science but these people are famous and important so they must be right - really, that was it!) 2/10. Total 5/10
Further discussion: