Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Renewables - the turning tide

Scottish climate change policy has a significant impact on energy decisions in Scotland.  The SNP government has trumpeted its 'groundbreaking' climate emissions and energy targets. Caught up in hyperbole recently, Alex Salmond described renewables as "the biggest opportunity in 10,000 years"!.

Bill Jamieson is the Executive Editor of the Scotsman and doesn't agree. His column in The Scotsman on Thursday (24th Nov) is well worth reading.  Here are a few extracts.

  • ". . . Scotland's massive gamble on renewables. . . 
  • "From America comes troubling news for the renewables lobby. Reports are legion of bankruptcies, green jobs that failed to materialise and a notable cooling of the rhetoric on global warming as the country now finds itself on the brink of a breathtaking boom – in fossil fuels.
  • "From Europe come warnings of failed renewables projects, disappointing results and voter disillusion."
  • "And from nearer home comes troubling evidence of how the push in renewables is destroying jobs and confronting millions of households with huge rises in energy bills.
  • "For every green job created by the Spanish government, Calzada found that 2.2 jobs were destroyed elsewhere in the economy because resources were directed politically and not rationally.
There is much more cogent analysis in Bill Jamieson's article.  His conclusion is spot on.
  •  do not doubt the geo-political case for renewables, nor that there should be renewables in our energy mix. But energy produced at a horrendous cost that drains the budgets of households and depresses spending elsewhere is neither a rational energy gain nor a “stimulus boost”. It is edifice economics, founded on sleight of hand taxation and powered by a gale of hope. We are going to need more than this to have a hope of keeping the lights on.
It is evident that current energy policies have been shaped by a belief in catastrophic man made global warming.  Perhaps catastrophe could conceivably be round the corner.  But not on the basis of our current scientific knowledge which has been misunderstood and manipulated.  And that has real and negative consequences.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Geoffrey Boulton: No regrets about Russell enquiry

Prof Geoffrey Boulton
This evening Professor Geoffrey Boulton gave a lecture on "Why and How should Science be Open" at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  He is Chair of a committee of the Royal Society London Study which is investigating Science as a public enterprise.

It was a largely unexceptional talk where he urged more openness by scientists and explored some of the limitations there might be.  The meeting was part of a public consultation on the project and so there was a lengthy question and answer session with a panel.

He responded to one question with the following comment which may be of interest to some:
"The structures (of the scientific community) of which many of us are a part have some pretty fierce ways of dealing with those benighted souls who disagree."
That evoked a question in my mind.  I read the above quote back to him and asked:
 "Some of those at the cutting edge of new media science (blogs to which he had referred) may well consider that that quote describes how they have been treated.  Do you have any regrets about your participation in and conduct of the Russell enquiry?
Well his response was clear enough.
He added something to the effect that there was no need to say any more.

For those who observe Professor Boulton's career with interest there were a couple of points of note:

  • He is no longer Secretary of the RSE - see here for the current Executive Board.
  • In passing he described himself as no longer being Vice-Principal of Edinburgh University or, indeed employed by the University.  

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Energy debate in The Herald

The Herald newspaper, more than other, is reporting the current debate on Scottish energy policy.

On Monday, having reported that permission has been granted by SEPA to Greenpark Energy to begin shale gas exploration in Scotland, in its leader it called for a proper public debate of the contribution of shale gas to Scotland's energy supply.

Today the Herald kindly published my contribution to that debate:

Clear Day
Your call for a proper public debate on the contribution of shale gas to Scotland's energy supply is well timed ('Exploiting fossil fuel will harm renewable targets', Leader and 'First fracking project in Scotland', November 7th).

The problem facing the Scottish Government is that they have 'bet the bank' on renewables. Should the promised relatively cheap and plentiful supply of shale gas comes to fruition our excessive dependence on expensive renewables will become even more of an albatross for Scotland.

Targets for renewables are designed to meet emissions targets set as part of our ''world-leading' Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the scientific 'evidence' on which that Act was based relied excessively on models, alarmism, false claims and flawed science.  The evidence for a human induced global warming catastrophe is looking increasingly threadbare.

A proper debate will include consideration of suspending the emissions targets enshrined in the 2009 Act.

Cllr Cameron Rose
City Chambers,

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Almost nothing we've been told about the IPCC is actually true

This piece from Donna Laframboise, a Canadian journalist, is worth a read.

The book she has written is an expansion of her phrase in the heading.

Fracking comes to Scotland

Things are moving fast in the development of shale gas. 

Whereas a couple of years ago there was no indication there was any prospect of the shale gas bonanza in the UK, a licence has now been granted for drilling in Scotland.  SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) has granted a licence to Greenpark Energy to drill near Canonbie just north east of Gretna.  More details here and here.

Recently Cuadrilla estimated there is 200 trillion cubic feet of gas underground Lancashire.  Although not all of it may be recoverable, that equates to several decades of UK supply. 

The SEPA principal policy officer seems to be unperturbed by the scare language of some opponents:
"I don't associate the risks associated with fracking as being any more significant than a lot of things we do.  They are not high risk provided they are done properly."
The Friends of the Earth spokesperson is to be commended for predictably managing to get the following alarm into her very short quote in The Herald report:  ". . . increasing lists of the devastating impacts of fracking. . . emissions from fracking could be higher than coal. . . the Government should place an immediate ban on fracking."  Well I suppose that is what you is paid for.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Our climate and energy policies are based on pseudoscience - and why it matters

Like me, perhaps from time to time you come across an article which is a must read.  One such was a lecture given on Monday evening at the Royal Society of Arts in Edinburgh.

It was delivered by Matt Ridley and is entitled Scientific Heresy.  You must read it.  The few minutes will repay your investment of time handsomely.  I'm not saying everything he says is on the nail but the key argument is and the detail he offers is rich and revealing.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

SNP energy policy: £46bn?

Here is an analysis from Citigroup, a multinational financial services and investment organisation, of the risks associated with green investments in Scotland under an SNP Government.  Here is an extract:
  • Two main policies — the SNP has two flagship policies; first to hold a referendum on Scotland seceding from the UK; and second for Scotland to aggressively develop
    renewable energy to drive an industrial renaissance and deliver 130,000 jobs.
  •  Policy 1 - Referendum — the Scottish Government plans to hold a referendum in 2013 or 2014. If a yes vote is the outcome then this would mandate the Scottish Government to negotiate terms for Scotland to secede from the UK. Secession could
    take place as early as 2016/17, although the timetable is naturally unclear given the lack of precedents.
  • Policy 2 - Renewable energy — the Scottish Government is targeting a massive increase in renewable power generation from the current 10TWh to around 50TWh by
    2020. To achieve this, generation capacity in Scotland needs to double from 13GW to
    circa 26GW with the increase being achieved through building on-shore and off-shore
    wind. This would cost approx. £46bn.
 And the analyst's conclusion?
  • Conclusion - in our view utilities and other investors should exercise extreme caution in committing further capital to Scotland. This particularly applies to SSE and ScottishPower (Iberdrola) who may already be over exposed to these risks.
And my point?  The political drive for groundbreaking energy policies is already founded on an interpretation of climate science which is proving to be a pack of cards.  But even if the science underpinning energy policy turns out to be correct the economics is also looking like a pack of cards.  That can be called a lose, lose situation - which is the current Scottish Goverment's energy and climate policy appears to be.

Green energy policy

For the avoidance of doubt one of the two Green MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie,  has confirmed his unrealistic energy dogma at the Green Party conference in Aberdeen last week end. He urges the SNP energy minister to do the following:
"First, the new coal-fired power station at Hunterston must be blocked. Then he must rule out shale gas extraction, which his energy minister has refused to do.
"Then, because carbon capture and storage can never be applied to most uses of oil anyway, he must drop his support for dangerous deep water oil drilling in Scottish waters."
I wonder if the other Green MSP, Alison Johnstone, who is the rather more acceptable face of the Green movement in Holyrood, agrees with him. 

The problem is that Green party policies have had a considerable influence on public policy in the past - as witnessed by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.