Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New nukes for Britain

Controversial plans for the next generation of nuclear power stations were unveiled by the Government yesterday with a pledge that taxpayers would not have to foot the bill. In an astonishing U-turn, Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne – a once vocal opponent of nuclear power – said the eight power plants were vital to fill Britain’s looming energy gap.

He also shelved £30billion plans to build a ten-mile barrage across the Severn estuary to generate ‘green’ electricity from tides. It aimed to meet five per cent of Britain’s electricity needs.

Critics condemned the nuclear plans as flawed, claiming they left the door open for public subsidies to pay for handling nuclear waste and decommissioning plants in years to come.

And they lambasted Mr Huhne for ushering in a new era of nuclear power after standing on a no-nuclear ticket at the General Election.

Announcing the plans, which could see the first new nuclear plant built by 2018, Mr Huhne said: ‘I’m fed up with the stand-off between advocates of renewables and of nuclear, which means we have neither.

‘We urgently need investment in new and diverse energy sources to power the UK. 'We’ll need renewables, new nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage, and the cables to hook them all up to the Grid as a large slice of our current generating capacity shuts down.’

But before the election, Mr Huhne was a fierce critic of nuclear power. In 2006, as Lib Dem energy spokesman, he claimed no private investor had built a nuclear power station without ‘lashings of government subsidy’ since the 1980s.

In 2007 he described nuclear power as ‘a tried, tested and failed technology, which is clearly a costly blind alley’ and condemned Tony Blair for a ‘U-turn’ on the issue.

Although the Lib Dems were opposed to nuclear power in their election manifesto, Mr Huhne said their position changed as part of the Coalition deal. He added: ‘And when I do a deal, I deliver it.’

A report from the new Department of Energy and Climate Change paves the way for nuclear power stations at eight sites: Bradwell in Essex; Hartlepool; Heysham in Lancashire; Hinkley Point in Somerset; Oldbury in South Gloucestershire; Sellafield in Cumbria; Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa on Anglesey. All are near existing nuclear plants.

Three other locations – at Dungeness in Kent, and Braystones and Kirksanton in the Lake District – were ruled out. The Government insists investors will be willing to pay for new nuclear plants without public subsidy.

It says that although nuclear electricity is more expensive to generate than power from fossil fuels, the rising price of oil, gas and coal over the next decade will make nuclear more attractive.

Under the plans, energy companies will meet all the costs of handling radioactive waste and decommissioning the plants at the end of their lives.

The Government will fix a ‘clean up’ price before the first concrete is poured. Energy firms will have to pay compensation for any accidents to a limit of £140million.

But Friends of the Earth’s climate campaigner Simon Bullock said: ‘The Coalition promised no public subsidy for nuclear power, but not ruling out a cap on liability costs for nuclear operators in case of an accident is a subsidy by another name.’

The Coalition’s revised draft national policy statements on energy also showed that half the new energy capacity built in the UK by 2025 was expected to come from renewables – mostly wind.


Food for thought: Lord Monckton on Canute, Communism, Climate, and Conspiracies

Greenpeace and communism. Maurice Strong and world government. Climate scientists suborned and suborning. And more. Well worth an hour of your time, and if you are a teacher or in educational administration or leadership, food for thought as you reflect on whether you want to be part of the deliberate scaring and misleading of the young about what we know and don't know about climate variation.

This is part 1 of a 5 part set of YouTube videos capturing an interview/presentation with Lord Monckton published by Alex Jones on The links to the entire set are here:

Now this broadcaster, Alex Jones and his site are new to me. He seems to be attacked by the establishment as a 'right-wing conspiracy site', and of course as such any posting using his materials will risk being attacked as well. Well, so be it. My examination of his site suggests to me that he is democratic, libertarian, and a believer in the Constitution of the United States. So far, that's good enough for me.


John Droz Jr gives an example of how to respond politely to pseudo-scientific garbage

He is referring to this "Report"

This report (like many others) has the appearance of legitimacy. After all it looks professional, and is authored by several credentialed people. It would be easy to assume that it is legit. The litmus test though is: did it adhere to the Scientific Method? Let's do a quick peek at the five Scientific Method elements, and see what the result is.

1) Was it done by independent parties?

The study is sponsored by the Civil Society Institute. This organization is an strong advocate for making changes because of "Global Warming" (AGW). Surprisingly (since this is one of their main agendas), they present zero evidence that Global Warming is scientifically legitimate. Their position is "Let's just assume that AGW is real, and start making changes"

That's a science red flag

The founder of the Civil Society Institute (Pam Solo: credited for reviewing and correcting the report) has a clear and stated bias against nuclear power. Little wonder that their hired personnel will mirror that position in their attack on nuclear power.

Regarding the authors, it appears that they all belong to the same church. For instance: "Goeff Keith has worked extensively with advocates and technology manufacturers to support the "commercialization of clean energy technologies." In other words, Goeff (listed as the lead author) appears to have a vested interest in promoting “clean” technologies.

Kenji Takahashi has been involved in a variety of environmental campaigns, like "Citizens' Alliance for Saving the Atmosphere and the Earth." Wow, saving the earth's atmosphere!

Alice Napoleon: another environmentally correct person working with "residential, commercial, and industrial working groups to recommend, develop, and quantify costs and benefits of possible state actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Etc. Etc.

Independence Score: 3 out of 10

2) Is it objective?

Objectivity is all about examining things in an unbiased manner as possible. Since we all have biases, a critical part of this is to minimize assumptions, and to carefully examine all remaining assumptions made. Real scientists clearly identify their minimized assumptions, and provide genuine proof for such assumptions. These people didn't bother with either of these. There there are numerous stated and implied unproven assumptions that are the basis for their subsequent conclusions. Remember, the most well-constructed building is worthless when built on sand.

Lets start at the beginning (page 5): "the risks associated with climate change are forcing us to consider quantum shifts in the way we generate and use electricity." This is a totally unsupported political statement that sets the tone for the agenda that these persons are intent on distributing. What proven "risks" are there? What proof is there that we need to make "quantum" shifts? Oh, these are buried somewhere in their catechism, and we just expected to believe it. More science red flags.

The next few sentences cleverly throw coal and nuclear together, as if they have similar issues. Their tag on the nuclear apparently is "Nuclear power produces high-level radioactive waste, and the nation still has not established a long term repository for that waste." Well, nuclear does produce a byproduct, but the facts are:

a) the byproduct is mostly usable fuel. If they are concerned about reducing this byproduct they should be advocating reprocessing.

b) that "the nation still has not established a long term repository for that waste" is hardly the fault of the nuclear industry, or an inherent issue with nuclear power. The disposal matter is a political issue, that has already been solved by scientists. Nowhere do I see either of those details mentioned.

Another key statement is still on that first page: "The goal of the study is to provide a highly transparent and objective analysis of the cost of moving away from coal and nuclear energy and toward efficiency and renewables." Note that they do not state that the goal is to determine if there are merits for "moving away from coal and nuclear energy and toward efficiency and renewables." No, their position is that there are merits, so they are "proving" that such a move is desirable. This is NOT how science works. Big red flags.

And then "The need to reduce CO2 emissions will force a major retooling of the electric industry." What "need" have they proven? None. Just reference some other political polemic. It goes on and on with the same unscientific mentality.

Much more HERE

Sen. Bingaman's Insidious National "Renewable Electricity Standard" (S. 3813)

On September 21, 2010, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced a bill[1] that would create an insidious national "Renewable Electricity Standard" (RES). Bingaman now has 32 cosponsors but expects 60.

The bill would result in higher monthly bills for millions of home owners and renters, farms, businesses, industries, hospitals, educational institutions, and any other organization that uses electricity.

Despite the intense citizen displeasure with Congress, Bingaman's RES bill shows that both Democrats and Republicans, while in Washington, are eager to favor special interests and their lobbyists while ignoring the adverse impact of their actions on the nation's ordinary citizens, consumers and taxpayers. The bill belies Republican claims that they favor less federal government intrusion, control, and damage.

Key Provisions

The bill would require that, by 2021, 15% of the electricity sold by an electric utility must be generated from wind or certain other "renewable" energy sources, or from energy efficiency. The bill would create a new US Department of Energy (DOE) bureaucracy to oversee and enforce the new federal demands. Under the bill, up to 4 of the mandated 15% could, theoretically, be achieved by actions that improve energy efficiency but the measures that qualify are tightly defined so utilities may have to use electricity from renewables instead of energy efficiency to meet the bill's requirements.

As demonstrated by states and European countries that have imposed similar "renewable" energy requirements, higher electric bills are a direct result. Electric bills will increase because it is much more costly to produce electricity from wind and other "renewables" favored by Bingaman's bill than from existing, reliable generating units. Electricity from wind is especially high in true cost and low in value.[2]

Special Interests Pushing Hard

During the past decade, the wind and other renewable energy industries have been incredibly successful in getting federal and state government officials to grant them generous tax breaks and subsidies, including state Renewable Portfolio Standards. The lobbying effort mounted during the past few weeks suggests that they are intent on gaining another subsidy in the form of Bingaman's proposed RES.

The wind industry, which has received nearly $4.5 billion in "stimulus" program[3] cash grants during the past year from the Obama Administration, apparently has plenty of cash to finance its intense lobbying.

Many senators and representatives are vulnerable since they (a) wish to have campaign contributions, (b) don't yet understand the adverse impacts of wind energy, and (c) may not yet realize the extent of their generosity to owners of "wind farms" and other renewable facilities or the extent to which they are enriching these owners and their financial partners at the expense of taxpayers.[4]

Insidious Impacts of Tax Breaks, Other Subsidies

Tax breaks and subsidies, including "Renewable Electricity Standards" such as those proposed by Senator Bingaman are insidious because they hide from public view the high true cost of electricity from "wind farms" and other favored "renewable" facilities.

Much of the true cost of these facilities is covered by federal and state tax breaks and subsidies. These generous benefits flow directly to facility owners and are separate from and in addition to the revenue facility owners receive from the sale of electricity. Of course the cost of the government subsidies and tax breaks do show up in tax bills. So, tax burden escaped by owners of "wind farms" and other facilities is shifted from the owners to ordinary taxpayers who don't have the benefit of generous tax shelters.

Wind and other "renewable" energy industries have secured another subsidy in some states in the form of state "Renewable Portfolio Standards" (RPS) that are similar in effect to Bingaman's proposed national RES. Like the proposed RES, state RPS require that significant shares of the electricity sold by utilities come from wind and certain other "renewable" energy sources.

State RPS and the proposed national RES, in effect, create artificially high priced markets available only to owners of "wind farms" and other renewable energy facilities. These markets are not available to owners of electric generating units using traditional energy sources that produce electricity at lower cost.

Under Bingaman's proposed national RES, utilities selling electricity to customers would be forced to either (a) produce electricity from renewable electric generating facilities they own, (b) buy electricity at high, above market cost from others who own such facilities, or (c) buy "renewable energy credits" (RECs) or "energy efficiency credits" (EEC) under the complex new national certificate trading system "managed" by DOE.

Utilities that are forced to produce or buy electricity from renewable energy facilities pass along the higher costs to their customers via their monthly bills. When electric bills go up, customers typically blame their local electric utility - not the legislators who have created the additional costs. Thus, RPS and RES are ways legislators are able to satisfy the wind and other renewable industry lobbyists and campaign contributors while not "having their fingerprints" on the higher electric bills.

Harsh Negative Impacts

Tax breaks and subsidies have already become so generous that they - not the alleged environmental and energy benefits - have become the primary reason "wind farms" have been built in the US. In fact, it is now clear that wind energy advocates have overestimated environmental benefits while understating adverse environmental, ecological, economic, scenic, and property value impacts of "wind farms."

In fact, there are three major adverse economic impacts of government tax breaks, subsidies and renewable standards that should not be overlooked:

* First, wealth is transferred - hundreds of millions of dollars annually - from the pockets of ordinary taxpayers and electric customers to the pockets of the owners of "wind farms" and other renewable facilities and to the financial partners.

* Second, billions of capital investment dollars are being misdirected to the construction of energy facilities - particularly high cost "wind farms" that produce only small amounts of electricity - which electricity is intermittent, volatile, unreliable, and low in real value. It is low in real value because it is unreliable and tends to be produced at night and in colder months and not during periods of high electricity demand when electricity has high real value.

* Third, other resources - including human talent - are diverted. Those in the private sector with resources to invest have learned that they can obtain larger returns with less risk by "mining" generous government tax breaks and subsidies than they can by investing in potentially productive and innovative endeavors in the private sector where risks are higher and returns not guaranteed.


Wind power? Saving the earth or just costing it?

If you’re hankering to see Britain’s green and pleasant land and rugged coastline, don’t wait too long. In an increasingly desperate bid to meet its EU climate and renewable-energy targets, the British government is planning to build 10,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines – many 400 feet high – over the next 10 years.

The “British wind experience,” however, constantly cited by Canadian, United States, and other advocates, far from saving the earth, turns out in practice to be costing the earth.

Costs have ‘escalated markedly’

Last month the UK opened the world’s latest and largest wind farm off the English coast at Thanet, Kent, amid a blaze of publicity. The 100 turbines are just stage one, with another 242 on way. Just a few weeks earlier, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) – one of the government’s think tanks – published a new report warning that wind-generation costs had “escalated markedly” since the “optimistic predictions of the early 2000s.” According to the report, electricity generated by wind power in the UK now costs twice as much as that generated by gas or coal.

The UKERC report states that instead of falling as predicted the cost of installing offshore turbines has gone up by 51 per cent over the past five years. Spread over the projected 25-year lifespan for a typical wind farm, each kilowatt-hour of electricity now costs around 15 pence (15/100 of a British pound), almost twice the eight pence per kwh for conventional coal and gas-power plants. Nuclear power would do the same job for 10 pence per kwh. While costs “could fall,” the report warns they could also rise as high as 19 pence per kwh.

The reason? The unreliable and intermittent nature of wind requires a whole fleet of gas and coal-fired turbine backup facilities to cope when the wind fails. Unfortunately, in Britain, times of least wind (January and February) coincide with the coldest times of year, when electricity demand is highest. And given the raison d’ĂȘtre for the rush to wind – reducing carbon emissions – gas and coal turbine backups regularly having to kick in will more than cancel out meaningful CO2 reductions.

UK electricity prices already “hide” a renewable, mostly wind, subsidizing levy of around £200 (C$323, US$319). That’s as much as 20 per cent per bill, a tab the report says British taxpayers will be picking up till at least the mid-2020s. This helps explain why British electricity bills are the highest in Europe.

What the report doesn’t say, however, is that if the same £1.2 billion (about $1.9 billion Canadian or U.S.) was invested into a single (mostly) carbon-neutral nuclear power station, the electricity yield would be up to that 13 times higher, with vastly superior reliability, not to mention cleaner air.

Dr. David Whitehouse is an astrophysicist, author of the acclaimed book The Sun: A Biography and a former BBC science editor. Speaking to Troy Media, Whitehouse explains, “Renewable-energy sources such as wind, wave and solar just have not got the power to make a big difference to an industrialised society which requires concentrated industrial-strength power generation to keep us warm.”

Two key factors are at play here that wind advocates do their best to obscure.

The ‘capacity versus load factor’ game

The wind industry plays a little game whereby it constantly fails to explain the difference between capacity and “load factor,” or actual power generated. The Thanet wind farm is a classic case in point. Much was made of the claim that the farm could produce capacity up to 300 megawatts of electricity, or “enough to power 200,000 (even 240,000) homes.” But the fact is, wind farms almost always never get anywhere close to capacity.

The recommended load factor that determines whether a wind turbine or farm is economically viable and efficient is just over 30 per cent. The energy reality, in Britain’s “experience,” is that onshore farms run at a meagre 20 percent or below, with some, in urban areas, dropping as low as nine percent. The “experience” offshore isn’t much better. According to the UK Department of Energy and Climate’s own statistics, the average output of electricity power generated (or load factor) offshore during 2009-10 was just 26 per cent of capacity. In consequence, the British government has legally obliged UK electricity companies to buy offshore wind energy at three times the normal market rate.

Whitehouse tells Troy Media, “No matter how many wind farms or tidal barrages you build, there is just not enough energy density in wave and wind to make a big difference. You could capture wind and wave energy with 100 per cent efficiency all over the country, and you wouldn’t have enough energy to power Birmingham, England.”

Density: the definitive issue

In his brilliant essay Understanding E=mc2 (and his book Terrestrial Energy from which it is distilled), William Tucker shows that the density of mass in both wind and water bears no comparison with that of oil, coal and gas. Tucker calculates, for instance, that a land mass of about 375 square miles with around 660 widely spaced, gigantic turbines is necessary to match a power return of 1,000 megawatts, the normal candle for a conventional power plant. And that would be with the wind turbines working at 100 per cent capacity – which, as we’ve seen, isn’t happening, even in the windiest countries.

“The British experience,” Whitehouse says, “has been to use wind farms to increase the energy bills of every household without increasing the security of energy supply.” In Britain, that explains why energy analysts have of late widely predicted national power cuts within just four years.

Once we get past the wind-industry press handouts, what the “British wind experience” actually teaches is how quixotic fictions can easily leave us cold.


Spain's Solar Deals Face Bankruptcy As Subsidies Founder

By failing to control the cost [of green subsidies], Zapatero saddled Spain with at least 126 billion euros of obligations to renewable-energy investors. Now Vilimelis and more than 50,000 other Spanish solar entrepreneurs face financial disaster as the policy makers contemplate cutting the price guarantees that attracted their investment in the first place.

German Vilimelis heard about Spain’s solar gold rush from his brother-in-law in 2007.

Across the plains around Lerida, the northeastern Spanish town where they spent weekends, farmers were turning over their fields to photovoltaic panels to capitalize on government solar- energy subsidies. Vilimelis persuaded his father, Jaume, who made a living growing pears on 5 acres (2 hectares) of land in Lerida, to turn over a portion of his farm for the project, Bloomberg Markets reported in its November issue.

Vilimelis, 35, a procurement manager for a consumer goods company, pooled his family savings and mortgaged his apartment to obtain a loan of more than 400,000 euros ($558,500) to cover the investment. Within nine months, the family’s 80-kilowatt generation unit -- 500 solar panels on seven racks angled toward the sun -- was feeding power into the national grid.

Solar investors such as Vilimelis were lured by a 2007 law passed by the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero that guaranteed producers a so-called solar tariff of as much as 44 cents per kilowatt-hour for their electricity for 25 years -- more than 10 times the 2007 average wholesale price of about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour paid to mainstream energy suppliers.

Thanks to the incentives, the family met the monthly cost of the loan and even earned a small profit. Once the debt was paid off in 2018, Vilimelis looked forward to making even more money during the 15 additional years of subsidies guaranteed under Spanish law.

Now Vilimelis and more than 50,000 other Spanish solar entrepreneurs face financial disaster as the policy makers contemplate cutting the price guarantees that attracted their investment in the first place.

“You feel cheated,” he says. “We put our money in on the basis of a law.”

Zapatero introduced the subsidies three years ago as part of an effort to cut his country’s dependence on fossil fuels. At the time, he promised that the investment in renewable energy would create manufacturing jobs and that Spain could sell its panels to nations seeking to reduce carbon emissions.

Yet by failing to control the program’s cost, Zapatero saddled Spain with at least 126 billion euros of obligations to renewable-energy investors. The spending didn’t achieve the government’s aim of creating green jobs, because Spanish investors imported most of their panels from overseas when domestic manufacturers couldn’t meet short-term demand.

Stark Lesson

Spain stands as a lesson to other aspiring green-energy nations, including China and the U.S., by showing how difficult it is to build an alternative energy industry even with billions of euros in subsidies, says Ramon de la Sota, a private investor in Spanish photovoltaic panels and a former General Electric Co. executive.

“The government totally overshot with the tariff,” de la Sota says. “Now they have a huge bill to pay -- but where’s the technology, where’s the know-how, where’s the value?”

U.S. President Barack Obama highlighted solar energy as part of his plan to create green jobs this month with a decision to install photovoltaic panels on the roof of the White House. The government also approved the first large-scale solar-power projects on public land. Dublin-based utility NTR Plc and Chevron Corp. will build plants in California generating enough electricity between them to power about 600,000 homes.



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