Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UK: Didcot fire raises risk of winter blackouts and soaring prices

One more unexpected interruption to power supplies could cause a "serious" shortage and soaring prices, expert warns.  "Green" Britain has shaved its safety margin to the bone in order to phase out "dirty" coal and gas power stations

The fire at Didcot power station has raised the risk of Britain facing blackouts and soaring prices this winter, a leading energy analyst has warned.

Just one or two more unexpected events - such as power plant closures - "could cause a serious security of supply event, and a probable surge in wholesale prices", Peter Atherton of Liberum Capital said.

The fire-affected half of Didcot B, a gas-fired power station in Oxfordshire, remains offline after a major blaze on Sunday night which damaged its cooling towers.

The plant has the capacity to supply about one million homes.

The closure of old coal and oil-fired power plants has eroded Britain's spare capacity margins - the safety buffer between maximum capacity and peak demand - over recent years.

A series of fires and safety incidents at other power plants had worsened the situation over recent months, leaving spare margins much tighter than expected this winter and leading National Grid to invoke emergency measures to stop blackouts.

“The loss of this plant would not normally be a cause for concern. But UK energy policy has managed to engineer historically low reserve margins as we head into winter,” Mr Atherton said.

He said that most other advanced economies would have enough spare capacity to cope with perhaps 10 unexpected events limiting supplies - but the UK's precarious situation meant it may be able to cope with just four.

"Unfortunately, the UK has now seen three unexpected events before the clock change. Another one or two could cause a serious security of supply event, and a probable surge in wholesale prices," he said.

Mr Atherton said the fire - which follows fires at Ironbridge and Ferrybridge in recent months - "may just be an unusual run of events, or it might suggest that the aging power station fleet is becoming more vulnerable to accidents".

“The odds are still that UK will escape a security of supply crunch this winter. But the mere fact that a security of supply crisis is a material possibility is in itself a sign of huge policy failure in our view.”

Didcot B is owned by Npower’s parent company RWE, which said the fire has not caused any disruption to energy supplies.

The company's other power station at the site, Didcot A, was closed last year.

“I’ve been reassured by National Grid that there is no risk to electricity supplies,” said Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change.


Farmer’s Harassment Claim Against Green Group to Get Airing

Martha Boneta says a regional conservation group has trespassed repeatedly on her small farm in Paris, Va., about an hour outside Washington, D.C.

Boneta says the group, the Piedmont Environmental Council, has attempted to drive her off the farm through overzealous zoning enforcement, unwarranted and overly invasive inspections and an IRS audit she says was instigated by one of its board members.

The group argues that it has done nothing more than perform its duty to enforce a legal agreement with Boneta and decries the failure “to see eye-to-eye” with Boneta on how to do so.

He Said, She Said, Court Said

The dispute has had this he-said, she-said quality to it for years. But recent events have  brought increased scrutiny of the actions of the Piedmont Environmental Council, which was founded in 1972 and bills itself as “one of the most effective community-based environmental groups in the country.”

Among them: A court ruling scaled back the organization’s inspection rights on Boneta’s 64-acre Liberty Farm. A judge sided with a winery owner in a similar dispute with the habitat preservation group Ducks Unlimited. And documents revealed that a member of the group’s board wanted to put spy cameras on Boneta’s property.

And now, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, listed as  a co-holder of the conservation easement at the center of the dispute, will afford 20 minutes each to Boneta and the Piedmont Environmental Council to explain the situation as part of its regular board meeting to be held Thursday, Nov. 6, in Richmond, Va.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is a public agency with a board of trustees that meets at least three times per year to take up easement enforcement and policy matters, help preserve open lands and solicit private donations for preservation purposes.

The foundation, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1966, has no power to constrain the actions of the Piedmont Environmental Council or other conservation organizations and no oversight role in state law.

But the fact that an agency with a stake in the easement at issue in the case of Boneta’s farm is holding a hearing to examine the actions of the other co-holder suggests a tipping point in the tussle.

Bonner Cohen, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., a pro-property rights group that has studied the dispute, said the Virginia Outdoors Foundation has “good reason to be concerned” about the environmental council’s “abuse of its … authority.”

Cohen said:

There is nothing in the conservation easement that gives the PEC the power to harass and humiliate Martha Boneta, as the organization has repeatedly done over the years. The only way to put an end to this outrageous behavior is to sever the PEC from any responsibility for the easement.

The Piedmont Environmental Council declined comment for this story.

Courts and Courts of Public Opinion

Easements are agreements that landowners enter into with government, quasi-government or private conservation entities in which the landowners receive tax breaks or other benefits in exchange for foregoing development of their property. The easement on Boneta’s farm permits commercial, industrial, residential and agricultural uses.

Boneta bought her farm from the Piedmont Environmental Council in 2006 with the easement attached. According to county tax records, though, she never received tax breaks for it. She has spent most of the intervening years fighting the group in court.

In 2009, the group sued Boneta after an inspection for compliance with the easement compliance turned up agricultural tires and an expandable hose attachment used to wash the mud off visitors’ boots. The group claimed the hose and tires compromised the “viewshed” of the area.

The matter was settled out of court. But at the time, the Piedmont Environmental Council noted Boneta had made improvements to a barn complex and a blacksmith shop called “The Smithy.”

Although she is permitted under the easement to make these changes, the environmental group claimed she made them so she could install apartments and rent them as residential dwellings in violation of the easement.

That claim brought two more years of litigation, which resulted in a settlement agreement reached on Oct. 11, 2011. The environmental group had to stipulate Boneta didn’t have apartments on the property, and Boneta had to agree to allow four inspections a year to ensure she didn’t build any.

Last fall, Boneta filed a lawsuit in Fauquier County Circuit Court that said the environmental council and two of its members, the husband-and-wife real estate team of Phillip and Patricia Thomas, had taken another tack.

Her suit said the Thomases lobbied a zoning administrator and members of the elected Fauquier County Board of Supervisors to issue citations of zoning violations against her property. That suit has not gone to trial.

Zoning Changes Give Rise to ‘Boneta Bill’

Boneta has had better luck in the Virginia General Assembly. In 2013, she and others convinced lawmakers to pass legislation that came to be known as the Boneta Bill. The measure strengthens property rights and redefines what constitutes “farm activities” to prevent localities from imposing overly burdensome regulations on family farms throughout Virginia.

Boneta began to rally support for the legislation in August 2012, when Fauquier County fined her for having a children’s birthday party in her barn.

But the state’s protection of property rights hasn’t stopped the Piedmont Environmental Council from overzealous enforcement of the easement, Boneta says.

She has claimed, and those who have visited Liberty Farm during inspections agree, that the preservation group has looked through her personal belongings and gone far beyond what was needed to measure for the size of an apartment.

Boneta called the inspections “trespassing” and a “fishing expedition for which it has no basis” in her counterclaim to the group’s 2009 suit.

Brett C. Glymph, executive director of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, told The Daily Signal the foundation doesn’t authorize or condone any of the Piedmont Environmental Council’s actions at Liberty Farm, but it can’t do much about them. Glymph said:

“The PEC is responsible for the building structures and the architecture, while the VOF has its own areas such as the Oak Road Forest and the land itself. We administer our part; they administer theirs.”

Security Cameras Turned Down

Although Glymph would not discuss the litigation between the environmental group and Boneta, she did say Boneta has caused no trouble for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and that her organization turned down the environmental council’s entreaty to install surveillance cameras on the farm.

Memoranda uncovered by The Daily Signal revealed that Heather Richards, who serves both on the environmental group’s board and as its vice president of conservation and rural programs, suggested putting in the cameras to monitor Boneta’s activities. The foundation declined, and the project did not go forward.

“We have never thought that security cameras were necessary,” Glymph said. “Up until now, this is not something that has been in our toolkit, and I don’t think it’s something the VOF would employ.”

A similar dispute a few miles north of Boneta’s farm, in Loudoun County, Va., indicates momentum in the courts could be in her favor.

Ducks Unlimited, the waterfowl and wetlands conservation group, alleged 14 easement violations by the owner of Chrysalis Winery. A Loudoun County judge sided with the winery and ruled the easement provided ample room for “evolving” agricultural activities.

If the Nov. 6 hearing does reveal the Piedmont Environmental Council  has overstepped its bounds, friends of Boneta and property rights activists are poised to take action.

William Hurd, a former solicitor general—or chief legal defender—of Virginia, is among those who will testify on behalf of Boneta. “We are carefully reviewing the options,” Hurd said, adding:

Conservation easements can be wonderful things, but it is evident the PEC has abused its authority as an easement holder. The situation cries out for either a judicial or legislative solution.

Hurd said he hasn’t settled on a remedy. But Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center, a Virginia group that champions free markets and property rights, has called for a congressional investigation of the environmental council.

DeWeese also proposed a change in state law to allow property owners to opt out of easement agreements after five years.

“Right now the easements exist in perpetuity, and this is a problem because there is no real oversight for how they are managed,” DeWeese said. “The PEC can move the easements around to the government and other land trusts. But the landowner is stuck forever with the easement.”


Even Squid Hate Greenpeace

I don’t usually side with the giant squid. Between all the tentacles, the beak and their bad breath, it’s hard to sympathize with them. But when giant squids take on Greenpeace, we all win.

A rare giant squid has been caught on video attacking a Greenpeace submarine in the Bering Sea.

The Greenpeace expedition is part of the organisation’s campaign to protect the sealife from industrial fishing, which Greenpeace claims is uprooting and crushing coral and sponge communities.

Greenpeace’s website says. “…We must take a precautionary approach and set aside representative portions of critical habitat – such as in the Bering Sea Canyons – as an insurance policy for our future.”

Or we could just dump all Greenpeace members there and let the giant squid take care of things.

But it also appears that Greenpeace doesn’t actually know anything about the creatures it wants to protect as it was not a giant squid. Considering the size of the sub, if it were a giant squid, the sub would have been a tic tac.

"And their attackers weren’t a squid of the giant variety, but a pair of Humboldt squids, nicknamed “jumbo squid” or “red devil” for their famed aggression and the red colour the squid turn when in hunting or attack mode.

Although these squid can get pretty big — up to 6.2 ft in mantle length and up to 100 lb in weight, these guys are relatively titchy — no longer than a few feet in length, maximum. Their size, however, is no indication of courage: colored a brilliant red, they have a brave go at the sub before swimming off in a puff of ink."

6 feet is not really big. Giant squid, whose existence is still somewhat controversial, are estimated to be in the 30 to 40 feet range and have been known to attack whales.


Don't Believe Desperate Wildlife Extinction Claims

Alan Caruba

One thing that those of us who have been longtime observers and debunkers of the lies surrounding global warming and/or climate change have noticed is that the “Warmists” have gotten increasingly desperate after more than eighteen years in which there has been no warming.

As what they call “a pause” continues, they are coming up with some of the most absurd “research” to make their case.  When you consider that not one single computer model produced by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or any of the other charlatans was accurate, one can imagine their sense of panic at this point.

The latest claims were made by the wildlife group, WWF, the Zoological Society of London, and other affiliated groups. On October 1st, it was reported that, based on “an analysis of thousands of vertebrate species,” populations had fallen 52% between 1970 and 2010. In 2012 the same group had claimed they had declined 28% over a similar period of time. So now we are expected to believe that within two years’ time a massive larger decline had been detected.

The claims are absurd. I won’t insult you by repeating them. Suffice to say they did not begin to cover the thousands of species that share planet Earth with humans, but you can be sure that it was humans that got blamed for the alleged declines, along with the usual recommendations that we give up the use of fossil fuels and other aspects of modern life to save some furry creature somewhere.

For years we have been hearing that polar bears have been in decline, but one of the leading authorities on this species, zoologist Dr. Susan Crockford, has a report, “Ten good reasons not to worry about polar bears”, posted on the website of the Global warming Policy Foundation, led by Dr. Benny Pieser, a longtime critic of those behind the global warming hoax.

Dr. Crockford called polar bears “a conservation success story. Their numbers have rebounded remarkably since 1973 and we can say for sure that there are more polar bears now than there were 40 years ago.

Over on CFACT’s Climate website, similar claims about walruses were debunked by Dr. Crockford who noted that mass haulouts (areas where they congregate) of Pacific walrus and stampede deaths are not new, now due to low ice cover. “The attempts by WWF and others to link this event to global warming is self-serving nonsense,” said Dr. Crockford,, “that has nothing to do with science…this is blatant nonsense and those who support or encourage this interpretation are misinforming the public.”

“The Pacific walrus remains abundant, numbering at least 200,000 by some accounts, double the number in the 1950s.”

The same time I read the article about the wildlife extinction claims, an email arrived from the Sierra Club—the kind they send to thousands who support its agenda—saying “For a mother polar bear and her cubs, the ice is already melting around them. The last thing they need to contend with is an oil spill.”  The claim about ice is another lie because Arctic ice has been expanding, not melting, in the same fashion as ice in the Antarctic. The real reason for the email was to protest “two massive drilling leases” and prevent access to Alaskan oil.

The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations have been on the front lines to get the Obama administration to keep the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being constructed. It has been senselessly delayed for six years despite the jobs and energy independence it will provide. One wonders if the top brass at the Sierra Club actually drive cars or do they all just bike to work?

In a similar fashion, in May the Union of Concerned Scientists announced that, thanks to climate change, our national landmarks such as Ellis Island, the Everglades, and Cape Canaveral will be endangered, claiming that face a serious and uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, frequent wildfires, flooding and other natural events. Only the sea levels are rising in millimeters, not inches or feet. There have been fewer forest fires and far fewer hurricanes of late. In short, this is just one more desperate Green claim.

If the Greens are so concerned for wildlife, why don’t they protest the wind power turbines that slaughter thousands of birds and bats, and are exempted from prohibitions on the killing of eagles and condors? Because they are hypocrites, that’s why.

Species extinction, like climate change, is a normal, natural aspect of life on Earth. It has nothing to do with human activities. There were no humans around to blame for the Great Permian Extinction when 90% of all life on Earth was destroyed. Global warming periods and abundant carbon dioxide have never been causes of mass extinctions.

Craig Rucker, president of CFACT, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, says the Warmists “actually want us to believe that global warming is responsible for the Ebola virus, the rise of ISIS, and for tens of thousands of walruses getting together to ‘haul out’ on a beach in Alaska. Attributing such things to global warming is among the most shameless tactics in the warming campaign’s playbook.”



Although unannounced, there are three political parties in the United States: Democrats, Republicans and Virtuecrats. The latter is bipartisan. It includes independents and many political agnostics. What it doesn't include are skeptics. The Virtuecrats are true believers, sure that what they are doing and marching for is right.

Recently 400,000 of them paraded through the streets of New York in behalf of Global Warming, Saving the Earth, Climate Control or all of the above. They believe that the science behind global warming is settled. Hence there is nothing to debate.

What they are unwilling to consider is that the science to which they refer is anything but settled. If you think about it, doubt should emerge. Discerning a pattern from the past does not constitute knowledge of the future, especially if you are dealing with a variety of unpredictable and idiosyncratic events. Man-made carbon factors represent one variable in a complex equation that includes natural conditions such as volcanic eruptions and sun-spot theory. Therefore a straight line extrapolation from point A in the past to point B in the future is mere guesswork.

Surely there are sophisticated records of temperatures around the world. But the recording of global temperatures over time is no different from evaluating the purchasing power of the dollar over time. What you cannot predict are the imponderables associated with human behavior. That, in no small part, explains why models designed as predictors are flawed.

One might assume that the Leonardo DiCaprio's of the world would exercise caution in their claims, even open-minded skepticism. But such a stance would diminish their zealotry and zealotry is a reason for demonstrating. A Virtuecrat must be sure. He must feel good about himself for standing up against the skeptics and those who just don't get it. They know for sure that greedy capitalists are behind the plot to promote fossil fuels which ultimately pollute the atmosphere and promote global warming.

Now the capitalism which they abhor not only has produced an unprecedented standard of living that many in the world would like to emulate, it also has produced the leisure time for the demonstrations they engage in. Were it not for this "dirty capitalism" Mr. DiCaprio certainly could not afford to buy a $35 million dollar apartment in lower Manhattan.

Of course, there is another obvious point overlooked by the Virtuecrats: the two most populous nations on the globe, India and China, do not have any interest in pursuing fossil fuel reduction. It might well be asked of the Virtuecrats why they aren't marching on the streets of Beijing. After all, the Chinese are the world's worst offenders of environmental propriety. It might even be asked why they aren't marching in Bismark North Dakota where an oil boom has produced a bonanza of wealth for local residents.

The Virtuecrats are sure they get it, when in fact they don't. They are not scientific; they are not thoughtful and they are not tolerant. Why, then, do we tolerate them? The answer lies in the psychological condition of standing by a cause that is beneficial to mankind. When you march with celebrities, you are putting yourself on the line, challenging "the system." It feels good.

Unfortunately feel good propositions rarely translate into sound policy. H.L. Mencken once said "every complex idea has a simple solution, which is usually wrong." Alas, the Virtuecrats have it wrong, even if the cause makes them feel superior to everyone else.


Ed Miliband and Baroness Worthington, the most expensive man and woman in Britain’s history

Who are potentially the most expensive man and woman in Britain, due over the next 36 years to cost this country £1.3 trillion, equivalent to our entire, ever-swelling National Debt?

The man is Ed Miliband, who in 2008 pushed through the final version of the Climate Change Act. It made us the only country in the world legally committed between now and 2050 to cutting our emissions of CO2 by a staggering 80 per cent. Even then, the Government projected that this would cost us up to £734 billion. The latest figures from the EU and the International Energy Agency suggest that, for Britain to reach this target, it would now cost even more: £1,300 billion.

Less well known, however, is the extraordinary story of how this most expensive Act ever put on the statute book originated in the first place. Google “Bryony Worthington YouTube” and you will see the video of a young climate activist, now known as Baroness Worthington, describing how she first conceived the idea of such a policy when she was campaigns director on climate change for Friends of the Earth.

After David Cameron became Tory leader in 2005, bent on “remaking” his party, she put to him that he should adopt her proposal. She describes how, when David Miliband became environment secretary, desperate not to be “out-greened” by the Tories, he called on her to head a small team in his ministry tasked with urgently drafting such a Bill. When, in 2008, brother Ed took over as head of the new Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), he raised the emissions-cut target from 60 to 80 per cent, at almost double the cost.

The Bill passed the Commons by 463 votes to three, after a debate in which not a single MP asked how such an ambitious target could in practice be achieved without destroying virtually our entire economy.

But this is what at last one senior politician, Owen Paterson, dared to question in his lecture last week to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Thanks to advance coverage given to his speech in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, with its front-page headline “Let’s rip up the Climate Change Act”, Mr Paterson has at last set off a proper debate on our energy future – one that is years overdue.

As I wrote last week, Paterson was able, backed by a mountain of expert research, to show how Decc’s current policy, outlined in its “2050 Pathway Analysis” –and amplified by similar statements from the European Commission – is pure make-believe. It alone might merit front-page headlines: that, within 16 years, Decc seriously contemplates closing down all our existing energy supplies from the nasty, CO2-emitting fossil fuels that currently supply 70 per cent of our electricity. Out will go all cooking and central heating by gas. Almost everything, including our transport system, will have to be powered by electricity, for which we will, by 2050, need twice as much as we currently use. This will largely be supplied by 17 times as many wind turbines as we already have, and up to 12 more monster nuclear power plants like the one proposed in Somerset, which may not produce a watt of electricity within 10 years.

What has been striking about the outraged response from green zealots to Paterson’s speech is how they did not begin to understand his practical proposals for how an otherwise inevitable disaster can be averted.

There was, of course, a knee-jerk howl of derision from the likes of Lord Stern and Lord Deben, along with a blizzard of personal abuse across the Twittersphere. But the more thoughtful among them, such as the BBC’s Roger Harrabin, tried instead to ride with the punch, by claiming that Decc was already looking at all the parts of Paterson’s “Plan B” for keeping our lights on. So there was really nothing new about what he was saying, despite his devastating evidence showing how Decc’s current strategy, like the Climate Change Act itself, cannot possibly work.

The zealots simply cannot grasp how our energy future might be transformed by “combined heat and power”, ending the waste of almost half the energy we use to create electricity. Or how hundreds of small, wholly safe nuclear reactors could provide us with a huge new source of both electricity and heat within a decade or so. Or how sophisticated “demand management” technology could shave another huge chunk off our electricity needs, without us even noticing.

And all this could achieve a far greater cut in our carbon emissions (for what that is worth) than we can hope for under Decc’s unworkable policy.

When Mr Paterson’s radical proposals are properly examined, unblinkered by green make-believe, it will be seen that he has at last launched the properly informed national debate that alone might save our economy from a barely imaginable catastrophe.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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