Monday, February 06, 2012

100 British Conservatives revolt over wind farms

David Cameron has been hit by a major protest by Conservative MPs over the Government’s backing for wind farms, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

A total of 101 Tory MPs have written to the Prime Minister demanding that the £400 million-a-year subsidies paid to the “inefficient” onshore wind turbine industry are “dramatically cut”.

The backbenchers, joined by some MPs from other parties, have also called on Mr Cameron to tighten up planning laws so local people have a better chance of stopping new farms being developed and protecting the countryside.

The demands will be a headache for Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, who joined the Cabinet on Friday when Chris Huhne resigned after being charged with perverting the course of justice.

Mr Huhne, who denies claims that he asked his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, to accept speeding penalty points on his behalf, was an enthusiastic proponent of wind farms. There are currently more than 3,000 onshore wind turbines in Britain.

At least 4,500 more turbines are expected to go up as the Government’s drive to meet legally binding targets for cutting carbon emissions sparks a green energy boom.

Critics say wind farms are inefficient because the wind cannot be guaranteed to blow at times of greatest energy demand. They are also said to be unsightly, blighting the landscape.

Wind farms are also accused of forcing up energy bills while swallowing disproportionate amounts of taxpayer-funded subsidies.

The Tory MPs, including several of the party’s rising stars as well as former ministers, say it is wrong that hard-pressed consumers must pay for the expansion of onshore wind power.

In the letter sent to No 10 Downing Street last week, which has been seen by The Sunday Telegraph, the MPs say they have become “more and more concerned” about government “support for onshore wind energy production”.

“In these financially straitened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines,” they say. The MPs want the savings spread between other “reliable” forms of renewable energy production.

They have also called on Mr Cameron to change the proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) so that it gives local people who object to proposed wind farms a better chance of victory in the planning process. The framework has finished a public consultation process and is awaiting the green light from ministers.

The letter reads: “We also are worried that the new National Planning Policy Framework, in its current form, diminishes the chances of local people defeating onshore wind farm proposals through the planning system.”

The number of Tory signatories to the letter, organised by Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative backbencher, means that the controversy could be the biggest protest to hit Mr Cameron since the Coalition was formed. Last October, 81 Tory MPs defied him in a Commons vote on holding a referendum over Britain’s future in the European Union.

The letter’s backers claim that while other Conservatives who are ministers and parliamentary private secretaries are unable to sign because they are part of the government “payroll”, they too privately support the move against wind farms.

It is understood that there is also support from the Treasury. Among the signatories are former Conservative ministers including David Davis and Christopher Chope, as well as party grandees such as Bernard Jenkin and Nicholas Soames. They are joined by several rising stars including Matthew Hancock, Nadhim Zahawi and Steven Barclay.

Mr Hancock, who is close to the Chancellor, George Osborne, said last night: “I support renewable energy but we need to do it in a way that gives the most value for money and that does not destroy our natural environment.”

Another Tory MP who signed the letter, Tracey Crouch, said: “It is tragic that we blight our countryside with hideous electricity pylons and now we intend not only to do the same with onshore wind farms but also to subsidise them.

“I’d much rather see better planning regulations and greater investment in other sources of renewable energy, which will protect the beauty of our countryside for future generations.”

Latest figures from Ofgem, the energy regulator, showed that £1.1 billion in taxpayer subsidies was paid to the producers of renewable energy in 2009-10.

Of this, about £522 million was for wind power, with most going to onshore wind farms. Much of this cash ended up in the hands of energy companies and investment funds which are based abroad.

The highest-profile critic of the onshore wind industry is the Duke of Edinburgh. Last year it emerged that the Duke claimed farms were a “disgrace” and they would “never work”.

Mr Huhne, by contrast, has described turbines as “elegant” and “beautiful”. His successor, Mr Davey, is thought to be bringing a more pragmatic approach to the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Mr Davey says he is committed to promoting a “green economy” but has also stated that he is “conscious” of the impact on households of high energy bills in tough economic times.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “We need a low carbon infrastructure and onshore wind is a cost effective and valuable part of the diverse energy mix.

“The Government has commissioned a review of subsidy levels and we are proposing a cut for onshore wind subsidies to take into account the fact that costs are coming down.

“We are committed to giving local communities the power to shape the spaces in which they live and are getting rid of regional targets introduced by the last government.”


Wind farms can actually INCREASE climate change by raising temperatures and causing downpours, warn academics

They have long been championed as a way to combat global warming by creating clean energy. But wind farms can actually alter the climate according to a new study by a group of American scientists.

The team from the University of Illinois found that daytime temperatures around wind farms can fall by as much as 4C, while at night temperatures can increase.

The study found that currently the effect is restricted to areas near to the turbines, but the increase in larger farms could create weather changes on a regional scale.

The study was led by Somnath Roy, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the university, with the San Gorgonio wind farm in California the focal point of his research. He suggested that the turbines' blades scoop warm from the ground and push the cooler air downwards. This is then reversed at night.

Roy, whose findings were published in the Sunday Times, added that he believes the turbines causing turbulence and reducing winds speed are the cause. He also added that the churning of air from low to high can create vortices that could extend the phenomenon for large distances downwind.

Roy's research is supported by a study undertaken by the Iowa State University, who looked at how a 100-turbine farm would affect conditions on farmland. They found that temperatures on the ground were warmer at night, which in turn allowed plants to breathe more.

While scientists in the United States have conducted research into the effects of wind farms on climate, such research in the UK is at an early stage. Currently no measurements have been made on changes to weather around British farms despite plans to increase turbines by tenfold. The UK currently has 3,500 wind turbines, with a further 800 under construction.

The Government aim to have 10,000 onshore and 4,300 offshore by 2020, but the rapid growth has led to 101 Tory MPs writing to David Cameron about the proposal. The members are calling for a dramatic cut in subsidies to onshore wind farms and more influence for local people to stop them being built.


Toppling Tax Dollars for Turbines

On February 1, an urgent alert was sent to supporters of wind energy. It stated: “The PTC is the primary policy tool to promote wind energy development and manufacturing in the United States. While it is set to expire at the end of 2012 ... the credit has already effectively expired. Congress has a choice to make: extend the PTC this month and keep the wind industry on track...”

The wind energy industry has reason for concern. America's appetite for subsidies has waned. Congress is looking for any way it can to make cuts and the twenty-year old Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy is in prime position for a cut—it naturally expires at the end of 2012. Without action, it will go away.

The payroll tax extension will be a hot topic over the next few weeks as it expires on February 29. Wind energy supporters are pushing to get the PTC extension included in the bill. Whether or not it is included will be largely up to public response—after all, regarding the PTC's inclusion in the payroll tax extension bill, the February 1 alert stated: “our federal legislators heard us loud and clear.” In the December payroll tax bill negotiations, the wind energy PTC was placed on a “short list of provisions to be extended through that bill.” Wind supporters are worried—hence the rallying cry.

Due to a deteriorating market, Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer of industrial wind turbines, is closing a plant and laying off workers. Everyday citizens, armed with real life information gleaned from the wind energy's decades-long history, are shocking lobbyists and killing back room deals by successfully blocking the development of industrial wind plants in their communities.

As news of actual wind energy contracts are coming in at three and four times the cost of traditionally generated electricity becomes widespread, and natural gas prices continue to drop due to abundance, states are looking to abandon the renewable energy mandates pushed through in a different economic time and a different political era. American Wind Energy Association spokesman, Peter Kelley, reports: “Industry-wide we are seeing a slowdown in towers and turbines after 2012 that is rippling down the supply chain and the big issue is lack of certainty around the production credit that gives a favorable low tax rate to renewable energy.” All of this spells trouble for the wind energy industry.

The PTC is part of a push for renewables that began in the Carter era. Enacted in 1992, the twenty-year old wind energy PTC was designed to get the fledgling industry going. However, after all this time, wind energy is still not a viable option. Even the industry’s own clarion call acknowledges that government intervention is still needed to keep it “on track.” If the training wheels are removed, it will topple.

Wind energy lobbyists have a plan: HB 3307 will extend the PTC for another four years. If the PTC extension passes, it will add an extra $6 billion to the $20 billion in taxpayer dollars the wind industry has already received over the past 20 years. These are monies we borrow (typically from China) to give to Europe—where most of the wind turbine manufacturers are located.

With advertisements featuring blue skies, green grass, and the warm and fuzzy images of families (and not one shot of a 500-foot wind turbine looming over their home), it is easy for the average person to be taken in and think we should continue to underwrite this “new technology”—after all, there is an energy shortage. “What will we do when we run out of oil?” Wind energy is electricity and electricity doesn't come from oil—even if it did, we don't have an oil shortage. Electricity comes from clean-burning natural gas and coal—both of which we have in abundance and know how to use effectively. They don't need an expensive replacement.

Wind energy supporters often tout turbines because of the misguided belief they will get us off of fossil fuels—when, in fact, they commit us to a fossil fuel future. Optimistically, a wind turbine will generate electricity 30% of the time—and we cannot predict when that time will be. Highly variable wind conditions may mean the turbine generates electricity in the morning on Monday, in the middle of the night on Tuesday, and not at all on Wednesday. A true believer might be willing to do without electricity at the times when the wind is not blowing, but the general population will not. Public utilities and electric co-ops cannot—they are required to provide electricity 24/7 and to have a cushion that allows for usage spikes.

So, during that average 30% of the time that the turbine blades are spinning, the natural gas or coal-fueled power plants continue to burn fossil fuels—though possibly slightly less in an extended period of windy weather, and full-steam-ahead the remaining 70% of the time. (Research shows that turning up the heat on power plants, and then turning it back down, and up again actually increases the CO2 emissions.) Absent a major breakthrough in expensive energy storage, wind can never save enough fossil fuel to make any significant difference. After twenty years of subsidies, wind energy has not replaced one traditional power plant.

Some argue that many new technologies got their start through government support. This might be a good viewpoint if wind energy were “new.” But after twenty years of subsidies it is little better now than it was in the late 1800s. Windmills produced electricity then, and modern industrial wind turbines generate electricity now. It is not that they do not work, they do. They just don't do so effectively, economically, or 24/7—and they still need Uncle Sam to prop them up.

Those who favor free markets need to seize upon this opportunity to push for the government to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. Clearly the “green” experiment has failed. Billions have been lost in the effort.

If we truly believe in free markets, why stop at just cutting the subsidies to wind energy? Stop the subsidies to all energy! May the strongest survive! The fact is, such a move is afoot. While HB 3307 aims to stretch out the subsidies for wind energy, HB 3308 will stop subsidies for all energy sources—wind and solar, oil and gas. The playing field will be level; billions will be saved!

A congressman I spoke to fears that, in the current political climate, his colleagues will cave on the wind energy subsidy, as they seem unwilling to take a strong stand on any issue. While wind energy supporters are calling their representatives, free-market advocates and everyone who believes the government-gone-wild spending must stop has to place a call, too.

Call, or e-mail, your Congressman, and as many others as you can take the time for, and tell them to stop subsidizing energy: “Do not include HB 3307 in the payroll tax extension bill. Support HB 3308 which will repeal the PTC and numerous other renewable energy tax incentives including the investment tax credit, the cellulosic biofuel producer credit, the tax credit for electric and fuel cell vehicles, and tax credits for alternative fuels and infrastructure. Additionally, HB 3308 will also repeal the enhanced oil recovery credit for producing oil and gas from marginal wells.”

Instead of propping up energy policy based on politics rather than sound science, we have to prop up our representatives and give them the backbone to do what is right. Tell them to end energy subsidies.


Govt Funding Created Too Many in Battery Space

Here’s a quick footnote to our commentary published last week about the bankruptcy announcement by Ener1, another of Obama’s failed green-energy “investments.” Ener1 manufactured lithium-ion batteries to be used in electric vehicles, EVs. Today’s Wall Street Journal provides further reasons to question Obama’s judgment and his irresponsible stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollars.

Ener1 blamed the anemic market for rechargeable battery cars and an overly competitive market place for the company’s financial woes. That is a similar refrain to the one offered by Solyndra, the California solar energy company that went bust last September even after Obama had guaranteed $535 million in loans.

But, flooding an uncertain, limited, nascent market with a plethora of manufacturers did not seem to bother the Obama Administration or cross anyone’s mind at the DOE. “The battery glut was created in substantial part by the Obama Administration, which handed out money to no fewer than 48 different battery technology and electric vehicle projects in 2009,” according to the WSJ.

Ener1 was awarded a $118 million grant by the DOE in 2009. That’s a “grant” – as in “gift” – not a loan like Solyndra or Beacon Power, a Massachusetts green company that also went bankrupt after a $43 million DOE loan guarantee. At least with a government loan there is an assumption, however weak, that the funds will eventually be paid back. Not so with a grant.

It’s far from clear why a taxpayer gift of $118 million seemed justified other than that the Obama Administration was passing out favors to just about anybody that could say “green energy” – better still if they had also contributed to the Obama campaign. It certainly wasn’t based on prior performance.

The company was founded in 2002, but was never able to post a profitable year. Even 2010, the year after the $118 million grant, Ener1 posted a $165 million loss. That was also the year that Vice-President Biden visited the plant and said the company “was leading the way…sparking whole new industries that will ensure our competitiveness for decades to come.”

Give Joe credit for being an eternal optimist, but he certainly isn’t very good at business. Only Joe would claim that a company showing loses of hundreds of millions of dollars and less than a year away from bankruptcy was “leading the way” to anything but the poor house.


Popular German newsmagazine features climate rebel

Here’s how DER SPIEGEL describes tomorrow’s upcoming story:


With heretical claims, RWE ma­na­ger Fritz Vah­ren­holt is causing a commotion: ‘The climate catastrophe is not taking place’, the environment expert claims. The sun is being underestimated as a natural climate factor. ‘The sun has been weak since 2005′, Vahrenholt said in a DER SPIEGEL interview. ‘We can only expect cooling from it for the time being.’”

Perfect timing

The timing of the DER SPIEGEL feature story couldn’t be worse for Germany’s catastrophe-obsessed warmists. This week renewable energies manager Fritz Vahrenholt’s and geologist Sebastain Lüning’s much anticipated climate-catastrophe skeptic book “Die kalte Sonne” is also hitting bookstores everywhere.

Even the weather is cooperating! When citizens pick up their copy of the flagship Spiegel magazine tomorrow morning at the newsstands, they’ll be shivering in temperatures down to -20°C, as Germany remains gripped in its coldest February freeze in 25 years. Temperature tomorrow morning in Berlin are forecast to dip to a frigid -17°C with no warming in sight.

There’s no way of knowing whether DER SPIEGEL will unload on Professor Vahrenholt and Dr. Lüning, take a more fair and balanced approach, or back them up. One thing is certain – the DER SPIEGEL story will push sales of Vahrenholt’s and Lüning’s book way up the overall best-seller list. The unwanted debate is unavoidable.

More than just the sun

One thing I have noticed: all the premature criticism from the warmists so far is focussed on the sun. I hate to tell you critics, guardians of the climate catastrophe narrative, but the book looks at a hell of a lot more than just the sun. We’re talking about over 800 cited sources (many peer-reviewed) and 80 graphics on a wide range of factors. I suggest you all hold your blabber and read the book first.

Expect lots of howling from the catastrophe-obsessed warmist zealots in the weeks ahead.


Jellyfish panic rebutted

THEY not only sting people and break fishing nets. In recent times jellyfish have also clogged up desalination works, blocked the cooling systems of nuclear power stations and even disabled a war ship.

These incidents, widely covered in the media, have created the perception that jellyfish numbers are rising alarmingly, and fuelled speculation these annoying gelatinous organisms will dominate the oceans in the future, as a result of overfishing and climate change.

But a new study has found claims of a jellyfish plague are scientifically unsubstantiated.
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Carlos Duarte, of the University of Western Australia, said researchers had assembled a database of more than 500,000 records of jellyfish abundance dating back more than 200 years.

"We have looked critically at the evidence to support those assertions and concluded the evidence was not there," Professor Duarte, director of the university's oceans institute, said.

Rather than blooms increasing, humans were seeing their impact more often as a result of increased coastal infrastructure, tourism and fishing.

"We have desalination plants that can be blocked by jellyfish blooms, whereas 20 years ago, at least in Australia, there were none," he said.

Occasional outbreaks are a normal and ancient phenomenon, with Minoans painting images of jellyfish blooms on their pottery 4000 years ago, he said. The fossil record also contains geological evidence of huge numbers of the creatures washed ashore.

"Swarms" of jellyfish were noted in Sydney Harbour by some of the first British arrivals.

And a scientific report in 1925 mentioned the "hordes" of jellyfish that appeared annually in Monterey Bay in California, "as if it were common knowledge", the researchers point out in their paper in the journal Bioscience.

Along with historical records, the team collected 42 sets of observations of jellyfish abundance from different parts of the world, dating back to 1790.

Professor Duarte said Japan was the only place where there was "robust evidence" for an increase in jellyfish - the giant Nomura jellyfish, which break fishermen's nets. Up to two metres in diameter, and weighing "more than a Sumo wrestler", they were hard to miss.

Researchers first predicted a possible jellyfish plague in 2001, and this "rise of slime" hypothesis has been widely cited by other scientists and echoed in the media, often with "alarmist headlines, despite a lack of evidence", Professor Duarte said.

But obtaining accurate information on jellyfish abundance was important for tourism, fisheries and ocean management in a changing climate. The new jellyfish database would provide "hard scientific data rather than speculation", he said.

In 2006 in Brisbane, jellyfish were sucked into the cooling system of the massive nuclear-powered warship USS Ronald Reagan on its maiden voyage.

Last year, a desalination plant in Palm Beach, Florida, became clogged with jellyfish, disrupting the water supply to residents for several days.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It appears Mother Nature doesn't need our HELP in managing the climate or technology,interesting thought.