Monday, June 24, 2019

Renewables and austerity can't decarbonise

The need for realism about carbon dioxide targets

If the British government declared the abolition of sin by 2050, commentators would be rightly cynical. The announcement last week that Britain will enact a net-zero carbon target for 2050 was instead welcomed, especially by “faith leaders”. Yet without specifying how it is to be achieved, setting this target is about as wishful as pledging to eliminate sin. It is not just a matter of cost – although £1 trillion is not small change (if you had been spending a pound a second and had now reached £1 trillion, you would have had to start when Neanderthals were still on the scene).

Too many Tories think that going green means getting into lucrative bed with the crony-capitalist wind and solar industries, putting profit-seeking lipstick on a subsidy-dependent pig. But this is a futile strategy, politically as well as practically.

In Britain last year, generously using the Final Energy Consumption metric, 4 per cent of energy came from wind and solar, 3 per cent from nuclear and less than 1 per cent from hydro, the three zero-carbon sources. The common misconception that wind and solar are bigger contributors comes from forgetting that electricity is just 20 per cent of energy: the rest is heat, transport and industry.

So eliminating carbon dioxide from the energy sector has hardly begun, yet the cost is already huge and bearing down especially on poorer people, while, as Professor Dieter Helm of Oxford University has pointed out, industry is voting with its feet and taking its emissions to China and elsewhere. It was not true that Britain did without coal recently: a grid interconnector was bringing electricity from Dutch coal-fired power stations, and industry was burning coal imported from Russia. (I hereby declare my indirect interest in a Northumberland coal mine.)

Even if we could figure out a way to run aeroplanes on electricity, or to use less coal to make steel (it takes a heap of coal to make a wind turbine), and even if we were to find a way to make solar and wind power available on demand, there just is not enough space either on land or sea to power and heat the British economy from these low-density sources, not without ruining the entire countryside: a point frequently made by the late Sir David MacKay, chief scientist at the Department of Energy.

The “extinction” protesters say we can do without meat, or foreign holidays. To Tories flirting with this kind of energy rationing policy, good luck at the ballot box – look what has happened recently in Australia, France and America to politicians who promised to push up energy prices to save the climate.

The people in denial in this debate are the ones who think we could reach a 2050 net-zero target with a mixture of renewable energy and hair-shirt austerity. Nor is nuclear ready to help without massive public subsidy. Fortunately, there may be another way, one that Boris Johnson should seize to put clear turquoise water between himself and green dreamers.

For the foreseeable future, fossil fuels will be crucial to sustaining civilisation. A way must be found to use oil and gas, but capture their carbon dioxide emissions – and have the industry do something more than signal its regret; to be part of the solution, rather than most of the problem. The technology for sequestering carbon dioxide, still hopeless a few years ago, is now progressing in Norway, Canada and Texas. Britain has a golden opportunity because the North Sea oil industry has left a network of pipes and wells ideal for injecting carbon dioxide into rocks, where it slowly dissolves. Government is on the hook for some of the decommissioning cost anyway.

What is needed, though, is not some taxpayer-funded boondoggle to pick a winner in carbon capture – because that approach usually picks the most politically well-connected loser instead – but the setting up of a market mechanism to discover innovative technologies.

Professors Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University and Myles Allen of Oxford University argue that government should make all fossil energy producers and importers pay a small but increasing fee per tonne of carbon dioxide, not into the insatiable maw of the Treasury, nor into vague tree-planting scams, but into actual carbon-capture projects that work. Fierce competition would ensue to deliver technologies that capture and, crucially, store carbon for the least cost.

If Boris Johnson becomes prime minister and adopts such a policy, he can look the opposition in the eye and say: “Unlike you, I have a plan for how we might just get to net-zero. It uses the market, encourages innovation, does not hit the poor or reward the rich, and puts the obligation where it should be: on the fossil-fuel industry.”


Growing evidence of wind farms’ horrific toll on wildlife: This time from India

Eagles, hawks, bats – these are among the most prominently cited avian wildlife regularly slaughtered by industrial-sized wind-power facilities that – thanks to taxpayer subsidies and state renewable-energy mandates — continue to spread like wildfire across rural America.

The affliction is by no means restricted to the United States, however. A new study sheds light on the carnage giant wind turbines are inflicting on wildlife in India. Researchers at the Indian Institute for Science at Bengaluru studied bird and lizard populations at three wind turbine sites in Western Ghats. They found that the mass killing of avian predators by wind turbines is having a “ripple effect” across the food chain, with lizards and small mammals adjusting to substantially reduced numbers of predators in the sky.

Wind Turbines: The New “Apex Predator”

As reported by the Daily Mail last November (and otherwise largely ignored by the media), researchers in India found almost four times fewer buzzards, hawks, and kites in areas with wind farms – a loss of about 75%. Startled by the data, scientists are now referring to wind turbines as “the new apex predator.”

In areas without wind turbines about 19 birds were spotted every three hours, while in areas with the spinning blades the number dropped to five. Fewer winged predators have been good news for the fan-throated lizard, a species found only in certain areas of the Indian Sub-Continent. The lizard is usually easy pickings for hawks, buzzards, and other birds, but with their numbers reduced by the wind turbines, the lizard’s numbers are multiplying.

“We have known from many studies that wind turbines kill birds and bats. They kill them and disrupt their movement. But we took that one step further and discovered that it affects lizards, too,” study coauthor Maria Thaker told the Daily Mail.

“Every time a top predator is removed or added, unexpected effect trickle through the ecosystem,” she added. “What is actually happening here is that wind turbines are akin to adding a top predator to the ecosystem.”

The study, which was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, compared populations of raptors and lizards on a plateau that has had a wind farm on it for about 20 years to an adjacent valley that has no turbines.

“Humankind’s Most Pervasive Influence on the Natural World”

A recent study by an international team of scientists found the decline of apex predators is” arguably humankind’s most pervasive influence on the natural world.”

None of this is of any real concern to green groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund, who parrot the party line that the real threat to wildlife is “climate change,” not industrial-scale wind facilities and giant solar arrays they have been supporting for decades.

While India has made great strides in electrification in recent years, much still needs to be done. According to official data, “only 1,417 of India’s 18,452 villages or 7.3% of the total, have 100% household connectivity, and about 31% are still in the dark,” Forbes reported last year.

India’s future should not be dependent on interment, unreliable, unaffordable, and, as we now know, environmentally destructive wind power.


Having hitched their wagon to the unicorn of climate catastrophe, the Democrat candidates for president are caught between a rock and a very hard place

Each of these twenty contenders has to try to stand out from the crowd and they will not do that by saying “oh wait, climate change is not a problem.” But the shriller they get the less likely they are to defeat President Trump. This panic festival will be fun to watch.

Presumably Bernie Sanders had the lead going in. He has the big machine that almost upset Clinton. He would be perfect. At the risk of being crass and cruel I am reminded of a famous Gary Larson cartoon. The dog is trying to entice the cat into the dryer with a sign that says “cat fud.” The cat is looking in and the dog is saying “oh please, oh please.” That is how I feel about Sanders opposing Trump. (For the record I have and love both cats and dogs, but I also like Larson.)

But there are more of course. I have already written about “Beto’s two-headed climate change fallacy.” My esteemed colleague and sometime co-author Paul Driessen just did “Reality bites Joe Biden’s “clean energy revolution”” which is a truly fun read.

What would really be fun is if we could rush through a Constitutional amendment allowing AOC to run for president. But I digress.

What is this mob of candidates to do? Presumably they will roll to the left, distancing themselves ever further from the American people. At which point we find the President sitting in an unexpected place — in the center!

So when does this climate circus begin? Or will it?

Aussie skeptic Jo Nova put it best:

“There are a billion sensible reasons the Democrats don’t want a climate debate

And it’s not because they’d lose debating science. There’s no chance they would debate science every candidate already agrees there is a climate emergency de facto, or they’d be thrown out of the party. So, any debate would start with “what should we do” and instantly turn into a high risk competition to outbid each other. Who can promise more, squander more, or cry bigger tears on stage on cue?”

The Democrat candidate debates are about to begin. Will the climate issue rise, or fall, or be swept under the rug?

Reportedly this is the largest number of one party presidential candidates in American history! Here are the latest debate lineups. I do not see a 10 person debate getting anywhere fast, so this is just the beginning of the beginning.


La Transition Énergétique: “Pointless, Costly and Unfair”

A top French economist has slammed his country’s attempts to decarbonise its economy. `Professor Rémy Prud’homme accuses the government of wasting money on schemes that will make almost no difference to the climate and will cause great harm to the poor.

France already has relatively low carbon dioxide emissions because it gets most of its electricity from low-carbon sources like nuclear and hydro. But despite this the French government has embarked on a programme of building renewables. As Professor Prud’homme explains:

“We are spending billions to switch from reliable low-carbon nuclear power to unreliable low-carbon renewables. This will almost certainly increase our carbon dioxide emissions rather than reduce them.”

And the policies put in place are hitting the poor very hard, particularly those living in rural areas.

“The government is forcing up the price of energy everywhere. There are some subsidy schemes to reduce the impact on the poorest, but these cannot do nearly enough to soften the blow, as the Gilets Jaunes protests have shown us.”

The protests, now in their thirtieth week, and in which more than 4000 people have been injured, began as a demonstration against fuel price increases imposed as part of the government’s decarbonisation drive.


Australia: New reef envoy Warren Entsch takes aim at 'coaching' of kids over climate change

The new Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef has declared the World Heritage site doesn't need "saving", while taking a swipe at climate change activists for "indoctrinating" school students who protest the issue in Australia.

Queensland MP Warren Entsch, who was appointed to the new role on Sunday, acknowledged climate change was a challenge for the reef, but said his priority is to reduce plastic in Australia's oceans.

But Mr Entsch said he was unmoved by student climate protesters who frequently targeted his electorate office, saying he had witnessed adults "coaching" some of the young people involved ahead of visiting his office.

"They're frightening the living hell out of kids. It's like child abuse and I think they should be held accountable," he told SBS News on Tuesday. He said "hostile" and "dishonest" activists were "giving kids nightmares because they don't believe there's a future".

Climate strikers have targeted the outspoken MP who represents the electorate of Leichhardt which covers Cairns and far north Queensland.

"One of them was almost in tears, as far as she was concerned the reef was dead in 10 years ... They only spoke in slogans 'save the reef', 'stop Adani' and '100 per cent renewables by 2030'."

He said Australia needed "solutions not slogans" around climate change.

But he dismissed the idea the Great Barrier Reef was facing any kind of existential threat, instead declaring his mission is to reduce the amount of plastic in Australia's oceans.

"We don't need to 'save the reef'. The reef is functioning well. There are lots of challenges. We need to continue to manage it and meet all those challenges," he said.

He nominated curbing plastics in the oceans as the main challenge he hoped to address as envoy, committing to a national policy on plastics.



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


No comments: