Reality Checkpoint

Frequently one has the impression that energy policy is determined by people who have no understanding of our energy needs or reserves.

But every so often, little snippets of news arrive which show which way the wind is really blowing.

I'm putting some of these below.


The British deep freeze of recent weeks (which has also immobilized much of continental Europe) is profoundly embarrassing for the official forecaster. Just two months ago it projected a milder than usual winter.

This debacle is more than merely embarrassing. The Met Office is prominent in pursuing the British government’s commitment to fight what it calls "catastrophic man-made global warming" with more and bigger bureaucracy.

Its conspicuous errors on 'weather' undermine its credibility on 'climate'.

      issued by the Met Office in October…

      "The latest data comes in the form of a December to February temperature map on the Met Office’s website.

      The eastern half of England, Cornwall, Scotland and Northern Ireland is in for temperatures above the 3.7C (38.6F) average, more than 2C warmer than last winter.

      The map also shows a 40 per cent to 60 per cent probability that western England and Wales will be warmer than 3.7C (38.6F), with a much smaller chance of average or below-average temperatures."

23 Dec 10

The Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has stated that his government will not be party to a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. Russia has stated a similar view. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are also reluctant to commit because the US is not prepared to sign and major developing countries do not have to do so.

The Kyoto Protocol has become very unpopular with developed countries, for two very understandable reasons:

1. Carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas, and its link with climate is unproven.

2. No country can afford to negotiate away the profitability of its industry.

3 Dec 10

The British government’s chief scientist, Sir John Beddington has no hopes for a deal at this week’s United Nations climate change conference in Mexico, and has said that Britain should start preparing for a warmer world.

2 Dec 10

Ed Milliband, the new Labour Leader, said on 27 November 2010 "climate change must be at the core of everything we do".


Conserving resources, re-using, and recycling, are essential in today's world.

But we have had a succession of ministers spending enormous sums of money on systems which cannot deliver the energy we need. They are now getting ready to spend much more (the published figure is £18 billion per year) in 'limiting climate change' and 'decarbonising' the economy.

If you doubt this, do an internet search using the search term "decarbonising energy UK".

This might be justified if there was evidence of a link between man's carbon dioxide emissions and climate, but there is none. The Copenhagen fiasco and the Climategate affair showed that 'limiting climate change' was more about political control of the energy supply than concern for the planet.

It is becoming obvious even to those who do not work in science that traditional journalism is no longer a credible source of information in the climate debate. Articles by environment correspondents (mentioning no names, but you probably know them as well as me) are frequently riddled with misconceptions.

2 Dec 10

On 22 Oct 2010 UK ministers revealed a £1 billion fund (about £17 per person in the UK) for developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal fired power stations.

EOn has announced that it is pulling out of the national CCS competition. BP withdrew in 2008 and Peel Power withdrew in 2009.

In the view of this website the technology is another scheme put forward by politicians who have no understanding of our energy needs or resources. The one good thing about spending on CCS is that less money will be available for wind power.

24 Nov 10

In recent months it appears that a propaganda campaign has begun. Coal-fired power stations are now described by journalists as 'dirty' (conventional design) or 'clean' (government-approved design). Surprisingly, this doesn't refer to acidic emissions of sulphur dioxide or nitrogen dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is the new 'pollutant', and 'Clean' now means 'carbon-capture', where all carbon dioxide produced is pressurised and stored underground, a complicated technology not yet abandoned by the present coalition. The design is unproven on a commercial scale(see carbon capture page). There are no full-size carbon capture plants anywhere in the world.

In 2006 the BBC estimated the 'hardware' cost of a 1000MW proposed carbon capture plant at Killingholme to be £1.67 per watt generating capacity, double the price of a conventional station.

In idle moments I wonder how this was calculated because it seems to me to be a conservative estimate.

It has not been built.

24 Nov 10

Rupert Soames, the chief executive of Aggreko, has said that Britain is in serious danger of suffering power shortages over the next decade, thanks to 'green' energy policies. A large proportion of coal, nuclear and oil plants are due to shut over the next eight years. Mr. Soames was speaking at a conference at the Scottish Parliament. He argued that the only solution is to begin construction of a new generation of power stations and reduce 'climate change' targets.

There will a consultation on electricity market reform later in 2010, with a White Paper in Spring 2011.

An exemption from the EU's 'Large Combustion Plant Directive' needs to be sought urgently, or many of our coal fired stations will be turned off - Ed.

14 Nov 10

The Energy Users Association of Australia yesterday said that power prices were on track to double within five years and triple within a decade as federal government forced them to source one-fifth of their supplies from renewable energy by 2020 and utilities to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure.

5 Nov 10

The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) stated on Oct. 21 that it will be ending carbon trading - the purpose for which it was founded - this year. It is becoming clear that the recession will do for 'man-made global warming' what no amount of reasoned argument could achieve.

By the time it ends, AGW will be nothing more than a curious footnote in the economics textbooks.

The BBC has been accused repeatedly of suppressing debate on the causes of climate change, preferring to go along with the government line that the science is settled.

As readers of this site will be aware, the science is not settled; it is the subject of intense debate.

The BBC's new editorial guidelines, published on 12 Oct, after 1600 submissions from the public, say for the first time that the corporation has an obligation to be impartial on scientific matters.

A prominent BBC spokesman (whom I will not name) recently stated that the corporation is 'as straight as a die' in its reporting.

Why, then, did the BBC never report the Manhattan Declaration in 2008?

Why did the BBC broadcast global warming propaganda on mainstream TV on 15 August 2009?

Why did the BBC wait thirteen days before reporting on the Climategate scandal , in which the guardians of climate data were accused of manipulating evidence, suppressing contrary evidence, and excluding dissenting scientists from the peer review process?

I suggest that if there was no bias, the guidelines would have been left as they were - Ed.

29 Oct 10

EON has cancelled plans to build its Kingsnorth carbon-capture coal fired power station, on the grounds that it would be uneconomic. This is in line with recent reports from Canada and America, which made clear that carbon capture technology is unlikely to play a part in our energy future.

20 Oct 10

An interesting letter by Lord Vinson of Alnwick in today's paper, where he points out that offshore wind power is about nine times the price of nuclear. He points out that the intermittency of wind means that the output of offshore turbines is a third of their stated capacity. Because of marine corrosion, they will have a working life approximately one third that of a nuclear plant (twenty years as opposed to sixty). Their overall cost is therefore about nine times that of nuclear, quite apart from the spinning reserve which has to be maintained to cover their unpredictability.

In the same paper was a quote from the new Labour leader, Ed Miliband, dated March 2009: "It is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area - like not wearing your seat belt or driving past a zebra crossing".

Comments, anyone?

28 Sep 10

A report by the InterAcademy Council, just released (31 Aug) says that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should restrict itself to explaining the science behind changes in global temperature, and should stop lobbying.

The inquiry was ordered after the IPCC admitted exaggerating the rate at which certain glaciers were melting in a widely publicised report in 2007. Other errors were mentioned in the report.

The admission has undermined the evidence which forms the basis on which governments justify spending billions of pounds in attempts to control the climate.

The report also suggested that no chairman of the IPCC should be able to serve more than one six-year term.

31 Aug 10

The Democratic leadership in the US Senate has suspended efforts to pass a climate change bill. It abandoned not only its planned comprehensive cap-and-trade measure, similar to one already passed by the House of Representatives, but also a more modest bill aimed at electric utilities.

26 Jul 10

Prince Charles has accused those who refuse to believe alarmist climate propoganda of using 'pseudo science' and 'intimidation' to stop the world from tackling catastrophic global warming.

He correctly stated that the number of people believing climate change to be the result of human activity is declining, in the wake of the Climategate scandal and the coldest winter in thirty years.

Recent incidents have damaged the reputation of climate science as practised by the IPCC. This group was forced to apologise after making alarmist predictions on climate. Scientists at the Hadley Centre, UEA, which supply data to the IPCC, were also accused of exaggerating global temperature rises.

The Prince said that scepticism was on the rise, and called on the private sector to make people take global warming more seriously.

As a scientist, I am used to evaluating evidence. If the Prince knows of data showing that increased carbon dioxide leads to higher global temperatures, let him produce it. Otherwise, let us remain sceptical of unsubstantiated claims.

15 Jul 10

EDF has announced its plans to build a replacement nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point near Bridgewater in Somerset.

10 Jul 10

The new Energy and Climate Change minister, Greg Barker, has been talking about the coalition's energy plans.

He says that we need a diverse supply, clean energy and more efficient energy use.

I would have said that the number one requirement is for energy to be affordable.

He has also said that massive growth in the renewables industry is necessary. This strategy is central to the Government's Green New Deal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050.

The one certain outcome of this is that electricity prices will continue to rise rapidly.

Lord Lawson has warned that it is madness for Britain to continue with its carbon emissions policies. It will damage the economy to no conceivable purpose. "We need to get off this absurd carbon-cessation hook that will be hugely damaging to the economy and society".

As regular readers of this website will know, there is no evidence for a link between carbon dioxide levels and increasing temperatures. The majority of the greenhouse effect (around 90%) is caused by water vapour. Most engineers, physicists and chemists know this; it's basic science, yet government advisers seem to be working to a different agenda.

We are still being told by government ministers that more wind turbines are necessary.

Germany has stopped building wind turbines. The performance delivered by the German wind programme has been dismal. It recently came to light that several new fossil-fuel power stations have had to be built to provide backup for when the wind stops blowing. Denmark's programme has been similarly disappointing, though little has been said about it in the press.

It is becoming clear that we should not become involved with more large-scale wind projects. They cannot supply the energy we need.

30 Jun 10

At Oxford University, (May 2010), a student audience has rejected the proposition that global warming is or could become a global crisis.

Members of the Oxford Union Society carried the motion “That this House would put economic growth before combating climate change” by 135 votes to 110.
    Lord Lawson of Blaby, Margaret Thatcher’s former finance minister, opened the case for the proposition by saying that the economic proposals put forward by the UN’s climate panel and its supporters did not add up. It would be better to wait and see whether the scientists had got it right. It was not sensible to make expensive spending commitments, particularly at a time of great economic hardship, when the effectiveness of the spending was gravely in doubt and when it might do more harm than good.
The debate was sponsored by the Science and Public Policy Institute, Washington DC.

This seems to tally with the growing public scepticism toward global warming scare stories.

27 May 10

Ruth Lea, economic adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group, wrote a short piece in the Daily Telegraph on 17 May 2010 on the economy and the new Government. Here's a summary of what she said about Energy:
    Manufacturing industry, especially high-energy users, requires competitive and reliable energy supplies to be internationally competitive.

    Current climate change policies are responsible for a surcharge of 21 per cent on electricity prices for industrial users, which is due to rise to 55 per cent by 2020.

    These policies should be radically amended. Nuclear power is a must.
17 May 10

One or two cracks have started to appear in the new coalition Government with regard to Energy policy.

It took a decade of dithering before the last Government eventually revived the nuclear programme. Without more nuclear stations, there is a high risk of energy shortages in the medium term, and vulnerability to disruption of oil and gas supplies from the Middle East or Russia.

The Conservatives in Opposition said that these dangers must be averted, and their election manifesto proposed 10 new nuclear stations in the next 20 years, ensuring security of supply and a zero-carbon source of electricity.

It is surprising, therefore, that Chris Huhne, a Liberal, is to take charge of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. He dislikes nuclear power. The coalition's draft agreement allows a plan for more stations to be brought before Parliament, but lets the Liberals abstain from the vote.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

The good news, if I can express a personal view for once, is that the old PM has gone. The Economist identified Mr. Brown's 'mania for scheming' and 'moralising drivel' in a recent issue, and it was probably this which finished off New Labour. The electorate had finally had enough of 'tax and spend'..

The odds are that the new Government will be a lot more competent at balancing the books. I hope that it will also waste less of our money on schemes designed to reduce personal freedoms, and that energy policy becomes focused on energy production rather than 'climate change'.

16 May 10

As the oil slick the Gulf of Mexico moves toward Louisiana, Democrats are backing away from their prior support for new off-shore drilling as part of a compromise clean energy bill. Both the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Friday that they were re-examining the need for such drilling, citing the April 20 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig as a reason.

Offshore drilling is crucial to the climate and energy bill’s chances in Congress. Without it, the legislation is unlikely to win over enough Republicans and moderate Democrats for approval.

Democratic leaders had opposed drilling as anti-green, but their opposition began to cool last year as political realities set in.

2 May 10

A recent survey of 51,000 scientists in Canada from the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists found that 68% of them disagreed with the statement “the debate on the scientific causes of recent climate change is settled.” The survey also found that only 26% of scientists attributed global warming to "human activity such as burning fossil fuels."

2 May 10

Melting icebergs are causing sea levels to rise by an amount so small that it is unmeasureable. Researchers at the University of Leeds calculate that around 1.5 million Titanic-sized icebergs each year are melting into the sea in the Arctic and Antarctic. This is causing sea levels to rise by 0.049mm - about the thickness of a human hair.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Put some ice in a glass of water and watch it melt. The water level doesn't change.

At the rate mentioned it would take about 200 years for the oceans to rise by 1cm.

1 May 10

President Obama has announced that there will be more drilling for oil and gas in American waters, along the Atlantic coastline, the Gulf of Mexico and off parts of Alaska. Given the nation's need for energy and the need for jobs and competitive business, these drillings are necessary. Mr. Obama also said that more nuclear power would be needed, to help move away in the long term from fossil fuel and foreign oil. Last month loan guarantees for $50 billion were announced to help build eight new nuclear plants.

Eventually America should be running on home grown fuels and clean energy.

3 Apr 10

France's proposed carbon tax has been postponed indefinitely by President Sarkozy. This is in order not to damage the competitiveness of French companies.

Brussels has announced plans for a carbon tax across the EU but France's decision makes it unlikely that it will be implemented.

25 Mar 10

Prof. Michael Jefferson takes exception to Government wind farm efficiency claims in a letter to today's Daily Telegraph. He quotes Government claims that onshore wind farms typically operate at 30% capacity.

They do not. The average performance is nowhere near 30%.

In 2007, 85% of onshore turbines did not achieve 30% capacity.
In 2008, 81% of onshore turbines did not achieve 30% capacity.
In 2009, 85% of onshore turbines did not achieve 30% capacity.

He goes on to say that the Renewables Obligation Certificate subsidy system should focus on helping erect turbines in the windiest pages. At present it fails to do so.This results in poor performance and exposes the industry to criticism.

A number of commentators have said that building onshore wind turbines south of Hadrian's Wall is not cost-effective. The poor performance quoted by Ofgem a few days ago reinforces this view.

Wind turbines are fine, but they must be built in the proper place. Doing otherwise benefits no-one.

24 Mar 10

Recent figures from the energy regulator, Ofgem, for onshore wind farms shows that they are not performing adequately. Twenty sites are delivering a fifth of the energy which they were expected to produce. Some are worse.

Regular readers of this site will not find this surprising. Without subsidy many wind farms would never have been built.

Most observers (and reporters) are confused by the wholly fictitious 'rated output' of turbines which gives no indication of the amount of energy likely to be generated. A cynic might say that this is to ensure wind turbine performance cannot be discussed objectively by the media.

My own mini-turbine, rated at 600W, delivered about 8W during windy periods.

Government press releases and interviews on turbine performance are always based on 'rated output'. This exaggerates the performance (and understates the cost) by a factor of between five and ten.

Professor Michael Jefferson, of London Metropolitan Business School, said that developers grossly exaggerate the potential of their sites. Turbines are put on sites which would be deemed unsuitable if the subsidy was not available.

A spokesman for CPRE said that the subsidy system is blind to the impact wind farms have on the landscape and the importance of beauty and tranquility.

He could have added that is also blind to our energy needs, but not to the ubiquitous targets set by the EU.

22 Mar 10

I recently read a letter in a national newspaper suggesting that the Government should choose to build the French design of nuclear power station over that of the Americans.

We do not have the expertise in Britain to build nuclear power stations. The teams who built our existing stations are all retired, and their expertise has not been replaced.

We lost the ability to build our own nuclear stations when the CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) was dissolved. GEC, the company which built the world's first nuclear dry store at Wylfa, no longer exists. Westinghouse has been sold to the Japanese. We are no longer a major player - or even a minor player -in nuclear technology.

Decisions on our energy future will be taken in Europe. This is already happening; the Large Combustion Plant Directive is a good example. We have coal of our own but we cannot burn it in large combustors unless emissions limits set by the EU are obeyed.

21 Mar 10

The Tories have criticised the Labour Party for allowing the share of nuclear electricity to fall. It was about 20% a few years ago; now it's about 12%.

If a Tory government is elected it will bring in new planning rules which will allow the building of nuclear stations to be approved directly by Parliament.

If this happens, protesters will not be able to seek judicial review and delay construction.

20 Mar 10

An interesting letter by Prof. S.F.Bush appeared in a national paper recently. Professor Bush says that electricity blackouts from 2015-2017 have been implicitly admitted by the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change. He points out that the Government should tell the European Commission that on grounds of overwhelming need, Britain will not comply with the Large Combustion Plant Directive.

This is the directive which will cause one third of our perfectly serviceable coal generating plant to shut down by 2015. The plants chosen for closure have already used some of their 20,000 hours of run-time (starting from 2008) and will therefore probably close before 2015 unless the Government takes the above action and allows them to run until replacement capacity is in place.

6 Mar 10

Ed Miliband recently announced that any new UK coal power station must have some form of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and full capture by the 2020s. What he did not announce was that the technology does not exist on a commercial scale anywhere in the world.

Why, then, is he including it in his UK energy plans?

What we want is a reliable electricity supply.

Not everyone is so out-of-touch with reality. On 24 Feb 2010, Parliament voted on the new Energy Bill. There was an amendment to include an Emissions Performance Standard to limit the amount of CO2 emissions from any new coal power stations.

The day before the Bill, Joan Ruddock wrote to all Labour telling them not to support the amendment.

The amendment was defeated by 252 votes to 244. This means that new coal power stations can now be built without limits on their emission.

Perhaps this will help keep energy costs at a more reasonable level.

4 Mar 10

BP, Conoco Phillips and Caterpillar have all withdrawn from the US Climate Action Partnership.

The Australian Industry Group, previously a firm supporter of the Ration-N-Tax Scheme, now says there is “no clear way forward” and needs to rethink its position.

Peabody, the world’s biggest coal company, has lodged a detailed submission opposing the US EPA’s classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. See: Peabody Court Case .

Meanwhile, Tony Blair recently told the press: "Even if the science is wrong we should still pursue the AGW agenda".


(N.D., 3 Mar 10 )

From a newspaper report, 17 Feb 10:

Last year, government officials at the Climate Change Department took 1200 domestic flights. This is the the department in charge of a multi-million pound advertising campaign to discourage activities which use fossil fuels - such as flying.

The Government spent £35,000 'offsetting' the flights. This means they paid for trees to be planted.

Vicky Wyatt, of Greenpeace, pointed out that this is another case of ministers saying one thing and doing another.

Last month (Jan 2010) the BBC Trust announced an investigation after a string of complaints that the corporation was promoting the theory that climate change was a man-made phenomenon.

Viv Forbes, from Australia, writes:
.......politicians of all parties are, as usual, lagging public opinion. The public have had a gutful of green propaganda and vested interests masquerading as science. A recent Australian poll shows that only 33% of Australians now support the Rudd Ration-N-Tax Scheme. And in Britain, only 26% now believe in man-made global warming. See: Polls.

Even the BBC (and now the ABC) have discovered that the science is not settled. The BBC’s huge vested interest in promoting climate alarmism is revealed. Their eight billion pound pension fund is heavily invested in the Climate Change Industry. See: Report by Geraint Jones including comments by veteran journalist and former BBC newsreader Peter Sissons

Businesses and households are to get paid for "generating their own power" under Government plans to boost renewable power use.

Those installing wind turbines, solar panels, biomass burners or heat pumps will receive a set price for the energy they produce, according to this evening's BBC News on Radio 4.

It is also claimed that excess energy will be able to be "sold back to the Grid" (my quotes).

According to my own wind turbine evidence, this seems to be a headline-grabbing exercise. My own wind turbine which cost over £1000 generated 8 watts (this is not a misprint) in windy periods, and nothing at other times.

It eventually flew apart in a brisk breeze, sending shrapnel through the roof and the wall of the building underneath (fortunately unoccupied; anyone hit by the blade fragments would have had no chance).

One thing is certain - the energy "passed back to the Grid", whether paid for or not, will never be metered. There won't be enough to measure. No doubt householders will be offered a flat rate.

(ND, 1 Feb 10)

The believability of 'man-made global warming' took another blow yesterday when a weather forecaster attempted to tell us, in the middle of the coldest period for many years, that 'climate' is not the same as 'weather'.

If you want a smile, try asking a scientist what magnetism is.

(N.D., 8 Jan 10 )

Gordon Brown has recently announced that 6,000 new wind turbines are to be built at sea. He says these turbines, costing £100 billion, could generate 25GW of electricity by 2020, enough to power every home in Britain.

One wonders about the quality of the advice he is receiving in planning this country's energy future. The only wind turbine manufacturing company in Britain, on the Isle of Wight, has recently been shut down.

Wind energy cannot be stored. The most we can believe is that a small fraction of the energy mentioned by Mr. Brown will be available (data from Germany suggests around 1GW would be produced, not 25GW), and that this will only be available when the wind blows.

Dozens of smaller projects, including the London Array, have been delayed because of funding problems. Investors are unwilling to put money forward because the energy outputs of these plants do not warrant the enormous sums of money needed to build them, and without government subsidy, none of them would ever be built.

There is also the issue of what happens, fifteen years on, when the turbine is no longer functional. Will the sites be returned to 'green field' status, if that is the right word? If so, we need to know who will pay for the dismantling, and whether the cost will appear on our energy bills.

(N.D., 8 Jan 10 )

I notice that for the third year in succession there is no wind over the New Year period. If we were seriously dependent on wind turbines we would now be feeling extremely cold. Let us hope that during 2010, sanity prevails, we expand coal production again, and that the UK's expansion of wind energy is over.

(N.D., 1 Jan 10 )

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