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Biofuels in the 2050 calculator

I've been playing about with DECC's 2050 calculator and I wondered if BH readers (if any of you are still popping by) to take a look at something.

I'm interested in how it handles bioenergy. Here's how the relevant help screen describes the process.

In 2007, the UK used 4000 km2 of land to grow energy crops, which is less than 2% of the country. For comparison, 174 000 km2 of land was used for arable crops, livestock, and fallow land. The 2050 Calculator contains two options relating to agricultural biomass and land use: land use management (described here) and livestock management (described on another page).

In his book, Mackay uses a value of 244,000 km2 for the area of the UK, so "less than 2%" is correct.

Near the bottom of the screen the power output from this 4000 km2 is given at 8 TWh. That's 0.002 TWh/km2, a number that is similar to the value you can derive from the text of the book (24 kWh/person/day, 59,500,000 people, 244,000 km2 gives a value of 0.0028 TWh/km2, and Mackay admits this is optimistic).

Then look what happens when you move the slider for land dedicated to bioenergy. Take Level 4, for example. According to the help text.

Level 4

Level 4 assumes that the UK has a strong domestic bioenergy production focus, with 17% of the country planted with energy crops. There is extensive carbon capture through forestry, and highly effective management and collection of waste materials for bioenergy use. The resulting energy available in 2050 is 545 TWh/y.

Using our figure of 0.002 TWh/km2, 545 TWh will require 272,500 km2 of land. Which is to say pretty much the whole of the UK. 

Can anyone explain why DECC thinks it will only take 17%? Or is my maths wrong somewhere?


If you want to get to the relevant place on the calculator, start it up, click "Overview" in the bottom left hand corner of the screen and then the "Supply" tab in the top right. Scroll down the list of options on this tab. Near the bottom, you will see "Land dedicated to bioenergy" with a slider that allows you to make your selection. The help screen is available by clicking the "i" button just above the slider. 

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Reader Comments (70)

I remember having very similar questions when I first looked at the ice core data. No doubt there is a simple explanation somewhere, but I lost interest before I worked it out :-)

Sep 18, 2017 at 4:33 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Thanks ST: glad you agree.
To this bear of little brain it seems pretty obvious that it was the oceans wot dunnit (driving the CO2 levels).

Sep 18, 2017 at 6:09 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Mikeh. There remains the problem of explaining why cooling oceans didn't immediately start pulling down atmospheric CO2. Also ice buildup should start lowering sea levels exposing carbonate shelves in the tropics. Weathering (dissolution) of these exposed carbonates should start reducing atmospheric CO2. This is the old, discredited, coral-reef hypothesis. I don't believe we have an explanation of glacial-interglacial CO2 cycles - or not one I understand anyway.

Sep 18, 2017 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterSupertroll

Some points of order
"we won't to use more biofuels" doesn't mean you have to grow them in the UK
- It might not be the optimum place to grow them.
We already import masses of biofuel : trees for Drax, palm oil for EU regulation 5% biofuel petrol..and that is shortly to go up to E10, 10% biofuel petrol.

#2 Wouldn't the sea be a place to grow fuel ?
Like harvest sea weed and algae... maybe genetically modified.

Sep 18, 2017 at 8:36 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Plenty of experiments going on with seaweed at sea, and algae in vats.

Sep 20, 2017 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

What happened to Golf Charlie ?
Always enjoyed reading his clear cut comments

Sep 21, 2017 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBLACK PEARL

The "calculator" is based on the usual woo-woo, "wooden tit be luverly," if-we-had-some-eggs-we-could-have-ham-and-eggs-if-we-had-some-ham thinking. Outside of propaganda purposes, It has no value whatsoever. It's drivel.

Sep 29, 2017 at 6:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Ha , the bias in the model is seen immediately as there is no provision for a reduction in distance traveled , airplane use etc ,the report assumes a increase in prices over net income which forces consumer conduits to scavenge for resources over larger and larger areas ,a hopefully future bankrupt Ryanair will destroy their model in short order.

Oct 1, 2017 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Again from a social credit perspective austerity is merely the rationing required to sustain a war or consumer war economy. This classic monopoly dynamic did not begin yesterday - however these wars have become increasingly absurd , now including the war on climate.
If these guys can sustain monopoly inflationary prices then we will witness more and more oil burned for distribution and not real human consumption. Previously oil was wasted bringing LNG around the planet ,the next great waste scheme is the woodpellet transfer market, ever so slightly entertaining but no net energy is distributed in these farcical series of matches,only prices......

Oct 1, 2017 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Very flawed flow chart.
For example a conversion to a all elec. residential heating structure does not effect gas imports or indeed final consumption in the sector!
Transformation loss!!!!!! Anyone anyone?
In extreme dash for gas Ireland transformation loses form the bulk of consumption.

Oct 1, 2017 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Sorry a misreading on my part as transformation losses do indeed increase with the insertion of a all electricity residential sector,however look what replaces most but not all the losses......a truely massive heat pump sector arrives.
This is classic monopoly capitalism practice, it blames the war for the shortage on the front end be they as a result of Uboats or power conversion.
Forcing the footsoldiers to invest rather then consume at the back end.
A truely diabolical system of control.

Oct 1, 2017 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

The 2015 balance sheet for Ireland was published by the CSO in September.
The subsection : Net financial assets as % of GDP was extremely interesting and descriptive of the massive lack of equilibrium within the euro construct.
Ireland has the largest negative number by a mile( -207.7%) followed by Greece (-133.7%)
Could this partiality be a result of the aviation and shipping sectors in each of these euro jurisdictions ?
The UK is essentially neutral (-4.6%)
On the + side Norway (197.1%) and Switzerland ( 121.6%) dominates with Netherlands in third (77.9%)
Economic growth of Ireland in euroland has caused devastating net wealth Destructon.
net financial assets Ireland
Y2001 : -20 billion euros
Y2009 : -197 billion
Y2013 : -237 billion
Y2014 : -312 billion
Y2015 : -531 billion

Notice the second large decline period happened between 2013 & 2015, a time of vigorous GDP growth.
A recovery of aviation and other transport activity.
In Ireland Greece & Spain(-90.4%) at least growth destroys wealth.
All 3 of the most extreme cases share a common characteristic.
Peasant economies forced into extremely mercantile patterns of "development"

Oct 2, 2017 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

The propaganda is becoming intense.
Zerohedge is protraying the Catalan movement as some form of honest nationalism when infact it is a pathetic form of euro regionalism.
I am old enough to remember the transition of political /economic geography from a study of nations to one of regions.
The prime directive of the EU is the total destruction of the treaty of Westphalia /Pyrenees Europe and not introduce a form of Merrie medievalism but the chaos of early capitalist Europe and its devastating religious wars.
Numerous commentators are reporting access denied messages.
Zero hedge was always a Austrian propaganda site but now that the war has turned hot........

Oct 2, 2017 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Nationalism always becomes high farce when a more powerful external union starts pulling all the hidden strings.
Read Frank o Conners ""An Only Child" if you want a belly laugh.
In the last few chapters Childers is seen staring into the window of a Cork lingerie store.
Eventually this queer fellow is transported to the hinterland west of Macroom.
He is protrayed as a man outside space & time wandering aimlessly around the then very alien Irish speaking Cork highlands.
His English republican friend claims he is a dead man as he is a outsider and therefore easily blamed.
Free state propaganda claims he is blowing bridges up and down the country when even his guard duty has difficulty mobilizing for anything but the pubs of Ballyvourny.
Needless to say but the poor snowflake is executed
The mindless chaos of civil war is accurately protrayed in this very best of books from this previous period of global unraveling.

Oct 2, 2017 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Re biofuels...

We live on the littoral,
needing land lots of lane
for a future ten billion souls,
for, oh you foolish mortals,
Noah's flood is not subsided,
two-thirds of the world it covers yet,
And you'd replace efficient
ol' King Coal with intermittent
as the wind blows or the sun shine,
renewable technologies and bio-fuels.

Fools! Don't you know that to supply
the population of the USA
with its energy you'd require
solar panels covering
an area the size of Spain,
wind farms the area of
Kazakhstan, or hay fields for
bio-fuels the area of Russia
and of Spain combined.

H/t for measurements Matt Ridley.

Oct 6, 2017 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeth Cooper

James Corbetts follow up to "How big oil took over the world" is a cracker.
That is why big oil took over the world ( released today on utube)

The Maltusian monopolistic origins of the modern green movement is charted.
The connections between various monopoly heads /organizational managers (Maurice Strong) and technocratic functionalists is striking.
A powerful polemic.

Oct 6, 2017 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Irish 2016 energy balance sheet published this week.
The ongoing trend confirms my observations.
That is a restart of GDP price growth smashes real net income per capita.

Energy consumption in the transport sector has returned to the white hot years of 2004/05 (first year of mass eastern European migration)
I am certain this is a result of mercantile activity ( tourists driving the so called wild atlantic way) and income / price pressure forcing consumers to drive further to the discount store rather then local store.

There also has been a massive increase in road freight oil inputs.
As can be seen in Irelands hyper extreme negative net financial wealth data the 2 sets of statistics are closely correlated.
Source : SEAI

As can be seen from the bias in the British 2050 energy model (no provision for a reduction in transport activity) we are all Irish now.
Perhaps a mercantile created famine awaits........

Oct 7, 2017 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

The economy is simply a production /distribution/consumption system.
In a hyper globalized system such as Ireland distribution inputs overpower real end use consumption.
They transport Northern Irish milk to Cork which is a crazy new phenomena and then ration the public of energy units.......
A nd they ask why ??????

Anyone else find the long distance movement of low value ,high throughput liquids such as bottled water ,milk and beer fascinating in this extreme rationing era.
Has it ever happened before
Ireland road freight energy consumption ktoe
Y2013: 581 (post crash minimum)
Y2014 : 621
Y2015 : 626
y2016 : 735

We are bombarded every day with war on climate dogma.
We must ration to save the planet etc etc
But like all wars the production of tanks comes first

Oct 7, 2017 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Unlike some, I have not been checking daily here. But today, having looked, I found this:

"As plants emit CO2, this increase in vegetation causes the CO2 concentration to rise." [ HaroldW, Sep 15 at 6:32 AM ]

At the moment I am just finishing a glass of wine so my eyes, my brain, or my computer may be at fault, but for many years I have believed that Carbon dioxide and water went in (photosynthesis) and sugar and Oxygen came out.

Being wrong for so many years, I think I will just have another glass of wine and go to bed.
Cheers, John

Jan 25, 2018 at 5:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

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Feb 14, 2019 at 2:04 AM | Unregistered Commentercommercial cleaning melbourne

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