It's hard to credit the idea that anyone could imagine that the Labour party is fit to hold office. Their pledge to freeze energy prices, delivered apparently off the top of Ed Miliband's head, has had the remarkable effect of doing enormous damage to the hopes of keeping the lights on even while Labour remains in opposition. That's quite an achievement and one shudders to think what destruction they might reap if they were actually in power.
Updated on Nov 29, 2013 by Bishop Hill
The theme of this morning seems to be shale gas, and what effect it's going to have on prices, and there is still a distinct lack of clarity about which shale plays are being discussed in relation to the European market.
Lord Browne, former head of BP and now the chairman of Cuadrilla was offering up his views on the subject in London last night, saying that shale is not going to reduce prices in the UK. This is a view that we hear a lot, and seems to be based on the Poyry report that was discussed here a few weeks ago. However, as I understand it, this report looked at the effect of exploitation of the Bowland on UK gas price, concluding that because the UK is connected to mainland Europe by a number of gas pipelines the benefits of the gas would be shared with our European friends. Prices would therefore only be expected to fall by 4%.
The long-awaited meeting between representatives of GWPF and the Royal Society has at last taken place. Nigel Lawson has a brief report on the meeting at the Spectator, revealing little about the content, except for the fact that he is prevented from telling more by a demand for secrecy imposed by the Royal Society fellows themselves.
This is, to say the least, monumentally pathetic of them. Lawson sounds as though he found the experience slightly frustrating:
But what did emerge was that, if anyone needed educating, it was them. Despite the fact that they were headed by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, the Director of the Grantham Institute, which has pronounced views on climate policy, and a member of the Climate Change Committee, which is concerned with the implementation of the Climate Change Act, they were very reluctant to engage on the crucial issue of climate change policy at all.
I have heard a few other details on the grapevine and I gather that the Royal Society fellows are more inclined to believe computer models than empirical data. So I wonder if some revision on that whole "scientific method" thingy might be in order too.
Madhav Khandekar's report on extreme weather has just been published by GWPF. There is much to entertain BH readers, including this:
The reality of climate change, as we shall discuss below, is that there have been increasing cold weather extremes in recent years, which have been totally ignored by the IPCC and its adherents. Chapter 2 of the IPCC WGI (AR5) entitled: ‘Observations: atmosphere and surface’, makes no mention of cold weather extremes of recent years. There have, however, been news reports of hundreds of deaths due to extreme cold weather in central and eastern Europe, northern India and parts of South America in the last six years.
Friends of the Earth has written to West Sussex County Council following concerns that fracking firm Cuadrilla may be drilling near Balcombe in breach of its existing planning permission, the environment charity said today (Thursday 5 September 2013).
An environmental group has written to Salford City Council over concerns the exploratory drilling of a site may be in breach of planning permission.
Energy company IGas has permission to start drilling to see what type of gas or oil can be found at Barton Moss.
Friends of the Earth said no environmental impact assessment (EIA) had taken place and permission did not allow for shale gas exploration.
Matt Ridley, Nick Grealy of No Hot Air blog and filmmaker Phelim MacAleer were the latest witnesses to appear before the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into shale gas.
To tell the truth it was not particularly exciting and most of the arguments made will be familiar to readers at BH.
There was one rather interesting exchange (from about 16:15) when Phelim MacAleer described the green objectors to fracking as liars. Shortly afterwards he clarified this statement to make it clear that he was referring to the environmentalists rather than local residents in, say, Balcombe. This was followed by an objection from Lord May who, despite MacAleer's statement to the contrary a few moments earlier, accused him of calling local residents liars and suggested that this was a bit rich from someone who was representing companies like Cuadrilla, who had been found by the Advertising Standards Agency to have breached the Advertising Code.
It seems that onshore gas company iGas is about to start work on their site at Barton Moss near Manchester. This entails digging an exploratory well to assess gas prospects in a layer of coal and then to go deeper and see what the shale bed looks like. Like Cuadrilla in Balcombe, no fracking is planned at this point.
And like Balcombe, the work seems set to be disrupted by environmentalists, who have already set up site.
Judging by the pictures in the Manchester Evening News the protestors are already lowering the tone of the neighbourhood too.
Still, it will be interesting to see how things go for the protestors. Unlike the Balcombe protests, this time round it's winter and so maintaining a protest camp will be a struggle. I believe we are expecting gale force winds by Friday.
The FT reports that excess winter deaths have risen by 29% over the previous year, a figure that is at once astonishing and entirely predictable.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that there were 31,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2012/13, a rise of 29 per cent on the previous year.
Last March was the coldest since 1962, with an average temperature of 2.2°C, and the second coldest since 1910.
The majority of the excess deaths (25,000) occurred among those aged 75 or above.
The splendid news this morning is that the Atlantic Array, the monster wind farm planned for the Bristol Channel is to be cancelled "because the economics do not stack up".
Much the same could be said of most green initiatives.
Readers may remember Gordon Hughes' report about the lifetimes of real-world industrial wind turbines and the finding that this is much shorter than assumed in government cost projections. The reasons for the short lifetimes centre on wear and tear on the turbine blades and on the gearboxes.
In that vein, you may be interested in this recording from a forum for windfarm operators in which some of these problems are discussed in fairly plain terms. Having listened, you realise that the factors affecting performance are legion, including not only wear and tear, but dirt build-up on the blades, icing. These factors can severely impact upon performance, and because they tend to unbalance the blades they then increase wear and tear on the mechanical parts of the turbine. But icing is even more serious, as the last speaker on the recording notes:
Poyry Consulting have issued a report on the impact of shale gas exploitation across Europe, considering what happens if we do a bit of it or a lot of it. They say things like this:
In the Some Shale Scenario, net employment increases by 0.4 million by 2035 and 0.6 million by 2050. In the Shale Boom Scenario, net employment increases by 0.8 million jobs by 2035 and 1.1 million jobs by 2050.
A million jobs by 2050 sounds pretty good to me
As does this:
Household spending on energy costs by 2050 could be lower by up to 8% in the Some Shale Scenario and by up to 11% in the Shale Boom Scenario, when compared to the No Shale Scenario. Over the period 2020 - 2050 total cumulative savings could be €245bn in the Some Shale Scenario and €540bn in the Shale Boom Scenario.
Pat Swords writes with news of his attempt to have the Irish government's renewables plans deemed illegal under the terms of the Aarhus Convention.
Readers will probably remember that the Compliance Committee overseeing the convention has ruled that Irish government is out of line. This decision will now go to a Meeting of the Parties to the convention:
Yesterday was spent at the first annual conference of Scotland Against Spin, the umbrella group for Scottish anti-windfarm groups. This was top quality stuff, with an excellent array of speakers with some amazing stories to tell. I'm going to pass some of these on over the next few days.
The theme of the conference was the cost of wind power, so much of the focus was on economics, but the final speaker focused on noise, and had presumably been added to give a bit of relief from the numbers.
Last week Dieter Helm gave evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee as part of their inquiry into shale gas. This was powerful stuff from a very clear-thinking witness and some of his comments were devastating. Here are his thoughts on the impact of US shale on European coal prices:
The immediate price impact [of US shale] to drive down the price of coal in Europe. The coal burn has expanded very substantially in Europe, and since the coal burn has gone up a lot in Britain and the coal price has gone down, you might have expected that electricity prices would be falling in the UK rather than going up.