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The fading dream of CCS 

The pretence that carbon capture and storage can ever be a viable technology is looking increasingly hard to maintain, with the news that Drax will pull out of the White Rose CCS project in Yorkshire once the current phase is complete.

It's amusing to recall Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph just three weeks ago, telling us that the UK had "hit the jackpot" on the CCS front:

Britain is poised to take the lead in Europe, approving two CCS projects later this year with a £1bn grant. One will be a retro-fit on SSE's gas-fired plant at Peterhead in Scotland. The CO2 will be sent through the Golden Eye pipeline to storage sites in deep rock formations below the North Sea.

The other will be Drax's White Rose plant in Yorkshire, a purpose-built 448 MW "oxyfuel" plant for coal. With biomass, it promises negative carbon emissions.

Oh dear.


Malaria maths

Bjorn Lomborg's article in the New York post riffs on his traditional theme of prioritising spending on areas where the greatest benefits can be gained. It's not rocket science of course, although perhaps on the tricky side for your typical environmentalist.

As ever, Lomborg is fully accepting of mainstream climate science, as well as some of the wilder claims that are made about the impacts. Take malaria, for example. Lomborg accepts claims that malaria will be a bigger problem in a warming world, but does not accept that this is an argument for spending money on climate mitigation:

Click to read more ...


Kelly on Stern

Mike Kelly has a long piece in Standpoint magazine looking at Lord Stern's magnum opus and some of the big questions of the climate debate:

Those building the biblical Tower of Babel, intending to reach heaven, did not know where heaven was and hence when the project would be finished, or at what cost. Those setting out to solve the climate change problem now are in the same position. If we were to spend 10 or even 100 trillion dollars mitigating carbon dioxide emissions, what would happen to the climate? If we can’t evaluate whether reversing climate change would be value for money, why should we bother, when we can clearly identify many and better investments for such huge resources? The forthcoming Paris meeting on climate change will be setting out to build a modern Tower of Babel.

Well worth a read.


Environmentalism may not be perfect!

The Today programme picked up the current ecomodernism meme, with a segment in which Owen Paterson faced off against Greenpeace's Doug Parr on the subject of technology.

I can't recall a previous occasion on which someone has been permitted to take a potshot at environmentalists, so it will have been a surprise for the average Radio 4 listener, who has previously been led to believe that greenery is beyond reproach.

A three-minute segment on a news programme is just a gesture of course; we await (with no great sense of expectation) a three-part critique of environmentalism analogous to critiques the BBC has commissioned on, say, climate sceptics and libertarianism.

But nevertheless, credit where credit is due.

Audio below.

Paterson Ecomodernism


Joe Biden, ambulance chaser

Despite the fact that the Sahel has experienced relatively benign weather conditions for many years now and despite the fact that there has been a striking and well-documented greening of the region, attempts to link the wars and strife that still bedevil the region to the climate are still being made.

And the people spinning these yarns are often those who should know better. Last weekend US vice-president Joe Biden claimed that the Darfur conflict, which started more than ten years ago, is "all about" climate.

You think there’s a migration problem in Syria? Watch what happens when hundreds of millions of people in the south, south Asia are displaced trying to find new territory to live. Look what’s happened with Darfur. Darfur is all about climate change. It’s about arable land being evaporating, figuratively and literally, and warring over land.”

Unfortunately for Mr Biden's hypothesis, this review of Sahelian climate by UEA's Nick Brooks takes a different view:

  • 20th century changes in climate probably not unusual...
  • Darfur conflict from 2003 at time of climatic improvement
  • Earlier droughts may have helped set stage, but no climate change “trigger”

I think we can conclude that Mr Biden is engaging in a bit of ambulance chasing. How low the office of VPOTUS has fallen!


Diary dates, Walport edition

On Friday, Mark Walport is giving a talk at the Natural History Museum in London on the UK's energy future.

We rely on energy to run our homes and power our cars, but the way we get this energy is changing. Sir Mark Walport, the UK Government's Chief Scientific Advisor, talks us through everything you need to know about how we could power the UK in the future as part of Science Uncovered.

You'll also have the chance to ask Sir Walport about energy in the UK during a question and answer section that follows his presentation, hosted by the Museum's Head of Earth Sciences, Professor Richard Herrington.

Details here.


A rare outbreak of civility

The climate debate is not exactly renowned for civility and good manners, so it's interesting to see that the Associated Press is making an attempt to up its game on this front.

We have reviewed our entry on global warming as part of our efforts to continually update the Stylebook to reflect language usage and accuracy.

We are adding a brief description of those who don’t accept climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces:

Our guidance is to use climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science and to avoid the use of skeptics or deniers.

Click to read more ...


Why the poor should pay higher rate tax

In the crazy world of the environmentalist, the following logic holds:

Oil companies are subject to a supertax on top of corporation tax.

Oil companies operating West of Shetland do not have to pay this supertax.

Therefore oil companies operating West of Shetland are subsidised.

Therefore we should apply the supertax to all oil companies.

One can apply this logic elsewhere:

Rich people pay income tax at 40%.

Poor people pay income tax at 25%.

Therefore poor people are subsidised.

Therefore we should tax poor people at 40%.

I'm not sure our environmentalist friends have thought this through.


Shameless, shameless, shameless

Having been hanging round the energy and climate debate for a long time now, it's not often I am taken aback by the Green Blob. But this article by Carbon Tracker's Anthony Hobley really made me gasp. The whole thing is amazing, but this in particular took the biscuit.

Investors are paying dearly for the inactions of the energy incumbents who have seemingly ignored and laughed off the impact of renewables. In the last five years 26 coal companies have gone bankrupt and US coal equities are down over 76%[1].

The suggestion that the pain being felt by coal companies is caused by anything other than the shale gas revolution and the surge in production from OPEC is astonishing. Non-hydro renewables are just 7% of US energy generation. Their impact is therefore nugatory, and there is simply no way Hobley cannot know it.

Shameless, shameless, shameless.




The Lords on fusion

Back in July, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee took evidence on prospects for commercial nuclear fusion in the UK, hearing from Steven Cowley of the Culham fission research centre and David Kingham of Tokamak Energy Ltd.

Reading the transcript, it's hard to avoid the impression that in the UK at least fusion research is something of a white elephant, but one that is being sustained by climate change alarm. As has always been the case with fusion, the timescales discussed run to decades and project managers try to justify themselves with talk of spin-off benefits. However, Lord Peston noted that there is something of a problem with trying to use global warming as justification for the vast expenditure:

Lord Peston: I am a bit lost again—as you can tell, I get lost all the time. How can technology that will be available in 40 to 80 years possibly influence climate change? If we have to save the planet in the next 40 years, we are doomed anyway. You cannot use the climate change argument.
It's interesting to wonder just how far spending decisions are being distorted by climate change alarm.

Click to read more ...


Computer crimes

With Professor Shukla (and Kevin Trenberth) calling for sceptics to be put in the dock last week, it is perhaps unsurprising that a Guardian article on climate and the law provoked a bit of an overreaction. The article in question, by Adam Vaughan, was about a speech by prominent lawyer Philippe Sands and was entitled "World court should rule on climate science to quash sceptics, says Philippe Sands". This was taken by many to mean that sceptics should be prosecuted, particularly as the standfirst then read "International Court of Justice ruling would settle the scientific dispute and pave the way for future legal cases on climate change, says high-profile lawyer".

However, examination of the text of Sands' speech reveals that the Guardian headline writers had actually been playing a little fast and loose with the facts. What Sands actually wants is for the international courts to rule on some of the scientific questions surrounding the global climate. He gave as examples the following:

A first tier of issues might include: is climate change underway? have sea-levels risen? Have anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions been the main cause of atmospheric warming?

Click to read more ...


Muck and brass

There is much entertainment to be had this morning from the revelation that the ringleader of a notorious gang of climate scientists has been taking home as much as $750,000 per year from his climate activities. Professor Jagadish Shukla spearheaded last week's attempt to get the Obama administration to prosecute climate sceptics under racketeering laws. These new revelations make it look as if his real motivation was to protect his own income.

The news about Shukla is just the latest in a long line of stories showing that the loudest scaremongers in the Green blob are able to command extraordinary incomes. Lord Stern's speaking fees are one example, and another was last week's reminder that the chief scientist at the Met Office earns more than the Prime Minister.

Muck and brass, you might say.


FiTs: a test of Cameron's conservatism

After Energy and Climate Change questions yesterday, several commenters wondered if the government might be about to backtrack on the swingeing cuts in feed-in-tariffs that were announced recently. MPs on both sides of the house had certainly been very vocal in their demands on behalf of their constituency energy companies and there was scarcely a voice heard in support of the proposals. MP after MP demanded that  FiTs be retained for renewables operators. Meanwhile, Aberdonian MPs wanted cash for North Sea oil operators as well. Pressure of the FiTs front continues today.

It's a vicious circle of course and the government risks getting generating a spiral of subsidy, with money having to be thrown at all market participants simply to keep them afloat.

This is going to be a test of Cameron's resolve. Is he going to play the Conservative, and put the consumer interest first, or is he going to cave into the producer interest?

We watch with interest.



Where are DECC's numbers coming from?

Last week, DECC responded to a question from Labour MP Jim Cunningham about the carbon emissions savings from using "biomass energy crops". Minister of State Andrea Leadsom said this:

The 2013/14 Renewables Obligation sustainability data [1] indicate that, for data available, the average greenhouse gas saving from energy crops on the European Union fossil fuel electricity average, by consignment, was approximately 90% (within a range of 85-94%).

This looks jolly impressive (or should I say "completely implausible"?), but less so when you read in the Renewables Obligation Annual Report that operators of biomass stations self-report this information. Even less so when you actually look for the figures given in the dataset linked. I certainly can't find it.

Can anyone throw any light on where the figures come from?




Naughty Slingo

The Mail reports that the Met Office created a post for the daughter of its chief scientist Julia Slingo. It seems that the position was not advertised but was merely handed over to Dame Julia's sprog, a newly qualified graduate.

What is it with senior civil servants and integrity?