Energy: October 2008 Archives

Bidding up the environment.

| | Comments (0)
wavepowerstation.jpgUK Ministers have now, like the SNP, seen the light on aviation and shipping. I like to think it has something to do with the killer metaphors deployed against their previous position.

However, a Scottish Government release sent out today suggests that the Nats have again shifted their position to toughen up their proposed bill and outdo Westminster (emphasis mine):

"By including international aviation and shipping, emissions from all six greenhouse gases, and annual targets, Scotland will have the most ambitious Bill to tackle climate change anywhere in the world."

The BBC online seems to miss this aspect of the story, but I'm assured it made the broadcast coverage. Hopefully tomorrow's papers will get into the nitty gritty a bit more.

The SNP did promise annual targets in their 2007 manifesto, but if the targets they have in mind are robust and statutory ones then this is a good step in the right direction, even though the sceptic in me previously wondered if "they [took] it away just so they can look magnanimous by putting it back?"

By now we're in a bidding war, though, and the longer it goes on the more likely it is we'll end up with two really worthwhile Bills. Neither proposal is there yet, and it's now Labour's turn to come back with improvements to the UK legislation.

Here's a couple of tips for both governments for future rounds of bidding. First, the evidence is that we need annual reductions around 4.5%, not the 3% the SNP had in their manifesto. The level of reductions required has risen, too, to cope with the emissions increases over recent years.

Also, there's no plan that sets out how even 3% targets could actually be met. Both Governments are committed to continued fossil fuel dependence for export and for domestic consumption, through policies like airport and motorway expansion. Neither has much of a clue about what a low carbon economy might look like, either, or do they see how successful it could be.

This shouldn't sound too churlish. We're making progress, Ministers are starting to listen, and we've only come this far because of the legions of campaigners and individuals who've made their voices heard. Good work, y'all.
pieeyed.jpgWhen both the Scottish and the UK climate change legislation proposals first appeared, aviation and shipping were mysteriously absent. The Nats have since pledged to remedy this oversight, incidentally.

Such an exemption is clearly absurd, and I'm pretty sure that we came up with the killer line on it (specifically either Robin or Patrick - I can't remember who thought of it first).

Either way, Robin told the Chamber on September 3rd that "having a climate change bill with an exemption for air transport is a bit like having a diet plan with an exemption for pies, beans, chips and black puddings". It even inspired a charity challenge, sadly not risen to by the First Minister.

By October 16th, the Liberals had gotten in on the act. In the Commons, Steve Webb said "However, Mr Miliband appears to think he can simply ignore the hugely polluting aviation and shipping industries. It's like telling everyone you're going on a calorie-controlled diet but not counting cream cakes." Amusingly, this was billed on the party's blog as his "cream cake triumph". (thanks to Adopted Domain for the spot)

Today Friends of the Earth have in turn recycled it, in a new and more potent form, as "a drink-driving law that doesn't count whisky".

It's not clear where the Tories are on this, although the last link there implies they're also on side with the forces of good. If so, I await their press release comparing the bill as it stands to "a detox plan with an exemption for crack."

The angry mob gathered.

| | Comments (0)
Patrick Harvie and I went to Jedburgh on Monday night, where Patrick spoke in the Scotsman/BBC debate on renewables, as covered by Jenny Haworth for the Scotsman. The debate, chaired by the authoritative and engaging Lesley Riddoch, will also be broadcast on the BBC tomorrow at 2pm. 

There were about 50 people there, which was a bit disappointing, and about two thirds of them were from the very anti-wind-farm brigade, who obviously saw this as a grand opportunity to stick one up the environmentalists. There was also a wee gang from the Borders Greens, too, but they were far more polite and less rowdy, unfortunately. 

The audience may have been predominantly anti-wind, but the platform was not. Patrick was joined by Duncan McLaren of Friends of the Earth Scotland, Dr Siân McGrath from Aquamarine Power (disclosure: I did some work for Aquamarine last year, so am biased in favour), and Martin Ford, the Aberdeenshire councillor who said no to Trump.

On the other side, the panel consisted of Professor Jane Bower, who has a science background as well as having worked in the oil industry, but who kept pretty quiet, and a certain Bob Graham. 

It's hard to know where to begin with Bob Graham. His past lives include the oil industry, the RAF, and being hauled over the coals for lying about renewables.

Incidentally, the main change I noticed since I last went to Jedburgh was the profusion of signs declaring Jedburgh to be "WiFi Free". Appalled, I thought the anti-turbine brigade had also taken against WiFi, which isn't entirely implausible. But no, it's just that they put the words in the wrong order, and I got good strong signal at the back of the hall.

This allowed me to fact-check Bob Graham as the event went on, which made it pretty clear why he's been in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority.

Every single claim about the ineffectiveness of wind power he made was unsubstantiated. False. Pure propaganda. Let's start.

"The Germans have about 23,000 wind turbines. They are currently building 26 coal-fired power stations and have just commissioned three gas-fired power stations. They have seen no reduction in their emissions."

The numbers of turbines and coal plant proposals seems right, fair enough, but no reduction? Actually, since 1990 they've seen a 20% reduction in their emissions. In the debate he made the same allegation against Denmark, which was also untrue - their equivalent number is 14%.

"Scotland requires at peak times six gigawatts of electricity. If you rely on renewables to generate all of that from wind, that would reduce global levels by 0.09 of 1 per cent."

Actually, global installed capacity is 4,300 gigawatts. Sure, Scotland's 6 gigawatts aren't a huge proportion of that, but if Scotland went entirely over to clean energy, it would be .14 of one percent, almost fifty percent more than Bob Graham would have us believe. 

This is a minor point, true, especially given the overwhelming wrongness of the idea that we should do nothing because we can't solve the problem all by ourselves. What if everyone took that approach?

"I don't happen to subscribe to climate change and a lot of sensible people don't."

Name one, Bob. You don't count. But at least you came out as an utter wingnut - the live audience may have lapped it up, but the Radio Scotland audience are less likely to do so.

"Renewables can't replace base load."

Actually, this is pure fallacy. There's plenty of renewable technologies that can replace baseload, including hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass. What's more, the more diverse renewable capacity you build, the less you need other kinds of baseload. 

More generally, I find this kind of attitude exceptionally frustrating. I believe in debate, of course. I don't mind people starting with the facts and recommending different courses of action, but I object when someone's case rests on a series of falsehoods. Communities who've found turbines going up in their area are often annoyed about it, although where people have a proper stake that tends not to be the case. 

With this in mind, there are plenty of people who want to see wind power blocked, and they'll clutch at any straw going if someone suggests wind doesn't work. They'll believe the most extraordinary stuff - one audience member asked the panel why we send power through the grid to turn the turbines when there's no wind. Bob Graham didn't agree with that, or dispute it, but nonetheless he is trying to build ignorance and misunderstanding, all driven by a desire to see more nukes

As a footnote, Martin Ford is very impressive in person, even more than I expected. He's been appallingly treated for doing the right thing, and I hope John Swinney gives him what he wants above all else - a rejection of Trump's financially and environmentally unsustainable vanity project.

When Europe works properly.

| | Comments (0)
carolinevoting.jpgEarlier this week, the European Parliament backed a carbon limit for power generation in the EU, setting a figure of 500 grams per kilowatt hour. As the Guardian reports, tougher limits were proposed, but were voted down. 

Even at this level, it's the (eventual) death of un-captured coal power in Europe, and about time too.

So what did the British MEPs do? The Greens did the right thing throughout, in case you're wondering: the pic to the left is Caroline Lucas casting voting on this actual issue. Exciting or what?

The first vote was on 350g/kwh, and the three Tories voted against that, as did the Labour MEPs. The only UK Liberal voted the right way, as did the Plaid rep and also Sinn Fein. The good guys lost 24-37 this time.

Next up, 400g/kwh. Again, the Tories and Labour voted against. This one was closer, falling by a single vote. In other words, if the Committee had one more Green (or even another Liberal, Plaid or Sinn Fein member) and one fewer Tory or Labour MEP we'd have got a tougher law. So too we would have if either group had done the right thing.

All the UK MEPs then voted with the Greens on the 500g motion, and that went through overwhelmingly.

The most tiresome part of this is that Cameron pledged himself in June this year to:

"..follow the Californian model, and implement an Emissions Performance Standard. This would mean the carbon emissions rate of all electricity generated in our country cannot be any higher than that generated in a modern gas plant. Such a standard would mean that a new generation of unabated coal power plants could not be built in this country."

A combined cycle gas turbine power station emits just 320g/kwh (2003 figures given in evidence to the House of Commons). Sure, his speech cited the 500g/kwh figure, but he must know that's seriously out of date. The figure above is five years old, after all, and I have no doubt technology has moved on, bringing the current figure down even further. 

It's another bit of evidence about the limits of the Tories' new-found interest in the environment, and it confirms the equal uselessness of Labour on the same issue. Having said that, a limit is better than no limit, and to that extent I'm pleased. 

The voting numbers are here, in case anyone wants to check my rollcall (thanks to Mark Johnson for those). The Committee's affiliations are listed here for cross-reference purposes.

Your Links At Last


Other Politics



Friends and Stuff I Like

If I've forgotten to link to you, let me know. If I don't want to link to your blog I'll pretend I never got your email.

The party's site of which I am rather proud

Along with Jeff (formerly SNP Tactical Voting) and Malc (formerly In The Burgh), I now co-edit Better Nation, a group blog. Stuff will still appear here, but more will be there. Better Nation

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Energy category from October 2008.

Energy: September 2008 is the previous archive.

Energy: November 2008 is the next archive.