Energy: November 2009 Archives

Thumbnail image for alternativeroute.jpgWe face two serious oil-related threats, both related to burning too damn much of the stuff. First, we're warming the planet, causing climatic instability and a variety of other symptoms. Second, we're at or near the peak of global oil production, currently burning four barrels for every one we discover.

Some believe the end of cheap oil will provide a natural limit on climate change emissions. Superficially tempting, but simply wrong. More likely we'll see increasing efforts to extract dirtier fuels, like oil from tar shale and coal, ready or not for the fantasy of carbon capture.

Then there are the denialists. Some of them, like wingnut Tory MP and Dan Hannan acolyte Douglas Carswell, don't accept the science either on anthropogenic climate change or on oil output. Apparently it's all a cover for radical and anti-democratic Marxists determined to reconfigure the West.

I'd love it if they were right on the science. Imagine the climate experts and geologists were both wrong: there's actually unlimited oil, and we can burn it without consequences. I'd do a lot more flying, for a start. I'd rather not be spending much of my life trying to push Governments to do the right thing. 

The trouble for Carswell and Plimer, etc, is that the evidence for both climate change and peak oil has never faced any serious challenge, and they can't do much more than point to polls. Proper polls are good tests of public opinion and political preference (we've been getting good mileage recently from some YouGov numbers on the deeply unpopular Forth Bridge amongst other things), but they aren't a good test of factual premises. Medieval pollsters no doubt would have found plenty of support for flat-earthism: so what?

The reality is that these threats are properly scary once understood, and many people prefer reassurance to troublesome realities. The ceaseless tide of unsubstantiated bullshit from Carswell, Plimer and others gives just enough cover for many to doubt the need to change. "Opinion is divided", they can say. 

It reminds me of a cartoon I saw but now can't find. A billboard on the left of the frame says "Rigorous Scientific Research" and one to the right says "Rumour, Myth and Fiction". Two rabbits sit in the middle. One says to the other: "Surely the truth has to be somewhere in between?"

If we do enough to avert the worst consequences of climate change it will have been despite the best efforts of the wingnuts, some of whom are about to enter Government at a UK level. If we fail, they will have an almost unimaginable amount to answer for.

The cost of power.

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nothanks.jpgSuddenly, as impotence looms, Labour have gone nuclear in a major way. They aren't really making a decision, they're just clearing the way for the Tories to do so, and guaranteeing that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition will sit idly by after the election.

Nuclear remains, of course, uneconomic, which is why no stations have been built here since the dog days of the last Tory administration. If Ministers want it, we'll have to pay. The Telegraph confirms that: an average household bill will go up by £227 if this goes ahead.

Meanwhile, over at the Times, they're telling us we'll also be soaked for the £9.5bn cost of carbon capture and storage, which currently doesn't work anywhere. That's just a starting estimate based on 15 years' worth of levy, but the final figure could be twice that over 30 years. 

If we're going to pay out massive sums to support our future power needs, why on earth won't Labour, the Tories or even the Lib Dems push effective clean energy rather than these costly technological dead ends?

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Energy category from November 2009.

Energy: October 2009 is the previous archive.

Energy: January 2010 is the next archive.