Sunday, March 9, 2008

Eco bollocks awards

An emailer pointed me to a great blog that features well-written explanations of the authors' occasional Eco bollocks awards. Two model recipients are:
Ken Livingstone, whose claim that London will cut carbon by 60% is given a thorough inspection, and the Windsave WS1000 wind turbine. "Come on, it’s time to admit that the roof-mounted wind turbine industry is a complete fiasco. Good money is being thrown at an invention that doesn’t work. This is the Sinclair C5 of the Noughties."

Mark Brinkley's writing style in this blog is eloquent and fun -- "The world has gone mad. This seems like some insane game about seeing who has got the greenest willy."

7 comments:

rks said...

Hi Professor,

Your slogan "numbers not adjectives" is the key to solving the energy crisis. The Oil Drum people follow that principle. What do you think of the following: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3964#comment-341546.

David MacKay said...

Hi RKS, Yes, I read TheOilDrum often. I also like realclimate.org. Thanks, David

rks said...

I was hoping you might comment on some of DaveMart's TOD comment. It is about the UK situation. I repeat it here without permission:

I wasn't entirely serious in saying that supporters were idiotic - the temptation to put the words 'idiot' and British Government together in the same sentence was too much for me!
I don't know why I bother, as most of their actions link the terms so effectively anyway!

However, the costs In have seen for off-shore wind are quite staggering, around £66bn for 33GW nameplate, about 10GW average output per hour according to Government and industry figures - the plan is to build them quite close to the shore, so winds are not much stronger than on-shore, and wind resources here are not so good as in some places in the States, so the Government gives 30% as the capacity figure.

On the downside that figure does not include much of the linking needed, so you can add several billions for that, and maintenance will be costly and fossil-fuel intensive.

On the bright side it tracks use in the UK very well, being around two and a half times more powerful in the winter when demand is around four times as high as in midsummer.

I just can't see it being built though, not at that cost, I think they will build a few at high cost then give up.

And no-one is more concerned about that than I - we have a massive energy gap opening in the UK, and no sensible or coherent plans to fill it - the nuclear build will take some time to get going in quantity, and the Government is sleep-walking there, imagining that it has all the time in the world to consider it's options.

Unlike in the US, with our country mostly being at latitude 50degrees north or worse, other than residential solar thermal any thought of utilising solar power at anything less than financially suicidal prices make no sense for the foreseeable future - it just doesn't produce enough power in the winter when it is really needed - even off-shore wind makes more financial sense.

Basically, we are stuffed, far more so than the US - not as far as getting to work, as most people can manage by public transport, however inconvenient, but in basic power generation, where we will have massive shortfalls when we can't import the LNG the Government has counted on.

They will probably build more coal plants.

rks said...

And on a completely different matter, you might like to comment on the following. Our future depends crucially on scientific and technical matters. Scientists and economists and other technical people just make these pronouncements that are contradictory. I like your pronouncements, but other people make different choices. We need to bring the vigour of open public debate to these matters. I realise that scientists are shy people, but the current PROCESS just plays into the hands of bad people. What I envisage is a small panel of rather general experts (all mathematicians!), to manage the debate on these crucial issues. Ideally they would have a lot of money so that when they could see that something needed more work to understand then they could fund that straight away. The different sides would present their views in a public setting, live on the Internet. It would not be a debating club: but if the panel feel that they believe A rather than B because of things they know from other sources then they will harrass that side to present their case better.

Would you like the job of leading such a panel of experts? Assume that it would include real power and money to arrange for research that needs to be done.

Mark Brinkley said...

David,

Thanks for the nice comments about my blog. I actually write two: Housebuilders Update is a sort of best of. House 2.0 has more stuff on it and may be of more interest.

Regards,

Mark Brinkley

David MacKay said...

Would I like a job on a committee whose job is to discuss the numbers, and figure out how to make plans that add up? Yes! Today (2 June 2008), the shortlist of candidates for the Committee on Climate Change will be drawn up...

rks said...

I'm sure you'll make a very influential submission to that committee, even if you're not on it. Sustainability is certainly relevant to climate change. It is even more relevant to dealing with peak fossil fuel. The aim of increasing prices till people stop using fossil fuel is happening now, but the capitalist mechanism is unnecessarily brutal. A little bit of planning and temporary socialism seems preferable. The first thing to impress on the committee is to think in terms of energy not money: Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). For things that have an EROEI near 1 (or worse), like biofuel, then the cost will just go up with oil and they never become viable, even though a price-based analysis suggests that they will. Also since we have a short term problem we can't only pick solutions that have a high initial cost and long term payback, even if they're theoretically the cheapest energy sources that are climate friendly.