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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The insanity of 'green' energy

UK Energy Minister Chris Huhne MP

Like organic vegetables, 'green' energy is a luxury of the metropolitan gullible with more money than sense. The rest of us are quite happy with the old fashioned stuff with tiny residues of healthy, honest pesticides and herbicides and electricity made from coal. This is why I'm astonished that the Conservatives, the party of the free market, is proposing to distort the energy market to the extent of costing us from £300 to £5,000 a year depending on whose figures you use.

It's as if the blessed St Margaret had banned Mothers' Pride back in 1979 and decreed that the nation should eat wholemeal tofu lentil-bread instead.

On a decent July day with a wodge of high-pressure sitting comfortably over the British Isles, each of those two hundred foot high wind turbines with blades the size of 747 wings will produce about enough electricity to boil an egg. To make Sunday lunch for six, you need the combined output of eleven of them. And if you want to get the drill out in the afternoon for some DIY, you'll need to call the National Grid to divert the output of all Wales' turbines to your 13 Amp socket.

Meanwhile, we've barely scratched the seams of our coal reserves. From the earliest Tudor drift-mines to the deep post-war mines, including the entire output that fuelled the Industrial Revolution, drove British industry and powered the world's largest Naval and Merchant shipping fleets, we've mined about 25bn tonnes so far.

Coal in-place, that is coal in seams over two feet thick and less than 4000 feet from the surface, excluding the 25bn tonnes already mined, is estimated to total some 190bn tonnes. Recoverable reserves, that is coal that can economically be mined now using current technology (and Polish labour) is estimated at 45bn tonnes.

Coal is versatile stuff. We can burn it to generate electricity, or pyrolise it in gasification plants to provide an inflammable substitute for natural gas. We can also turn it into diesel and heavy bunker oil for the merchant fleet. We can turn it into Hydrogen to power a new generation of motor vehicles. We can even burn it in our grates to provide attractive space heating and the means of reaching a minimum temperature fire-base on which to incinerate household waste.

So why the hell are we turning England's landscape, the landscape of Housman, Elgar, Malcolm Arnold and Clare, into some garden gnome legoland travesty of hideous excrescences on the skyline? Excrescences that are about as effective as an Afghan drug squad? Have we all gone completely, utterly mad?


TheFatBigot said...

The depressing thing is that no one outside the world of blogs seems to be exposing this most vivid example of the Emperor's new clothes.

Talk to ordinary people - the uneducated masses who have nothing but their experience of life to guide them on such matters - and you'll find virtual unanimity that windmills can't possibly deliver the goods. It's obvious to those of us with limited technical knowledge of these things because it has nothing to do with technical knowledge.

Perhaps it's too late. Perhaps the windmill fetish is so deeply ingrained in the political class that nothing can make them change their position. But they are wrong, clearly and indisputably wrong. We can only hope that yet further hikes to fuel bills will cause a small voice somewhere to be heard when it says the Emperor is naked.

FrankS said...

Never mind coal, nuclear is the energy of the future, coal chucks out huge amounts of toxic waste products (along with beneficial CO2 of course) . The energy density of nuclear fuels is around 2 million times that of coal and this means that instead of transporting trainloads of coal to plants daily the refuelling time is counted in years instead. Just like comparing a 70's ghetto blaster with an ipod it is all about smaller footprints and the consequent smaller (greener) impact on the environment.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"Have we all gone completely, utterly mad? "

Short answer - yes.

Or at least, all those in positions of influence.

That maniac Huhne was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph saying how there was "no money" for any new nuclear stations.

But apparently, there is money to build useless windmills in the North Sea: the most expensive and unmanageable method of power generation known, in one of the most dangerous shallow seas of Europe.

Truly, the lunatics have taken over the asylum. We will suffer for this, one way or another - over and above the direct costs we'll bear for their folly.

Anonymous said...

They're not mad, stupid or ignorant.

They're evil, and they know that people won't understand that until it's too late.


Tufty said...

Scientifically speaking, windmills don't work because there isn't much energy to be had from air. It's thin - not much mass per cubic metre. You'd think even a non-scientist like Huhne would spot that. Yet he apparently breathes the stuff without noticing how insubstantial it is.

Rossa said...

And maths ain't Huhne's strongpoint either. Claiming that we can have 44,000 more turbines over the next 40 years is completely physically impossible.

There is no way they can build, let alone install over a thousand a year. They can't even install one a day at the moment usually due to the weather conditions in the North Sea and lack of equipment to do it. So how can they manage 3 a day to reach their fantasy target?

And the companies in Europe that make these things are going out of business so they will have to be made in China or Korea. They won't be able to keep up with the demand if more countries jump on the bandwagon. And somehow I can't imagine we're going to be at the front of the queue to buy them when the kitty runs out.

This is pure lala land stuff. Even with Germany and Spain's experiences right under his nose he can't let go of his fantasies. I think he knows it is impossible but can't get out from under the ideaology that they have all bought into because he can't stand to lose face or his very comfortable job.

Anonymous said...

It's the usual story - so i offer the usual advice : FOLLOW THE MONEY....

Anonymous said...

British engineers helped develop the oil from coal extraction processes that have made SASOL the huge success it is in South Africa. Given the coal deposits still available in the UK, surely it makes sense to set up a similar refinery in the UK?

I used to run my cars on SASOL back when I lived in SA, 100 octane fuel really put some oomph into my little Mazda.

Demetrius said...

I once read somewhere that there is a lot of very good coal around Oxfordshire. Perhaps that is the problem.

Budgie said...

I agree with the post, and the comments, about the uselessness of windmills and the versatility and strategic importance of coal.

But can I put a word in for organic food? No? Well I will anyway.

Organic food is simply the way we grew food 50+ years ago, which is hardly "metropolitan gullible".

Growing food takes nutrients out of the soil. Crop rotation works because different crops extract and return different nutrients. You cannot keep growing the same crop, say potatoes, with only NPK, over and over without impoverishing the soil and reducing the mineral content of the crop.

Just because something is "modern" and (almost) universally adopted does not make it right. Witness windmills, AGW, the EU .....

Ed P said...

Wind & solar sources are so obviously an absurd choice for Britain that Hoon must be either insane or under some malign influence.

However, wave & tidal sources are worthwhile developing, as they are reliable, predictable and actually available during peak demand.

Blue Eyes said...

Surely the point about old-fashioned food-growing techniques is that we have overcome the need for "natural" replenishment of the soil by inventing clever ways of doing it instead. Which means that we can grow twice as much food as we could "50+" years ago.

I am against subsidies and picking winners. The new government made the right decision not to subside nuclear and it should make the right decision not to subsidise wind.

If coal is good enough for the Chinese...