Why UK’s investment into gas will push up our energy bills


8:56 am - March 15th 2012

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contribution by Tony Bosworth

The Government is allowing big energy firms to build almost double the number of dirty gas-fired power stations it predicts we need.

Sending us hurtling towards a polluting gas-dependent future is crazy, but the move also risks dumping ever-rising energy bills on households.

A new report by Friends of the Earth shows that up to nine gigawatts (GW) of new gas-fired electricity generation could come on line by 2016. That is nearly twice the additional 4.9GW the Government projects may be needed by 2020.

And that might be a conservative estimate – Bloomberg put the amount at up to 11GW.

This is bad news for household budgets because ever-increasing international demand means the price of gas is likely to keep rising.

It is also bad news for our climate and would probably make it impossible for the Government to achieve its plans of making UK’s electricity system largely free of carbon within two decades. We need a ban on more dirty gas plants unless there are tough rules to limit carbon pollution.

So why this dash for gas?

FoE research shows that the Big Six energy firms are behind plans for 60% of the new gas power stations. They get rich by keeping us hooked on expensive imported fossil fuels – despite the UK’s massive potential to generate energy from our wind, waves and sun.

Switching to clean British energy and using energy much more efficiently is our best chance for affordable bills in the long run.

The public get it – why don’t our politicians?

70% of people want the Government to force the big energy companies to invest in power from the UK’s wind, sun, waves and tides, according to a recent poll.

People in the UK are fed up of the energy rip-off. An overwhelming majority support an independent public inquiry into the Big Six energy companies’ power over consumers and influence over our politicians and Government.

It’s time the Government stopped the big energy companies taking us for a ride. Join the Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand Campaign, calling on David Cameron to pull the plug on the Big Six’s power.


Tony Bosworth is a energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth

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Reader comments


Renewable energy is significantly more expensive than gas though isn’t it? Plus, because of the fluctuations in provision of renewable energy, you still need gas power stations as back up, because they’re quick to power up.

So what you’re saying appears to be is that gas is too expensive so we need to switch production to a more expensive source.

We were always going to have to pay, so many past governments have shirked on increasing generating capacity adequately.

What is the “Clean British energy” you refer to? It’s fine to criticise an unneccessary increase in our reliance on imported fossil fuels but don’t be mealy-mouthed about what your alternative is.

This article is nonsense.

The green energy debate is a useless waste of words. This is for several reasons.

(i) 9GW of energy needs to be produced. The most effective cost/benefit system is not green. To give you an idea of how stupid a ‘green’ energy revolution is consider the following. 9GW (or 9000MW) is a huge amount of power. The average wind turbine produces 1.5MW of power. So the math goes that to produce 9000MW of power you are going to need 6000, yes thats three noughts, to produce 9GW. Its an absurd idea and that is before you have even got to the ridiculous price of wind turbines.

(ii) Green energy has pushed too many people into fuel poverty already. About 14% of your electricity bill is made up of ‘green tariffs’. This money is used by the government to fund these silly inefficient green energy programs and it is the poorer in society that are taking the worst hit because of these tariffs.

(iii) The cost of green energy is too high. If you would all like to pay 3-4 times as much for you energy then great we can all have ‘green energy’ but we can’t, it is far to expensive and inefficient.

Renewables are only a partial answer. They are expensive, unreliable and usually produced in areas far away from demand. The long term solution is to use less energy and that can only be achieved by building homes and places of work that are inherently well insulated and ventilated. As a short term measure fossil fuel is needed, if only Britain had a reliable unused supply, somewhere convenient like under it. No chance of that, Daw Mill is teetering on closure

“This is bad news for household budgets because ever-increasing international demand means the price of gas is likely to keep rising.”

Err, yeah. Just as we find a two hundred year (or whatever it is) supply under Blackpool.

C’mon, US prices are at 20 p a therm right now…..

“Switching to clean British energy and using energy much more efficiently is our best chance for affordable bills in the long run.”

This needs to be divided into two.

“Switching to clean British energy is our best chance for affordable bills in the long run.”

Given that each and every other form of “British” energy is more expensive than gas this seems unlikely.

” using energy much more efficiently is our best chance for affordable bills in the long run.”

Sure, we can all much raw carrots while we shiver in the dark. But that’s not really the point, is it? “Forward to the Middle Ages!” really isn’t that much of a rallying cry outside a few deluded cranks.

6. Luis Enrique

anybody interested in this topic might like to read “Prepare for a Golden Age of Gas” by Martin Wolf, with some useful links to IEA reports

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7d298f50-5c85-11e1-8f1f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1ozwBI7ua

Gas prices in America have fallen through the floor. The only reason they have not fallen so far in the rest of the world is that the Americans cannot ship the stuff out fast enough. Yet.

So I would say that the evil energy companies are preparing for the moment when the gas price crashes here too.

Incidently – gas is the cleanest burning fuel. Please don’t use dishonest manipulative language like “dirty” – it destroys any failth I might have had in anything else you tell me.

Other commentors may be interested in this website (not mine) about gas and energy supplies: http://www.nohotair.co.uk/

The person running it is clearly left-of-centre, but presumably no one here will hold that against him.

Why is it that this site supports the idea of pushing the most vulnerable in our society into fuel poverty? I thought that we felt that we should be helping them. Also, why are we supporting the big business wind, wave and solar power generators?

The world’s turning on its head.

9. Anon E Mouse

What on earth are LC doing pushing the idea that paying for stupid windmills using poor people’s money on their bills to reward wealthy landowners is a good thing?

Why does no one here care about the plight of the poor in society.

The Labour Party of old has long gone…

10. Luis Enrique

for God’s sake … if energy companies maximized their profits by choosing the most expensive forms of power generation, they’d be bloody using solar / windfarms wouldn’t they? Obviously this is happening because everybody is expecting gas prices to fall.

Why does FoE have to be so bloody stupid? I mean, I agree that climate change, green energy and all, is very important stuff. Which makes it more important for campaigners not to be risible idiots.

Whether we are being “ripped off” or not has two aspects

1. are the cheapest forms of power generation being used
2. are energy firms charging excessive mark-ups over their costs

don’t muddle these up.

If you are FoE, you want to be arguing that what looks like the cheapest form of power generation isn’t actually the cheapest when you account for climate costs, and you have to face up to the fact that moving to the lowest cost forms of power generation from an over all point of view (including climate costs) will mean moving away from the lowest cost forms of power generation from a market prices point of view.

You could, if you like, try to argue that making the right investments in green power today will reduce green power market prices tomorrow, but this article veers towards sounding like what we want is lower energy prices, which really is shooting yourself in the foot.

“Liberal” economics: increase supply of X, drives its price up?

(Rationale: because we oppose it, we will harrass, intimidate and vandalise it so that it is more expensive…)

This is really disgracing the good cause of liberalism.

12. Shatterface

[Cough] Nuclear energy [cough]

13. Shatterface

I keep posting about N*CLEAR P*W*R but for some reason my messages aren’t appearing. Is there some kind of filter that prevents us discussing our future energy needs sensibly?

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 Freeman

(i) 6000 wind turbines isn’t an unachievable number. More to the point, I see you’ve conveniently forgotten about all the other forms of renewable power. Got an axe to grind by any chance?

(ii) Fair enough.

(iii) You can’t decide whether it’s too expensive without considering the costs of NOT implementing green energy, i.e. a fucked-up planet and us running out of fuel and having no infrastructure capable of dealing with it.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 8 JC

“Why is it that this site supports the idea of pushing the most vulnerable in our society into fuel poverty?”

Does it? Where does it say that?

“Also, why are we supporting the big business wind, wave and solar power generators? ”

Um, because “big business” isn’t the same thing as “evil”? And because these businesses are providing vital services that will improve our planet? Why do you hate businesses so much, anyway?

Anyone actually agree with the original post then? I’ve seen it hypothesised around the blogosphere of late that the environmentalists have lost the arguments about the way forward and haven’t noticed as yet, which I thought was unlikely. The reaction here across the whole range of political viewpoints (OK – I think every commentator is probably liberal, but beyond that…) seems surprisingly uniform in its negativity about a theme that until recently was fairly mainstream in both left-wing and centrist/corporationist right-wing thinking. Maybe there is a paradigm shift underway – mind you, maybe it was just a rather poor argument…

“You can’t decide whether it’s too expensive without considering the costs of NOT implementing green energy, i.e. a fucked-up planet and us running out of fuel and having no infrastructure capable of dealing with it.”

Indeed, indeed. But the thi8ng about considering all of the costs is that the argument becomes really very tricky. For a new source of cheap fossil fuels means that we should expend *less* effort trying to save the planet.

Odd but true.

Go back to the Stern Review which provides all of the justification for paying for green energy etc.

The calculation is, here are the costs (plus uncertainty) of climate change. Preventing those is a benefit of course. But, of course, to get those benefits we also have to incur costs. The costs of green energy plans for example, all those windmills etc.

Now, if we have a new cheap fossil fuel supply the benefits of not having climate change do not alter. However, the costs we must incur to get those benefits most certainly do. For the costs are NOT the costs of all of those windmills. They are the difference between the costs of all those windmills and fossil fuels. So, cheaper fossil fuels and the costs of averting climate change rise.,

Now, it’s a pretty basic idea that you are only willing to pay costs up to the amount that you benefit from those costs. So, with expensive fossil fuels it might be worth paying the extra for the windmills to get the no climate change.

However, if we’ve cheap fossil fuels then our costs have gone up for the windmill option but our benefits have stayed static. Which means that, if we’re being logical, that the discovery of shale gas should have us rethinking whether to try to avert climate change at all.

Might just be cheaper (ie, increase human utility more) just to have the climate change and adapt to it.

Tricky stuff this economics of climate change, isn’t it?

@Chaise Guevara

(i) I used wind energy because of yet it is the best alternative energy producer. Tidal is much worse and solar is hopeless. 6000 wind turbines is not realistic, its nuts. Especially when we have a good source of energy sitting in our own country.

(iii) “Panic stations everyone!” This idea that we are all going to die of smog is rubbish. Green energy is too expensive and too inefficient. Gas is one of the cleanest forms of fossil full and as TimW points out we have just found a massive reserve under Blackpool (always thought the air was a little funny up there). The only push from green energy has come from the green energy interest groups. You know the ones, they are the guys who’s businesses depend on green energy subsidies.

The simple fact is ‘green energy’ is too expensive, too inefficient and too damaging to the market in which it operates and the people who can not afford to subsidise it. Money and time would be far better spent on making what we have more efficient.

19. Luis Enrique

“Now, if we have a new cheap fossil fuel supply the benefits of not having climate change do not alter.”

I don’t see this. The benefits of not having climate change depend on how bad climate change is. How bad climate change is depends on how much CO2 is released into the atmosphere, which in term depends on the supply of fossil fuels.

20. John Brady

Wind and other renewable have very low energy density, and even if the UK was carpeted in turbines it could only represent a small proportion of generating capacity: an unreliable and costly proportion at that. Ironically, it would still require backup from other forms of energy generation, which then can’t run at full efficiency as they have to spin up and down to smooth the supply whenever the wind changes.

With the price of gas falling thanks to improvements in shale gas extraction, gas represents a much cleaner alternative to coal and is much cheaper than renewables: renewables which energy companies are forced to buy, subsidised by energy consumers. This represents a regressive tax on the poorest in society, and much of the money is flowing risk-free to wealthy landowners and industry lobby groups.

The money wasted on deploying inefficient technologies such as wind would be better invested in R&D, which can then be brought to market when it reaches maturity. I’d personally like to see investment in newer pebble bed or thorium cycle nuclear reactors, which offer tremendous promise in generating low-carbon electricity, while also offering a way of burning so-called “waste” from earlier designs. Alongside the benefits to consumers and to the environment, this would also give the UK new expertise to export to other countries.

21. Luis Enrique

incidentally, anybody interested in the economics of climate change should read this piece by the daddy of climate change economics William Nordhaus entitled “Why Climate Skeptics Are Wrong”

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/mar/22/why-global-warming-skeptics-are-wrong/

When you analyse the relative degrees of pollution from energy sources you have to include every part of their production. Gas may burn clean but it has a very high 20-year greenhouse effect from leaks, and new evidence suggests that enough leaks to be a problem. This is especially true for unconventional sources such as shale gas.

If the costs of pollution, treated as externalities, were added to conventional fuels the economics would look very different. We need to bear in mind that new technologies will have teething troubles too. That doesn’t mean we should carry on regardless with dirty old tech in the full knowledge that it is doing huge damage to our ecology.

And, as Shatterface has said, nuclear is important because it has a small footprint and is far better as a baseload than any other source of energy.

23. Frances_coppola

This is a rubbish post, but boy has it generated an excellent discussion. Keep up the good work, folks.

To be honest, wouldn’t a mixed generation economy be best – that way we minimise fluctuations associated with costs specific to particular modes of generation.

And green energy should be in there, just possibly not in its still not very effective current form (if the money was incentivising the development of better technology, not subsiding the establishment of plentiful inefficient technology, then the green levy might be better spent – as it is, there is no reason to produce a better windmill, because the ones you can get now are made profitable by the subsidy, despite the fact they are not that profitable).

Luis Enrique: “How bad climate change is depends on how much CO2 is released into the atmosphere, which in term depends on the supply of fossil fuels.”

How bad climate change is depends not only on that, but also on a lot of other factors. Like, how well we can manage with a climate that is going to change anyway, one way or the other. One thing is sure you know – the climate will change, eventually, be there humans or not.

We are in some uncertainty about how it is going to happen. How good those IPCC models are, etc. But face it: China, India et al will anyway burn all the oil they can get, and they will burn all the coal they can get. A tiny bit of what they will not burn will be made into plastic toys that are sold to us in the West and then trashed and burned.

Timing may change a bit, but the fact is that whatever people do in Europe will have no impact on CO2 levels in the atmosphere, over the time of a few generations. We won’t change a thing about economic powers of nations that work much harder than we do, but we can adapt, and we can develop technology.

Therefore, what is important in Europe is to keep the economy running so that we can sustain a capability to adapt to what happens in the world (be it warming or cooling or whatever).

26. Luis Enrique

pjt

okay … so I wrote “if we have a new cheap fossil fuel supply the benefits of not having climate change do not alter” looks like a false statement to me.

does your response mean it is in fact a true statement? everything you say being the case, a large increase in the supply of fossil fuels is still going to change what “climate change” looks like, ain’t it?

“If the costs of pollution, treated as externalities, were added to conventional fuels the economics would look very different.”

Depends really.We know what the costs of those externalities are, $80 a tonne CO2-e. That’s from Stern.

So whack that tax on those externalities and we’re done. Nordhaus who LE mentions thinks it better to work with the technological and capital cycle (I agree) and have a lower tax now but one that rise to being horrendous ($250 a tonne) in a couple of decades time. That way we get to use what we’ve already got built but anything new being built that will still be in use then is going to be built with hte tax in mind.

Anyway, the effects of such a tax might surprise. Coal will become quite a lot more expensive, gas a bit, petrol for cars should fall by about 15 p a litre and nuclear will, the blowup insirance issues aside, become wildly profitable.

Wind and solar wouldn’t get a look in even with such a tax, so wildly inefficient are they.

“Friends of the Earth” would rather have renewables, which are much more expensive? And ‘Dirty’ gas – really?

There’s no alternative to gas-fired power stations. You can replace Nuclear with coal but we need gas.

On the question of whether wind energy is sufficiently efficient, the US, Brazil, Sweden and Mexico are getting $68 per megawatt hour from it – compared to $67 per MWh for coal and $56 per MWh for gas – including capital costs and maintenance, but excluding subsidy. As renewable technology continues to mature and fossil fuel stocks continue to dwindle, the comparison is simply going to get better for wind (and other renewables) over time.

As for the new gas plants, whether they’re good or bad rather depends. If they replace existing coal and oil plants then we’ve significantly reduced our carbon emissions. If they add new energy, then we’ve significantly increased them. If they replace existing nuclear power plants, then it’s the tired old question of trading one environmental problem against another. If they replace renewables then we’ve got an energy policy that pretends climate change isn’t happening and that fossil fuels will last forever.

@29, it’s not just about price – even if what you’re saying is true (it probably isn’t – energy price comparisons fluctuate massively depending on who you listen to), it doesn’t change the fact that renewables cannot be used en masse for energy production.

“dirty gas-fired power stations”
May I recommend that you learn a little about what you are talking about?
Gas-fired power stations are clean, generating no, or negligible, pollution. One of the reasons for building more of them is that the Labour Government launched a massive drive to build windfarms but the variability of wind means that the national grid could have a brown-out, almost certainly local black-outs, if it relied on wind-power and the wind dropped (as it does, occasionally); modern gas-fuelled power stations are the only ones that can come on stream fast enough to avoid potentially disastrous outages when the wind drops. Denmark, the leading proponent of wind-power (because it makes a fortune out of selling wind-turbines to gullible Greens) had a country-wide brown-out when it briefly could not use Sweden’s nuclear power to cover a period of calm.
Even if we didn’t suffer from the idiocies of those wanting us to rely on a highly variable energy source for base load – for Pete’s sake have ANY of you looked at how the Netherlands uses windpower (intelligently) – replacing coal-fired power stations with gas-powered ones is a brainer decision (i.e. one obvious to anyone with an operating brain).
I am not even going to bother to talk economics – others can do that – but I saw (yes it was visible) the change in the local atmosphere when ICI switched from coal to gas. I shall not say what I think about your ability to analyse lest Liberal Conspiracy apply their moderator policy (which they never apply to “Sally”) and my whole post gets lost

I think John Brady @ 20 makes a good few points. I would like to see more research into thorium, which has been called ‘the energy of the future’ for about 50 years, and also I hope to see progress in fuel cells and micro-generation, which seems to me – a non-expert – as a way to improve efficiency.

Oh christ – I was too damn busy to go through some of the idiocy on this thread.

I’m also 90% sure now that people like Tim Worstall get paid to spend all their times writing long, trolling comments on this site.

Let’s be clear about one thing – that article by Martin wolf linked by Luis Enrique is absolute DOGSHIT.

In fact it’s such a pile of shit that I’m rather inclined to question his sanity on economic issues too. I’ll stick to Krugman perhaps.

To wit, he’s referring to Shale Gas, aka Fracking – which is known to have massive repercussions on the environment, perhaps more than even oil. There are movements all across the world – even in small towns in South Africa, against Fracking because it destabilises local ecology, has shown to cause earthquakes and god knows what else.

The investment into gas IS a stitch-up. the reason why the big six aren’t investing into renewable energy is because the profits aren’t as high. Hence, BP pulled out.

And the price of solar for example has fallen so rapidly over the past few years that, at the same trajectory, it’ll be very competitive very fast.

I’m glad this post has annoyed the usual suspects. We’ll be posting a lot more of it :)

Sunny Hundal is lying through his teeth as Tim Worstall has more than once detailed his income sources and solar is not going to be competitive in the UK fast, let alone very fast. Why he thinks that a decline in the cost of solar power justifies spending billions on wind-power escapes me because I am sane.
I was opposing shale gas exploitation through fracking several years ago (so long that I cannot remember) on economic grounds (what? – yes!) on top of environmental worries. But this is totally irrelevant to substituting gas-fired power stations for the far more polluting coal-fired alternatives.
Oh, and for anyone who cares about the truth, BP spent hundreds of millions on developing solar power before giving up when it realised that its researchers had hit a dead-end and a rival had found a superior technique. For Sunny to simultaneously allege that BP had pulled out due to low profits and that solar was rapidly becoming competitive is risible.

John77: But this is totally irrelevant to substituting gas-fired power stations for the far more polluting coal-fired alternatives.

I was referring to the FT article linked by Luis above. I’mm well aware of the difference between coal and gas. Try reading properly before shooting off – I wasn’t even referring to Coal. The point was about Gas, and how it relates to Fracking.

BP spent hundreds of millions on developing solar power before giving up when it realised that its researchers had hit a dead-end and a rival had found a superior technique

Rubbish. The price of solar has fallen through the roof simply because the Chinese have flooded the market with cheap components, and thanks to subsidies across Spain and Germany. The technology is improving all the time anyway – it’s pretty idiotic to use that as an excuse to jettison the entire unit. Are you being paid by Tim W’s boss or something? Where do they find these numpties?

36. Brendan Commins

Evidence, Sonny Hundal? No, I thought not. Just the usual ad homs.

“I’m also 90% sure now that people like Tim Worstall get paid to spend all their times writing long, trolling comments on this site.”

Sorry Sunny, no, I’m not paid to post here. No one thinks you’re importnt enough to troll for money.

I am paid to post at Forbes, at the ASI, on the rare occasions I get into newspapers, yes, but no, not here. And I also have a job dealing with weird and exotic metals. Oddly enough, the metals that are at the heart of most renewables technologies. Here in Germany this week I’ve had three meetings with people trying to extract lithium to make those vital electric car batteries for example. I’ve actually subsidised research into a certain type of fuel cell with free materials and have worked on how to extract the germanium and gallium that will be needed for the next generation of solar cells (when we move to multi-junction ones).

This is actually my field, capishce?

BP did indeed spend hundreds of millions on solar cells. They were for many years the world’s largest producer. They didn’t close it down, they simply sold it off when they realised that they didn’t really have much to add to it. Their expertise is in finding, drilling for,m refining and distributing oil. Why anyone thinks that this gives them an advantage in either electricity or in working out how to pack more circuits onto ever thinner chips is a bit of a mystery.

Just because they’re both enery isn’t enough: that’s like sayiung that Raleigh bikes and Boeings are transport so Raleigh should be building jet liners. The technologies, oil and solar, are just as different.

“The price of solar has fallen through the roof simply because the Chinese have flooded the market with cheap components”

It’s a leetle more complex than that. The big price breakthrough was actually by First Solar, a US firm. They moved away from silicon altogether and produce thin film Cd/Te on glass cells. An inherently less efficient and also cheaper technology.

There was also a large change in the silicon sector at the same time. Traditionally solar cells were made from the rejected material used to make computer chips. As volumes grew this became in short supply, the silicon ingots rising to $450 or so per kg. Markets do correct, even if not immediately: it takes time to build new factories etc. Si ingot is now back down to around production costs, $35, $40 per kg as a result of those new factories that came online.

There’s also been advances in cutting technology: how many slices can you get out of an ingot? A decade ago each wafer was perhaps 200 nm. Now they’re perhaps 80 nm and still falling. The above by the way is why Solyndra was always going to fail. They were solving the problem of high Si prices: but the problem was already being solved by other means.

“The technology is improving all the time anyway ”

It is indeed but not really as a result of those subsidies. Large scale roll out of inefficient technologies isn’t really what invigorates the R&D into more efficient technologies. Take it from someone who really does know.

Just as an example, one of my customers was working on fuel cells back in the late 1980s. This is before Kyoto, before the IPCC. Before any subsidies. As it happens their technology did not work (the contingent technologies needed to make it workl just didn’t exist back then) but that R&D wasn’t driven by any sniff of subsidies, but by the obvious fact that the world was beginning to look beyond fossil fuels.

“Are you being paid by Tim W’s boss or something?”

As I’ve said, there is no paying going on here. But Tim W’s boss, if there were one, would have very much the same views as Tim W. Which are really quite simple.

It is true that solar is getting cheaper all the time. There will come a point where it is so cheap that we’ll all be using it by preference. This point is some time in the next 10 – 20 years. If you want to accelerate that then you need to be spending more on the R&D to make them cheaper, not subsidising the installation of the current inefficient technology. For, I’m sorry, but we’ve still got another two or three iterations of the technology to get through before we actually have something that is worth widespread installation.

Where I think we’re going to end up is some mixture of wind and solar as the primary generation. This willthen be used to electrolyse water, the H2 from that being stored (on a local and decentralised basis) and then used to power solid oxide fuel cells when power is actually required. The H2 and the fuel cells will eseentially be the battery which such a system needs.

You can’t power large scale industry off this but you can all domestic and the vast majority of transport.

What we need to get there is to get multijunction solar cells working properly (40% efficient in the lab, it’s now a decade long task to be manufacturing them cheaply, basically the same cost curve that Si solar has gone through over the past 15 years) and to get those solid oxide fuel cells marching down he same Moore’s Law path. As an example, the current leading manufacturer is still hand applying the cathodes to the fuel cell plates. That needs to be replaced by thin film technologies at the very least.

If you want an analogy we’re roughly where the car was around 1900, 1910. We’re still playing with the basics of the technologies, haven’t quite got the mix sorted out. And we’re somewhere in the decade before we get our Henry Ford and the Model T. Ford couldn’t have built the Model T in 1908. He could by 1913.

And, finally, where do I sit in all this? Well, my current work is on the supply of one specific rare earth. No, not one that China produces. If I am successful in establishing a secure and reasonably sized supply then the first uses will be in the next generation of wind turbine blades. The alloy will allow them to run in higher wind speeds without falling apart thus making them more efficient. The second use will be in those solid oxide fuel cells.

So to argue that I’m anti-renewables is absurd: this is my working life. And it is that working life that informs me that subsidising the current technologies is just pissing money away.

And finally, perhaps this will be a little guide as to why all of this takes so damn long. Why we can’t just magic up the desired technologies. Because so much of the backroom stuff, the supply tail, still has to be done. Sure, we’d all like more efficient windmills: but that really does mean that someone has to go out and find a supply of this rare earth. A task which in itself is going to take a couple of years and so far has taken in four of the seven continents.

To make that next generation of solar cells we need to find a new source of germanium. This afternoon I’m with a research team doing exactly that. But again, it’s a several year task just to work out how to extract the metal we need to build the things we desire.

Sorry, but engineering and manufacturing really do just take time to being up to speed.

“I am paid to post at Forbes, at the ASI, on the rare occasions I get into newspapers, yes, but no, not here.”

– Glad to hear you volunteer your efforts, how community spirited of you.

what a great thing the Big Society is, delivering all those things financiers cannot speculate the value of.

@ Sunny Hundal
You really ought to check the occasional fact before throwing around your insults as calling objective historical facts “rubbish” just makes you look stupid. BP quit solar before the Chinese mass-production cut the price of solar panels. And while I disagree with Martin Wolf’s, his article IS irrelevant to the need to replace coal with gas, so is Off-Topic as you like to say. We don’t need shale gas in order to reduce pollution and carbon footprint by substituting gas for coal which is the subject of the debate (or was before you started inventing an employer for the self-employed Tim W).

40. Luis Enrique

Sunny

“Try reading properly before shooting off ”

yes good advice.

you object “but shale gas is does bad things to the environment!”

Try re-reading the paragraph in Martin Wolf’s article starting “So is shale gas the beneficial transformation its proponents claim? Maybe not. The controversial aspect of the new technologies is the impact on the environment…”

Martin Wolf writes a column pointing out that gas is about to become more plentiful and cheap, citing all sorts of official agencies that might just know more about the matter than one S Hundal. You think that’s “dogshit”. You think environmental concerns will stop that happening (at least, that’s what I assume, if your objections aren’t completely irrelevant to the question of future gas prices). Well, maybe. But have you looked at any shale gas production data or forecasts? Of course not, like Mr Murphy, all you need to do is consult the magic oracle that lives up your arsehole.

The investment into gas IS a stitch-up. the reason why the big six aren’t investing into renewable energy is because the profits aren’t as high. Hence, BP pulled out.

And the price of solar for example has fallen so rapidly over the past few years that, at the same trajectory, it’ll be very competitive very fast.

honestly, what is your model of power generator behavior here? You think the costs of gas are going to stay high, so power generators select that technology because profits are higher that way? How on earth does that work? You are a power generator, and you sell power to energy retailers. Are you going to make more money by producing power cheaply or expensively? Are you really asserting that something (collusion?) is stopping competitive power producers from using the cheapest available forms of power generation and capturing the market by virtue of being able to sell power more cheaply that its competitors? Are you really asserting that power generators are building gas plants because they think gas is going to be more expensive than other forms of power generation in the future?

[and as for Sunny (!) deciding Martin Wolf isn’t credible on economics … where to start?]

41. Luis Enrique

from Martin Wolf’s “dogshit” article: “The largest identified resources, apart from those of the US, are in China (1,275tn cubic feet)”. Oh right well I’m sure the Chinese are going to listen to the “frack off!” activists – no prospect of global gas supplies rising sharply then.

42. Luis Enrique

and if you want a statement that gives one cause to question the writer’s sanity, how about this:

“I’m also 90% sure now that people like Tim Worstall get paid to spend all their times writing long, trolling comments on this site.”

you really think that not only Tim but others are paid to write comments on LC.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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