Saturday, November 20, 2010
1300 to match 1 nuclear
On Friday a few MSPs in the Scottish Parliament heard a speech which some papers reported. Rupert Soames, boss of a company providing emergency electricity to countrires that have run out frankly told them that:
"Talking about Energy and CO2 reduction allows [politicians] to project all sorts of appealing political characteristics; clean, caring, modern, technically-savvy, far-sighted, broad-minded; and all this could be achieved without any real consequences, no matter how bonkers the policy. So far, politicians have had the luxury of sounding good by setting targets which are so far out in time that whether they are sensible or achievable or not, nobody can possibly know. A 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025? Don’t be a bloody Jessie, let’s make it 34% by 2020, and for good measure, let’s make it legally binding!"
"The First Great Truth is that we cannot live without reliable and plentiful electricity.
The Second Great Truth is that everything about the equipment required to generate and distribute electricity takes a long time to build and is quite fantastically expensive. And the cleaner the source of energy, the more fantastically expensive it is.
The Third Great Truth is that this fantastic expense has to be financed by Global Capital Markets and paid for by the consumers and businesses who use the electricity",
"over the next 8 years a third of our coal-fired capacity, two-thirds of our oil-fired capacity, and nearly three-quarters of our nuclear capacity will be closed down either through age or the impact of the European Large Combustion Plant Directive. Absent a massive and immediate programme of building new power stations, with concrete being poured in the next two years, we will be in serious danger of the lights going out.",
"by 2015, 25% of the world’s power stations will be over 40 years old... utilities are going to be buying new power generation and distribution. There seems to be the view in Government that there is an orderly queue of investors wanting to pour money into UK infrastructure. Wrong"
So what sort of power stations. The basic requirement is that they produce large amounts of reliable electricity & that they are financially viable (perhaps with some subsidy, presumably better without).
So how do the various options stand up?
First lets look at the Royal Academy of Engineering costs which puts onshore wind at 5.4p per kwh, offshore at 7.1p, gas around 2.6p, coal around 2.8p & nuclear at 2.2p.
There is some bias in this - nuclear is being classified as having high decommissioning costs though modern reactors are built to allow it to be done easily, while windmills & all the others are assumed to have zero costs. The wind costs appear to be lower, sometimes very much lower than experience shows. Costings for thousands of future hypothetical turbines do not take account of the lack of the hundreds of barges & tens of thousands of trained workers who would need to come into existence. In this regard the Scottish Executive have decided to produce another £70 million additional subsidy for building the infrastructure needed before we start actually "pouring concrete". This doesn't count when making such costings.
There is no figure given for the cost of carbon capture coal production. That is reasonable since it is still in the experimental stage & if it proves feasible it will probably not be so for at least a decade so no use "in the next 2 years". In any case the Laws of Conservation of Energy show it will take a lot of power to separate out the CO2 burned & to pump it away. Also the equipment will be expensive. We may get away with it only costing half as much again as current coal, or we may not. In any case "environmentalists" who throw up their hands in horror at a few cubic metres of reactor waste, which has a half life making it safe in 50 years, should think about the disposal of 160 million tons of pressurised CO2 produced annually, which, if the whole CO2 scare is true, must remain trapped for millennia.
The various bio-fuel proposals produce very little power even if all of Scotland was turned over to growing them. This is why the industrial revolution was built on coal not wood.
Assuming paying our electricity bills to be of no concern to us, or even to pensioners (though the 37,000 excess deaths of pensioners last year, up from 25,000, suggests otherwise), there is still the even more important question - what happens when it runs out.
Looking at the amount of electricity we produce we see from government figures (table 21) that 37% comes from coal, 39% from nuclear, 19% from gas & only 5% from "renewables". Scottish Renewables, the windfarm lobby group (though heavily funded by government quangos incredibly including Scottish Enterprise) claim wind "capacity to be twice that of hydro (everything else is also ran) but omit to mention that wind turbines only actually deliver 27% of their rated capacity because sometimes it isn't windy, or sometimes is to windy. So it looks likely that despite the billions put into windfarms so far it is producing under 2% of our power. Some may argue that someday it will be far more but that is not going to be the case in 2 years. In any case a 3 MW windmill, runs at an average of 27% capacity so even in theory we need 1300 of them to replace a 1,000MW nuclear plant. In practice we also need something closely approaching a 1,000 MW standby plant to keep the lights on in calm winter days. That would be a gas plant because only they can be quickly switched on & off.
Nuclear is competitive, but only a little ahead of coal & gas. However Professor Bernard Cohen's investigation have shown how regulatory costs have blossomed under the tender hands of those ideologically opposed to it. In one case 13 fold over 17 years. When one bears in mind that nuclear is, by an enormous margin, safer than its competitors, it is clear that the regulatory burden is not justified on safety or any other grounds. Windfarm deaths, for example match all nuclear deaths, including Chernobyl, while producing under 100th as much power. My suspicion is that the regulatory burden is set to ensure that it not rise above the cost of competitors which would visibly hurt the public & make us ask questions. However in the long term if it becomes apparent that Chinese & other nuclear plants are producing power at 1/2 or less than the cost we do, with the same equipment, the rules will be forced to change.
In terms of CO2 release, for those who think that important, the only players are windmills & nuclear. Of these nuclear results in far & away the least amount of CO2. Both are limited in actual production to tiny amounts - mainly from the need for concrete & employees breathing. Even on that score windmills lose slightly per kwh but the real loss is because they need back up power which is virtually required to be a CO2 producer. Perhaps some "environmentalist" who claims to believe CO2 production is dangerous but prefers 1300 windturbines to 1 nuclear plant though the former is responsible for so much more of the dreaded gas can explain. So far none have.
Left to the market alone we would certainly have been building new nuclear plants years ago. Without massive subsidy nobody would dream of building "alternative" power plants, indeed that is why they remain "alternative". There are some real alternatives on the horizon - ocean thermal (not the same as sea turbines), solar power satellites, earth based solar (cell manufacturing costs are falling fast thanks to engineers not politicians), perhaps even hot or cold fusion. However none of these are going to be available in commercial quantities this decade (& I suspect will then be opposed by the "environmental" movement who have a history of supporting impractical nostrums & then opposing them when they become practical). We need to be pouring concrete "in 2 years" or preferably sooner. It could be coal or gas though any attempt to allow that would probably have to await the repeal of the climate change Act. We simply do not have the infrastructure to build 7,000 windmills (let alone 7,000 in the middle of the sea) immediately. I think that means allowing the building of nuclear plants, though the final choice is the market's. The lights going out is not quite inevitable. it is not even difficult to avoid. But it requires our political leaders to stop preventing it being done.
Friday, November 19, 2010
The Irish government are coming under pressure to accept a "bail out" from the EU because international financial institutions (eg the EU) are worried & politicians from bigger EU countries (eg Angela Merkel of Nazi Germany) have been talking up a crisis. In fact the Irish crash is entirely because they have guaranteed their banks. Their national debt would normally be considered pretty small compared to our, though it depends how it is reported eg
"Irish deficit blooms to 32%" - BBC
"UK deficit lower than feared at 62.2%" Guardian
Last night both BBC evening news & C4 news asked members of the Irish government if they were "ashamed" of their financial situation. A remarkably coincidental use of words if they are genuinely independent broadcasters. I do not believe I have heard them ask precisely the same question of members of the British, US or indeed other EU governments. John Snow in particular was purely insulting asking that question & when the minister explained, reasonably, why Ireland's economy itself is not in such straits simply repeated the question again & again.
Daniel Hannan has done a number of blogs on this subject. I would particularly recommend "Ireland's woes will continue until it leaves the euro" which clearly explains why Ireland's inability to set its own interest rates made the property bubble inevitable & why their current inability to let their currency fall, as ours has done, prevents recovery.
I wrote this letter to the Irish Independent & with a slight alteration to the entire UK press. Somewhat to my surprise, because I could see why they might not be keen on advice from a Briton, the Irish paper printed it. To no surprise no UK paper seems to have done so.
Ireland must resolutely refuse the EU's poisoned chalice of a so-called bailout.I sent them a link to this article investigating who the Irish bank's money is owed to & turns out to be mainly banks & billionaires in Germany & Switzerland (HT to Mark Wadsworth) which says "To give you an example, one of the private banks is EFG Bank of Luxembourg. EFG stands for European Financial Group which is the third largest private bank group in Switzerland. It manages over €7.5 trillion in assets. It is 'mostly', 40%, owned by Mr Spiro Latsis, son of a Greek shipping magnate. He also owns 30% of Hellenic Petroleum. His personal fortune is estimated to be about $9 Billion."
Ireland's best answer would be to drop out of the euro, introduce new punts valued at 1:1 for the euro, accept the debts in that and let the punt fall as sterling has done. This would hurt the euro and cost the mainly German and Swiss bankers and super rich who are the majority owed money.
Irish banks overheated because Ireland is part of the euro and thus when German money was flooding in they couldn't raise interest rates as any prudent government would have done. Thus the property bubble was inevitable. The people who lent them that money were taking a business risk and business risks should involve an element of risk.
There is nothing, apart from being tied to the euro, intrinsically wrong with the Irish economy, or at least nothing not at least equally wrong with Britain's, but Britain is starting to recover because the pound could fall 20pc.
The 'bailout' is not to help Ireland (briefings that the price would be raising our corporation tax which is certainly not to Ireland's benefit prove that). It is to pay the super rich, to maintain the euro's credibility and to destroy an economy that has been a standing reproach to the failure of bigger EU economies.
Looking up Mr Latsis one finds that, by the purest coincidence "He is a longstanding friend of the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, whom he invited on a trip on his luxury yacht. In 2005 this incident made Spiro the centre of a corruption scandal involving Barroso. The British MEP Nigel Farage requested that the European Commission disclose where the individual Commissioners had spent their holidays. The Commission did not provide the information requested, on the basis that the Commissioners had a right of privacy. The German newspaper Die Welt reported that the President of the European Commission, José Barroso had spent a week on the yacht of Spiro Latsis. It emerged soon afterwards that this had occurred only a month before the Commission approved 10.3 million euro of Greek state aid for Latsis' shipping company."
From the same organisation that wants Ireland to surrender its sovereignty to them so that the taxpayer rather than Mr Latsis' will pay Mr Latsis' business & risk a tiny part of his E7.5 trillion portfolio. That & to deprive Ireland, by raising its business taxes of the chance to "save itself by its exertion & save Europe by its example".
UPDATE _ I have to acknowledge an error here pointed out by Spiked when I questioned one of their articles. Ireland's deficit for this year will be up to 32 per cent to bail out the banks after running at much lower figures in recent years rather than their whole national debt as I assumed. I have put the bits affected by my error in italics. Here's the 'national debt clock', currently running at €90billion.
Nonetheless E90 billion (about £75 bn) is only marginally proportionally above our official debt & less if we include our bank debt. They have cut spending more than us (we are not really cutting spending just not growing it as much as inflation would require). Like us their electricity supply is endangered & unlike us they cannot devalue but otherwise the economic basics are good & competitive. If the EU allow them to remain so.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Here are some pictures from a Space-X satellite launch on June 18th.
Space development is clearly happening outside of direct government control.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
An important policy question about immigration is to what extent the children of immigrants assimilate. Not only does this tell us a lot about the forces at play, but because of the numbers second generation immigrant outcomes help determine our future.
... non-European immigrants in Europe are de-assimilating, with the second generation doing worse than the parents.
I focus on the share of immigrants that work compared to the natives, and only on non-European immigrants (we all know that European immigrants usually assimilate).
First the data confirms that both first generation and second generation immigrants in all 3 countries work much less than natives, both for men and women.
For women, the second generation is slowly assimilating. Whereas the first generation works 35% less than natives, the second generation works 27% less than natives, an improvement of 8 percentage points. (the figures are the non-weighted, arithmetic mean of the 3 countries, below I have put data in each one).
For men however the trend is the opposite. The second generation non-European immigrants are less likely to work than the previous generation! While the first generation work 10% less than natives, the second generation works 24% less, a deterioration of 14 percentage points...
Why is this happening? One reason may be that the first generation contains people who moved to Europe in order to work. Because they were selected on this trait, they have above average work ethic for their group. The second generation only has some of this advantage left...
Another, more troubling possibility is that the second generation are assimilating into a completely new culture. This is not the standard, successful western-European culture, but a new kind of mixed ghetto culture that emphasizes grievances, hostility to the host society, weak norms and a lack of a work ethic. aka dependency culture
What the trends suggests is happening that for men, the immigrant culture that has emerged in Europe is worse even than the culture they brought with them from Turkey, Algeria etc. Women instead are less oppressed, and work more than their mothers.
Comparing Second generation male immigrant relative employment rates with the first generation immigrants:
Comparing Second generation female immigrant relative employment rates with the first generation immigrants:
Employment rates (the figure in the parenthesis compared immigrants to the native born):
Native Men: 79.0%
First generation non-European immigrant Men: 67.8% (-14%)
Second generation non-European immigrant Men: 60.0% (-24%)
Native women: 66.5%
First generation non-European immigrant Women: 43.3% (-35%)
Second generation non-European immigrant Women: 53.5% (-20%)
I suspect that if Germany had some high IQ East Asian immigration, most of the problems would be ameliorated. East Asian immigrants are incredibly productive academically in various parts of the Anglosphere, like for instance Canada, Australia, the US, etc, in every single case being more academically productive than the native European population.
As I always say, it's not immigration per se that's the issue. It's what kind of immigrants you're ultimately attracting. Europe may have problems assimilating Muslim immigrants, but Australia has a far different problem, that of East Asian immigrants becoming vastly over-represented in the elite productive sectors of the society. See here.
From a comment on that blog
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The theory being spread by the fear industry is that the increase (of 1 part in 10,000) of atmospheric CO2 might increase absorption in sea water so that it becomes marginally more acidic (actually sea water is alkaline so that would mean becoming marginally more neutral) which might, possibly, have so effect on sea life, which would be bound to be negative with the result that we are all DOOMED.
It has similarities to, though much more dilute than, the acid rain scare which proved to be wholly untrue. It turned out to be beneficial, something all the media, politicians & indeed Wikipedia then decided not to mention.
Here is Rational Optimist giving the facts:
As opinion polls reveal that global warming is losing traction on the public imagination, environmental pressure groups have been cranking the engine on this `other carbon dioxide problem’...
The trouble is, a shoal of new scientific papers points to the conclusion that this scare is based on faulty biochemical reasoning, unrealistic experiments and exaggeration...
the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA) is now a consortium of over 100 scientists from 27 institutes and 9 countries. This last summer it funded 35 scientists to spend six weeks in the Arctic studying the problem, `assisted’ by Greenpeace’s ship Esperanza. Think how little incentive the scientists would have to say `sorry, lads, we realize it is a not much of an issue after all’.
Start with a few facts. The oceans are not acid but alkaline, with an average pH of about 8.15 (0-7 being acid, 7-14 being alkaline). But they vary both in space and time, Arctic seas being less strongly alkaline than tropical, and some bays and reefs being actually acid because of underwater volcanic emissions. The dissolution of carbon dioxide in the oceans may lower the pH slightly to about 7.9 or 7.8 by the end of the century at the worst – still alkaline.
Environmentalists like to call this a 30% increase in acidity, because it sounds more scary than a 0.3 point (out of 14) decrease in alkalinity, but no matter. It is still well within the bounds of normal variation over space and time: the pH of the water intake at the Monterey aquarium varies by almost twice as much as this every month. The difference between the pH of the seas off Hawaii and Alaska is greater than this.
Enough numbers. Try chemistry. The scary reasoning rests on the argument that lower pH will mean less dissolved carbonate in the water. But a new paper from scientists in North Carolina proves what many scientists have long suspected, namely that corals and other species do not use carbonate as raw material to make their shells; they use bicarbonate. And dissolving carbon dioxide in water actually increases bicarbonate concentrations.
This may explain why study after study keeps finding that far from depressing growth rates of marine organisms, high but realistic levels of carbon dioxide either do not affect them or increase them...
Before I started looking into this, I assumed the evidence for damage from ocean acidification must be strong because that is what the media kept saying. I am amazed by what I have found. Make no mistake: there are lots of threats to the ecosystems of the ocean, from over-fishing to nutrient run-off, but acidification is way down the list. The attention is deflecting funds and action from greater threats. It is time scientists had the courage to admit this.