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article archives at abelard's news and comment zoneenergy archives 1 2 3 | III-4: 04 | V-2004: 3 17 | VI-2004: 07 | VII-2004: 11 | IX-2004: 25 28 | X-2004: 11 | XI-2004: 06 21 | XII-2004: 13 17 27
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forget bush and kyoto rejection - watch the states and the corporations

“Eighteen US states require that some of their electricity be generated from renewable-energy sources. Furthermore, Republican governors from New York and Massachusetts are leading the creation of a regional emissions-cap system.”

“ Some see the regulatory writing on the wall. Chemical giant DuPont, which in the 1990s withdrew its support for an advocacy group that opposed fighting global warming, says it slashed its emissions worldwide by 70 percent by 2003 from 1990 levels. That far outstrips the Kyoto target of a 5 percent reduction by the year 2012.”

“ US companies are beginning to see business opportunities in emissions controls and don't want to lose out to Europe on what promises to be a booming market.”

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bit by bit, the awful truth seeps under the door

“To avoid another gigaton of carbon emissions by 2050 would require building 700 1 gigawatt nuclear power plants rather than the equivalent conventional coal facilities. That means that the rate of growth in nuclear power generation needs to be 4 percent per year rather than the current 2.5 percent. One more gigaton of emissions could be cut if the world's projected 2 billion vehicles in 2050 got 60 miles rather than 30 miles to the gallon. Another could be curtailed by 300,000 5 megawatt wind turbines. Of course, the wind turbines would need to be deployed in an area the size of Portugal and 5 megawatt wind turbines are only prototypes now. Biofuels derived from 250 million hectares of high yield crops could avoid another gigaton of carbon emitted per year in 2050. This would mean that a sixth of the world's current cropland would be devoted to producing fuel. That can't be good for biodiversity. And building 700 coal-fired 1 gigawatt power stations using carbon dioxide capture and storage would cut 1 gigaton of carbon. Akhurst pointed out that no low-cost carbon dioxide separation technology currently exists and that carbon capture and storage facilities would be nearly the same size as the power plant. The remaining 2 gigatons can be avoided by a combination of increased energy efficiency in appliances and buildings, more mass transit, and some societal changes.”

“Doing the math, in order to double the world's energy supplies over the next 50 years, the world will need to build, among other things, the equivalent of 2750 new 1 gigawatt natural gas-fired power stations, 1000 new coal-fired 1 gigawatt power plants with carbon capture, 1.5 million windmills deployed over a bit less than 300,000 square miles, 2150 new nuclear plants, 1500 new 1 gigawatt hydropower stations, not to mention new solar and biofuel technologies.”

and a lot more notional figures!

related material
replacing fossil fuels - the scale of the problem

the web address for this article is

important new government energy report from the usa

This report from the Energy Commission is a 148-page PDF, with appropriate links, and is laid out to unusually high standards.
Read with care, caution and some scepticism.

From the press release:

“Political and regional polarization has produced an energy stalemate, preventing America from adopting sensible approaches to some of our biggest energy problems," said John W. Rowe, Commission co-chair and Chairman and CEO of Exelon Corp. "Our Commission reached consensus on effective policies because of a willingness to take on cherished myths from both right and left" [...].”

“ "It's essential to take some prudent steps now to avoid intolerable costs and impacts later," said John Holdren, Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard University and Commission co-chair [...].”

“The Commission estimates its recommendations could reduce U.S. oil consumption in 2025 by 10-15 percent or 3-5 million barrels per day.”

I suppose they’ve never heard of Jevon's paradox and, perhaps, are semi-detached from the real world.

For more go to
Energy economics and fossil fuels—how long do we have?
Replacing fossil fuels—the scale of the problem

It doesn’t look impressive on the face of it, but it does show a slowly growing awareness in this profligate and escapist country.

From the full report:

“This report is a product of a bipartisan Commission of 16 members of diverse expertise and affiliations, addressing many complex and contentious topics. It is inevitable that arriving at a consensus document in these circumstances entailed innumerable compromises. Accordingly, it should not be assumed that every member is entirely satisfied with every formulation in the report, or even that all of us would agree with any given recommendation if it were taken in isolation. Rather, we have reached consensus on the report and its recommendations as a package, which taken as a whole offers a balanced and comprehensive approach to the economic, national security, and environmental challenges that the energy issue presents to our nation.”

“ This report presents key findings from an intensive, three-year effort to develop consensus.”

That is, we strove to make it politically acceptable and not to make big waves.
Looking through the report, I smell fear. The report touches many of the bases, but is careful to understate problems and choose ‘helpful’ examples. Read with caution.

“Equally important, Commissioners found common ground in rejecting certain persistent myths - on the left and on the right - that have often served to polarize and paralyze the national energy debate. These include, for example, the notion that energy independence can be readily achieved through conservation measures and renewable energy sources alone, or that limiting greenhouse gas emissions is either costless or so costly as to wreck the economy if it were tried at all. Most of all, Commissioners rejected the proposition that uncertainty justifies inaction in the face of significant risks.

“Given current trends, the consequences of inaction are all too clear. Under business-as-usual assumptions, the United States will consume 43 percent more oil and emit 42 percent more greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.1 At the global level, oil consumption and emissions will grow 57 and 55 percent respectively over the same timeframe and the Earth will be heading rapidly - perhaps inexorably - past a doubling and toward a tripling of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. In the Commission’s view, this is not a scenario that should inspire complacency, nor is it consistent with the goal of reducing the nation’s exposure to potentially serious economic, environmental, and security risks.”

the web address for this article is

one of the most important jobs in the world goes to unknown

The big question will be, “is he independent minded or a placeman?”

“After 14 years at Cabot, Bodman joined the U.S. Commerce Department in 2001. He moved to the No. 2 post at Treasury in February. He began his career as a chemical engineering professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then joined FMR Corp., parent of Fidelity Investments, rising to president in 1983.” [Quoted from]

marker at

“Bodman's selection was greeted with approval across the energy and business sectors. Representatives from the electricity, nuclear and natural gas industries cited his technical, management and financial background.

“Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Science Committee, lauded Bodman's experience in industry and government, his "management skills, and boundless intellectual curiosity." ”[Quoted from abcnews]

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photovoltaic installations growing from a low base under subsidies in usa

“The subsidy for renewable energy doesn’t come close to matching the billions in government support for fossil fuels, which includes everything from the oil-depletion allowance to the endless federal largesse for "clean coal" research. Still, the government help, almost all of it from states instead of the federal government, is crucial. "Absent that, I couldn’t have done it," says Grieco, who took advantage of New York’s law to cut his costs in half. "I didn’t have $31,000, but I did have $15,000." At that rate, he’ll have a 20-year payback on his investment, and the panels should last another 20 years after that.”

This subsidising behaviour is in a current environment of cheap oil, therefore manufacture may still be negative EROEI.
To understand this last comment see:

EROEI section in Energy economics and fossil fuels—how long do we have?

the web address for this article is

time to make up a law about it—energy ratings

In order to facilitate planning for the vast changes in energy usage bearing down upon us,

  • all energy related items, whether that generate energy or that convert energy, should be rated on a cradle-to-grave basis, complete with separately itemised manufacturing inputs and running costs.

  • A lifetime energy rating should be clearly listed on all manufactured items.

  • This rating information must include EROEI ratings.

For background see
Energy economics and fossil fuels—how long do we have?

the web address for this article is

a million windmills?

Linked item is headed
“US vehicles would require a million wind turbines, economists claim.”
This is immediately followed by
“Converting every vehicle in the United States to hydrogen power would demand so much electricity that the country would need enough wind turbines to cover half of California or 1,000 extra nuclear power stations.”
[Equivalent figures for the United Kingdom are approximately one-tenth.]

As usual, the article is sloppy to the point of innumeracy. For instance, it does no say how big are the nuclear power stations or the windmills.

My best guess is that they mean what I call ‘big power stations’, that is power stations with a one-gigawatt capacity, and probably one-megawatt windmills.

As windmills can only be expected to produce power during one-third of the time, if you are lucky and you have a good site, with one-megawatt mills you would really need 3 million windmills.

Further, present assessments suggest there are nothing like that many available suitable locations in the USA, and the locations that do exist are often far from the desired point of energy delivery. Present assessments run to the equivalent of approximately 100 ‘big power station’ wind potential being available for the whole USA (warning: this figure not yet checked in detail) [source: Pimentel, 2002]
(And the EROEI for wind is also nothing like as good as that for oil.)

Still the size of the problem does at last seem to be starting to percolate.

related material
Replacing fossil fuels—the scale of the problem

the web address for this article is

kite flying as the realities steadily impinge — 45 reactors for the uk

“The Department of Trade and Industry will also study the process. Earlier this month an official said that a huge expansion of the nuclear power industry - including the construction of 45 new reactors - was essential if the Government were to meet its Kyoto target of cutting "greenhouse gases". Many environmentalists, including James Lovelock, have embraced nuclear power because it does not generate greenhouse gases.

related material
replacing fossil fuels

the web address for this article is

bliar talks sense on energy – mostly

From a recent speech by Tony Bliar. If he means it, we start to get some degree of rational approach to energy in the UK.

“We have been warned. On most issues we ask children to listen to their parents. On climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children.”

“Our position on nuclear energy has not changed. And as we made clear in our Energy White Paper last year, the government does "not rule out the possibility that at some point in the future new nuclear build might be necessary if we are to meet our carbon targets."

“In short, we need to develop the new green industrial revolution that develops the new technologies that can confront and overcome the challenge of climate change; and that above all can show us not that we can avoid changing our behaviour but we can change it in a way that is environmentally sustainable.

“Just as British know-how brought the railways and mass production to the world, so British scientists, innovators and business people can lead the world in ways to grow and develop sustainably.

“I am confident business will seize this opportunity. Cutting waste and saving energy could save billions of pounds each year. With about 90% of production materials never part of the final product and 80% of products discarded after single use, the opportunities are clear.”

Local, practical sustainability: new schools, new housing and re-invigorating 'Agenda 21'

“But Government can give a lead in its own procurement policy.

New sustainable schools

“There is a huge school building programme underway. All new schools and City Academies should be models for sustainable development: showing every child in the classroom and the playground how smart building and energy use can help tackle global warming.

“The government is now developing a school specific method of environmental assessment that will apply to all new school buildings. Sustainable development will not just be a subject in the classroom: it will be in its bricks and mortar and the way the school uses and even generates its own power.

“Our students won't just be told about sustainable development, they will see and work within it: a living, learning, place in which to explore what a sustainable lifestyle means.


“The economic and social case for new housing is compelling. But we must also ensure that our approach is environmentally sustainable. This means action at both the national and local level. Heating, lighting and cooling buildings produces about half of total UK carbon emissions.

“In 2002 we raised the minimum standard for the energy performance of new buildings by 25%. And next year we'll raise it by another 25%. The challenge now is to work with the building industry to encourage sustainability to be part of all new housing through a new flexible Code for Sustainable Buildings.

“The new developments proposed in specific parts of the south east including the Thames Gateway represent a huge opportunity for us to show what can be achieved in terms of modern, smart, 21st century, sustainable living: not just in terms of reduced energy use, but also through better waste management, sustainable transport and availability of quality local parks and amenities.”

Where he proposes to obtain the oil for the following he does not say:

I am advised that by 2030, emissions from aircraft could represent a quarter of the UK's total contribution to global warning. A big step in the right direction would be to see aviation brought into the EU emissions trading scheme in the next phase of its development. During our EU Presidency we will argue strongly for this.”

Hasn’t anyone told him yet?

related material
step by slow step, the awful truth must penetrate the heads of dumb pseudo-greens

the web address for this article is

at last uk labour government starts to talk sense over the environment and nuclear power

“Britain may need to build new nuclear power stations if it is to meet its targets on cutting carbon dioxide emissions, although the plants are not currently economic, Energy Minister Stephen Timms has said.

“ "We may well need new nuclear power stations in the UK," Timms told a wind energy conference yesterday. "(But) I haven't met anyone who wants to invest in nuclear power in the UK," he said.”

The market will not 'invest' while cheap filthy fossil fuel alternatives are available, but the costs appear over-rated in view of recent studies.

“Poor economics and problems dealing with nuclear waste made the sector unattractive, he said.

The ‘problems’ are exaggerated.

“Timms' comments came after Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday said he would not close the door to another generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.

“ "It's not sensible for us to say...we are just shutting the door," Blair said. "You can't remove it from the agenda if you are serious about climate change."

Just so.

Related material
nuclear power - investigation of the perceived problems

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