Monday, 31 March 2008

EU Energy Policy: How to Run the 3-Minute Mile

If someone asks: how could an athlete run the mile in 3 minutes?, it is arithmetically correct to reply: by running 30% faster. But this would not be a satisfactory answer.

And that’s the only way one can view accounts that purport to show how ‘Big Bill’ Barosso’s energy scheme for 2020 stack up.

Witness: one of CU’s top Sunday stories yesterday was an article on this report, snappily entitled Compliance Costs for Meeting the 20% Renewable Target in 2020. As a service to C@W readers I have sifted through its 156 pages of graphs, charts and tables. Now as we know, forecasts of this type are basically horoscopes with numbers: but what numbers they are !

52% of the renewables will be biofuels: wind-power a mere 10.6%. Sorry greenies, we’ll still be burning stuff.

70% of biofuels will be imports, mostly coming from maize, wheat and S.E.Asian palm oil – impact on food production not quantified. The report’s authors admit that further analysis is required as to whether global biofuels markets are up to this task. (They might like to ask whether would-be food eaters are up for it as well.)

Although the UK’s ‘burden-share’ is to meet a mere 15% of energy demand from renewables, compared to the EU average of 20%, it will incur by far the most costs: € 5 to 6.7 billion p.a. by 2020, as compared to € 3 bn for each of France and Germany. (For aficionados of reality-checking, take a look at the graph at Fig 14 for implausibility.)

Lastly, this little gem: the cost of complying with the transport [sector] obligation is 10 times higher than the cost of meeting the electricity and heating targets, and the carbon savings themselves are far less certain”.

Whoopee. As we’ve said many times before, if any of this is going to happen there would need to be some serious signs of massive efforts being taken right now. Which we don’t see …



Old BE said...

The answer is quite simple: the third world must stop eating, we must stop moving around and turn off our lights and heating.

Nick Drew said...

EdLand (and MarkWadsworthLand) are places with very decisive leadership !

Bill Quango MP said...

Mr Drew
Please go to Mr Dale's blog on
The Real Cost of Wind Power.

They need some help with the comments.

Anonymous said...

You can borrow my spare bike.

Old BE said...

...and then Edland woke up and remembered that

a) "climate change" happens with or without CO2

b) we have plenty of natural resources other than wind (not that HMG would know it)

c) we aren't going to go back to Zimbabwean standards of living unless Brown has anything to do with it

Nick Drew said...

Mr Q - thanks for the pointer, I fear I was a bit late to that little party


a) yes, but this particular climate-change cycle is significantly more extreme than any previous: and man-made CO2 is the only logical explanation (dons flak jacket)

b) yup, and the coal lobby is desperately trying to get its voice heard above the clamour from nukes, wind and biofuels - & they all want bloody subsidies !

c) I have bad news for you ...

Anonymous said...

If they think we can generate 10% of our energy from American wheat they really have lost the plot.

Sadly WE don't have a lot of the natural resources required. The people that do, we don't like very much. Not only that, they have learnt that it is better to take our means of production in return for all the gas and oil rather than the output of that production. Which means if we carry on as we have been they will own everything. Coal can only be the answer for so long. What will we do after the coal is gone? It may be better to think about that now rather than later, as part of an overall strategy to make best use of the coal supplies we can secure.

Mark Wadsworth said...

ND, thank you for saving your readers the effort of reading that guff, 'tis much appreciated. Did you at any stage suddenly feel the urge to bang your head on the table?

Schadenfreude said...

ND: I had a worrying thought about the biofuels business in the US. As you know, the US, the worlds wheat bowl, has suddenly developed an interest in biofuels technology and is building many biofuels factories, taking in a lot of wheat and pushing up wheat prices enormously. The question is "Why"? There doesn't seem to be a huge market for these biofuels (which is perhaps why the EU is so interestd in buying them from the Americans...). Could it be that "peak oil" really is imminent? Does Pres. Bush know something we don't? He has claimed that the US should reduce its dependency on oil by 2025 - but that's 17 years away. Could it be that "peak oil" will come far sooner? The US knows whether Saudi is running out of oil - it runs most of the Saudi oil fields. And Saudi has shipped vast oceans of oil.... until now. Many of the Middle East reserves in places like Iran and Iraq are already seriously depleted.

If the US knows that peak oil is imminent, but is keeping it secret, it will give it a huge strategic advantage over the rest of the world. It would also explain why the US is so blasé about its enormous budget deficit - it knows things are going to change to a new paradigm so it doesn't give a damn about today's economics.

Anonymous said...

"this particular climate-change cycle is significantly more extreme than any previous": evidence?

Nick Drew said...

Mark - yes it's truly one for headbangers

but someone has to do it, we are here to serve t'readership

(& the government pays tens of thousands and more for this guff so someone should read it)

RS - congrats on new blog (everyone over to RS's place, guys)

I am rather clear on this one.

Peak Oil is a truism, the question is 'when' and (a) if it happens due to oil physically running out, well, it won't happen in our lifetimes, but (b) if it happens because people are no longer willing to pay X $/bbl, that's quite another matter

Understanding the US biofuels phenomenon is Really Easy: US farmers are a very powerful and greedy lobby - even more so than the French - and they've found a cunning new wheeze. End of story.

I understand your enthusiasm for wind, but seriously; while it's very clean (good), renewable (good) and indigenous (good), on any significant scale it's fantastically expensive, approaching outright infeasible.

Its contribution will only ever be modest, unless the forthcoming recession is an absolute industrial wipeout coupled with sustained high commodity prices (probably mutually exclusive)

The again, solar is even worse !

M said...

I do often wonder if the people who come up with this eco-fantasy guff really do take it seriously, because it seems like they can come out with complete crap and then claim anybody who points out it's crap is a "denier".

The problem is we're never going to find a solution to environmental problems (no matter what their causes) if the nutters attempt to close out rational debate and analysis in favour of their ideological whimsy.

seismo said...

Ummm.... some interesting posts.
Declaration of interest-I've been searching for oil since 1980; we're doing just fine :-)

Biofuels have one big market in that they by mixing with lower quality fractions they allow these fractions onto the market.

IMNSHO Matt Simmonds has by far the best grasp on oilfield productivity, esp those dependent on advanced reservoir analysis.
Figure on 300+ bucks a barrel by 2012.

Yep: Dubya knows all about Saudi Aramco's reserves. He would though.
Point being: if Saudi has peaked so has the planet.

If you have oil fired central heating ask the maintenance engineer how much extra muck he's been cleaning out over the past 24 months.

Anonymous said...

According to the paper yesterday, biofuels are already destroying economies and forests around the world thanks to subsidies.

Schadenfreude said...

ND: thanks for promoting my blog. Good to see some visitors already! I don't think I will be treading on your toes - taking a totally different approach to business and economics, with plenty of politics thrown in.

I do appear to have been banging the drum for wind power rather, but actually I also support a variety of renewable energy sources such as tidal barrages and do believe there is a place for coal. My viewpoint is one concerned with security of supply rather than environment. And an overall strategy that makes sense. Leaving it to the free market to decide will not work very well. Unless you think burning gas and oil to make electricity is a particularly good use of these energy sources....

mjw: I think what we have with the environmentalists is what sociologist and psychologists describe as "an escalating comitment to a particular (failed) course of action". The very fact that the science is contentious causes sides to be taken, views to become polarised. People make ever more commitment to those views. Eventually peoples careers and reputations are put on the line. Only one side can be right. But will the side that is wrong EVER admit it? That is something I will be taking up in my own blog in due course. I will also look into why organisations of any kind develop their own group think that is not related to the thinking of any one part of that group. Environmental groups are a good example, so I might pick on them.

seismo: interesting. This table is interesting too (don't know how reliable the source is). Oil price is still pretty low compared to the late 70s when adjusted for CPI (even worse if adjusted for RPI). This is despite demand going through the rood. Seems we ain't seen nothin' yet...

Mark Wadsworth said...

O/t, but what do you chaps make of this?

Apart from "Runaway! Runaway! Lehman Brothers is going down!", obviously.

Unsworth said...

Peak Oil is one thing, but Peak Energy has already begun. The demand for electricity is now outstripping generating capacity and it's clear that even if we do buy all these french nuclear power stations we'll run out of capacity before they are completed.

All this garbage about environment change is a smokescreen for the reality. The point is that energy usage needs to be reduced substantially unless we are to experience regular brown-outs (how appropriate!). It's already started in the USA and we're not far behind. I'd put my spare cash into energy production and construction businesses.

Next up - Peak Water.

Nick Drew said...

Mr Unsworth - indeed: my understanding is that water shortages will bite several countries in the bum long before energy shortages

e.g. when India tries to electrify its rural areas: power plants need water, and lots of it!

Chervil said...

Interesting post. Biofuel is a big no-no in my opinion as it takes up too much valuable agricultural land.

I suspect peak oil may well be near or already here. We won't know for some time, though, but the oil price is pushing up price for food already.

Wheat reserves are down to historic lows. Rice harvest is significantly down in Asia, from what I can make out.

Water is a big and growing issue (I live in Southern Australia where the water issue is becoming a major crisis).

I agree with one of the other comments that one key is to reduce energy consumption. Energy efficiency is the easiest and fastest way to reduce emissions in the short term. That would give us the breathing space to come up with better renewable technologies.

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