Monday 28 November 2011

On The Brink Of Madness

Word is that we are going to get Plan B this week. I suspect the Boy Osborne will struggle to make himself heard over the crashes and screams issuing from the other side of the Channel, but maybe he'll be happy enough about that, in the circumstances.

Trailed for some months, and now being briefed 'properly' in the usual manner, has been a package of measures to ameliorate the effects of Mad Crapper Huhne's energy policy on heavy industry. A new subsidy to offset the cost of an earlier subsidy. We could all name a simpler way of going about this.

What's really mad is that the whole
internal logic of having electricity consumers pay for Huhne's schemes is to make life more difficult for heavy energy users. There are only four proven ways of reducing emissions at the national level on a sustained and large-scale basis, three** of which involve beating up on industry, viz de-industrialisation, recession, and driving efficiency via high prices. Only the last stands any chance of succeeding at the global level, since the others just drive industry abroad, where their emissions are likely to be greater per unit of production. And even if some selected heavy industries manage to lobby for compo, this is self-evidently no comprehensive or long-term solution.

It is a crying shame that the combined forces of Osborne and Cable can't take on and crush Huhne in Cabinet. The costs in treasure, aye, and in blood, of their failure to do so will be tangible: wasted cash, needless imports, dead factories, unemployed workers and frozen grannies. Can we afford this just now? Ever ?


**The fourth - replacing coal-burning with gas - is much too obvious and constructive to merit Huhne's favour. A potential fifth - replacing old coal generation with new, more efficient coal plant, has yet to be demonstrated on a large scale.


James Higham said...

There needs to be some auto-mechanism to prevent people like Huhne, Cable, Clegg and anyone in Labour from having any say whatever on economic policy.

Budgie said...

The CAGW (only global warming from only man made CO2 - hence "carbon" trading, "carbon" footprint, "Carbon" Trust etc) is dying the death of all hoaxes. CAGW will rank alongside Piltdown man and (unfortunately and unfairly) make all scientists look foolish.

The problem is that Huhne is the sort of man who will wriggle out of his absurd predilection for green flagellation and jump on the next scare. All the while ignoring the real problems we have; and all at the taxpayers' expense.

Anonymous said...

**The fourth - replacing coal-burning with gas - is much too obvious and constructive to merit Huhne's favour. A potential fifth - replacing old coal generation with new, more efficient coal plant, has yet to be demonstrated on a large scale.

Nick the number of coal pits is very small now, old pit will not be able to openned, new shafts sunk, all the old driveways will be blocked by old hardware, tunnels collapsed and probably flooded. The fludised bed system that was being developed to to be much more efficient was sold ton the Germans. More important, we import coal and coal products so it will cost us dear no matter we do.

Dan said...

Rather than pissing away money on windfarms and assorted scams to tax the poor and further enrich the rich, some serious research needs to be done on nuclear energy.

We really want to be working out how to build thorium reactors which will withstand most natural disasters, and which can be cleanly shut down rather quickly. We also need at least one (and preferably several) reactors capable of reacting plutonium since we have rather a lot of this stuff built into weapons which we no longer need.

Finally, piggybacked onto all this research we need a way of turning long half-life "sludge" into much shorter half-life elements; shorter half-life waste decays away to harmless stable elements much more quickly than the "sludge" does, hence waste storage facilities are cheaper for it.

Do all this, and our fossil fuel usage changes from powering everything to being a niche fuel for transport, and even this could be part-replaced with oil polymerised from natural gas, the waste hydrogen being either burned as fuel or reacted with char to make more methane.

Nick Drew said...

hmm, James, I am still basically a democrat ... just

Mr E, Budgie - I am inclined to agree with you about this political dynamic. I take Huhne to be a machine politician in the sense of: I was told to get X and Y done, so here I go, get out of my way. It has suited him to have been given the energy brief, even if he had to square his previous anti-nuke rhetoric (easy for a sophist): best case - he delivers; worst case - he can engineer a 'principled' bust-up with Osborne and resign to become a green / lib hero

Anon - you are right, obviously (though some of the UK deep mines have been mothballed): but I'm not one who bothers too much about imports, provided we diversify our sources and pay open-market prices

Dan - I hear conflicting things about the potential of thorium

if one had to guess, I'd say that 50 years from now the energy problem will have been solved - hopefully by thorium or some other technology rather than de-population ... or everyone living in caves

alan said...

It's very likely that pB11 fusion (Hydrogen/Boron) will the energy technology in 50 yrs.

It ticks all the box's. Cheap and abundant fuel. Doesn't require heavy shielding. Doesn't produce any radioactive waste. Is small enough (small shielding) for container ships and space flight. Cant be used to make a bomb. Can be retro fitted to coal power plants easily.

R&D in pB11 technology is progressing very will, just suffering from a lack of funding.

Electro-Kevin said...

I do wish the CPS would get on with it.

Anonymous said...

I assume Huhne, like Al Gore, is talking his book? Of course, if the CPS wasn't a cadre of leftards/Common Purpose, Huhne would now be doing jail time.

Budgie said...

Electro-Kevin said... "I do wish the CPS would get on with it."

The CPS are hesitating because Huhne is part of the establishment. If it were you or me we would have been banged up months ago.

Nick Drew said...

CPS - yes, justice delayed is justice denied

alan - pB11 fusion sounds like just the ticket

retrofitting, as you mention, is v. important. There are all sorts of new / new-ish processes that can make use of good steam turbines - such as solar energy being stored in molten salt, vastly superior to the PV nonsense

rwendland said...

Looked up pB11 fusion in Wikipedia, and have to say, it doesn't sound too great there:

"the peak reaction rate of p–11B is only one third that for [conventional deuterium–tritium fusion], requiring better plasma confinement. ... Despite the suggested advantages of [pb11] aneutronic fusion, the vast majority of fusion research effort has gone toward D–T fusion because the technical challenges of hydrogen–boron (p–11B) fusion are so formidable. Hydrogen–boron fusion requires ion energies or temperatures almost ten times higher than those for D–T fusion."

Sounds like conventional fusion will be commercial (always "in 30 years time"!) well before pb11 fusion.

On PV, the Mott MacDonald study figures that PV module costs (as opposed to total install cost) will drop to about 30% by 2020, and 10% by 2040. Sounds like PV might be economic in purpose designed UK new build sometime between 2020 and 2030. Though heavy air-conditioning countries are clearly better matched to PV.

alan said...

Dr. Robert Bussard, former Asst. Director of the Atomic Energy Commissiondiscusses the polywell (pB11) reactor design.

Focus Fusion Society is a good reference to pB11 fusion. Focus fusion champions another design Dense plasma focus(DPF).

Both designs have already achieved fusion using deuterium (testing) much quicker than the main D-T projects. DPF will be using pB11 fuel early next year.

Although on paper D/T looks attractive, in reality its an engineering nightmare; a problem pB11 doesn't suffer from.

Based on progress so far, I suspect there will be a working prototype pB11 fusion reactor before 2020 (assuming funding continues).

The problem with any non-nuclear solution (PV, Wind, Tidal) is that it doesn't scale to 7 billion people & doesn't work well in an industrial setting. Our current lifestyle is dependant on global trade, if the UK went local you are looking at a Cuban type existence for Brits.

Any new energy technology has to support global trade - bulk container shipping (at a minimum). The ONLY new technologies able to support shipping is pB11 fusion or biofuels. The problem with biofuels is that it competes with food production.

To put PV technology in perspective, manufacturing and shipping iPads using only PV energy is several hundred years away.