Back the Barrage and Sink HS2

Usine de la Rance
France’s La Rance Tidal Power Station – Ours Would be Ten Times as Big
Image by JaHoVil via Flickr

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has been having another rant.

This time he’s calling climate change sceptics “crackpots and conspiracy theorists”.

And he asks corporate leaders to get on board. He tells them that if their companies were assessing the risks attached to climate change, as the government has to do, they would act to reduce CO2 emissions.

Taking a gamble on climate change wouldn’t be just incredibly stupid, it would have you locked up in jail for corporate negligence.

And so the government’s commitment to wind power whirls on. And of course the newspaper comment columns are filled with outraged comments from those climate sceptics.

Let’s leave aside for a minute the debate about climate change though, and ask ourselves another question: how serious is the government really about climate change, and how much of its current policy is driven by special interest groups rather than any real desire to cut emissions?

One of the first acts of this government in 2010 was to stop the Severn Barrage scheme. That scheme would have provided up to 5% of our electricity for 100 years – with the only carbon dioxide emissions being the ones caused during its construction.

As recently as December last year, Mr Davey himself was pouring cold water on the idea:

A study was done in the early part of the coalition government and it was decided that while the government wouldn’t take forward any proposals if a private consortium wants to put forward proposals we would study that.

But at the moment we haven’t seen proposals which we could back with any financial regime.

Meanwhile, there is £32 billion available to build the highly controversial HS2 high speed rail link – the business case for which looks distinctly dodgy, which would cause environmental devastation along its route, and which would INCREASE CO2 emissions (because high speed trains use a lot more power than normal ones).

So, Mr Davey, how about abandoning that HS2 scheme and spending the money on building the Barrage instead? (The government’s cost estimates suggest the Barrage would be significantly cheaper than HS2.)

That move should delight environmentalists (apart from the loony ones who just hate any development); it would be a huge relief to the thousands of people who have been quite rightly battling to stop HS2; and it would be the greatest showcase ever for British engineering around the world.

Best of all, it would give us a huge dollop of electricity for 100 years. The price for that electricity looks fairly expensive now, but once the Barrage was built, would be fixed for its lifetime – as I said, over 100 years.

What’s not to like?

Unless you are the hapless Ed Davey, being blown around by events instead of trying to shape them.

Green Energy – Fast Route to 1984

Oil Lamp at Verlorenvlei
Politicians’ Vision of Your Future – Get Used to It
Image by smee.bruce via Flickr

The Telegraph reports today that the Coalition is “braced for MPs’ rebellion over new 2030 carbon energy target“.

Backbench MPs have tabled an amendement to the government’s Energy Bill, that would

commit the UK to have a “near carbon-free power sector” by 2030

The government’s bill, by contrast, would allow the government to set a new target in 2016. (Known in political parlance as “putting the issue off until after the election and then shafting everyone”.)

Tim Yeo MP, the Conservative chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, and Labour MP Barry Gardiner have been lobbying support for their amendment, which is due to be voted on around 4pm on Tuesday.

Astonishingly, Mr Yeo is himself involved in the renewable energy industry and therefore has a direct financial vested interest in the amendment.

Labour are backing the amendment, and a number of Liberal Democrats are threatening to support it as well.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem “Energy and Climate Change Secretary” (sic) is opposing the amendment, apparently boasting that the government’s energy policy is already lunatic enough:

We secured a landmark agreement across the Coalition to treble support for low-carbon investment to £7.6 billion in 2020. And we are reforming the market to provide the certainty required to attract investment in renewables, new nuclear, CCS and demand reduction.

We have listened to views and added a clause to enable us to set a decarbonisation target for the power sector in 2016.

No political party had this issue in their manifesto, and this will be a world first

Yes, he really did say that. He really did actually boast that he is doing something that wasn’t in his manifesto.

Just look at Mr Davey’s alternatives to real power stations: renewables, new nuclear, CCS and demand reduction.

Renewables, for the government, means wind power. (They reject other “green” alternatives like the Severn Barrage.) Mr Yeo will no doubt benefit, and yes, wind farms do work in a technical sense. But the wind doesn’t blow all the time. When it doesn’t – you need fossil fuel backup. But Mr Yeo’s amendment wants to remove all fossil fuelled power.

How about nuclear? Nuclear does actually work. At the moment, we get about a fifth of our power from it. We could get a lot more. However, the nuclear stations we have will all be closed in the next few years, as they are simply worn out. The government’s proposed nuclear station building programme would simply replace them – and the programme is in trouble anyway.

What’s more, nuclear stations have to be run flat out to be economical. They are great for delivering “base load” – the minimum demand for power. They are hopeless to meet peak demand spikes. So you have to back them up with fossil fuels. But the government doesn’t want any fossil fuels any more, remember?

CCS (carbon capture and storage)? Ah yes. The technological silver bullet. Except that no CCS power stations have been built yet. Anywhere. In the world. Maybe this new technology will ride on its white charger to the rescue – but maybe not.

Which leaves…demand reduction. That means power cuts, people. The government’s energy policy includes power cuts. And remember those smart meters they have been forcing the power companies to install in every home? The ones that will “help consumers save power”? Actually they will help the government turn off your appliances when they feel like it.

And the government’s energy policy is not extreme enough for those backbench rebels.

Our politicians are heading for an energy policy that cannot be delivered in a free society. And that, ladies and gentlemen, means they don’t want Britain to be a free society any more.

Opposition Grows to EU Holiday Tax

leaving the hotel for the flight
The EU Doesn’t Approve – image by Holidayextras via Flickr

The US has called a meeting of countries opposed to the EU’s carbon tax on airlines.

The countries opposed to the tax also include China, India and Russia. All the countries that matter in the world, in other words.

There are international treaties against taxing flights. Obviously, though, treaties don’t matter to the EU, given that it has been quite willing to depose its own governments when they weren’t “austere” enough.

So the EU unilaterally imposed their carbon tax. Airlines will get bills starting in April next year.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) creates permits for carbon emissions. Airlines that exceed their allowances will have to buy extra permits, as an incentive to airlines to pollute less.

The number of permits is reduced over time, so that the total CO2 output from airlines in European airspace falls.

The EU says that the new scheme will add between £3 and £19 to the cost of a long haul airline ticket.

That’s just the start, of course. In the long run, they intend to add a lot more; their aim is to stop the plebs flying. They intend to do it by pricing them out of flight tickets.

Yes, it’s just the plebs of course. The Eurocrats will go on majestically flying at taxpayers’ expense.

The EU may not succeed with this scheme. China has already passed a law making it illegal for their airlines to buy EU emissions permits. The other countries opposed to it – India, the US, Russia – are powerful.

Even they, though are not objecting to a new flight tax per se. They are objecting to the EU’s imposing it unilaterally.

The next target for the EU-championed climate change scam is your holiday.

Cheer up though. There is a chance that the coming implosion of the Euro may yet destroy the Evil Empire of Europe.

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Coalition Disarray on Energy Policy

Usine de la Rance
La Rance Tidal Power Station in France – image by JaHoVil via Flickr

The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee (sic) has produced a report accusing the Treasury of (in the BBC’s words):

making the government’s clean energy revolution unworkable and creating the risk of higher household bills.

Tim Yeo, the Chairman of the Committee, is upset that the government will not now act as guarantor for loans for building green power schemes:

This will result in higher borrowing costs, and make banks less likely to make loans.

Mr Yeo is also championing the wind energy industry:

The chancellor is being urged by backbenchers to make major cuts to the support for onshore wind. That would cause serious damage to the industry.

This is another thing that will have a perverse effect because onshore wind is the cheapest way of meeting our renewables targets.

The Treasury responded that it was increasing the price of fossil-fuelled electricity:

He also pointed out that the Treasury had introduced the controversial carbon price floor to push up the cost of fossil fuel generation, with the aim of making alternative low-carbon energy sources more attractive economically.

So there you have it.

The climate change brigade complaining that the government isn’t providing enough of our taxes to subsidise wind power, and the Treasury defending itself by saying it has made fossil fuel more expensive.

Nobody mentions where those “renewables targets” came from. (They were agreed by Tony Blair.) But they are all agreed on one thing: we should pay more – all of us. They are only debating how much we should pay through our taxes, and how much through our energy bills.

The green power lobby has consistently claimed that green power will be cheaper. They were lying. Green power is more expensive. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t need government help.

Meanwhile, the government still refuses to give any support at all to the Severn Barrage tidal power scheme. That would provide a huge amount of power from a tidal power station built across the Severn Estuary. The government decided not to build it on the spurious grounds that it couldn’t be financed without government support. It would cost, by the way, less than the HS2 High Speed railway.

The government claims it is in favour of nuclear power. But so far no company has made a final decision to build any new nuclear stations. They take several years to build and the energy crunch comes earlier, in 2016, when the EU shuts down Britain’s big coal fired stations because they produce too much carbon dioxide.

E-On and RWE, two big German energy companies, pulled out of their plans for nuclear stations in Britain in March, saying that

nuclear power was simply too long-term an investment in the current economic climate.

The government’s energy policy is all over the place. It is not that they are supporting the wrong things, or doing the wrong things, but simply that they appear to have no clear or consistent policy at all.

Now it is fair to point out that the Energy (and Climate Change) department did have the misfortune to be led by Chris Huhne for a couple of years. He left in February though. He was replaced by Ed Davey, who has made no impact at all as far as I can see.

What an utter shambles it all is.

The tragedy of this is that there is a workable consensus on energy, regardless of the debate about climate change.

Sure, people like me want coal fired power, and the greens want windmills. We can argue about those until the cows come home.

But let’s all get on with the bits we can agree on. We all ought to be able to support the Severn Barrage and new nuclear stations (with the possible exception of the lunatic fringe of the green movement, and they will oppose anything). The government says it wants to invest in infrastructure – well, here are some ready-made infrastructure projects waiting for their financial support.

Mr Davey needs to get off his bottom and promote a clear vision for Britain’s energy policy. Most of it need not be controversial – but if he doesn’t get a move on, we will face an energy shortage within only a few years.

With the Euro in Flames, Our Civil Servants are Still Taking Their Orders from Brussels

€YPO - POLIS burning
Image by quapan via Flickr

The meltdown of the Euro is gathering pace. While Greece stumbles towards a new election that is widely expected to lead to the country’s exit from the Euro, Spain has now been engulfed again as rating agency Moody’s downgrades the credit rating of 16 of its banks.

The question is, once the Euro has disintegrated as it surely will over the next few months, what will be left of the European Union? Not much, I suspect – it is likely to be paralysed by recriminations and squabbling, and in no state to agree and then set a new course towards the looser free trade area that is needed.

Meanwhile, more evidence today of how our civil servants are still taking orders from their counterparts in Brussels rather than from our elected leaders.

Earlier on this week the European Environment Agency (EEA) said that local councils need to take more of a lead in combatting climate change.

“What we are trying to do is to get city managers to anticipate that they will need much quicker event planning, and there are already things that they can anticipate,” said Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director.

“This is where political leadership is very important – if you have a vision, and understanding that climate change and adaptation is part-and-parcel of running a city today, it is not something you can renege on,” she told BBC News.

And today – what a surprise – British quango the Committee on Climate Change recommends that local councils should be given a statutory duty to combat climate change.

Local authorities can have a very big impact in areas such as improving energy efficiency in buildings, sustainable travel and waste management.

I suppose continuing to pay the salaries of the people who produce this drivel is what is laughably called “austerity” by our leaders.

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From Russia with Love?

Global Warming Skepticism Graph
Image by wstera2 via Flickr


Note: if you are looking for a link to download the new batch of Climategate e-mails, you can download them from here.

For much more on this, see Watts Up With That?.

The “Climategate 2″ release of further hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia are once again embarrassing for Phil Jones, Michael Mann and the other climate scientists involved – whatever their supporters in the media may say.

The latest release, that file, contains 5,000 e-mails in plain text and also a further archive of 220,000 files that is password-protected (with 256-bit AES encryption – in other words, state of the art uncrackable encryption – no less).

The “readme” file released in the package says that those additional e-mails have been encrypted “for various reasons”, and states that the hackers do not intend “publicly” (sic) releasing the passphrase. (It is a passphrase and not a password to make it almost impossible to crack.) So it is not likely we will be able to read those additional 220,000 files unless the hacker relents and releases the passphrase.

I am interested in a few features of all this though.

  • This leak (like the previous one) was released on a Russian server, and then removed a few hours later.
  • The compression method used was 7Zip. 7Zip was (and is) developed by Igor Pavlov, a Russian computer programmer. As such, it is widely used in Russia – by contrast, in the West, almost everybody uses Winzip compression as a standard.
  • The readme file talks about 5,000 e-mails being released and 220,000 being in the encrypted archive. But it writes those numbers as “5.000” and “220.000” – with a decimal point rather than a comma separating the groups of figures. That format is not generally used in the UK (or indeed in the USA), but is the normal format in some other countries, including Russia.

All of this leads me to conclude that it is likely that this Climategate leak, as well as the previous one, was orchestrated by somebody in Russia.


I am also interested in the fact that the archive was included in the file but encrypted. The obvious thing to do would have been to publish the 5,000 e-mails, but say that you had 220,000 more. So why did the leaker decide to release that encrypted archive? Without the password, it is of no use to anybody.

Finally, the original filename on the Russian server was not “” but “”. The “FOIA” I can understand I guess (Freedom Of Information Act). But why the “25”? Does that have any significance?

Not especially useful information, but my two-pennyworth on this.