Tuesday, July 11, 2006

UK Government's Energy Review published

See the full text of the much-rumoured and leaked Energy Review here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

'Cars designed to conk out at zebra crossings will never be the answer to environmental problems'

So, while everyone is rushing to print with their views of what will be in the UK Energy Review, or revealing their 'leaked' version of it, I will note a largely irrelevant article by James May, the 'other bloke off Top Gear' (a BBC television programme about cars). Incidentally, I saw a copy of The Review today, but not the contents. So no exclusives from me.

In Telegraph.co.uk, Mr May writes of his disgust with the new Citroen C2 'Stop and Start' (also available on the C3) a car whose engine cuts out when the car brakes to a halt and re-starts when the brake is released, as a fuel saving and pollution-reduction measure. His dislike of the idea is rooted in a distrust of the technology, which is fair enough as an opinion, but he goes on to make risible statements that demonstrate that he has failed completely to grasp the reasons for reducing carbon dioxide emissions:

'The facts are these. There is a finite supply of fossil fuel left and, in broad terms, consuming it is going to create the same amount of pollution. It doesn't matter whether I drive the Bentley and use it all up tomorrow, or drive something that conks out temporarily at every junction and eke it out for another few years. Conserving energy is ultimately fruitless and, more to the point, completely at loggerheads with the demands of a progressive world.'

And a final mixed-up paragraph:

'So – and assuming that fossil fuel consumption really is an issue – here's a suggestion. All the endeavour and ingenuity, all the time, equipment and resources, all the wit and learning – in short, every manifestation of human effort being wasted on the C2 Stop & Start, the hybrid, the wind farm and the ecological washing machine; it should all be directed towards finding the alternative.'

How can we hope for a sensible debate on energy issues when a major newspaper publishes this confused nonsense without comment?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wind farm strikes at eagle stronghold

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reports that a key population of Europe's largest eagle has been significantly reduced by a wind farm. Only one white-tailed eagle is expected to fledge from the wind farm site on the bird's former stronghold of Smøla, a set of islands about ten kilometres (six miles) off the north-west Norwegian coast. Turbine blades have killed nine of the birds in the last ten months including all three chicks that fledged last year.

The number of young has crashed from at least ten each year before the wind farm was built, with numbers outside the wind farm falling as well - there are no breeding pairs within one kilometre of the turbines.

Scientists now fear that wind farms planned for the rest of Norway - there are more than 100 proposals - could replicate the impact on wildlife of Smøla. Norway is the most important country in the world for white-tailed eagles.

Dr Rowena Langston, Senior Research Biologist at the RSPB said, 'Smøla is demonstrating the damage that can be caused by a wind farm in the wrong location. The RSPB strongly supports renewable energies including wind, but the deaths of adult birds and the three young born last year make the prospects for white-tailed eagles on the island look bleak. The deaths of these birds show just how inadequate existing decision-making processes are for new technologies such as wind farms. Developers and governments should be taking note; these types of impact must be properly considered and acted upon when proposals are first made to avoid the unnecessary losses we are witnessing on Smøla.'

The RSPB is backing a new four-year study at the site by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) to assess the effects of turbines on swans and wading birds such as golden plover, dunlin and whimbrel, and on the ability of white-tailed eagles to adapt to the wind farm.

The RSPB believes climate change poses the greatest long-term threat to wildlife and strongly supports the development of renewable energy including wind farms, so long as they are well sited.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Energy Blog

A high quality resource of energy news. From around the world but with a US bias. I have added it to the links bar on the left.

Featured books

A Friend in Every City

Networking is the key skill for the 21st century worker. A Friend in Every City, by Penny and Thomas Power, founders of Ecademy, and Andy Coote, is an inspirational and practical guide to the art and science of networking.

Blog on to change your career

Margaret Stead, career coach and self-styled 'dream architect' has produced the first comprehensive guide to self-promotion by blogging. Blogs (weB LOGs) are the fastest-expanding feature of the Internet, easily out-pacing porn and gambling in their rate of growth. Margaret's book 'Blog on to a career change' describes how you can use blogs to build your profile and become widely known as an expert in your particular area.

Sun Tzu and the project battleground

In his first book David Hawkins explores the lessons that the classic book on Chinese warfare, by General Sun Tzu, has for people involved in setting-up and managing projects.

There have been many business books based on the works of Sun Tzu and a lot of them turn out to be rather stodgy and contrived. This book however uses the Chinese original as a basis on which to build a series of penetrating insights into the rough and tumble of modern business and project management.

Winning by sharing

Based on the personal experience of the author, Leon Benjamin, Winning by Sharing describes the new ways in which freedom-loving individuals are choosing to work, buy and invest. A collection of true stories combined with market research and analysis about the future of work, it shows how profoundly this revolution will affect people in the next decade, and how this will take most people by surprise.

The Bending Moment - energizing corporate business strategy

David Hawkins

This book is about how pressures and stresses from both outside and within can act to change the shapes of organisations - the 'Bending Moment' of the title. It develops the idea of an holistic business strategy as being essential to build success in today's highly complex global market place. The book has fascinating things to say about mergers and acquisitions, risk management, leadership, change management, business networks and alliances.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ocean Acidification and Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage

My current project is managing a cross-government team to make recommendations on the required legal and regulatory framework for carbon capture and storage. This is the idea that carbon dioxide (CO2) can be captured at fossil fuel power stations (either pre or post-combustion) and other industrial processes. The gas would then be stored indefinitely rather than being emitted to the atmosphere, where CO2 is the main greenhouse gas. Storage is in underground (usually sub-seabed) rock formations such as exhausted oil and gas wells and in saline aquifers. It is therefore very interesting that OSPAR, the inter-governmental agreement to protect the North-East Atlantic, has just released new reports on the rapid increase in ocean acidification from CO2 in the atmosphere, and on the technical aspects of capturing and storing carbon dioxide in geological structures under the seabed. Made available by the OSPAR Commission as a result of the work of its Offshore Industry and Biodiversity Committees, they are available on www.ospar.org under 'What's New?'. (The site uses frames extensively - see here for the English welcome page et ici for the French one.) The reports will be formally published later in 2006.

The first report 'Ocean Acidification' confirms that high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are changing ocean carbon chemistry at least 100 times faster than at any time in the last 100 000 years. The pH of seawater (the measure of the balance of acidity and alkalinity) has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 over the past 200 years. Models forecast that it will drop to 7.8 by 2100, and may drop as low as 7.5 if there is a business-as-usual scenario. This would be lower than anything experienced in the last 10 - 20 million years.

Marine species that rely upon building up calcium-based structures will be adversely affected. These include corals, crustaceans (e.g. lobsters, crabs) and molluscs (e.g. mussels, oysters). Higher levels of CO2 in seawater generally depress the physiological performance of sea creatures, so it cannot be ruled out that the changes will also impact on other marine species.

The second report, 'Placement of CO2 in Subsea Geological Structures' looks at the technical aspects of CO2 capture and storage (CCS) in geological structures under the seabed. It shows that CCS in sub-seabed geological structures is technically feasible, using existing tried and tested technology. The North-East Atlantic offers significant potential for CCS: it could take most of the European Union's CO2 emissions from major point sources for several centuries. With well selected, designed and managed sites, retention of CO2 for several thousand years (or even longer) could be achieved. Evaluation of any proposed sites needs to take account of the risks to the marine environment as well as the benefits in mitigating climate change and acidification of the oceans. Monitoring will be important and the report describes how seismic and gravimetric techniques can be used.

The report concludes that guidelines or a framework for risk management for the storage of CO2 are needed. OSPAR is putting work in hand to produce these. (Taken from the OSPAR press releases.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Global warming risk 'much higher' than IPCC forecast

Global temperatures will rise more than previous studies have indicated, according to new research to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by two teams from the US and Europe. They used historical records to calculate the likely amplification of warming as higher temperatures induce release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from ecosystems and both conclude that current estimates of warming are too low, by anything up to 75%.

To calculate this extra warming, both research groups have looked back into the Earth's history. Regularly, spells of relatively high temperatures have produced rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which have fallen again as colder conditions took over. The theory is that in warm spells, ecosystems such as soils, forests and oceans retain less carbon.

As the Earth's surface is now warming again, the process might be repeating, with higher temperatures again causing the biological world to release CO2 into the atmosphere, adding to emissions from homes, factories and vehicles.

The US study examined a period of about 400,000 years using data from the Vostok ice core of Antarctica and expressed its results as a climate sensitivity of between 1.6 and 6.0C. The European group looked back to the ‘Little Ice Age’, a period in the middle of the last millennium when the northern hemisphere experienced relatively low temperatures and calculated that temperature rises in the future have been underestimated by between 15% and 78%.

The results are similar and challenge the consensus view of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the global body charged with collating and analysing climate science, which predicts that the global average temperature would rise by between 1.5C and 4.5C if human activities were to double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

From a BBC report. See the full version here.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Biomass Energy in England

I must apologise for the general lack of posts during the last month. I have been contributing to the UK Government's response to the Report of Sir Ben Gill's Biomass Task Force. As we approached the launch date things got more and more intense as we finished the last few detailed and sent the document to various government ministers for approval (a task made more difficult by the Easter holiday). Finally we launched the response at the end of April and the response can be down-loaded here.

For more details see my Energy News blog.

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All views expressed here, unless otherwise stated, are my own.

John Cockaday