Hogan’s U-turn on climate is short-sighted and damaging

Below, my article as it appears in today’s Irish Times:

WILL THE real Phil Hogan please stand up? On June 16th last, responding in the Dáil to questions from Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris on whether climate change legislation was being “put on the long finger”, the Minister for the Environment gave a response that left no one in the chamber in any doubt as to where he stood: “Climate change is widely recognised as the most fundamental and far-reaching environmental challenge to humanity, both globally and nationally.”

When in opposition, Phil Hogan was even more passionate. In the Dáil last December, Hogan offered his strong support for then minister, John Gormley’s carbon budget.

However, as a seasoned campaigner, Hogan warned Gormley there would be concerted attempts to wreck this critical legislation. “I know it was not easy for the ministers to pursue this matter through Cabinet because it is an area with many vested and conflicting interests.” Fine Gael would be “as constructive as always in the climate change committee when the Bill comes before it”.

Gormley was at the time under a ferocious two-fronted assault from the farming and business lobbies, specifically the Irish Farmers’ Association and Irish Business and Employers Confederation. The Green Party’s failure to get climate legislation enacted on their watch was, however, primarily down to their own lack of political nous.

Meanwhile, the Phil Hogan who understood not alone the gravity of the climate crisis, but was also wise to the spin and special pleading from an assortment of lobby groups, has vapourised, to be replaced by his Doppelgänger, Phil “the fixer” Hogan.

Early last month, Hogan and his senior officials took part in a behind-closed-doors briefing organised by Ibec. The meeting, according to Ibec chief Danny McCoy, was “a timely opportunity for our members to influence the development of a climate policy framework”. Understandably, McCoy was “particularly pleased the Minister will be joining us”. In private. No reporters, no notes. Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth remarked at the time that Hogan was running the “Galway tent of climate politics”.

The volte-face by Hogan has been stunning. His capitulation to special pleading by IFA/Ibec is testimony to the power of these unelected bodies in “shaping” legislation before it even reaches the public domain.

The damage from Hogan’s apparent solo run may be far-reaching. Ireland’s most senior climate scientist, Prof John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth, described it as “a really short-sighted decision, showing that political expediency, not vision, is driving policy in Ireland”. Hogan has been “undermined by vested interest groups, this is all just rhetoric and hot air, he’s simply kicking the ball down the road”, Prof Sweeney said. He said Hogan’s move would cost Ireland jobs and further damage our reputation.

One of the reasons Hogan proffered for walking away from Ireland’s climate change commitments is his claim that “food security is being ignored”. To grasp what an astonishingly uninformed statement this is, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported recently that climate change posed “potentially catastrophic impacts on food production”. The UN organisation called for urgent measures to mitigate climate change as the only way to ensure food security. In other words, the opposite to what Hogan says.

The spectre of climate disruption is no longer confined to far-away places. The growing impacts are hitting home here in Ireland, years ahead of projections. The upsurge in destructive weather events, including the recent massive flood that submerged parts of Dublin, are harbingers of a rapidly warming atmosphere. A deluge of similar intensity in late summer would wipe out most of the Irish cereal harvest. “Food security” without climate stabilisation is oxymoronic.

On the same morning last week that Hogan’s bombshell was dropped, former president Mary Robinson was pointing out that, left unchecked, climate change could reduce global output by a ruinous 20 per cent. As the authoritative 2006 Stern report on climate economics argued, climate change is like a smouldering fire – the most costly and dangerous approach by far is to just ignore it. This “do nothing” agenda is promoted by an influential cabal of neoliberal economists who support economic growth at all costs.

Robinson also pointed out that emissions from developed countries like Ireland are already wreaking havoc in some of the poorest places on earth. Many Irish people would be horrified to think that one Minister was rewriting the programme for government to put special interests ahead of our moral, ethical and legal obligations. In climate change, as in politics, as we sow, so shall we reap.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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  • http://Turn180.ie Joe Caulfield

    Well done Minister Hogan, people before Polar Bears. This could a turning point for the country as common sense prevails over dogmatic mantra. Minister Hogan’s recent decision to extend the fixed calander deadline on spreading fertilizers last month was an example of reasoned thinking so badly needed in Government.

    Is there really people amongst us who believe we can legislate outside air temperature ? I doubt it.
    All that is left at this stage in the Church of Climatology is a handful of howling zealots who will never concede to such a monumental loss of face. Your local Priest might be an atheisit but he’s not going to tell you that now is he ?

  • denisk

    Before I get labelled as a “climate change denier” may I first state that I believe without any doubt, that man made global warming is a fact of life and a terrible threat to the survival of humanity, however Ireland`s main climate modifier is the position of the Jet Stream, and the latest research shows that the JS could well be mainly influenced by sunspot activity at the moment.
    This may well change in the future, but at present no connection between AGW and the position of the Jet Stream has been advanced to my knowledge. However I may add that I am open to the benefit of any other information on the subject that anyone can provide.
    I would also like to say that I feel sorry, for any politician at the moment who has to deal with the health of the economy versus the threat of AGW.
    Our whole way of life is based upon the consumption of energy, which in the main comes from fossil fuel. Jobs are totally dependant upon the processing of energy, as are most of our leisure activities.
    Tinkering with this system, whether it be substituting electric cars for liquid fueled transport, attempting to provide energy by various machines such as wind wave or solar which are really only short term fossil fuel extenders, or trying to alter our habits by various taxes such as carbon levies, will in the long term, when the fossil fueled energy is no longer available, be doomed to failure.
    Consider the short sighted stupidity of limiting our national herd of cattle, in order to reduce the output of Co2, whilst at the same time encouraging the growth of the tourism ?
    Tourism is anything but an environmentally friendly industry, as it depends on the expenditure of huge amounts of fossil fuel in airplanes, buses, cars and trains.
    The sober truth is that all the fossil fuel will be used up, for to voluntarily give up using it—–the only way to stop the rising volume Co2—–will result in massive job losses and the inability for people to purchase food or anything else necessary for the continuation of a decent way of life.
    We in Ireland, as opposed to most other societies, may well be able to return to an agrarian way of life, as our ratio of agricultural land to population is probably far more favourable than most other countries, but this way of life would be unpleasant, and we would constantly have to be prepared to repel hordes of invaders anxious to take over our valuable food producing land.
    Pretty much the same as it has always been, I would say —–good luck to us all !

  • http://wrydclimate.blogspot.com/ Martin Leggett

    DenisK:

    The ‘health of the economy vs AGW’ is a false conflict. Adapting the economy to be ‘climate-risk free’ need not destroy jobs. It can, if managed properly, just be a matter of switching around of work from carbon-intensive activity to low-carbon activity. But even that is missing the point.

    We have a choice as to how we distribute work around the economy. Most people don’t work in essential life-supporting activities. The problem is we have set up a system that makes exercising that choice to work differently difficult. All countries in the global economy are now locked into a vicious economic war, a race for ever more excessive consumption, upon which our whole sense identity has been fixed.

    But do we really need to continue to work hard in jobs we dislike, to spend money that we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t care about (to paraphrase Prof Tim Jackson)?

    The sounds of our broken system are crashing all around us. I think it’s time to stop trying to put the pieces of crockery back together, and go back to the potter’s wheel with a little more imagination!

  • http://wrydclimate.blogspot.com/ Martin Leggett

    John

    Interesting piece; it’s sad to see that politics in Ireland has the same corrosive co-opting as we have on the other side of the Irish Sea (Exhbit A: Chris Huhne & nuclear policy..). This flip-flopping when in power is a reflection of the problem I have with trying to elect Green Party(s) at the national level. They inevitably become part of the system they set out to change, and are kept on a short leash by the establishment — and so lose legitimacy. Changing things, in these days of a disconnected alienated public, needs to come from the very ground, upwards. Easier typed out than done, of course..

  • http://www.climatechange.ie John Gibbons

    @Joe
    Good to see your reality-free bubble remains intact. It’s impervious to facts since it’s belief-based. One-time climate sceptic, Professor Richard Muller, Berkeley University, California, and colleagues from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project team (BEST) confirmed (yet again) that the planet has warmed by almost 1 degree centigrade since 1950 and is warming continually. He was part-funded by your friends and no doubt heroes, the Koch brothers. Enough evidence yet? Of course not. If the earth itself caught fire, Joe and his Turn Reality 180 chums would be chanting in the inferno: “flames, what flames, you’re imagining the whole thing”. For the committed denialist, there can never be enough evidence, because it’s not about evidence, it’s about ideology. Maybe Joe, you’d care to show what evidence would be sufficient for you to review your beliefs. Maybe the Church of Reality Denialism can offer you some guidance here?

  • http://Turn180 Joe Caulfield

    “Maybe Joe, you’d care to show what evidence would be sufficient for you ”

    Thanks for asking John. The evidence that would be sufficient for me would be empirical and or experimental proving a direct link between a warming trend and human co2 emmissions. That’s all.

  • Hugh Curran

    Here is an article from Joe Romm of Climate Progress that summarizes some studies. Those who are in the sceptic or denialist camp have too much of their emotional makeup invested in “not-knowing” since to accept the new realities means they have to change a deeply rooted attitude of the availability of infinite resources and/or a belief that an “all-wise God” would not let this happen. Denialists live in a state of perverse idealism which involves rationalizing evidence to suit accepted beliefs.

    Romm’s article: “Business-as-usual typically means continuing at recent growth rates of carbon dioxide emissions, which we now know would likely take us to atmospheric concentrations of CO2 greater than 850 ppm if not above 1000 ppm (see [ http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2009/03/17/203822/media-copenhagen-global-warming-impacts-worst-case-ipcc/ ]U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm … the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories are being realised”). We are at about 8.5 billion metric tons of carbon a year (31 billions metric tons of CO2) and, until the recent global economic recession, were rising about 3% per year.

    What is less well understood is that even a very strong mitigation effort that kept carbon emissions this century to 11 billion tons a year on average would still probably take us to 1000 ppm (A1FI scenario) — a little noted conclusion of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (see “[ http://climateprogress.org/2008/06/19/nature-publishes-my-climate-analysis-and-solution/ ]Nature publishes my climate analysis and solution“)…….Until recently, the scientific community has spent little time modeling the impacts of a tripling (~830 ppm) or quadrupling (~1100 ppm) carbon dioxide concentrations from preindustrial levels. In part, I think, that’s because they never believed humanity would be so stupid as to ignore the warnings and simply continue on its self-destructive path. In part, they lowballed the difficult-to-model amplifying feedbacks in the carbon cycle…..But now as climate scientists have sobered up to their painful role as modern-day Cassandra’s, the scientific literature on what we face is much richer.

    In a AAAS presentation last year, the late William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara discussed his research on “[ http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2010/webprogram/Paper1639.html ]the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge“: New scientific findings since the 2007 IPCC report are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.” …This post will review the latest findings.  It will be a cornerstone of the Climate Progress archive I promised.  Please add links to more studies in the comments….Three of the best recent analyses of what we are headed towards can be found here: M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F …Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path …Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year — and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!…As Dr. Vicky Pope, Head of Climate Change Advice for the Met Office’s Hadley Centre has [ [ttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5371682.ece ]explained:
    … where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5 °C by the end of the century. This would lead to significant risks of severe and irreversible impacts….That likely rise corresponds to roughly 9°F globally and typically 40% higher than that over inland mid-latitudes (i.e. much of this country) — or well over 10°F….[Note: The MIT rise is compared to 1980-1999 levels see study [ http://globalchange.mit.edu/files/document/MITJPSPGC_Rpt169.pdf ]here). So you can add at least 0.5 C and 1.0°F for comparison with pre-industrial temperatures.]…..Based on two studies in the last few years: By century’s end, extreme temperatures of up to 122°F would threaten most of the central, southern, and western U.S. Even worse, Houston and Washington, DC could experience temperatures exceeding 98°F for some 60 days a year. Much of Arizona would be subjected to temperatures of 105°F or more for 98 days out of the year–14 full weeks.Yet that conclusion is based on studies of only 700 ppm and 850 ppm, so it could get much hotter than that. And the Hadley Center adds, “By the 2090s close to one-fifth of the world’s population will be exposed to ozone levels well above the World Health Organization recommended safe-health level.”…..The MIT press release calls for “rapid and massive” action to avoid this.  Study co-author Ronald Prinn, the co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science, says, it is important “to base our opinions and policies on the peer-reviewed science….  There’s no way the world can or should take these risks.”….MIT put together a good figure that compares the temperatures we risk on our current do-nothing path with  those we might expect if we took serious action [see figure above].  Note that in the “no policy case” there is an extremely high probability of more than 4°C (7°F) global warming, an  about a 25% chance of more than 6°C (11°F) global warming.”

  • seafóid

    John

    Well done on the editorial. I see you rattled the ministher.
    And he is wrong. It is either the economy as is or the future.

  • http://www.climatechange.ie John Gibbons

    @ Hugh
    Thanks for the extremely useful update, in particular the chilling fact that the IPCC AR4 has, as you put it, low-balled its projections (the hazard of trying to get politicians and policymakers to sign-off on some scary science means the scientists tend to gild the lilly, in the belief that if they’re honest, no one will believe, or their evidence will be ignored en masse).
    Another place where serious IPCC low-balling has occurred is in projected sea level rises; first, the figures in AR4 only relate to thermal expansion; the IPCC was unable to agree what the likely additional contribution of Greenland, Antarctic and other glacial melt might be, so they just ignored it entirely. You won’t find the folks at Wattsup or the Turn Reality 180 demanding a criminal investigation on that one, though!
    You’re absolutely right re. a trebling and quadrupling of CO2, nobody is even doing the maths, it seems so outlandish, yet there you have it, that’s exactly where we’re headed.

  • http://www.climatechange.ie John Gibbons

    @Seafoid
    Yes, Big Phil is mighty sore alright. Reading his thundering reply today in the Letters Page certainly doesn’t lead me to think anyone is being in the least unfair to Hogan. On the plus side, this whole spat has put climate change back on the news agenda, at least for a couple of days, so that’s something useful, albeit in a small way. Might also make Hogan a little less keen to cosy up (at least in plain view) to IBEC/IFA. That too is no bad thing.

  • http://www.climatechange.ie John Gibbons

    @Joe
    Thanks once again for shining your 14th century light on the discussion. No point whatever in pointing out that a fellow ‘bogman’, John Tyndall of Leighlinbridge, answered your question comprehensively in 1861 – that’s a century and a half ago. Tyndall’s ground-breaking experimental work has been tested, challenged, replicated and built upon in the intervening century and more. But what’s a mountain of evidence painstakingly accumulated by the finest scientific minds of the last two centuries compared with the small-minded certainties and “they’re all feckin’ wrong and I’m right, na na na na na” from Joe and his fellow travellers?

  • Thatcher

    World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns
    “The door is closing,” Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian. “I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever.”
    “The last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be “lost for ever”, according to the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure”
    Good work Ulick, Bogman Joe et al. Thanks in no small part to the tireless work of nutters like you, we are heading on a one-way ticket to carbon Armageddon.
    Oh wait, the International Agency, funded by the world’s major fossil energy producers is in CAHOOTS with the evil international conspiracy of scientists. Wow, this conspiracy just grows and grows and grows. Jim Corr, you were right, man, Elvis was working for the CIA when he flew that plane into the North Tower, and Howard Hughes was his wingman….
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/09/fossil-fuel-infrastructure-climate-change

  • seafóid

    It’s already hitting the insurance industry. Massive flooding in the last 3 weeks in Italy, France, Ireland and a catastrophe in Thailand. Earlier in the year it was Brazil and Australia. Many risks will soon be uninsurable. So much for market solutions.

  • Adam Smith

    @Joe,

    Joe, your comment about people before polar bears is a deep and grossly insensitive insult to the people who are already being affected by AGW. Think those in sub-Saharan Africa. You really, really need to cop on to yourself.

    On to some science, I had a look at your website, in fairness the ‘Science’ link is a very accurate representation of your position and understanding of the science as it is a blank page. Now that is actually funny. You should have been a comedian!

    Unfortunately this is a serious matter, so lets not laugh too much – http://www.turn180.ie/?page_id=90

    Now, take a look at this paper: 
    http://tyndallconference2011.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Tyndalls-1861-Lecture.pdf

    Note: it is 150 years old.

    Now either a) falsify it
    or b) feck off.

    Now, you might some ground to claim that the amount of warming is uncertain – the climate is a complex system – but CO2 is a greenhouse gas, more CO2 = more warmth. Humans are producing a lot of CO2 – now at 392ppm and counting. Now remember – as your understanding of the science seems quite literally to be a tabula rosa – More CO2 = More Warmth. This is basic physics.

    How much warming will be caused, well we’ll see, but if you think uncertainty in the amount of warming is a reason for inaction, I would say that a prudent approach to risk management would (strongly) disagree with you. 

  • denisk

    @ Martin Legget
    It is of little use looking towards governments to provide solutions to our terrible AGW predicament.
    Governments do use some energy it is true, but we the people are the real problem.
    We are the ones, who are using up the fossil fuel.
    You espouse some sort of switch to a low carbon jobs regime—-what do you envisage ?
    Scores of us building windturbines by hand, using backyard smelters when the wind is blowing so we can have a little bit of electric power to run the blast furnaces full of ore dug up with picks and shovels ?
    The truth of the matter is that in order to live in a way that would not have a carbon impact on the planet, we would have to give up using cars, airplanes, any food that was not produced locally, any form of heating that was not from sustainable wood, anything made out of metal, plastic, or anything else that was not wood, all drugs, unless they were grown, most of our clothing etc etc.
    The use of fossil fuel energy is so ubiquitous in everything we do, that it has become virtually invisible. There is absolutly no way that we can substitute any other form of energy for fossil fuel energy, on the gigantic scale required, to even give us a semblance of our present way of life.
    The notion that so called renewables can replace fossil fuels in any way is pure fantasy—-they are all made using fossil fuel and backed up using fossil fuel for god`s sake.
    Even nuclear power, has to be provided by the application of fossil fuel to build the power stations, and the EROEI of NP is probably so low that it will not be able to provide the energy to reproduce itself, as well as give us enough energy to live on.
    We are in a right pickle, but it is still most interesting to contemplate possible solutions.

  • http://wrydclimate.blogspot.com/ Martin Leggett

    @DenisK

    On the jobs question, I was just trying to get across that switching from people working on oil rigs to building and maintaining wind turbines doesn’t have to mean less jobs. Investing in a transition to a low-carbon energy industry is going to be capital-intensive, and would likely create more jobs than are lost from the fossil energy sector. So to oppose action on AGW because of the recession/ credit crisis/ stagnation makes no sense to me.

    But I wasn’t suggesting we just switch all existing fossil energy production off and get out the wheelbarrows, pick axes and ore smelters! Admittedly we’ve wasted two decades already, failing to build a renewables infrastructure that could already have let the ‘fossil fuel’ energy switch to thrown into ‘off’ . But we might still have enough time and spare energy to leverage ourselves into that position – but only if we crack on with it.

    Remember renewables could include goethermal from Iceland, wave and tidal from Scotland & Ireland, wind power from the UK, solar from N. Africa, all connected by a pan-European distribution grid. There are plans for this – so it doesn’t have to be just a few windmills turning on a hill… And advances in storage technology means that the fabled ‘base-load’ electricity supply could be in reach even from fickle wind and solar power.

    Practical and necessary vision that’ll get us out of the pickle jar, I say — even if you say pure fantasy!

  • denisk

    Hi Martin—— to produce windturbines, those guys will have to continue to work on those oil rigs. Every manufacturing process consumes energy, which ultimately comes from fossil fuel.
    All so called renewable sources of energy are merely fossil fuel extenders—–when the fossil fuel runs out it will become impossible to either build or back up those renewables, and they will then disappear.
    Investing in a transition to low carbon industry, if it was at all possible which I doubt, would require a huge energy investment, likwise that touted pan European renewable electricity system dubbed Desertec. It would require so much energy to build, that it would raise the price of oil to levels that would wreck the world economy.
    Even if it could be done, it would only supply Europe`s electrical requirments—–fossil fuel would still be required for transport fuel and feedstocks for industry, and for the maintainance and refurbishment of Desertec.
    We are going to need every idea that we can up with to help us manage our future, but these ideas will have to be fully examined by engineers trained in a new field of energy economics.
    EROEI—-the energy return over energy input will have to govern all our efforts to reduce our C02 output, otherwise we will be wasting energy, and defeating our goals for a sustainable world.

  • http://www.climatechange.ie John Gibbons

    @Joe
    “Measurements from the surface, research aircraft and satellites, together with laboratory observations and calculations, show that, in addition to clouds, the two gases making the largest contribution to the greenhouse effect are water vapour followed by carbon dioxide (CO2). There are smaller contributions from many other gases including ozone, methane, nitrous oxide and human-made gases such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons).”
    Source: ‘Climate change: a summary of the science’ (Royal Society UK, Sept 2010).
    And as Joe doubtless knows, as the atmosphere warms, its water-carrying capacity increases, i.e. increased temperatures driven by higher CO2 beget increased atmospheric water vapour, which is a ‘positive feedback’ associated with rising CO2 levels. A simple doubling of atmospheric CO2 delivers approx. 2C of warming. Add back in the additional water vapour this creates, and 2C becomes 4C-6C, all for just a doubling of CO2. We’ll easily achieve that ‘target’ by mid-century, with a trebling of CO2 within our grasp later this century. That pushes the expected additional heating into the 6C-12C range. Armageddon, in short.
    Things getting any clearer for you yet?

  • http://www.climatechange.ie John Gibbons

    DenisK/Martin
    Really interesting exchange. My heart is with Martin here, but my head reckons that Denis’s relentlessly gloomy projections are in fact pretty accurate. Where I disagree is Denis’s view that nuclear power offers a poor EROI. The facts as I understand them remain that nuclear is far and away the best, cleanest (from a CO2 standpoint) way of producing reliable base load energy, and cheaply, when viewed over the c50 year life-span of a nuclear plant.
    We know how to build these things now, their physical footprint is compact, they can swap out existing plants pretty much on-site, and thorium-based reactor technology, grievously under-developed, offers serious options for much more power and far less glow-in-the-dark nuclear waste generated. It may be a long shot, but it’s a shot nonetheless. I’d rather a shot than sitting on my hands waiting for the roof to fall in…

  • denisk

    @ John
    I too believe that nuclear power is the only possibility for saving our bacon.
    The EROEI of modern NP plants is a hotly debated topic, and I have seen figures of between 5 and 25 mentioned—–5 is really at the lower limit of viability.
    However, modular NP plants built on assembly lines have the possibility of raising the EROEI due to mass production economies of scale, to a most acceptable level.
    Thorium reactors hold out great promise as well.
    Small reactors could be placed outside of towns and cities and ganged together to provide whatever level of power would be required, thereby obviating the need for expensive and unsightly pylons and cables.
    These technologies will of course require large amounts of fossil fuel to be used, before the nuclear energy cycle can become self sustaining, as will the aquisition and processing of uranium and thorium for fuel, but the energy balance, reliability, and lifespan of nuclear, beats hands down, any other method of producing electricity.
    The waste heat could also be used to heat greenhouses, so fulfilling the Green sensible mantra of providing food locally, or to heat houses, or for industrial process heat, thereby improving the EROEI even more.
    NP is really a no brainer, and we should be spending far more of our efforts on making it both foolproof and energy economic, and educating people about its endless positive possibilities.
    Full marks to you John, for your articles along these lines—–wish they could be more widely read by educaters who in turn could bring the topic into the schools.
    Hearts and minds must be changed, especially here in Ireland.

  • http://wrydclimate.blogspot.com/ Martin Leggett

    @John/DennisK

    I’m probably missing a big chunk of an argument somewhere, but I don’t quite see why its OK to use fossil fuels to mine uranium, to build nuclear plants, hide the waste somewhere (not to mention clean up after the next ‘ooops.. nuclear meltdown’ moment). But not to use fossil fuels to build a wind turbine?

    Unless of course you’re thinking that the EROEI is just so pathetically low for wind/ solar that such renewables are great white (green?) elephants. Well…

    I’m no expert on energy infrastructure (I mainly just go with my heart :-) ) but there appear to be plenty of people who think EROEI considerations are now favourable for solar/wind
    (eg http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2011/10/renewable-revolution-ii.html).

    But ultimately we can throw numbers around until we’re blue in the face.

    We need some sort of descent plan from carbon. I don’t like the (uranium) nuclear option — it’s another case of playing with fire, just a different sort of fire to the one we’re playing with in our ‘great CO2 atmospheric experiment’. Thorium sounds interesting, and worth pursuing. But wind and solar are ‘right here, right now’, and they can get us started on that carbon descent path straight away. Some countries have successfully already started down that road, so I don’t why the rest of us should be hanging around at the back..

  • seafóid

    Clamping down on energy waste is probably the simplest of the big challenges of the future. We wouldn’t need so much energy if we didn’t throw away so much shite. Get rid of H&M and their monthly product cycles for example.
    Car design is based on 100 year old friction technology. Petrol energy moves car kgs more than it moves people kgs. And so on.

  • denisk

    Hi Martin
    Good question about the difference in using fossil fuel to support NP, compared to using fossil fuel to support wind ,solar, etc, and it has indeed to do with EROEI.
    A power station is a facility designed and built to produce electricity, so let us compare a nuclear power station, with a wind turbine run power station.
    A nuclear power station of 1000MW output, can produce 1000MW continuously, provided it is supplied with enriched uranium.
    A wind turbine run power station of 1000MW can also produce 1000MW continuously, provided it is supplied with a steady wind of a certain velocity, say 25 Km per hour.
    However herein lies the rub—–the wind is not steady, but varies from zero to 100 Km per hour at any time it takes the notion. Not only that, but it can actually stay at zero [ or close enough for all power producing purposes ] for up to or more than a month at a time.
    In Ireland, it can be shown, that averaging over a year, the electrical output from a 1000MW wind turbine run power station can only produce from between 200 to 300 MW, depending on the wind regime of that particular year.
    In order to not be caught short so to speak, the owners of these wind run power stations have to resort to using the electrical power from open cycle gas turbines, and it turns out that they have to be used between 70 to 80 % of the time to guarantee a steady output of 1000 MW of power.
    These open cycle gas turbines, which can be started and stopped in less than a minute,
    are not very efficient, and produce quite a bit of Co2, but are exactly what is needed to backup the unreliable electricity emanating from the wind turbine run power station.
    Their cousins, the closed cycle gas turbine cannot be started and stopped on sudden demand, but are up to 40% more efficient in their fuel consumption and Co2 output.
    It would therefore make much more sense, if one is going to have to use gas to backup the wind turbine run power station anyway, to use the efficient closed cycle gas turbine all of the time and not bother with the expense and environmental impact of the wind turbine run power station at all.
    If one insists however, in using the open cycle gas turbine, to make the wind turbine run power station equivalent to the nuclear power station, the EROEI of the wind station will be greatly reduced, in fact the whole point of the wind option becomes completely pointless, as we were looking at ways of getting rid of, or greatly reducing our use of burning fossil fuel to produce electrical power, but we have not suceeded, and have in fact spent a great deal of energy and natural resources in producing something that is quite redundant.
    There are other reasons as well, which have to do with the lifetime of the wind turbine and the NP station—–about 3 to 1 in the favour of the NP station—-and the excessive cabling, access roads, and huge area required for the wind turbines, but I think that I have rabbited on enough now, and will leave it there for the moment.

  • denisk

    Seafoid—–I`m not saying that I disagree with you, but the production of shite provides the majority of employment—–how will the ordinary Joe and Josephine earn their daily crust ?
    This is not a simple problem I`m afraid.

  • seafóid

    Here’s a great Tom Tomorrow cartoon

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/09/19/1017540/-Tea-Party-Nihilists

    Denisk – yes, it is not easy. We need enough to eat, we need shelter, we need clothing . We need to belong. And after that? Some big questions ahead.

    “the most compelling reason for reforming our system is that the system is in no one’s interest. It is a suicide machine.”
    — Ronald Wright (A Short History of Progress)

    Plenty Coups was a native American chief who knew the way of life his people knew was never coming back and he had to lead them to an uncertain future. He didn’t do bullshit.

    http://books.google.ch/books?id=kouvk2nor-kC&pg=PA173&lpg=PA173&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

    I think the native cultures have a lot of teach us. I’m reading Black Elk speaks now and one thing he mentions is how the people used to cry when they thought of what they had lost. But that it was useless.