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« Book shelf at Judy C's | Main | Ernst Georg Beck »
Friday
Sep242010

Science cuts

There is dismay across the science community at the prospect of 20% cuts in funding. Martin Rees has been holding forth on the subject:

  • 20 per cent cuts are the "game over" scenario, which would cause irreversible destruction and be "very tragic", said Rees.
  • 10 per cent is the "slash and burn" option with "serious consequences".
  • Constant cash, a reduction in real terms, "could be accommodated".

If only we weren't spending all that money on subsidising the windfarms that scientists say we need.

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Reader Comments (76)

No kidding! There is absolutely no economic sense whatsoever to investment in wind. It doesn't meet ANY of the basic needs required of an alternative energy.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Read my lips. There-is-no-money. Put your shrouds away; we're not looking.
Seriously. There is very little justification for prioritising the research budget especially in the light of the money that is being wasted in clinging to the increasingly dubious science that is emanating from the climatists.
Indeed there may well be a case for reducing government support with a view to making all university research departments look seriously at the work they are doing and assessing what its value is to mankind in general in the foreseeable future — and (without wanting to be chauvinistic) primarily British mankind since it's the British taxpayer that foots the bill.
On the other hand I would still rather this government stopped mindlessly protecting International Aid and the bloated NHS bureacracy first.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

This is ridiculous. Scientists in general shouldn't be blamed for the economic success or failure of any governmental action. Science in general is one of the best investments for the future that there is or ever will be. If anything, science has always been underfunded. And I am not a vested interest. I am an architect.

So the sarcasm is really just bad for whomever states it or repeats it.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

For once, I think he has a point. On the bright side, it might be possible to reduce the impact by moving some of the funding and talent from climate research into other areas.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Luis Dias said:
"This is ridiculous. Scientists in general shouldn't be blamed for the economic success or failure of any governmental action."

It's not fundamentally a question of blame. It is a question of allocation of resources - and making choices.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterCameron Rose

@luis dias

Watch my lips. There is no money. Immaterial how innately desirable something might be.

I would like Aldershot Town to sign the entire Chelsea first team and win the European Cup next year. The only reason they don't do it is that they haven't got about 500 Million quid lying around.

The expression is 'to cut one's cloth according to one's means'.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Luis Dias said:
"This is ridiculous. Scientists in general shouldn't be blamed for the economic success or failure of any governmental action."


Science in general should not be blamed for scientific and economic distortion caused by climate scienctists and governments. A reduction of climate science alone by 90% to pre-alarm levels would be sufficient and most likely advance climate science as well.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

The problem is not, immediately, with all of science, but with a relatively few leaders of scientific and quasi-scientific organisations (such as the UK Met Office), and organisations seen as scientific by politicians and others (such as the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh), and political campaigning groups with a scientific veneer (such as the IPCC). These leaders have sacrificed the ordinary standards and methods of science, albeit these are poorly defined, in order to advance other agendas. In some cases, perhaps even all, due to a deep-seated belief that the world is somehow threatened or that socialism/environmentalism is not progressing as fast as it otherwise might, rather than mere greed for political power, dramatically increased funding, expansion of opportunities, and/or accolades from the political class. So we have them accepting as convincing evidence, the outputs of computer models rigged to give CO2 a dramatic effect. There is nothing else ( the contemptible greenhouse analogies being beyond the pale) in support of the alarmism, given that nothing extraordinary has happened to any of the usual measures of climate and weather, and that the dissent of major scientists such as Lindzen and others make it quite clear that the mantra of 'settled science' is no more than a glib piece of spin more suited to the media than to the deliberations of more serious and responsible people.

These 'scientific leaders' have chosen a Faustian pact that may yet, and is possibly already, backfiring on them. In due course, other leaders may emerge, or the current ones such as Rees, may have Damascene experiences, and take a very bold and vigorous line in favour of real evidence, and real analysis, in contrast to the stage-managed pantomimes created by the impressarios of the IPCC such as Pachauri and many less flamboyant but also damaging beneficiaries of that ignoble organisation.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

The publicly funded cash cow is dead. Let them eat cake.

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris S

Didn't the MET office helpfully prepare a list of 1700 volunteers, more interested in activism than science, who were ready for retraining?

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/news/latest/uk-science-statement.html

Let's see:

1700 'scientists' x whatever their salaries, benefits, and super computers cost were = I think that they can increase funding to real sciences, and still cut the overall science budget. Throw in the CRU (apparently some there were too modest to sign-up on that particular day, a few disgraced lords and knights, and an additional symbolic wind-farm could be acquired for the nation, or a hospital, your choice).

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

This is yet another beautiful, elegant, persuasive, expression of Darwinism - natural selection.

Successful ideas will prevail. The truth will out.

Even science itself must obey the laws of nature.

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterScottie

"If only we weren't spending all that money on subsidising the windfarms that scientists say we need."

Absolutely. How can anyone (including ministers) delude themselves over this issue and not see the opportunity to make very significant savings here.

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeT

If climate scientists need money, a good & smart way for them would be to quickly demonstrate that CO2 related government spendings(wind, solar..) is no use ; such a demonstration would perhaps help them buiding a case.
Another way would be to sanction those scientists and universities which are clearly not performing properly : a question of credibility.

By the way, we in France have interesting moves : the French academy of sciences held last Monday a full day seminar to establish where climate science currently stands.
On temperature data, the outcome is : we have data to build science from since 20 years
on past emperature : we know what the sun role is as to irradiance, change of orbit, etc., but have still to investigate sun spots, cosmic rays, and so on
on models : they are improving...(Lindzen was there to present his view)
on chemical-physical mechanisms, the CO2 direct impact makes consensus, but feed backs are highly controversial ; the dynamics of clouds & precipitations is still entirely to be understood
Conclsion : much aspects to be further investigated

Not a huge support basis to government climate policy

All tenants of IPCC approach upset (in particular those from French Met Office and CEA funded ISPL, the sponsors of the 2 French GCMs), academy fellows now described by them as uninformed old guys, with vested interest in fossile fuels

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Some of the scientists point to the need for innovation to promote the high-tech industries on which our recovery depends. I quite agree. However, I would profoundly disagree that government-funded research science is the best way to achieve this. Firstly, because government-funded research is notoriously bad at producing the job-creating outputs. In fact, the public sector tends to be in the pure research, with only distant business opportunities. Second, is that government-funded research tends to be long-term. We need the new jobs in the next few months, not a decade or more down the line.

As an aside, the idea that a 20% cut "would cause irreversible destruction" is a hypothesis that should be expounded in a more rigorous & scientific manner, with empirical evidence to back this up. I believe that it is analogous to the notion of tipping-points in climate science, so the Royal Society would do well to exchange notes with the CRU at UEA. In trying to model their separate issues they will find that positing of such turning points relies on disregarding the real-world background “noise”. Such “noise” renders the turning points both unpredictable and highly unlikely.

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Private sector science R&D is likely where the real benefits to mankind accrue. I'd be more than happy to see public funding of climate science especially pared tight back to the bare minimum. How many are working on the next IPCC report? It's hundreds of the them and a cull would be a great way to save billions in direct costs and throwaway green investments. IMHO

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

There is a fundamental misunderstanding here. The Government funding cuts are reductions in Government spending due to the effective bankrupt state of the country's finances. The Government is having to borrow vast quantities of money because it is spending a lot more than it is getting in taxes.

The Government does not subsidise wind farms (except by exempting them from the Climate Change Levy, which generators other than renewables have to pay; even nuclear has to pay the Cimate Change Levy). The subsidies to wind farms and other renewables are paid by all electricity consumers through the Renewables Obligation (RO) Scheme. In a nutshell (and it is more complex than I describe here), electricity suppliers have to supply a certain % of their electricity from renewables sources (rising each year). Renewable generators claim a RO Certificate (ROC) for each MWh of electricity they produce (different renewables get different numbers of ROCs per MWh). The electricity suppliers buy the ROCs from the generators (or pay a fine if they don't have enough of them), currently about £50/MWh. Naturally the electricity suppliers pass on the cost of the ROCs to their customers by charging a higher price for the electricity. But consumers don't see this in their bills; it is an unitemised extra charge that consumers don't realise they are paying. So generators of renewable electricity get paid for the electricity they produce, they get paid for the ROCs and they are exempt from the CCL tax. No wonder wind farms are developed anywhere developers can get permission. Even in sites with poor wind resource, the subsidies and hence profits are enormous. Offshore wind farms get twice the number of ROCs as onshore wind farms, hence offshore wind farm electricity is very very very extremely expensive.

In April this year, the Feed in Tariff scheme was introduced, which gives even higher subsidies to smaller renewable schemes. For example, I currently pay about 10p/kWh for electricity. Someone putting up a small wind turbine (up to 0.5MW) will get paid over 30p/kWh for the electricity they produce, even if they use it all themselves. It is the economics of the madhouse. Something which the Government doesn't want consumers to know about.

So to summarise, Government cuts in science funding could not be affected by cuts in windfarm subsidies.

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Philip Bratby points out all the mischief govt can cause without formal taxes and spending. Consumers are harmed just as badly by paying higher prices. And favored companies receive the largess mandated by the govt just as if they got the checks directly from the treasury. Of course, if the govt wanted scientists to get more cash, they could redirect the largesse from wind farms to them. Without putting anything in the spending budget (e.g. firm's hiring scientists for R&D qualify for tax credits, etc.)

The damage govt does to the economic health of the people goes far, far beyond the taxes and debt.

Sep 24, 2010 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

The truth is, all this funding for climate science studies, much of which is very poor science and of very dubious value, is sucking funds from genuine scientific research. Also, there are too many scientists who are thinly disguised advocates for political systems, and so public money is being used to promote regimes that are inherently destructive. Rees is wrong: 20% cut is not 'game over', it's a very necessary dose of realism that has the potential (should we seek to grasp it) to knock some of the climate charlatans off their perches.

But of course, Rees is dyed in the wool. As a practitioner of a discipline (astronomy) which has long led the way in the corruption of science and blazed the trail for climate science, Rees has been sucking on the teats of the taxpayer all his working life. It's about time these wasters got weaned.

Sep 24, 2010 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

@Philip Bratby
Thanks that is very clear description of what I vaguely understood was going on with renewables and energy pricing. I think most of the public also have a vague uneasy sense that encroaching costs and tithes that mean taking "responsibility" for crimes of excesses in our lifstyles, are being justified by what is often said to be the direct reasoning of "science". Whether it is scares about obesity, viruses, diet, climate or our negative mental states of understanding, rightly or wrongly the face of science today is uniformly one that projects declining optimism together with ominous portents that are often quickly translated into policy without so much as a vote cast.
So while I think there may be no active anti-science feeling within the public at large, I still think science today doesn't engender any of the enthusiam it may have had 30 or 40 years ago. I think in our present economic climate science will find it has to justify itself a litttle harder than it had to during the recent fat years.

Sep 24, 2010 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

@Phillip Bratby. Apologies for missing an L from Phillip!

Sep 24, 2010 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

Philip's description is essentially correct. If you install solar PV panels on your roof their output will give you an effective return of 50p/kWh tax free, compared with the wholesale electricity price of around 5p/kWh. The truly extraordinary thing is that solar PV is so inefficient that even with this level of subsidy (through feed in tariffs) it is not clear that this is a good investment.

Sep 24, 2010 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Every few decades there is a need for deep cuts. Nothing should be ring fenced. Almost every area ends up with too many managers, excessive salaries at the top end and many non-jobs as a result of fashionable obsessions or straightforward empire building. I say "almost" because there are always a minority of efficiently run operations that have stayed lean through good management. Unfortunately, they get cut too, but it is a price worth paying if the bigger picture is improved.

The cuts are akin to forest fires which clear away dead wood and make way for new shoots.

After a lifetime in industry, I have become used to such cuts. The message I always gave to my people is that we must demonstrate clear payback (in R&D this is not necessarily instant profit) and run a lean operation or face the consequences.

The big problem we have here is that the politicians look to their scientific advisors and as far as I can see, they are a spineless bunch of establishment yes men. They accept everything that is fashionable provided it has the backside-covering consensus label.

That commits us to useless windmills and all the other incredibly wasteful climatic "scientific" initiatives while many real and valuable activities will be cut. One would hope that the cuts would focus the minds and result in essential prioritisation. I don't hold my breath.

Sep 24, 2010 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Reality is a bitter medicine, but there has to be pain. Science will survive, it always has.

Relax, take a deep breath. The madness that Phillip describes is what happens when people with agendas keep others from speaking. Witness the Wind Farm over the Sea fiasco we will all see in a year or less.

Finally, the house of cards comes crashing down. That is all that has happened. Reality has set in.

Swallow hard.

Then things will get better, as they always do.

Sep 24, 2010 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Your Grace,

Massively O/T.

I post here somewhat infrequently, for lots of dull reasons.

One of those reasons is that I spend too much time following our deepening financial cisis.

I've followed this 'debate' for many years and have always mooted the question 'What will it REALLY take to fully cleanse this pseudo-scientific AGW nonsense from our system?'

My conclusion, given all the powerful vested interests, is 'financial collapse'.

It's coming - http://bit.ly/dgl705

Sep 24, 2010 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulH from Scotland

@Phillip Bratby

Thank you for the clear exposition of windmill economics

The statement that really flabbergasted me is:

" ... even nuclear has to pay the Climate Change Levy ..."

Apart from sheer greed for tax money, what can possibly justify that amazing piece of hypocritical insanity ?

Sep 25, 2010 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

Hoist by their own petards!

Sep 25, 2010 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Almost every area ends up with too many managers, excessive salaries at the top end and many non-jobs as a result of fashionable obsessions or straightforward empire building.

Yes. Civil servants get pay increases if they increase the number of staff working for them. Hospitals have changed from a majority of nurses to a majority of pen-pushers.

As for New Scientist, I now want to call it New Superstition. We know how climate science has been corrupted. This time I followed New Scientist's leads on homeopathy - about which I know a fair bit, which includes seeing it work where other medicine failed, and seeing it gets venomously ridiculed without cause, by "science", in a way totally parallel to climate science.

Will cuts of themselves engender rethink and reform? I doubt it. But the reason for the cuts - the gap between national income and national expenditure - might get a few to think more deeply about the basis of sustainability.

Sep 25, 2010 at 1:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

I have no problems at all, as long as their hands are clean, with grabbing a big-mac from any climate scientist.
I do expect then to thank me, however, with a "Have a nice day"

Sep 25, 2010 at 1:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Re: ianl8888

It's easy. First create a problem. CO2 emissions cause global warming. Then offer a solution. Lower CO2 emissions. Solution only works if the problem is real, otherwise we get the Kent windfarm. £780m invested to chase £50 ROCs. Offshore is double bubble, so £100/MWh generated. Electricity suppliers have to buy the power generated or pay the fines. They'll be fined anway because there are targets on electricity suppliers that aren't related to actual 'renewable' energy generated. If they can't buy 20% renewable, tough, they pay into a pot that gets shared amongst the renewable operators, plus to quangos like the Carbon Trust to pay for more marketing telling us we need more renewables. Windmills are powered by ROCs, not wind.

On top of that are the 'grid improvements' needed to cope with intermittency from renewable generation. That's a couple of £billion, and will be added to our electricity bills. Then there's £3bn or so for 'smart meters' to manage demand. They won't give you the choice to buy cheap electricity when the wind is blowing though. They will allow premium tariffs for more reliable/guaranteed power. They'll still cost consumers.

So justification is simple. Everyone's paying more to save the planet and fighting the War on Warmth. CO2 must be stopped, at all costs. Even if that means increased energy poverty, more cold related deaths and an uncompetitive economy. Of course if CO2 sensitivity is low, then we may as well just be tossing the money into the windmills, instead of raptors and bats.

But PaulH has a point about financial collapse. £780m invested in windmills is a chunk of borrowing, secured against long term 'guarantees' of fat subsidies extracted from consumers and passed to them by UK, EU or other laws. Because those are locked in long term, wind farm operators can securitise their investments, or sell off built plants to investment trusts (like pensions) seeking long term, reliable income. That's a lot of money to play for, and probably why people don't want us looking too closely at how practical or sustainable 'renewables' are. Stories about our Climate Change Act often use the words "legally binding" to suggest the law can't be changed and the insanity prevented, but with the Regulatory Reform Act, anything is possible, assuming a government has the guts to rip it up and tell the EU where to go with their quotas. If we're going into an extended period of cooling, consumers are going to be looking at their rising electricity bills and wondering about the global warming we were promised.

As for the scientists, well, to an extent, tough. Plenty were happy to jump into bed with the warmists and trash our economies. We're regularly told all the world's science bodies support global warming, so they should be pleased money is being diverted to save the world, just like they told us we needed to. That £18bn a year to fund the CCA has to come from somewhere. Too bad if that means no funding for pure research with no immediate or obvious benefits. We're going to turn the UK into a candle powered knowledge economy by spending less on R&D! Developing countries like China and India will thank us, they'll carry on doing research and exploiting it, but then Asian culture seems to value education more than we do.

Sep 25, 2010 at 1:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

It's the making it big with the fries in the future that makes me squirm!

Sep 25, 2010 at 1:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Somebody powerful thought the Authority of Science should be used in the spread of propaganda.

The propaganda don't work so good no more, so why spend the extra money?

You got your money honey, now get out.

Andrew

Sep 25, 2010 at 1:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Well since I have my quota of fiction for the day and I am tired of editing, perhaps a few thought on this.

The word that comes to mind when reading through these generally well thought out and diverse postings is
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SUBSIDY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For years and years our politicians have on both sides of the pond been using "tax breaks", "subsidies" "grants", "support programs", etc, etc, to "build new industry", "create new jobs", "promote the economy", and "jump start new technologies" just to list a few of the hackneyed phrases our elected eejit politicians have used to justify spending public money on what is essentially private economic development.

While at first these programs may have actually done some good, I for the life of me can't think of one in the last 40 years that made our planet a better place to live or improved our economies. I can think of many that have, in the end, been detrimental. One is ethanol for cars. What that did was reduce the mileage autos get when fed that 15% mix, increased damage to the engines, and most important INCREASED THE COST OF GRAINS, particularly of the poor nations of the world. People are starving because we are pouring booze into our cars.

Now we are in the Green Revolution, in which I can no longer buy incandescent light bulbs for my house in Ireland, but instead have to buy mini florescent bulbs which give off less light (I have a light meter) and contain MERCURY. Each and every one. What happens to them when they fail? Why into the dust bin -- and the mercury goes into the environment.

Now we are building these great and grand Wind Farms over the Sea. Soon there will be thousands of them out there smacking unsuspecting sea birds with their blades and just waiting for some drunk sea captain to go smack into one or more. Then there is the temptation for terrorists. And as Phillip Bratby has shown, along with some help from Paul Dennis, they make absolutely no sense.

I have long held that subsidies do nothing but support dumb, bad, and stupid ideas. What we should be doing is say:

"Hey, so you want to build a better fuel for cars, light bulbs for the house, and electricity -- do so economically, without us supporting you. Either your idea will make a profit or die on the brutal altar of Capitalism. If it is a good idea, it will fly. If it is not, it will not,"

This is the fundamental tenet of Darwinism. Let the fittest survive.

Perhaps Schrodinger's Cat said it best with his(her) comment [abridged]:

Every few decades there is a need for deep cuts. Nothing should be ring fenced. ......The cuts are akin to forest fires which clear away dead wood and make way for new shoots.

Now we are building an artificial economy with these subsidies, and with it we will be the ones to fail.

Maybe we do need an economic asteroid to whip out the corruptness much like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. I think this has been a good thing. The fit will survive. New shoots will grow.

Sep 25, 2010 at 3:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

@Atomic Hairdryer

So, from reading hard between your lines (sorry,but your reply didn't actually address my question, which was not rhetorical):

nuclear power, which does not generate GHG, is taxed as if it did to subsidise windmills ?

(Aus tax law contains some wondrous "deeming" law as well - some things are deemed to be when they are not, and other things are deemed not to be when they are ... not kidding here)

Sep 25, 2010 at 4:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

I guess it may be time to start changing the language, a la 'climate disruption'. Many of the 'green' schemes aren't traditional subsidies, ie tax money going from government directly to industry. Direct subsidies have fallen out of fashion, partly due to competition laws preventing them in most industries. Rather than subsidies, scams like wind energy are rent-seeking activities:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_seeking

In economics, rent seeking occurs when an individual, organization or firm seeks to earn income by capturing economic rent through manipulation or exploitation of the economic or political environment, rather than by earning profits through economic transactions and the production of added wealth.

which covers the ROC system and emissions trading nicely. Lobbyists get the governments to legislate to create the framework so they can profit from other economic activities. The way the market was captured for CFL's by lobbying for legislation to ban cheaper, competing products was a nice example of this in action. But as Don Pablo says, it's an artificial and unproductive economy, so should be unsustainable.

Sep 25, 2010 at 4:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

@ScientistForTruth

I tend to think that, sadly, most scientists have tended to see climate science as something that draws additional science funding from governments more than something which diverts funding from other areas of science. They may be right too for all I know. (Though it wouldn't be nearly as sad if the public were getting excellent climate science for the money.)

(By the way, how do you think astronomy has lost its way? Are you a Big Bang or black hole skeptic, for instance? - I'm certainly not bringing these up as any kind of litmus test, I'm just interested. Is there some webpage or the like that would serve as a fair outline of your case against Rees and company?)

Sep 25, 2010 at 4:48 AM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

nuclear power, which does not generate GHG, is taxed as if it did to subsidise windmills ?

Of course. Nuclear is bad, so has to be taxed so it can be made to look uncompetitive compared to less practical generation. Which is one of the reasons why they're not being built. Equally bizarre is our two main hydro plants are taxed/aren't eligible for ROC's either. Latest details here-

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Pages/MoreInformation.aspx?docid=236&refer=Sustainability/Environment/RenewablObl

Important document if you wish to maximise rent. It's spawned a whole non-job industry to consult, assess and acredit for ROC's, FIT's and all the other acronyms involved. Nuclear had been subsidised under the NFFO (Non Fossil Fuels Obligation) and Fossil Fuel Levy but I think they're now gone & replaced by ROC. It's all very strange though. First we made NETA to create a competitive electricty trading market (allowing speculators to play), then it's made uncompetitive by imposing the ROC rules.

Sep 25, 2010 at 4:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Deep cuts? financial collapse? Rethink and reform? Clearing out the dead wood? More rent-seeking?
Whatever the outcome in our gasping economies, the thing to remember is, it won’t be happening in China.

Sep 25, 2010 at 5:43 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

@Atomic Hairdryer

Successful rent seeking IS subsidy

Thanks for your reply - it is as I accurately described it: hypocritical insanity

Some people regard me as cynical, but the true cynics are those promoting these gobbledegook schemes. I expect no more from them. Aus is poised on the edge of this insanity and again I expect the results to consist only of unintended consequences

Sep 25, 2010 at 5:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

Michael Mann was 'exonerated' in part because of his success in bringing in research funding. If that is generally a measure of scientific ability then 20% cuts are a big raspberry to the scientific community in general. If that community wishes to retain respect with funders and public, can I suggest they put their own house in order. They could start by cleaning the house as it is the stench emanating from it that has caused passers-by to look in through their windows.

Sep 25, 2010 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

I seem to have started something going with my description of ROCs etc. I tried to keep it short and simple, but of course like all such government inspired hidden subsidy schemes, it is fiendishly complicated and obscure to the layman; ditto the FiT scheme. As atomic Hairdryer so aptly described, subsidising the uneconomic, unsustainable and harmful renewable schemes such as wind, is only the first part of the story. The rest is vast grid expansion, a smart grid and smart meters to manage our demand to bring it in line with what the wind is doing. A mormal system manages supply to meet demand. But under the renewable wind lunacy, demand is managed to meet supply. Essentially BIG BROTHER will watch over you and turn off your appliances when the wind isn't blowing.

Now you have to ask, who could possibly dream up such a scheme and how could politicians of all three major parties be so gullible as to fall for it? What were the advisors doing to allow it to happen? Why have the scientific and engineering bodies not spoken up? Why have those who have spoken up been ignored?

Of one thing, there can be no doubt. It will all end in tears; but only for the ordinary citizens, Those responsible will have made their money and will have left the damage behind and moved to their retirement homes in France where they have a (mostly) proper electricity system based on sound engineeering.

Sep 25, 2010 at 7:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The problems with wind are well known: you can't use it with steam cycle standby in gusty conditions when its output exceeds about 10% of demand. So, as wind penetration increases, you have to install specialised back up power able to provide the near instantaneous infill for when gales pass, general standby cycling at lower rate and other plant for when the wind doesn't blow.

So you build two power systems: diesel powered open cycle turbines [RR Trents] are very expensive. The problem with our single shaft CCGTs is that they can't operate at less than 60% load, so they'll have to be relegated too. In effect by installing wind, we also have to install much new conventional plant, probably about 60%. Very pricey and we're locked into fossil fuels for most of our power.

What makes it worse is the IPCC's prediction that we're all going to fry is based on either the most expensive scientific mistake in History or the biggest scientific con since Piltdown Man. It's the cooling 'cloud albedo effect' correction in AR4. It does not exist. There's no theoretical or experimental proof. The claimed theoretical explanation in NASA literature does not exist. Indeed the reverse happens and polluted clouds give their own AGW. So CO2-AGW is far less than claimed and may not exist.

When the public realises how it has been conned, the politicians who pushed this massive wind idea, our version of the Easter island statue cult, will be exiled, preferably on one of the windmills. And as a scientist who worked for decades on global warming related technologies just in case it got bad, I am hopping mad that climate science was hijacked by people who weren't good enough to realise that when the experimentalists couldn't prove the effect so the modellers couldn't use it to claim catastrophe, someone, possibly in NASA, apparently decided to risk all on a guess or a calculated lie.

Save the scientists, at least those working in sensible areas [keep a rump of climatologists].

Sep 25, 2010 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander

Alexander.

I agree entirely with you. The culprits will get away with it.

If you haven't read it before, our future is amusingly told by Prof Philip Stott at http://web.me.com/sinfonia1/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Entries/2009/7/15_Mr_Lemuel_Gulliver_Visits_Milibandia.html

Sep 25, 2010 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Lucy Skywalker wrote: "This time I followed New Scientist's leads on homeopathy - about which I know a fair bit, which includes seeing it work where other medicine failed"

What is the mechanism by which homeopathy works? I do experiments day in, day out, that demonstrate when compounds are diluted beyond a certain level, they no longer produce a biological effect. I'm afraid I put the success of homeopathy down to three things 1) humans & animals have built in mechanisms to heal themselves 2) the placebo effect 3) Chance. Maybe you could compare the successes of homeopathy with similar "non-biological" treatments like "faith healing".

There is a very funny Mitchell and Webb sketch called "Homeopathic A&E". After they were unable to save the car crash victim they go to the pub for a pint and ask for two homeopathic lagers. The barmaid takes a pint of water and adds a drop of lager. "Woah! That's strong stuff!" one of them comments.

Sep 25, 2010 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveJR

.."If only we weren't spending all that money on subsidising the windfarms that scientists say we need."

We really do have a problem and need to make a distinction when we use the all inclusive term 'scientists'. English is the best language in the world for finding the best word for something, we just borrow one from someone else's kitty and make it our own. Now, just as the Eskimo has 4,521 different words for different 'snow' types and conditions, we need a different word or 50 to describe those who claim to be something they are not and to know something they do not. If nothing else, we can make a new word for these disgusting creatures, or modify an old one -- like "psyentist" or, you know, something equally demeaning.

Sep 25, 2010 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPascvaks

We have such a name: it's 'blogger'!

Sep 25, 2010 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander

Pascvaks

"we need a different word or 50 to describe those who claim to be something they are not and to know something they do not. If nothing else, we can make a new word for these disgusting creatures, or modify an old one -- like "psyentist" or, you know, something equally demeaning."

There's no need for a new word to describe this. "Charlatan" does very nicely, but there are many others such as "con man", "trickster", "fraudster", "quack".

Sep 25, 2010 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Phillip Bratby

Ah, my good friend -- you and Atomic Hairdryer are ruining my writing with this exceedingly interesting and stimulating thread. I should be off to the land of fairies and trolls --- oops, we do the latter here, don't we? Well, anyhow, I should be off to my imaginary world where good over comes evil and they live happily ever after. And looking for an appropriate name for that nasty spider.

Oh, well, back to reality for a bit.

Atomic Hairdryer

Rather than subsidies, scams like wind energy are rent-seeking activities:

I thank you for pointing out this. I did miss that fine point, but the issue is that it is a tax, much like the hidden taxes the Irish politicians love so well. In this example, they trade Carbon Credits or what ever. This is done by the "rental" groups, but they still pay taxes to the state. Energy producers have to buy these credits and so do. This increases their costs, so the cost of energy to my door goes up and I end up paying for it. However, instead of paying just the tax, I am paying the rental groups as well. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck, but just much more like a golden goose. But I am sure you know that.

Phillip Bratby

While the "smart grid" and "smart meter" can be used in the manner you suggest, it will be a very, very cold day in hell before it happens that way, at least in the US. They tried "load shedding" schemes in California and elsewhere in the US in which you had a special remote controlled relay attached to your house that the power company could use to "shed" loads in your house. Since this was most likely to be used during the summer, the circuit they could turn off had to have your air conditioner and refrigerator on it. It did not go over well when the punters came home from a day in the office to find their house hot and no way to turn on the A/C.

Now, as it happens, a month ago, I joined the "smart" grid with PG&E and I have my very own "smart" meter. Naturally, I checked it out -- I mean I was very deeply into the internet at one time and still have a residual interest, and when I saw that it was a Landis & Gyr meter, a company I worked for as a marketing manager, I simply had to look deeper.

The meter is a FOCUS AXR-SD. It is a two phase circuit home meter. What I mean by two phase, is two of the three phases of the American power grid are attached to it so I have two 120 VAC circuits as well as the combined 240 VAC circuit. They are all actually single phase. The little beast talks over a power line modem using Silver Springs Network technology. It does so continuously using a variant of the TCP/IP protocol, just like everything else. And reports back to PG&E the amount of electricity I use EVERY HOUR.

So, instead of simply shedding a load, it will report the amount I use in a peak period and charge me more for that time. Now is this a way to reduce the load? No, not at all. Since I will not see the result of my use of the air conditioner for a couple weeks when they bill me, I will simply be paying more money.

Oh, and one other feature. The SD suffix in the model means Service Disconnect. Now the PG&E computer can turn off my electricity at anytime with an email to the meter. And, of course, so can hackers, who will do it. Isn't technology wonderful?

For those of you interested in the inner workings of this damn device, read this:
Landis-Gyr Focus AX Manual (I hope you find this of interest, Phillip.)

Sep 25, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

anonym

By the way, how do you think astronomy has lost its way? Are you a Big Bang or black hole skeptic, for instance?

Interesting question. You are actually questioning Cosmology, what with its "75% of the Universe is missing" meme, black energy and black matter. It all does sound like black magic and so why not question it?

However, the amount of money spent on Cosmology is next to nothing compared to experimental Quantum Mechanics, so what's the harm? I mean they are having fun and so am I watching them, and they are not trying to get us all to buy Black Hole Credits. What I particularly like about them is their imagination. I mean they are well beyond science fiction -- they have matter reduced to strings and membranes, with between 5 and 11 spatial dimensions. You simply have to give them credit for that.

Now if I am a skeptic of any of the "hard" sciences, it is of Quantum Mechanics. In the past I have annoyed with my rantings a number of our other members who happen to have serious credentials in physics and a few are actually nuclear physicists. And some apparently take the Standard Model as "Truth" even though it runs on for four or five pages of incomprehensible equations and in it all can not explain gravity.

The attempt to fix this very glaring short coming is the magical "Higgs field", which as not been shown to exist, along with the Higgs boson. So to find this holy grail particle, they have spent billions of euros on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern, which like most government programs is over budget, late and still does not work, nor will it for another year as they have to rebuild it because they got it wrong in the first place.

Thus, although they have spent (wasted?) billions on this project, something good might come out of it and the really good news is they are not trying to sell us Higgs Boson Credits. At least yet.

This not to say that the Standard Model doesn't work in many instances. It certainly the best one on offer. In fact, it is fairly predictive and may well have found salvation in the form of a theory as yet unpublished by Garrett Lisi in a "peer reviewed" journal but is available on line An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

Naturally, since Garrett is not only a Ph.D. but also a beach bum, preferring to live in a VW Microbus and go surfing whenever the mood strikes him, he is not taken seriously by the High Energy Priests of the Scared Temple of LHC. He may well be wrong, and he has obvious problems with his theory, but it is neat, explains most of the Standard Model and, if I understand it has eight spatial dimensions. Sounds like Cosmology is sneaking in there. This is good. They really need some fresh thinking in Physics. Too many old codgers are running it. They should get the hell out of the way, retire, let young blood take over and take up writing fairy tales.

And for those of you who think I am opposed the the LHC, I am not. Better they spend the money on it than a war somewhere. And who knows, they might find a tachyon, which would please me to no end. :)

(Only a physicist or some who understand physics would understand that.)

Sep 25, 2010 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Tachyons should be banned, as should quantum teleportation given both could obsolete some of my work. Or create new work and opportunities if/when theoretical research produces results that can be commercially exploited. Which is why I think cutting pure research funding is nuts, especially if funding for non-science like masters in 'Climate Change Management' remains. Easier and cheaper to do than becoming a civil engineer and focusing on more practical environmental risk management.

Greens are nuts though. A while back some broke into a powerstation at Didcot to try and shut it down. Usually attacks on CNI are regarded as terrorism, but because these are greens and not muslims or catholics, it's ok and they just get a slap on the wrist. One of Dicot's biggest customers though is the Harwell International Business Centre, home of the Rutherford labs, the DLS and all sorts of other interesting research projects. Cutting R&D funding, plus rising energy costs means those projects will move offshore. China's been building supercomputer clusters almost as fast as the power plants to feed them & I'm sure they'll welcome the business. So much for our knowledge economy, so much for our service economy providing consultancy.

And nipping back to 'smart' meters, they were subject of much attention at Defcon and other events. All sorts of potential for mischief, and not much in the way of security in many versions. Rather than hackers turning off meters, it's more risky if they cycle them until something goes bang. Providers naturally attempt to limit their liability if remote power cycling damages consumer's equipment. But it'll somehow create 'green' jobs. Guessing smart meters won't be manufactured in the UK or US and they'll cost a lot of jobs for meter readers. They're smarter than the dumb meters though and can detect things like meters being bypassed to run cannabis farms. Locally we've had a few of those, with all the attendent fire hazards. Spoof a 'smart meter' to generate a normal customer profile and nobody will be the wiser, until maybe the fire investigators check.

Also on the quantum thing, there was a neat attack on quantum encryption recently. Downplayed as being expensive and non-trivial, but given the systems and data quantum crypto protects, attackers are likely to be more incentivised and funded than the average script kiddie running a packaged hack or crack. And there's been a little problem with HDCP recently-

http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/16/confirmed-intel-says-hdcp-master-key-crack-is-real/

""For someone to use this information to unlock anything, they would have to implement it in silicon -- make a computer chip,"

Similar claims were made about DES until some people made a $200,000 machine that cracked it in a week. The 'Cracking DES' book explaining how was published in 1998 & since then, we have 8-core CPU's and multi-core GPU's that'll do it a lot faster. But politicians made it illegal to attempt to reverse engineer security code, and because it's illegal, criminals will obviously obey the law.

Sep 25, 2010 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Don't shed too many tears......

It should be noted that some of Jones’s domestic British sources of research funding are themselves in turn beneficiaries of eu money. This is the case for both the uk Met Office — which is a partner in several eu-funded climate research projects —and the Natural Environment Research Council (nerc). The nerc, moreover, makes no bones about its avid interest in helping uk scientists to “leverage” eu money.2 As it happens, such a “leverage effect” — i.e., the stimulation of additional public and private investment as a consequence of eu funding — is one of the express aims of the eu legislation adopting the current Framework Programme.3

That eu money would come to swamp domestic British sources of funding even in the work of Professor Phil Jones is particularly impressive given just how relatively limited the horizons of the professor appear to have been. The real “internationalist” in the East Anglia group was clearly Mike Hulme, the director of the Tyndall Center. Thus, on June 18, 2004 Hulme and two of his associates sent an e-mail to Jones and several other recipients announcing:
The Tyndall Centre is intending to lead a bid for a large eu research project (ca. 12-15 million Euros in the initial bid) on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in Europe. The call was announced this week with outline bids (ca. 20 pages) due by October (3rd call of the sixth framework programme, fp6).

Full text
http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/43291

Sep 25, 2010 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterjazznick

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