Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Captions please | Main | The UK just struck oil »

Flogging the phosphorus horse

Over at the Conversation, a couple of academics are trying on the whole "we're going to run out of phosphorus" malarkey again. 

How the great phosphorus shortage could leave us short of food

This has been so thoroughly debunked so often that you'd think that nobody would want to risk it again, but it seems there is no limit to the foolishness of the eco-academic.

I think what they are actually trying to say is that they have invented a process to recycle a mineral. Unfortunately that mineral is cheap and abundant and nobody is interested in their work. But they'd quite like someone to invest in it anyway.

What a way to spend your life.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (25)

Running short on Phosphorus

Bad news for the Crystal Meth industry

Defiantly won't be another series of Breaking Bad then

Feb 16, 2016 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Well I might as well try it on too.

We are going to run out of water !!!!!

Opps even one that stupid has already been done

Feb 16, 2016 at 1:16 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

The Conversation manages to out-Guardian The Guardian.

When The Conversation started I didn't expect much - I haven't been disappointed. - It's toe curling third rate rubbish...

Feb 16, 2016 at 1:18 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Toe-curling, pretentious, third rate rubbish, surely?

Feb 16, 2016 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterOswald Thake

Oswald Thake

I could pig out on a thesaurus sourced list of insults - it is really awful stuff.

The real irritant is that it's sanctimoniousness and towering self regard and ignorance rest on lavish public funding

Feb 16, 2016 at 1:51 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Andrew left this comment on the article:

The authors seem to be unaware of the difference between a reserve and a resource. Indeed, resources are not even mentioned. How can this article purport to be a serious academic contribution when this is the case?

Phosphorus resources vastly outweigh reserves. There is no phosphorus shortage and there may not be one for several millennia.

Here is the authors response:

I am not sure to get your point.

If you mean that we could theoretically re-use the phosphorus, and that therefore we are not actually running-out of the element itself, following the principle that “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed” then we agree. But you might want to read the article again because this IS the main point: The reserves are becoming scarce, hence if we can’t use less phosphorus we need to re-use / recycle our resources.

Of course phosphorus does not disappear, it is still present and will still be here in several millennia. But not in a state that we can directly use… Yet…

He hasn't a clue what "resource" means. He seems to think it means re-use.

Feb 16, 2016 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

It gets worse.

The co-author of the piece lists her area of expertise as:

Her field of expertise is the sustainable use of Phosphorus and material scarcity.

An expert in material scarcity who doesn't know the difference between reserves and resources.

Feb 16, 2016 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

@ TerryS

Perhaps the authors think that "resource" means "re-source" and that it is the noun corresponding to the verbs "re-use" and "re-cycle."

Feb 16, 2016 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Wood ash:- Calcium is the most abundant element in wood ash and gives the ash properties that are similar to agricultural lime. Ash is also a good source of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and aluminum. In terms of commercial fertilizer, average wood ash would probably be about 0-1-3 (N-P-K).
The phosphorus in wood ash comes from the phosphorus the tree extracted from the soil and atmosphere during the its growth cycle.
Is Drax selling wood ash as a green environmentally friendly fertiliser, if not it should be able to sell at a premium.

Feb 16, 2016 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Decades ago, I recall being asked to write an undergraduate essay on whether we would run out of such minerals. (The lecturer was a bit activist.) I managed to arrive at the definitive answer "No" after less than a day lifting heavy books off the shelves in the library.

In the age of t'internet there is now less excuse for such wilful ignorance amongst the conceited greens. Which leaves their right arms more free for other exercises.

Feb 16, 2016 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


it also says,

She has studied Science, Business and Innovation.

I guess that makes her an expert. At what, I'm not sure.

Feb 16, 2016 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

The Malthusian delusion is interesting in its persistence as well as its ability to infect and damage allegedly smart people.

Feb 16, 2016 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

What is meant by "studied Science".

Does it mean you study scientists and what they did or does it mean you actually did some science as in physics/chemistry etc?

Feb 16, 2016 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I see Timmy has left a comment with a link to his paper "The No Breakfast Fallacy" requesting the authors read chapter 7 "Jeremy Grantham's Interesting Mistake".

He comments to the authors: "I’m sorry but your basic argument is coming from an alarming ignorance".

"The Conversation - Academic rigour, journalistic flair". Oh what a giggle!

Feb 16, 2016 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

Incidentally there is a great thread at Worstall's blog on learning something of economics. The comments are worth reading - Worstall’s Guide To Economics

Feb 16, 2016 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

Peak Green Blob funding is now.

It is scaring some of them grantless. No one else will give a grant.

Feb 16, 2016 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

She has studied Science, Business and Innovation.

Probably that means she's done 'Science Studies, Business Studies and Innovation Studies.'

Which equates to applying Critical Theory to Science, Business and Innovation and coming to the conclusion that they're all part of the patriarchal hegemonic conspiracy to keep down minorities.

Feb 16, 2016 at 6:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B

Charly Faradji, Marie Curie Research Fellow, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol
In reply to Tim Worstall
So yes, if phosphorus mines were to be shut down tomorrow, there will be a food shortage the next day. Unless we find solutions. And that is the whole point of the article.

Naive and ridiculous statement from someone who claims to be intelligent, eductated and worthy of taxpayer funding to undertake useful research.

So yes, if all the power stations were to be shut down tomorrow, there will be an electricty shortage instantly - and your useless work and ramblings would be shut down too

So yes, if all shops were to be shutdown tomorrow,....
So yes, if all [insert service] were to be shutdown tomorrow,....

So yes, if all Universities were to be shut down tomorrow, would anyone notice?
So yes, if all Greens were to be shut down tomorrow, would anyone notice?

Marie Curie Research Fellow? Is this funded by the Hospice & terminal illness care charity?

Lecture by Tim:
Tim Worstall - How economics of rare metals really add up

Tim Worstall brought together rare minerals, bacon and eggs and his own interpretive victory dance in his battle to stop us all worrying about running out of resources, at our June 4 Reg Summer Lecture, and also explained why you'll never find a Ferrari in a scrap yard.

Feb 16, 2016 at 8:16 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

Sandy S, we regularly gather up and burn woody garden debris and spread the resulting ashes around the garden. We get a nice fire, suitable for sipping wine, and happy plants, not to mention less solid waste. And we liberate CO2 to the atmosphere where the biosystem can utilize it

Feb 16, 2016 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Sorry folks, but wood ash is not a good source of phosphorus. Great for potassium (potash, KCl) but poor for phosphate. The best organic sources for phosphorus are cow/horse manure, blood/bone meal, sewage sludge, or even basic slag.

Feb 16, 2016 at 9:34 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

You laugh at phosphorus shortage but consider running out of eco-academics.

The gates of hell would open.

Feb 16, 2016 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Aila, we need as many eco-academics as bicycle-riding fish can carry in both arms.

Feb 16, 2016 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf charlie:

I nominate that as one of the great comments of the decade.

Feb 17, 2016 at 5:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

The so-called "Conversation" is not really a 'giggle'. It claims to provide "academic rigour and journalistic flair", but in reality provides neither. In its charter it claims to be free of political bias, a rule that it breaks on an almost daily basis by seeking out the most rabidly political climate alarmists (Mark Maslin, John Cook, Lewandowsky). It "sexes up" articles by putting words into the academic authors' mouths that they never said. Even Alice Bell has her doubts about it.
And it's funded by UK universities, including mine.

This article is typical. Young, ignorant activists, who as noted several times above don't have a clue what they are talking about, present long-discredited Ehrlichian claims based on their own industry-capitalism-bad political agenda. < /rant >

Geoff Chambers comments valiantly there. I occasionally join in. Brad Keyes has been banned.

Feb 17, 2016 at 10:10 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

This'll do down like a cadmium balloon

Feb 19, 2016 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterVictoria Sponge

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>