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Wednesday
Mar302016

Jolly green giants toppled

Two of the headlines on Greenpeace's daily news review stuck out at me this morning.

Coal: Nearly $1 trillion could be wasted on unneeded plants

Renewables: SunEdison on brink of bankruptcy, Abengoa files

The companies named in the second headline are two of the largest players in the renewables field, so it's pretty big news that they are on the brink of exctinction, despite all the millions in taxpayers' money that has been poured into them by wise and noble politicians.

Who knows, perhaps there might be room in the marketplace for coal-fired power stations after all.

Tuesday
Mar292016

Sea ice holds firm

This morning's story appears to be the hoary old "Arctic sea ice in freefall" one.

The Arctic is in crisis. Year by year, it’s slipping into a new state, and it’s hard to see how that won’t have an effect on weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere,” said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the Colorado-based NSIDC.

As usual on these occasions, I take a quick look at the Cryosphere Today anomaly page, where I find the sea ice apparently still stuck firmly in "pause" mode.

Friday
Mar252016

Déjà vu - Josh 364

A hilarious possibility but one which Zeke has already said has been fixed or was wrong. Well, that's a relief - these things do tend to happen in Climate Science.

Cartoons by Josh

Friday
Mar252016

Some oddities in HadSST

Reader John McLean emails with details of some surprising finds he has made in the Hadley Centre's sea-surface temperature record, HadSST. John is wondering whether others might like to take a look and confirm what he is seeing. Here's what he has found:

1 - Files HadSST3-nh.dat and HadSST3-sh.dat are the wrong way around.

About 35% down web page https://crudata.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/ there's a section for HadSST3. Click on the 'NH' label and you go to https://crudata.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/HadSST3-nh.dat, which has 'nh' in the file name.  But based on the complete gridded dataset that data file is for the Southern Hemisphere, not the Northern.  The two sets are swapped.  The links to named files are correct but the content of those files is wrong, likely due to errors in the program that created these summary files from the  SST3 gridded data.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Mar252016

BBC turns a blind eye

Do you remember when the Today programme had Jeremy Leggett on and described him as a renewable energy expert, accidentally failing to mention that he is the boss of a big solar energy company?

They did it again the other day, when they had Ed Davey on to talk about the new EDF nuclear power plant at Hinckley Point. He was introduced as a former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, but BBC journalists strangely failed to have mentioned that Davey  now works for a PR firm that includes EDF among its clients. 

Ben Pile sent a complaint to the BBC:

Ed Davey was interviewed on the Today programme this morning. He was introduced as a former SoS for Energy and Climate Change, and was asked to defend the economics of the planned EDF nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, which he was responsible for arranging while in office. The deal between the government and EDF is extraordinary on any analysis, and the project has consequently been called 'the most expensive power station in the world'. Your interviewer rightly brought up the fact of this expense being a burden that the bill payer and tax payer would have to shoulder for decades to come.

However, since being removed from office by the voting public, Davey has taken a position at MHP Communications -- EDF's PR firm -- as was revealed by The Times. Davey was given the opportunity to speak to your listeners to defend the deal he was responsible for, and his function as an interested party in EDF's business was not brought up in the discussion.

While it is conceivable that Davey's role at EDF's PR and public affairs firm is a coincidence, I believe the fact that Davey is engaged by the company which is in turn engaged by EDF to defend the very project Davey negotiated -- seemingly on the public's behalf -- would be of interest to most listeners, and would influence their understanding of the discussion on the programme. Davey now being a position to benefit financially from the decisions he made in office, one could reasonably argue that Davey's recent appointment may have been a reward for the deal that he secured for the benefit of EDF, at the public's expense. I believe therefore that the Today programme failed to introduce Davey properly, as an interested party, and has let the audience down.

The response from the BBC was rather extraordinary, even by their normal dismal standards:

From: bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk <bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk>
Date: 24 March 2016 at 13:26
Subject: BBC Complaints - Case number CAS-3742272-YHTBLK
To: Ben Pile 

Dear Mr Pile

Thanks for getting in touch. Apologies for the delay in replying. We do very much regret that we've not been able to get back to you as quickly as we, and you, would have liked.  We raised your concerns about the Ed Davey interview with the Today programme. They explained that the programme was aware that Sir Ed Davey is an employee of MHP but it took note of the agreement he reached with the Government’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments which agreed that “…he would not have any involvement with EDF whatsoever in relation to their generating business prior to the announcement of a final investment decision in relation to Hinkley Point C.”

This deals with any issues of a potential conflict of interest in relation to MHP’s contract with EDF. It also means that questions about Sir Edward’s record regarding the commissioning process, for which he was responsible as the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, could be considered on the basis of his record in office not his current employment.

Accordingly, the programme did not refer to his employment with MHP.

Thanks for going to the trouble to let us know your thoughts on this. Your comments have been sent to the right people.

Kind regards

Lucia Fortucci

It's hard to avoid the impression that the BBC is giving its blessing to the revolving-door between politics and big business. It's very much part of the problem.

Thursday
Mar242016

The silence of the wells

Readers will recall my amusement at the antics of the anti-fracking fraternity at the Cuadrilla shale gas inquiry in Lancashire, who had found a tame noise consultant who was willing to testify that the sounds emitted by a shale gas operation, which were expected to reach the levels of the dawn chorus at times, would be wholly unacceptable.

Given that Cuadrilla have already drilled and fracked a well at Preese Hall in Lancashire, this begged the question of how residents in that area had coped. Backing Fracking, the pro-shale group, has gently inquired of Lancashire County Council to see what complaints had been received by council noise abatement officers and they have now had a response.

Press release: for immediate release

Legal officer confirms that earlier drilling and fracking on the Fylde didn’t result in a single nuisance complaint. 

A request for information made to Fylde Borough Council has revealed that during the construction, drilling and fracking carried out previously by Cuadrilla Resources at sites in Weeton, Singleton and Westby, the local council didn’t receive a single complaint about noise nuisance from nearby residents.

When asked for clarification, and whether or not the council had received any complaints about other sources of potential nuisance such as odour, dust, traffic or light pollution, Fylde Borough Council’s legal officer replied saying that the responsible environmental health officer had received no complaints at all.

The request for information was made by campaigners at Backing Fracking, who support shale gas exploration in Lancashire and elsewhere in the UK, after hearing testimony from local opponents at the recent six-week long public inquiry in Blackpool saying that noise had been a problem before and would be again.

The inquiry was established to consider Cuadrilla’s appeals against the refusal of planning permission for two temporary shale gas sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, and heard from a number of local people expressing views both for and against fracking.

Chris Evans, from Backing Fracking, says the lack of complaints is a real eye opener.

“The fact that the council didn’t receive a single public complaint about noise or other potential sources of nuisance when Cuadrilla was operating at its earlier three sites on the Fylde, just goes to show how unobtrusive and tolerable those activities must have been at the time.

“I think what’s happening now is that some opponents are unfairly using the threat of noise and sleep disturbance to influence residents into objecting to shale gas exploration. Without any current frame of reference, those residents are understandably going to be worried about what it will be like, but all they need to do is look to past experience which tells us it wasn’t as bad as it is now being claimed.”

The group also obtained copies of the planning permissions relating to Cuadrilla’s earlier sites, and found that they each imposed a planning condition limiting night time noise to a maximum of 42 decibels. During the public inquiry, representatives for Lancashire County Council and local opponents argued that 42 dB limit was insufficient to provide protection from noise nuisance.

“Faced with this evidence of a previous precedent, you have to ask why it is that Lancashire County Council and others would now try to argue that 42 dB is too high a limit, especially in light of the fact that nearby residents were undisturbed by it. What’s different now that wasn’t a problem back then in virtually identical rural settings?

“The fact that there were no complaints to Fylde Borough Council in the past means it really does look like the opponents are deliberately scaremongering in order to stop shale gas at any cost, which would not only mean we could lose out on the potential economic benefits but would lock us into coal and higher CO2 gas imports for longer,” concludes Chris. 

Tuesday
Mar222016

Oh no! It's DECC!

 

In Parliament yesterday, energy minister Greg Hands explained that DECC is organising a modular nuclear reactor competition for the UK.

Following the announcement made at the Budget, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched the first phase of a competition to identify the best value small modular reactor for the UK on the 17th March. This development builds on a previous announcement, made at Autumn Statement 2015, that DECC would conduct this competition to help pave the way towards building one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the UK.

Surely one of the most important advantages of small modular nuclear reactors is that you can have competition among many suppliers. Different niches, including "best value", can be found from the bottom up.

Why would we want a top-down process to find the best value modular reactor? And surely DECC are the last people on earth who you would want running it?

Monday
Mar212016

Game just changed again

It’s an absolute game-changer

The citation on the award of a Danish design prize to the Tesla powerwall battery in 2015

Tesla has quietly removed all references to its 10-kilowatt-hour residential battery from the Powerwall website, as well as the company’s press kit. The company's smaller battery designed for daily cycling is all that remains.

Recent news report

Monday
Mar212016

Corporate worms starting to turn

The corporate world has been misled by its public relations advisers for far too long. The softly, softly approach they have taken to attacks by environmentalists has not served them well, and in many areas business has ground to a halt. 

It's nice then to see a company that is willing to take a stand.

In 2013 [Canadian forestry business] Resolute sued Greenpeace for “defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations” and sought $7 million Canadian in damages. The company has clearly been harmed by Greenpeace’s fact-challenged denunciations of logging in Canada’s vast boreal forest. As a result of the green media campaign, Resolute says it has lost U.S. customers including Best Buy. Greenpeace says in its court filings that its publications on Resolute “present fair comment based on true facts” and that the company is “engaged in destructive forest operations.”

As part of the court proceedings, Resolute is seeking Greenpeace correspondence, which should be lots of fun if it ever sees the light of day.

But Greenpeace may be forced to defend those comments. In January 2015 an Ontario court refused to consider an appeal of its motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Then last June Superior Court Justice F. B. Fitzpatrick rejected Greenpeace’s motion to strike part of the Resolute complaint that details the environmental group’s activities around the world.

Friday
Mar182016

Two years later

Engineers and industry agree that although challenges abound in utility-scale solar in the sunniest places on Earth, we have the technology to go big in the desert

The vast and glittering Ivanpah solar facility in California will soon start sending electrons to the grid, likely by the end of the summer. When all three of its units are operating by the end of the year, its 392-megawatt output will make it the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, providing enough energy to power 140,000 homes. And it is pretty much smack in the middle of nowhere.

Scientific American, 1 July 2013

[Ivanpah] isn’t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn’t receive a break Thursday from state regulators.

Marketwatch, yesterday

H/T Anthony

Wednesday
Mar162016

Thinking, or not thinking, about coffee

Today's "stupidity signalling" story is the mainstream media's excitement over a report that we are throwing away three billion disposable coffee cups each year. It doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that disposable cups are disposed of on such a prodigious scale because they are made of very cheap, very abundant materials and need little energy along the way. Nor do they seem to have clocked that ceramic cups are much more expensive because they require huge amounts of energy to make.

Still, this nonsense does fill up their pages for them.

Tuesday
Mar152016

On scientific freedom

The moment that we are denied the right to question a scientific theory that is held by the majority, we are not far away from Galileo’s predicament in 1615, as he appeared before the papal inquisition.

Clive Stafford Smith on shaken baby syndrome

Tuesday
Mar152016

Virtue-signalling ministers

The problem with the modern politician is that everything important gets brushed aside in favour of mood music and virtue signalling. Witness energy minister Andrea Leadsom, who yesterday decided that an 80% cut in carbon dioxide levels was simply not ambitious enough and that we should put a target of zero emission in law.

Whether this is anything other than mood music or virtue signalling remains to be seen, but of course Ms Leadsom isn't going to be around to deal with the consequences anyway, so it's a win-win situation for her. 

Apart from the fact that a lot of people are going to wonder why, as the country faces a potential energy crisis, she is engaging in this kind of self-indulgence rather than trying to find a resolution. Most will conclude that she is just not very serious about the brief she has been handed.

Monday
Mar142016

Safely spaced out - Josh 363

A slightly different angle on a familiar topic - the far left's battle against free speech. It was inspired by Rod Liddle's excellent article in the Sunday Times.

Cartoons by Josh

Monday
Mar142016

Lewis lands a blow

Over at Climate Audit, Nic Lewis has outlined the latest developments in the saga of the Marvel et al paper, which claimed to have demonstrated that climate sensitivity is low, but appeared to have a whole series of problems, not least of which that it had got its forcing data mucked up, leaving out land-use changes entirely.

In a typically erm...robust article at RealClimate, Gavin Schmidt ignored all the evidence Lewis had presented showing that land-use change had been overlooked, and said that Lewis's critique was made...without evidence. However, it now seems that he has decided that this position is not tenable, at the journal at least,and a correction has been issued admitting that land-use was indeed missing.

The historical instantaneous radiative forcing time series was also updated to reflect land use change, which was inadvertently excluded from the forcing originally calculated from ref. 22.

Gavin has thanked Nic Lewis for pointing out the error. Unfortunately, he has chosen to ignore four other problems that Lewis has has pointed out. 

But hey, one out of five ain't bad.