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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


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.


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


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.


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


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.



Professor Catherine Mitchell is one of the those public funded political activists who masquerades as an academic researcher. She has come to the attention of this blog from time to time over the years.

Today's Telegraph carries a letter from the good professor, responding to a Rupert Darwall article about the UK's energy crisis. Here it is:

SIR – Rupert Darwall’s polemic on our energy crunch makes three major mistakes.

First, Britain is not going to see a US-style “shale revolution”; the economics don’t stack up, and British people don’t want fracking.

Secondly, wind and solar do not impose significant “hidden” costs on consumers. The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the Government, calculates the cost at about £10 per year per household.

Thirdly, Mr Darwall assumes that climate change is not a serious issue. It is serious, so a fossil-fuels-as-usual electricity system will not do.

Renewable energy can deliver the market-based electricity system that Mr Darwall wants, but getting there entails some years of transitional support. Renewables will not need the endless subsidies associated with nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Catherine Mitchell
Professor of Energy Policy, University of Exeter
Penryn, Cornwall

Of course, the Committee on Climate Change's estimate on the cost of renewables policies are based on a comparison of renewables against a theoretical world in which fossil fuel prices start high and then get even higher. It's hard to imagine that a "Professor of Energy Policy" is unaware of this.

File under "barefaced".



Developing a consistent message

PwC was among the businesses who signed the World Bank’s call to governments and business leaders to support putting a price on carbon.

A prominent firm of accountants, September 2014

tax cut on North Sea firms would rescue the UK's oil and gas sector and safeguard future revenues for the Treasury, PwC has claimed. 

The same firm of accountants, 18 months later


This has to be a spoof

Just when you think academia can't get any more foolish, some obscure pointy-headed chaps manage to outdo everything that has gone before, and by a distance:

Glaciers, gender, and science: a feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research

Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.


Facebook: the greens' pet censor

Phelim McAleer - the man behind the Fracknation documentary film - has been covering an important US court case in which residents of Dimock Pennsylvania are seeking compensation from a shale gas driller, who they say has contaminated their water supply and poisoned their children.

It's hard to imagine that the case is not going to be thrown out as a complete fabrication - the judge has already expressed concern over the veracity of the claims. When you read that the plaintiffs reacted to their children coming down with neurological, gastrointestinal, and dermatological conditions by not taking their children to a doctor, the house of cards starts to collapse before your very eyes.

Expect a determined silence on the subject from the BBC.

In fact, you should probably expect a determined silence everywhere, because it seems that Facebook has started to remove posts about the case from McAleer's page at the behest of green activists.


A strange convergence of interests



The Telegraph reports that complaints have been made to the Charities Commission about green NGOs campaigning on Brexit. 

The charities watchdog will on Monday issue new guidance on political neutrality after Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace all made public comments backing EU membership.

The charities have all insisted that Britain being a member of the EU is vital to protecting Britain’s wildlife - with one suggesting that those backing Brexit want to make the country “the dirty man of Europe”.

The author of the piece, political correspondent Ben Riley Smith, seems to have missed the fact that Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts are heavily funded by the EU.


Stupidity signalling

Everyone has now heard of "virtue signalling", the idea that words are uttered or actions taken simply to demonstrate membership of the group of "right-thinking people". Taken to its extreme, however, virtue signalling becomes "stupidity signalling" and here we have a truly epic example in the shape of the EP Tender, a trailer containing an electric generator, which you tow behind your electric car on longer trips.




The parliamentary arm of Veolia

When Lord Deben stepped down as chairman of Veolia UK, I did wonder who would take on the role of company "spokesman" in Parliament. Today, Guido reveals that Laurence Robertson, the MP for Tewkesbury, has got himself into trouble for arranging a parliamentary pass for Veolia's PR people. 

How interesting.


Outlook bad for Shukla

Remember Jagadish Shukla, the American professor who called for racketeering laws to be used against sceptics? There was considerable interest when it was revealed that Prof Shukla appeared to be working full time for a charity he ran, as well as taking his university salary. This "double dipping" seems to have been brought to the attention of US lawmakers, who have asked auditors to investigate. It's not looking good for Prof Shukla:

According to [House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith]’s letter, the audit “appears to reveal that Dr. Shukla engaged in what is referred to as ‘double dipping.’ In other words, he received his full salary at GMU, while working full time at IGES and receiving a full salary there.”

Mr. Smith cites a memo from the school’s internal auditor in claiming that Mr. Shukla appeared to violate the university’s policy on outside employment and paid consulting. The professor received $511,410 in combined compensation from the school and IGES in 2014, according to Mr. Smith, “without ever receiving the appropriate permission from GMU officials.”

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.


Corals not as threatened as we thought

Blogging is going to be light for a few days. In the meantime, Ben Webster (£) notes that corals are not nearly as threatened as previously thought.

Claims that coral reefs are doomed because human emissions are making the oceans more acidic have been exaggerated, a review of the science has found.

An “inherent bias” in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification, which is caused by the sea absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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