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Discussion > 20 Minute Talk to a Rotary Group

i have been invited to talk to a group of Rotarians this Friday after lunch. I was going to talk on "renewable energy", but wish to extend this into why fossil fuels are currently being vilified. 20 minutes is not a long time so I was looking for guidance as to a handful of key points that would give my talk "best bang for my buck". Any friendly suggestions will be appreciated.

Sep 27, 2015 at 6:13 AM | Unregistered Commenteriantanyrallt

Very quick reply and I'll try to get back to you later in the day.
You will probably find that most of your audience is signed up to the global warming meme. At least those in my club were when I was a member. You'll need to cast your talk in this light. Don't weigh them down with statistics.

Catch you later!

Sep 27, 2015 at 8:59 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

20mins might not be enough to say much on both topics. This is how I’d tackle the issue-

Open with something like - reducing waste is good and nobody should hesitate to investigate alternative energy sources but we shouldn’t lurch blindly into new technologies regardless of the costs and the benefits.

With renewables start with how we need reliable power, how renewables don’t provide that and finish with all the extra costs of renewables, including damage to conventional power, damage to wild life and fuel poverty. Talk about how they are sold as ‘free energy’ when they’re anything but. I doubt most people realise we are paying 2-3 times more for it (plus side effects). A good visual would be the Yearly Nuclear/Coal/CCGT/Wind (GW) panel from Gridwatch but emphasise that renewables get priority over conventional power so what you see is as much as they can supply that the grid can use. And if the grid can’t use it, we pay for it anyway. I believe (needs checking) we have 13GW of installed wind, of which there only seems to be a max of 5GW at any one time.

Briefly mention the new CO2 reduction schemes like tidal, CCS and battery storage. Point out how there is a lot of faith being put in technology that doesn’t exist and that we haven’t scratched the surface of problems in those fields. Without batteries the wind power can’t be stored, and due to their short lifespan, current wind will need replacing before we have a solution. If there is a solution.

Put the UK’s energy use into a global perspective. Point out that our footprint has gone down primarily when we switched to gas, followed by the exodus of heavy industry. We then import those goods, therefore the CO2 isn’t just still emitted, but more is added. We could knock another big chunk of CO2 off our emissions by scrapping the last of our coal for gas but it would leave us vulnerable to the price of our sole energy supply but more significantly, the gas stations are often losing money for the generators and they won’t build more without subsidy or a more reliable slice of the demand. Our last big CO2 drop was the recession – was that how we see the future, an endless recession? Talk about the emerging nations, like China and India and ask how much the audience are prepared to suffer to counter the brief advantage we’ve had over them (energy wise) in the last 60 years (when man made CO2 started affecting temperature).

That would give you an opening to talk about how the facts about AGW are distorted and that we have been stampeded into stupid decisions. Most people show the warming from 1850 as if it was all man made. Most are surprised that CO2 didn’t dominate for another 100 years. Point out not only the current pause but the first one between the 1940s and the late 70s. Emphasise that for the majority of time there has been man made warming… it hasn’t been warming. The most rapid, most recent CO2 growth has resulted in almost no warming of the atmosphere at all. Maybe talk about the decreasing effect of additional CO2. Stress the physics based part of that. You might stop there and hint that there’s loads more to say about what people don’t know about climate change.

If you are allowed the use of visuals it’s worth producing graphs. Renewables and AGW can be put quickly into perspective with the right graphs, especially if you can find ones from the consensus side.

Write the bit about renewables and practice it. Work out how much more time you have left.

Sep 27, 2015 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Show them a blank box illustrate the cost benefit analyses that have been done to show how efficient Solar/wind are at removing CO2.

Sep 27, 2015 at 12:25 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

With respect to TinyCO2 (who is right in all he says) I think there is more meat in that reply than can be easily digested in 20 minutes. We used to allow 45 minutes for talk and questions but then we met in the evenings when there wasn't the time pressure.
Your audience is going to have half an eye on the clock as they (probably) need to be back at work by 2 o'clock.
If your talk is on renewable energy then stck to renewable energy and don't start proselytising for the sceptic camp; it won't go down well. Which is not to say you can't leave them wondering whether all these windmills are such a good thing.
So ...
1. What do we mean by renewable energy? Wind, solar, hydro (don't forget hydro; it works within its limitations; the other two don't. If you don't mention it, someone will ask why not).
2. Why renewable energy when we have 300+ years of coal; at least a century of oil (probably more) and an estimated millenium of uranium for nuclear. Give the honest answer, according to the Gospel according to Big Green.
3. Move on to whether this makes sense economically. Your audience 50 years ago would have been almost entirely composed of businessmen many of whom would have been directly and personally involved in the state of their cash flow and their balance sheet. Not so today and you will need to be aware of the possibility that one (or more?) may be among the rent-seekers, either with solar panels or a windfarm on their land or one of those diabolical STOR machines that we all hope never to need! I trust you will have either a good sense of balance or a good pair of running shoes!
What arguments you put forward about the economics I can't advise on because I don't know the make up of the Club you are talking to but I doubt you will go wrong if you provide a couple of shocks for them.
Check the Grid status before you go in. At this moment renewables are ~4% of total generation out of a very low demand of 28Gw. To get even 40% of our electricity at this moment from renewables would require 10 times the number of wind turbines and even that figure wouldn't be enough on those occasions (usually in the depths of winter) when the wind doesn't blow. And you can remind them that in those circumstances the turbines use power because they have to kept turning in case the bearings sieze up.
Etc., etc.
I suggest you don't get involved in the global warming aspect at all other than, perhaps, to say that "whether or not there is the pressing need to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere (and there are those who dispute it)", before you go on to say that there is no evidence that renewables have any measurable effect after taking into account the CO2 emitted in the mining and the processing of the rare earth minerals needed to manufacture the turbines themselves and the cost of manufacturing, transporting and installing the pylons.
You could mention that the US, which is one of the few countries in the world actually to have met its Kyoto CO2 reduction target (even though it never signed up to the agreement), did so, not by building windmills but by exploiting its shale oil and gas reserves.
There are several possible examples you can give of why renewables are good or bad. Pick the best and use only the ones that you feel confident defending if there are questions afterwards and above all don't try to cram too much into the time you've got.

Sep 27, 2015 at 2:22 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Agree with MJ and TinyCO2, the time is simply too short to do justice to both topics.
Is it just a talk, or a presentation involving slides/diagrams/powerpoint? If more than a talk, make it no more more than a handful to ten slides that are not cluttered with too much info. Well explained simplicity is better.

Most importantly, if you want it to appear good, few humans can achieve that without practising on a friendly-but-critical somebody else first.

Sep 27, 2015 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Tiny CO2, Mike Jackson, Michael Hart et al (if Al ever shows up!)

Thank you for the time and effort and sound common sense you have provided for my attention. I am aware of the KISS principle and happily have over 20 years of University lecturing as a background.

I will be trying to operate within the bounds you share.

Very best wishes,


Sep 28, 2015 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterIantanyrallt

I had a thought about the grid status thing late on yesterday which might be relevant to anyone trying to get the message across about the efficacy (lack of) of wind power.
Consider a cool afternoon in November with a moderate breeze. Demand is 36GW and wind is providing 1.13GW (which is what it is at the moment). Everything is trundling along nicely until 4.30pm when every street light in Britain comes on automatically within the space of about 10 minutes. What happens?
This question doesn't include the houses where the CH is set for twice a day. These are likely to kick in at about the same time as are the extra rush hour trains. And all this time, Mr Green, your whirlygigs are plodding away churning out their increasingly irrelevant 1.13GW. How are you going to cope if there isn't a power station on-line to take up the extra load?

Sep 28, 2015 at 9:36 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Remember that renewable energy isn't good or bad per se. It is only cheap or expensive relative to the alternatives.

Because of intermittency and the diffuse nature of sunlight and winds it takes a lot of money to capture as much energy as is found in concentrated sources. Sources such as radioactive materials, fossil fuels or river channels (which focus the potential energy of the whole watershed). In some locations (rivers and volcanoes - maybe tidal reaches) renewables are economic. In others they are not because they not concentrated. It isn't simple. So always saying an out-of-sight wind farm is good is not well considered.

Then the question will be - what about externalities? Fossil fuels cause SMOG and Asthmas and Global Warming.
That is old hat and needs acknowledging.
Everything has a downside, just never as down as the concerned think.
Nothing was as bad as predicted. SARS, Millennium Bug, Ozone Layer - it's always over hyped - ask the audience if they can think of something that was worse than predicted. Ask yourself.
You may get the Black Death and WW1 as an answer but that's conjecture too...

I strongly recommend mentioning positive externalities. Giving a light bulb to an African village let's the schoolchild read at night increasing the value of the book. People forget that there are good unintended consequences too.

If your audience is educated they should understand Opportunity Costs. Every penny spent on more expensive energy is not spent on improving agriculture, investing in jobs and developing new technologies (increasing productivity). That's the real problem.

From my left wing perspective, making the poor of today pay for the well-being of their grandchildren (who will be richer than them) is regressive taxation. Right wingers may want to consider discount rates and handling of uncertainty. The moral case for renewables is fragile.

Consider this. Is your audience devoutly Christian (if not skip this bit)?
Remember the 1st Commandment "I the Lord your God is One. Worship no other Gods before me". AGW proponents claim Climate Change is so fearsome that any action is acceptable to stop it - or appease it. That's idolatry. And it leads to all sorts of fanaticism.

20 minutes isn't long.

Sep 28, 2015 at 12:23 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

MC - I have to say I'd never considered climate change in the light of the First Commandment before! I think that belief in the changing climate is not incompatible with a belief in a deity. My own opinion, which is totally unscientific and therefore not one I put forward as evidence of anything, is that the Almighty is hardly likely to have created a planet which his greatest creation (mankind) can wreck so easily by putting a few more ppm of a trace gas into the atmosphere,especially when viewed in the light of the almost inestimable benefits that have accrued as a result of his ingenuity in inventing and developing the circumstances that have led to the emission of those few ppms.
It simply doesn't compute!

I might also add that there is nothing especially left-wing about the belief that lumbering today's poor with the problems of tomorrow's rich is regressive. The moral case for renewables in the present state of knowledge is (to continue the religious analogy) sinful. (IMHO, of course!)

Sep 28, 2015 at 1:28 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Certainly we need to explore renewables. Tidal power may be great. We may come to thank our lucky stars for wind power. If we had to, we'd learn to cope with intermittent power. 'But.' That's the key word. Katharine Hayhoe and others are right when they dream of a people's movement over AGW but what they're deluded about is the existence of such a movement. It would need people to be very sure that their lives and dreams had to change. AGW proponents are kidding themselves about the strength of their evidence. No country is going to commit economic suicide. How much of our monthly bills do we set towards equipment we might need in the future but we don't need now? I'd rather invest in new alternatives than prematurely invest in stuff we know is poor.

Sep 28, 2015 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Tiny CO2

No country is going to commit economic suicide.
You may be right but the UK and a few other European countries appear to be headed in that direction.
And if the proponents of Agenda2030 have their way we may not have any choice.

Sep 28, 2015 at 4:23 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The talk went well - good feedback. Thanks for all your kind support.

Oct 2, 2015 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterIantanyrallt

Oct 2, 2015 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered Commenter Iantanyrallt

Hello and I am really glad your talk went well ^.^
I have not got involved because when I got to this thread you already had more than 20 mins worth of help. :)

Oct 2, 2015 at 10:30 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Glad to hear it iantanyrallt. I'm glad there are people like you taking the trouble to do such things.

Oct 3, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

M Courtney on Sep 28, 2015 at 12:23 PM
"Nothing was as bad as predicted. ... Millennium Bug ..."

Only because sufficient work was done beforehand.

I know: I was there! :)

And, in the past, it has often been that bad, but there was no one around to tell the tale. In most wars, the loosing side must have thought it was even worse than they thought - and they were the survivors!

It is even truer today.

Oct 3, 2015 at 12:39 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Delighted it went well, ian. Glad to have been of help.

Oct 3, 2015 at 2:56 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Not sure I was much help but I'm very glad it went well. Did you get the feeling the audience were pro renewables to start with, undecided or were they on your side from the start?

Oct 4, 2015 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Congratulations on a well-received talk.
May I enquire as to whether the talk was novel to the audience or were the ideas merely comfortable?

Robert Christopher

"Nothing was as bad as predicted. ... Millennium Bug ..."
Only because sufficient work was done beforehand.
Well, yes. But that's the point.
No-one ever predicts that it will be bad unless we take precautions. They predict it will be bad and insist there will be no precautions in case the precautions stop. So it's never as bad as people say.

Indeed, the precautions do stop shortly after it becomes OK. And then we live with the new setup. Clean Air Acts are a good case in point. It was bad so we fixed it and moved on to the next health risk.

Your example of war is a special case. There the worst case is being actively worked for - it's desired. In that case the worst case is also the best case (for the other side).
That doesn't apply in the natural or accidental man-made disaster scenarios.

Oct 5, 2015 at 9:59 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

I had no hostility at all from my "victims" and several of them came up to me afterwards to say how they enjoyed my talk ( I guess they don't get out much!). We even had two "guests", University Students who came just to hear my talk. I made it clear that the unreliability of renewables was a issue going forward as they required back-up, currently from fossil fuels. I had a question on fracking and indicated that I was in favour of it and had not even a murmur of discontent. Again, thanks to you all for your practical and moral support on this. Ian

Oct 5, 2015 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered Commenteriantanyrallt

M Courtney on Oct 5, 2015 at 9:59 AM

"They predict it will be bad and insist there will be no precautions in case the precautions stop. So it's never as bad as people say.
Your example of war is a special case. ... That doesn't apply in the natural or accidental man-made disaster scenarios."

You mentioned the Black Death and WWI, so war was included.

There are quite a few inhospitable areas today that are even worse than could be imagined only a generation ago, like Libya, Iraq, Malmo and Rotherham to name just a few. And it might go up to another level quite soon!

In a different sphere, we have the Euro-zone's overwhelming prosperity, the Schengen Area's magnificent immigration policy, the CAP and the Fisheries Policy. All done for the Common Good! I expect the EU's Energy policy will be a lot worse than the consensus expectation ! OTOH, I am sure not everyone will die of cold, so perhaps it won't be as bad as predicted.

It really depends on what was expected in the first place. Does one slightly less bad aspect override ignored suffering elsewhere.

And it really depends on what is considered a natural or accidental man-made disaster, or not. What disaster doesn't include an accident, something that wasn't expected, even if it occurred during war or in the middle of an atrocity?

If it was ever as bad as people say, it wouldn't say much about the effectiveness of the precautions taken! There are comedies built around the fact that 'help may make things worse': I am from the Government; I am here to help. :) But then, the help would be part of the disaster, a disaster that would be worse than expected: we need ever closer union to solve the problems we have in 'Europe'. :)

Many may insist that some action is taken, but that is because 'all they get is talk', not uncommon today, and they don't insist 'there will be no precautions', they just hope the disaster can be alleviated or even avoided. Usually it requires knowledge and action, though wisdom and action would be even better.

I suppose there were lifeboats on the Titanic and 'it wasn't as bad as people say': all the witnesses said they were saved, and they always say how lucky they were! :)

To say that 'we fixed it', doesn't mean that it wasn't worse than expected. If we proclaim the mantra that it is never as bad as people think, there will be even less motivation to do anything. Those who might wish to act to avoid a disaster, often at great sacrifice to themselves, would have grounds to avoid the challenge altogether as the barrage ridicule wouldn't be worth it as it would hinder any effort expended. They would just avoid the situation and leave it up to the unaware and the ignorant.

The most difficult aspect of the Millennium Bug Problem was not technical: it was that nearly every organisation in the country was using IT, yet very few had anyone who had overall responsibility for their own IT. As expected, IT companies were best prepared, but most other organisation were completely unaware of the problem. Once they were aware, the task became more manageable.

It has been rumoured that some of the recent banking computer crashes were Y2K related. For example, checking for a credit card, with having to be over 18, won't happen for real until around January 1st, 2018.

Oct 9, 2015 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

Fair point - war is in scope. But the mechanism is still the same.

Those who might wish to act to avoid a disaster, often at great sacrifice to themselves, would have grounds to exaggerate the challenge to drown out the barrage of ridicule, and so as any effort expended isn't hindered .

The Titanic is the opposite case. There the disaster was considered impossible - it was thought unsinkable. And so inadequate precautions were taken. That doesn't support the idea that campaigners warning of disaster overstate the disaster.
It just illustrates that those who pick a side get carried away.

However, I concede that your examples (Libya, Iraq, Malmo and Rotherham), whether definitively true or not are arguably true. That counters my argument that every case is not as bad as it was first thought.

But those cases all rely on human agency working deliberately for something bad.
And that's not the case for most campaigns.
Perhaps that's why the scared believe the conspiracy theories about Big Oil.

PS. The Millennium Bug was definitely not as bad as feared. They zeitgeist was that nuclear war would be initiated a la War Games. Check out the Halloween Special Simpson's episode from 1999.

Oct 9, 2015 at 7:40 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

I would be certain to bring up the idea of fads, accepted wisdom. Power Points showing the 100 year averages of storms, droughts, sea level rate of rise.
The difference between rated capacity of wind and the actual delivery of wind
The problem of sunset and clouds on solar.
A graph showing increase of CO2 with increase of life expectancy and the reduction of worldwide hunger.
How prosperity correlates to increasing things like nature preserves and national parks and careful land use.
How prosperity and energy use correlate

Oct 9, 2015 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

tiny CO2, you mentioned:
"Katharine Hayhoe and others are right when they dream of a people's movement over AGW but what they're deluded about is the existence of such a movement."
I find Hayhoe to represent the very worst in climate alarmism: deceptive, cynical and religiously veiled claptrap.
That she is in Texas is a discredit to the school she infests.

Oct 9, 2015 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

hunter, I get the impression she's genuine, in the same way suicide jihadis are genuine.

Oct 9, 2015 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2