Open Thread

Open Thread 3

The last Open Thread has just slipped off the BNC front page, so time to launch a new one. The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So up on your soap box!

The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

Although I don’t want to direct commentary along any particular pathway, here are a few items I’ve read recently that you might find worth discussing:

1. The Bureau of Meteorology has released a Special Climate Statement on the recent exceptional rain and flooding events in central Australia and Queensland. 28 February was the wettest day on record for the Northern Territory while 2 March set a new record for Queensland. Over the 10-day period ending 3 March 2010 an estimated 403 cubic kilometres (403,000 gigalitres) of rainfall fell across the NT and QLD!

2. A really excellent and easy-to-read paper has been published in the latest issue of Sustainability. It’s called “Is Humanity Doomed? Insights from Astrobiology” by Seth Baum of Penn State Uni. It’s open source (free to download, here). The author is not focused on whether humanity will go under anytime soon, but rather he is interested in a long-term view — especially, what astrobiology has to say about the Fermi Paradox (which I discussed here, way back in the early days of BNC). Fascinating paper.

3. Joe Shuster, in cooperation with the Science Council for Global Initiatives, has published an energy planning primer called “Want to see the future? Look at energy.” (download the 21-page PDF here). It’s a sharp review of fossil fuel limits, smart grids, wind, solar, hydro, biomass and natural gas, and the future role of plasma remediation and nuclear energy in the US energy economy.

His 2040 plan ends up with 42% nuclear, 12% natural gas, 5% plasma arc syngas, 6% bio/geo/tides/waves, 5% hydro and 30% wind/solar. For the latter, he says 30% is really the upper limit he can conceive, with any probable shortfall being met by more nuclear. Cost? About $6 trillion in direct investment over 30 years, but which results in an economy-wide cost saving equivalent of $8.5 trillion (mostly from no longer needing to purchase foreign oil, plus efficiencies etc.). All in all, it’s a plan well worth looking at, and fits nicely with the ‘real-world applicability’ criteria I described here.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

526 replies on “Open Thread 3”

What, a bunch of right wing nutters in the USA think climate’s hogwash and so that convinces you? Don’t forget apparently 10% of Americans also think they’ve been abducted by aliens and ‘probed’. So take some Vaseline with you because they also say that hurts like heck.


DV: can you explain your rule of thumb above? I would like to quote you on the chernobyl study but it would be good if I understood everything you said.




Oh DV:

I read the PR around that Chernobyl book and its acceptance of LNT is relatively insignificant compared to their re-estimation of the total radiation released in the accident: it’s up from the previous estimate of 50 million curies to 10 billion curies. So all those world health organizations, IAEA, etc. were off by a factor of 200. why would anyone take this shit at face value? (asked and answered)

From here, they obviously calculate some collective dose number and multiply by .04 person-sievert (LNT) to get their ridiculous number.

I wonder if Tom Blees heard anything about this study or what the response has been when he was in Russia.


gregory meyerson – Sigma as the standard deviation. It is the decisive parameter of the Gaussian curve, a mathematical function that describes the distribution of data from many sources. It is a measure of confidence.



Coronal mass ejections, CME, and induction in high-tension power lines fed inter alia by NPPs

The 2008 workshop outcome referenced by New Scientist is at:

Monbiot is currently on the case:

I have not been able to find any solution to the apparent impact of a repeat of the 1859 Carrington Event,or the lesser one of 1921, on power lines at current kV levels, let alone the higher-kV ones being built in China or touted for (solar) Desertec in N. Africa to cut line loss on the way to the EU. Lovelock mentions the latter in his most recent book without addressing CME impact at all.

So in the all-electric economy driven by nuclear fuel of some sort or another, how does BNC envisage factoring in the problem of CMEs, short of keeping warehouses full of replacement transformers to replace those that melt down once the CME hits?


A big enough CME event is a bit of a war-time emergency thang isn’t it? Shouldn’t governments subsidise programs into coping with this? (I mean, it would hit pretty much any power system we devised… it’s nothing that particular to nukes or renewables… but wow. Scientific American has raised the subject twice in the past year).


eclipsenow – yes it is particular to renewables. One on the most vulnerable networks is the high voltage long lines bringing power down from Northern Quebec’s huge hydro projects, and hydro is renewable. The same would be true of transmission networks for wind that would gather power from many locations.

Small nuclear, on the other hand, could be more local and thus will not present these long inductive ‘antennas’ that more remote generation does, thus is unlikely to suffer huge power spikes if an event like this occurs.


oh: I know what sd is. (I had sigma associated with the summing sign)

okay: when you say the best of the papers is garbage (2), do you know this, or are you guessing? however correct the guess?



gregory meyerson – I have seen a few of the papers on this subject that have been written in Eastern Europe and ex-USSR states in translation. As well I have read other sources that have reviewed these, and they have come to the same conclusion.

There was a desperate competition for funding of any sort during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the new states and old client states. Blaming Russians, and getting outside money for basic health services where priorities, and Chernobyl served both purposes.

But even if knowing this were not the case, just the magnitude of the numbers being offered up is simply beyond any reasonable modeling of this event.

I think it is very clear to any reader of these pages, that far from being the wicked and powerful international cartel that it is portrayed as by the antinuclear movement, nuclear energy is a politically weak industry. To assume then that it could swing a big enough dick to cover up a million deaths is obviously ridiculous.

I suspect I am going to have to cough up the $150 to get this waste of paper, only so that I can dismantle it with more authority, because it is going to be at the center of the coming season’s debate on nuclear.


An additional comment: The 4,000- & 5,000-death numbers, based as they are on the discredited LNT model, have no relevance to the real world. The health physics community is preponderantly in agreement that LNT has no valid empirical foundation, and that there is much empirical evidence to the contrary. An official statement by the Health Physics Society says this:

A large dose to a small number of people is not equivalent to a small dose to many people, even if the collective doses are the same. Thus, for populations in which almost all individuals are estimated to receive a lifetime dose of less than 10 rem above background, collective dose is a highly speculative and uncertain measure of risk and should not be used for the purpose of estimating population health risks.

Quoting from Nucleonics Week:

The [French] Academy [of Medicine] “denounces” the use of the linear nonthreshold (LNT) theory to estimate the health effect of doses below a few milliSieverts, the order of magnitude of the variation in natural background radiation among French regions. It also condemns the use of the collective dose concept to estimate health effects, saying “these procedures have no scientific validity, even if they appear convenient for administrative reasons.” . . . The full Academy adopted the opinion in a unanimous vote Dec. 4 [2001].

The credible literature (WHO, IAEA) puts the total Chernobyl death toll at less than 60. The ‘conspiracy theories’ drummed up against these authoritative organisations rings a disturbingly similar bell in my mind to the crank attacks on the IPCC, NASA and WMO in climate science.


Water industry backs nuclear desalination

29 April 2010

The future prospect of co-located nuclear or renewable energy powered water desalination facilities has been supported by leading water experts at the Global Water Summit 2010 in Paris, Water and Wastewater International (WWi) reported. Speaking at the conference, Imad Makhzoumi, president of the International Desalination Association (IDA) said: “Nuclear is enjoying a resurgence. We must reach out to the nuclear sector – where all nuclear projects are being considered, desalination must be taken into account [where appropriate].” Dan McCarthy, president and CEO of Black & Veatch’s global water business, told WWi, “I’ve heard leaders in the energy business say that nuclear has to be a large part of their portfolio for the future.” He added, “If you think about combining that with reverse osmosis, forward osmosis or any of the technologies, that could be a fairly efficient way to deliver water supply.”


Nah, this one is much more fun.

Freshwater production: The fresh water produced is pure and distilled from seawater, with no need for chemical treatment.

No fossil-fuel requirements: Unlike traditional greenhouses, which often rely on gas or other fossil fuels for temperature control and CO2 enrichment, Seawater Greenhouse systems use only seawater and sunlight to control the growing environments, with equal effectiveness.

Pesticide free: Our seawater evaporators have a biocidal and scrubbing effect on the ventilation airflow. This greatly reduces or eliminates the need for pesticides.

Land: Our technology enables the development of land normally considered unsuitable for agriculture.

Cost-effective: Commercial grade crops yields, coupled with significantly lower capital and operating costs result in enhanced operator economics.

Salt and mineral production: Salt gained in the process can be sold and other minerals used as crop nutrients.

Import Substitution and Jobs: On a country or regional level, there may be advantages linked to import substitution. Most arid regions of the world are net importers of horticultural produce. By employing Seawater Greenhouse systems on a large scale these regions could see rises in local green employment as well as reductions in costs by substituting expensive imports with high-quality, locally produced Seawater Greenhouse crops.


No fossil-fuel requirements: Unlike traditional greenhouses, which often rely on gas or other fossil fuels for temperature control and CO2 enrichment, Seawater Greenhouse systems use only seawater and sunlight to control the growing environments, with equal effectiveness.

They’ll need some power to run the water pumps and the fans, as well as various minor systems. I couldn’t see any figures for that. I did see a promotional picture of a solar-thermal plant in the middle of a complex of seawater greenhouses, but if the seawater greenhouse idea proves meritorious, those needs could be taken care of with nuclear power better than with solar-thermal.


For sure! But the only energy this system requires is the pumping of the seawater, which is marginal compared to the enormous quantities of agricultural water they hope will one day turn the northern Sahara green. Each greenhouse produces enough water to grow not only the food inside, but 5 times that quantity of water can be released to grow more heat resistant crops outside the greenhouse.

(Being in the desert, the greenhouse has special filters to cut the inside temperatures, because outside is hell on earth. So any crops outside would have to be heat tolerant, and so I’m thinking the best guys on earth to ask are the “Greening the desert” permaculture guys that build swales in the desert, with very tall, non-food producing trees for shade for the more sun-sensitive and temperature sensitive fruit and nut trees they were growing. Check out “Greening the desert”, it’s only 5 minutes and is the cutting edge in low tech design… that could of course be combined with the cutting edge in nuclear power design to totally rejuvenate the Northern Sahara’s ecology and economy).



which is the best method of generating liquid fuels for airlines? Assuming that most of the world moves to electric cars and fast-rail that runs directly on nuclear (or whatever “Black Swan” arrives ;-), what about the limitations of producing liquid fuels?

I have to admit that I love the idea of biochar processing agriwaste into the miraculous, carbon-NEGATIVE biochar (which when stored in the soil becomes a ‘coral-reef’ of the soil micro-organism environment), and also produces quite a bit of syngas. But that might be needed for local agricultural purposes.

Then there’s this SCIAM article about a new catalytic process with sugars…

What about it? With nuclear power as a plentiful baseload power source, what other options become available for airlines, agriculture, and mining sectors?


which is the best method of generating liquid fuels for airlines? Assuming that most of the world moves to electric cars and fast-rail that runs directly on nuclear (or whatever “Black Swan” arrives ;-), what about the limitations of producing liquid fuels?

If we manage to get rid of all the other fossil fuel CO2 emissions, we might as well just keep pumping it out of the ground until it’s no longer competitive with nuclear-generated fuel. Aviation fuel isn’t really a major contributor to current GHG emissions.


Thanks for that SciAm link EN. It describes a fairly good process for catalytic conversion of sugars (sucrose, cellulose, most biomass) to a wide range of hydrocarbons. Conversion to hydrocarbon instead of ethanol avoids the very energy intensive separation of water from the product. Liquid fuels will be with us for a long time, and extending the toolkit for their production is a good thing. Aviation aside, agriculture and mining is going to want a lot of this stuff.

Note though that it is a plant derived biofuel, and is subject to the same constraints as, say, scaling up ethanol production, such as how much of your arable land and water do you want going to fuel production instead of food. There are limits to how far biofuels can take us towards a sustainable energy system.


@ Finrod,
But unless the same amount is taken out of the atmosphere each year, it will build up over time. I guess according to the wiki airlines are currently only about 3.5% of our Co2 emissions… and the biochar process I’m talking about is meant to negate a ‘wedge’ of about a 7th of our emissions annually by 2050. So there may be room for the process you describe of just pulling the fuels out of the ground… which seems a bit nasty to me in terms of our need for plastics and chemical feedstocks. I guess there’s a lot of coal for that for future generations… and one day hopefully our grandchildren will crack nano-tech that negates all these questions.

@ John,

1. I’m very aware and concerned about the “food V fuel” issue, which is one of the reasons I love biochar so much. Relying on agriwaste and forestry waste alone, it produces fuel *and* food. (With the charcoal drastically increasing soil productivity, water retention, and decreasing nitrogen requirements by about a third).

2. What about efficiency?
Isn’t there fuel cells that burn other fuels like methanol or something to use far less energy for generating forward motion on harvesters?


@ Gordon,
you still haven’t answered a number of pertinent AGW questions on my blog, and so I’m not bothering to play these games with you any longer. It’s Friday night… maybe you should go out and catch a movie or something? Meet some people? Silly jabs at climate science only embarrass yourself.


Yeah, that’s really going to help you… except what point are you trying to make from *which particular* paper?

I could trot off to real climate and just enter MWP into their search engine and blindly list a dozen links… like a teenager trying to win an argument by the sheer quantity of “internet links, so what I’m saying must be true!”

So if you could quote a few relevant summary paragraphs from one study please, and be a little bit more adult in the way you venture information, that would be great.

What are you trying to argue, how does it disprove AGW, and which peer reviewed science backs you up?


@ eclipsenow,

“you still haven’t answered a number of pertinent AGW questions on my blog”

My answer is, according to your blog:
“Your comment is awaiting moderation” and I guess if you can’t see my reply (I can) then I can understand why you are confused.

Basically, the point I am trying to make is that there is research into the MWP that contradicts Mann’s hockey stick. Even the IPCC is moving away from the Stick.

“The National Academy of Science Report from 2006 – all of which have helped to clarify that the hockey-stick methodologies lead indeed to questionable historical reconstructions. The 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC now presents a whole range of historical reconstructions instead of favoring prematurely just one hypothesis as reliable.”

If the MWP was as warm (or warmer) than today then the “alarm” over recent warming would be unfounded.


hi barry:

those quotes from Health Physics and Nucleonics are very useful but someone might rebut that the mainstream organizations you cite at end of your post (WHO. IAEA) do, nonetheless, retain LNT, no? for “administrative purposes,” whatever.

and of course, anti nuke groups like IEER will treat the health physics society as themselves “a group of cranks” questioning mainstream science. It’s all pretty infuriating.

you would think there would be some urgency in running those experiments on LNT in Carlsbad Caverns given the magnitudes of dead people created out of thin air as a result of LNT.

The numbers you mention above–4-5,000 deaths. to what is that a response?


@ Eclipsenow
The theory that the MWP only affected the Northern Hemisphere and was cooler than today is starting to fall apart. The reality is that it was global and just as warm – if not warmer than today.
Here are a few links for you but given that you didn’t bother to read the peer-reviewed articles I linked above then I doubt you will bother reading these.
Five thousand years of sediment transfer in a high arctic watershed recorded in annually laminated sediments from Lower Murray Lake, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada
Cook, T.L., Bradley, R.S., Stoner, J.S. and Francus, P. 2009; Journal of Paleolimnology 41: 77-94
Recent temperatures were the warmest since the fourteenth century, but similar conditions existed intermittently during the period spanning ~4000 1000 varve years ago.

Click to access cook2008.pdf

Data –
Summer temperatures in the Canadian Rockies during the last millennium: a revised record
Luckman, B.H. and Wilson, R.J.S. 2005; Climate Dynamics 24: 131-144
“The reconstruction shows warm intervals, comparable to twentieth century values, for the first half of the eleventh century, the late 1300s and early 1400s.
In fact, 1434 (1.69°C) showed the warmest reconstructed summer, followed by 1967 (1.46°C) and 1936 (1.45°C).

Click to access LuckmanandWilson2005.pdf

South America:
A quantitative high-resolution summer temperature reconstruction based on sedimentary pigments from Laguna Aculeo, central Chile, back to AD 850.
von Gunten, L., Grosjean, M., Rein, B., Urrutia, R. and Appleby, P. 2009.; The Holocene 19: 873-881
Our data provide quantitative evidence for the presence of a Medieval Climate Anomaly (in this case, warm summers between AD 1150 and 1350; T = +0.27 to +0.37°C with respect to (wrt) twentieth century)

Click to access Von-Gunten-et-al_2009_HOL_summer-T-Aculeo.pdf

Tropical glacier and ice core evidence of climate change on annual to millennial time scales
Thompson, L.G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Davis, M.E., Lin, P.-N., Henderson, K. and Mashiotta, T.A. 2003; Climatic Change 59: 137-155
This composite 18Oice record shows enriched 18Oice from 1140 to 1250 AD, possibly reflecting the Medieval Warm Period

Click to access Thompsonetal-climatic-change-2003.pdf

A preliminary 3000-year regional temperature reconstruction for South Africa
Holmgren, K., Tyson, P.D., Moberg, A. and Svanered, O. 2001; South African Journal of Science 97: 49-51
Medieval warming with a maximum at around AD 1500 and a pronounced warm episode around 100 BC were prominent features of the record.
The Little Ice Age and medieval warming in South Africa
Tyson, P.D., Karlen, W., Holmgren, K. and Heiss, G.A. 2000; South African Journal of Science 96: 121-126
The climate of the interior of South Africa was around 1oC cooler in the Little Ice Age and may have been over 3°C higher than at present during the extremes of the medieval warm period.
Alkenone-based reconstruction of late-Holocene surface temperature and salinity changes in Lake Qinghai, China
Liu, Z., Henderson, A.C.G. and Huang, Y. 2006; Geophysical Research Letters 33: 10.1029/2006GL026151
Oscillating warm and cold periods could be related to the 20th century warm period, the Little Ice Age, the Medieval Warm Period, the Dark Ages Cold Period, and the Roman Warm Period.
Climate variability in central China over the last 1270 years revealed by high-resolution stalagmite records
Paulsen, D.E., Li, H.-C. and Ku, T.-L. 2003; Quaternary Science Reviews 22: 691-701
The changes include those corresponding to the Medieval Warm Period Little Ice Age and 20th-century warming lending support to the global extent of these events.

Click to access QSR2003_691.pdf

New Zealand and Indonesia:
Short-term climate change and New Zealand temperatures during the last millennium
Wilson, A.T., Hendy, C.H. and Reynolds, C.P. 1979; Nature 279: 315-317
Climate and hydrographic variability in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool during the last millennium.
Newton, A., Thunell, R. and Stott, L. 2006; Geophysical Research Letters 33: 10.1029/2006GL027234
The warmest temperatures and highest salinities occurred during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP)

Click to access NewtonThunellStott06-ITCZsouthLIA.pdf

Data –
Oxygen isotope and palaeotemperature records from six Greenland ice-core stations: Camp Century
ohnsen, S.J., Dahl-Jensen, D., Gundestrup, N., Steffensen, J.P., Clausen, H.B., Miller, H., Masson-Delmotte, V., Sveinbjörnsdottir, A.E. and White, J. 2001; Journal of Quaternary Science 16: 299-307
Holocene environmental variability in southern Greenland inferred from lake sediments
Kaplan, M.R., Wolfe, A.P. and Miller, G.H. 2002; Quaternary Research 58: 149-159
Intervals of ameliorated limnological conditions occurred between 1300 and 900 and between 500 and 280 cal yr B.P., briefly interrupting the decreasing trend in productivity that culminated in the Little Ice Age. Increased lake productivity during the latter half of the 20th century, which reflects the limnological response to circum-arctic warming, still has not reached peak Holocene values.

Click to access Kaplan%20et%20al%20QR%202002.pdf

800-yr-long records of annual air temperature and precipitation over southern Siberia inferred from Teletskoye Lake sediments
Kalugin, I., Daryin, A., Smolyaninova, L., Andreev, A., Diekmann, B. and Khlystov, O. 2007; Quaternary Research 67: 400-410
Comparison of these reconstructed Siberian records with the annual record of air temperature for the Northern Hemisphere shows similar trends in climatic variability over the past 800 yr.

Click to access Kal2006a.pdf

Environmental changes in the northern Altai during the last millennium documented in Lake Teletskoye pollen record
Andreev, A.A., Pierau, R., Kalugin, I.A., Daryin, A.V., Smolyaninova, L.G. and Diekmann, B. 2007; Quaternary Research 67: 394-399
Around AD 1200, regional climate became warmer and more humid than present, as revealed by an increase of Siberian pine and decreases of dry herb taxa and charcoal contents.

Click to access And2005g.pdf

Oxygen-isotope (18O) evidence of Holocene hydrological changes at Signy Island, maritime Antarctica
Noon, P.E., Leng, M.J. and Jones, V.J. 2003; The Holocene 13: 251-263
Strong similarities with other Holocene proxy records from the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula Region are apparent, including the mid-Holocene climate optimum followed by the Neoglacial and, most recently, late twentieth-century climatic warming.
Unstable climate oscillations during the Late Holocene in the Eastern Bransfield Basin, Antarctic Peninsula
Khim, B.-K., Yoon, H.I., Kang, C.Y. and Bahk, J.J. 2002; Quaternary Research 58: 234-245
The late Holocene records clearly identify Neoglacial events of the Little Ice Age (LIA) and Medieval Warm Period (MWP). Other unexplained climatic events comparable in duration and amplitude to the LIA and MWP events also appear in the MS record, suggesting intrinsically unstable climatic conditions during the late Holocene in the Bransfield Basin of Antarctic Peninsula.


@ Eclipsenow

“You know that some regions may have been slightly warmer….”

Michael Mann released a paper (published Nov 2009) that concluded the following:

“The Medieval period is found to display warmth that
matches or exceeds that of the past decade in some regions……”

Click to access MannetalScience09.pdf

Whilst his reconstruct draws on studies that are contained in the offending link….
his work is already outdated given the weighting that would be applied to this study:

and yes this was published in a peer-reviewed journal


Peter Lalor, on 30 April 2010 at 20.39 — Sorrry, no URL. It was part of lunch time conversations here with those in the know. I don’t don’t know why such plans are being laid nor how many transformers are to be stockpiled. But transformers do fail and in order to meet the newer reliability requirements imposed on utilties by regulators, some stockpiling would be necessary in any case.


@ Eclipsenow

NO, you said:

“You know that “some regions” may have been “slightly warmer”.

Mann said:

“…..display warmth that
“matches or exceeds that of the past decade” in “some regions”.

Mann’s own reconstruction concludes this based on evidence from the following regions:

North America
South America

But hey, these are just “some regions” and don’t represent the globe as a whole!

Two things I will point out is that Mann’s hockey stick no longer looks like a hockey stick and Mann now refers to the Medieval Warm Period as the Medieval Climate Anomaly. An anomaly – like the data now represents some strange, unusual, or unique occurrence. Watch as the data confirms that the MWP was warmer than now and it is all spun as an “Anomaly”.

PS Your Crock IS a crock as it is already out of date.


Well, that’s it then. Global warming is all wrong, ’cause climatologists just don’t know about any of the earth’s previous climatic shifts. ;-)

Note: Mann reviewed those regions but concluded the warming was not global. Want to explain that? Do you honestly believe if he saw indications of warming over all those continents that he’d still call it ‘regional’? Do you honestly expect me to take you seriously when you put arguments as childish as the one above? “Well his SURVEY was of the whole earth, so neh!” is basically the tone of your post.

How about quoting the relevant paragraphs that show Mann found warmer temperatures in all those continents? ;-)

So here’s your last chance. You’ve done an ‘info dump’ with your previous post, and if I find in their executive summaries that you’ve actually misquoted them and they still find the MWP lower than today’s temperatures, then I’m done with you.

So I suggest you find your top 1 or 2 studies, because I’m not chasing after your top 10 denialists… and throw out anything prior to Mann, if we’re going only on the latest studies. (And keep in mind ‘latest’ sometimes means not yet peer reviewed and so inconclusive).

They’ve NEVER attributed climate shift to any other natural causes, have they? ;-)

And they certainly don’t know a thing about the physics of Co2 and other greenhouse gases, do they?

You’ve definitely won me over! ;-)

The thing is, while I’m still scratching my head over the conflicting claims for the MWP, climatologists easily admit that there have been warmer periods on the earth in the past! Of course they do!

So what is your point? Relevance please!?


@ Eclipsenow

Global Warming IS happening but the debate we are having is about what is driving it. I think it is becoming clear that the “science is far from settled”.

On the 28th April you wrote:

“Where do you get the information that humanity has seen warmer temperatures? It’s just not true”

From here:

Click to access MannetalScience09.pdf

Whilst Mann wrote:
“The reconstructed MCA (MWP) pattern is characterized by warmth over a large part of the North Atlantic, Southern Greenland, the Eurasian Arctic, and parts of North America, which appears to substantially exceed that of the modern late–20th century (1961–1990) baseline and is comparable to or exceeds that of the past one-to-two
decades in some regions.”

He also added a “disclaimer” to the reconstruct:
“The reconstruction skill diagnostics suggest that the MCA (MWP) and LIA reconstructions are most reliable (Fig. 2) over the Northern Hemisphere and tropics, and least reliable in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in the extratropics.”

Mann was not confident in the data for the Southern Hemisphere and this is shown in (Fig. 2) in the paper. What is interesting is to look at the mean surface temperature anomaly and the associated relative weightings of various proxy records used. Where you have proxy data used it is represented by a single pixel (take particular note of the representation of the work in South America). This contrasts wildly with the extreme warm area off Greenland and Iceland where only lightly weighted data is used.

So my point is: there are some pretty major gaps in the understanding of climate science and I think that until the science is settled then the campaign of fear that is currently being waged is challenged unreservedly.


@ Gordon
1. “Disclaimers” that you try to attribute something dubious or sinister to are a legitimate part of science. Stop looking for epistemological absolute certainty and start to realise that humanity can only run off the information we have now. The science is not as uncertain as you try to suggest, but does involve some margins of error and low probability of not being 100% correct. It’s all we can run off, and all we ever have!

2. Why didn’t you complete the quote from that paper? There’s an important part of the sentence on page 1256 that you decided not to include, and I quote:

The Medieval period is found to display warmth that
matches or exceeds that of the past decade in some regions, but which falls well below recent levels globally.
Ooops, Gordon, you’re fly is undone! Like all denialists, your honesty is brought into question when you cherrypick studies like this. You lie by omission.

3. Lastly, and completely hypothetically, even if there was some natural forcing that temporarily pushed temperatures up so that they were “comparable to or exceeds that of the past one-to-two decades in some regions“, what we have here is a man made forcing, Co2, which we know is having certain extreme effects from the physics that are longer lived on climate effects.

Stop trying to extrapolate out ‘vagueness’ and uncertainty from a few shorter term natural climate variablesin climate history into the broader argument from physics that is longer term, man-made, and extremely serious GLOBALLY!

It’s wonky logic, it’s dishonest, and you need to stop it.


Gordon, on 1 May 2010 at 22.08 — Here is a borehole temperature reconstruction study:
Do note the conclusion.

There are more papers than I have time to read on just borehole reconstuctions. These papers agree with other, proxy oriented studies: its hotter now.

For an analysis of the last 12 decades, read
in which the first formula is missing a right parenthesis and should read
AE(d) = k(lnCO2(d-1) – lnCO2(1870s)) – GTA(1880s)

For a more thorough treatment of the instrumental record, see Tol, R.S.J. and A.F. de Vos (1998), ‘A Bayesian Statistical Analysis of the Enhanced Greenhouse Effect’, Climatic Change, 38, 87-112, which agrees with my shorter analysis in the above link.

For just how bad it will become, read Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees”.


@ Eclipsenow

The fact the temperature falls well below globally is due to the least reliable data for the Southern Hemisphere dragging down the average.

On the manmade CO2 forcing issue, maybe someone would like to comment on why the energy budget can’t be balanced.

Is it that the current models are flawed or is there some other climate mechanism that Science has yet to understand?

@ David B Benson

David, the time frame we are discussing covers the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD) whereas the Pollack study you have offered covers the period 1500-2000 AD – which is from the Little Ice Age (LIA) until recent times.

@ G.R.L Cowan

Not sure exactly which article you are directing us to – could you please clarify. If, however, it is a further “personal attack” then I would like to refer you to BNC’s comments policy


@ DV82XL

You believe in Nuclear Power – so do I.

You believe that we should reduce CO2 but not necessarily in a manner that will reduce the quality of our lives or the lives of others – so do I.

You believe changing weather patterns may indeed be natural, or they may be caused by greenhouse gases – but if I propose an arguement that it is natural then I am a Troll.

Go figure!


No Gordon, I have said I do not know, and that I do not have the background to make a judgement. There is a difference. This is why I do not engage in debate on this subject; it is not an area I am comfortable in the depth of my knowledge. That would be unlike others on the net that cannot weight the difference between an article in The New York Times, and a proper scientific publication. I know how much I don’t know, and act accordantly.

However I do have enough understanding of the topic of geophysics, to see that there isn’t a region on the planet where the evidence of the impacts of climate change isn’t mounting, that the ocean is rising, and the ice caps are melting, and deserts are expanding. Those are observations the quality of which I judge to be sufficiently accurate to show that climate change is real.

So it is not a case of I believe it could be natural or due to Man’s activities. It is the third option of ‘I don’t know.’ If you had any training in science, you would know what that means.


@ DV8,
does one have to be professionally educated to the Phd level in a particular field to have an opinion on it?

Isn’t there a point where you’d be happy to say, “My opinion is that, from my limited knowledge in this field, the consensus seems to be XYZ, and that’s good enough for me for now until proven otherwise?”

Otherwise none of us would have any opinion on the trustworthiness of any scientific field of knowledge outside one’s own arena.


you’re a troll because you come onto a climate blog run by a famous climatologist, pull out the same tired old Denialist myths that must to Barry stink like fresh, hot, steaming piles of dog pooh, and then you repeatedly rub our noses in this filth.

Seriously, what do you get out of it? Do you honestly believe in your myths so strongly that if you can just chat with Barry a little longer, and just share your whack-job websites just one more time, Barry might eventually come around? (In which case I’d suggest you are deluded). Or are you just pathetically lonely and looking for some negative attention online? As we all know even with little kiddies, “Negative attention is better than no attention.” (In which case I’d ask you to switch of the computer and go outside and meet some people).

Delusional or socially backward? I’m all ears.


eclipsenow, on 2 May 2010 at 20.22 Said:

“does one have to be professionally educated to the Phd level in a particular field to have an opinion on it?”

Obviously not.

However I will not hold forth on subjects which I have not spent the time to study in sufficient depth, such that I am comfortable that I have developed a reasonably complete understanding of the mechanics.

This doesn’t make me a climate change sceptic, or a so called ‘agnostic;’ I have seen enough evidence of climate change to know that it is happening. But I have not spent enough time studying the topic such that I have a clear picture in my mind what each explanation is asserting, thus I cannot weight them to determine which is the more plausible. Consequently I am left at this point, with little more than arguments from authority to form my opinions with, and I will not argue from that position.


– Jobs available in fossil vs. nuclear energy-

I was listening to the Blees interview podcast of 11-2008 in which he “debated” Wassermann. One woman rang the station with a startling allegation which has not, I think, been addressed on BNC, though it is the first thing a politician thinks of: jobs in his electorate.

The woman alleged how renewables provide many more jobs than nuclear, as all roofs in the US are apparently going to get PV panels (sic).

Are there any figures based on manhours/MW of power produced in nuclear versus fossil electricity generation, for example? Did France keep its pre-1970s manpower data before building its 59 NPPs at that time? are they valid now, given notional increases in fossil fuel power generation efficiency since 1970, if any?

To what extent can historical experience 1945-2010 predict manpower requirements across economic sectors in an all-electric nuclear economy?

It seems that such figures are likely to be increasingly important in electoral politics. Within EU countries that are otherwise anti-nuke, whole small towns are pro-nuke if the population depends on the local NPP for work.


@Peter Lalor – This argument has been made before. It is however based on the assumption that these power options are equal – and they are most certainly not.


@ descendant of provosts, seigneurs (sociologically inconsistent with sneering at “chardonnay-swilling Vermont-ers”, as you did on BNC recently, but I let it pass:
how do you deign to address me once more? ):

it is true as you say that nuclear and fossil are apples and oranges, but it behoves politicians wanting election to push NPPs as job creators, or at least to fudge the issue successfully. One idea would be for them to say that, as Rod Adams said when talking of theft by terrorists in his most recent podcast, NPPS are difficult of access.

So that would imply many paid security staff per square metre long-term compared to a solar thermal plant/hydro dam/wind park .

But if NPPs were rolled out at French 1970s speed, there would be a great demand for construction labour anyway.


@Peter Lalor – Yes as a matter of fact I do draw a distinction between families like mine who have roots in the region going back +350 years, and arriviste posers, vendus, and flâneurs who meddle in local politics and culture with no understanding or appreciation of ether.

Few of the jackasses working to close down Vermont Yankee Power, derive their incomes from local sources, yet they are happy to push for the closure of a plant that provide jobs to an area that is going to be devastated economically by the loss of the high paying jobs, and the transfer of this wealth to an out of state gas plant.

And for what? A tritium leak that was smaller that the amount of the same gas that would be released from a self-power ‘EXIT’ sign.


Peter said:

Are there any figures based on manhours/MW of power produced in nuclear versus fossil electricity generation, for example?

I suspect (though I don’t know) that there would be far fewer jobs per MW installed in nuclear than in renewables. That would help explain why renewables are so much more expensive, If nuclear power is less labour-intensive, that would be a good thing, because it would entail humans being freed up to do the other work that this reliable and substantial source of energy provided.


Gordon — There are many borehole studies. Find one which considers the past 2000 years, as in Figure 2 of this one:

Click to access 2008GL034187.pdf

There are plenty of other papers, all of which indicate the MWP was not warmer that the past decade.


Interestingly, IEA estimates of the cost of CCS reduce to about half the current long-term contract price of coal. This means that to sequester all the CO2 and use coal burning derived energy to do so then requires

1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + … = 2

times as much coal for the same net electric power generated. So 9 cent/kWh power becomes 18 cents/kWh power and at that price clearly NPPs are less expensive.


DV82XL, on 3 May 2010 at 8.32 — The infinite sum accounts for the doubled emissions to be captured. But yes, there would be twice as much fly ash to help make twice as much concrete. Moving twice as much coal would not significantly affect the cost, except

lack of coal shipping terminals, which Aussies and Chinese will know fabout far better than I.


David B. Benson – From what I understand, not all fly ash is suitable for making concrete. Nevertheless the real burden from doubling the amount of coal required will be the environmental damage wrought by mining it. This is one of the other reasons CCS is a fraud – it only addresses the smokestack side of the pollution equation from burning this fuel, yet it’s being touted as ‘clean coal.’


@ David B. Benson

Yes, but didn’t they find :

The reconstructions show the temperatures of the mid-Holocene warm episode some 1–2 K above the reference level, the maximum of the MWP at or slightly below the reference level, the minimum of the LIA about 1 K below the reference level, and end-of-20th century temperatures about 0.5 K above the reference level.

and in the Summary and Conclusions:

Data from the depth range 0–100 meters, the depth range where most of the information about 20th century climate change resides, were excluded from the reconstruction because of noise considerations. Thus the reconstructions derived from that dataset cannot be used to compare the Medieval Warm Period to changes taking place in the 20th century.


Data from the depth range 0–100 meters, the depth range where most of the information about 20th century climate change resides, were excluded from the reconstruction because of noise considerations. Thus the reconstructions derived from that dataset cannot be used to compare the Medieval Warm Period to changes taking place in the 20th century.

Your point being?


DV82XL, on 3 May 2010 at 9.36 — I love coal so I want everybody to leave it in the ground, not immolate it. :-)

The point of my simplistic analysis is that unless the cost of CCS can be broght down more dramatically than I see how to do, coal+CCS is clearly more expensive than even an AP-1000, not to mention newer designs of NPPs, and even completely ignoring the other externalities.


Gordon, on 3 May 2010 at 9.42 — Borehole reconstructions are quite difficult and I prefer the earlier linked one with its error intervals. Extrapolating that back to the MWP period strongly suggests that boreholes, even analyzed in ways that allow comparisons to the 20th century (as in the prior link to the NOAA site), are not accurate enough for simple comparisons that far back in the past.

Therefore other proxies have to be employed. Using those, one finds evidence than indeed “the maximum of the MWP at or slightly below the reference level, the minimum of the LIA about 1 K below the reference level, and end-of-20th century temperatures about 0.5 K above the reference level.” Or thereabouts.


Ewen said:

I suspect (though I don’t know) that there would be far fewer jobs per MW installed in nuclear than in renewables. That would help explain why renewables are so much more expensive, If nuclear power is less labour-intensive, that would be a good thing, because it would entail humans being freed up to do the other work that this reliable and substantial source of energy provided.

This is the key point that Peter Lalor obviously doesn’t understand.

We need rational arguments not the totally irrational arguments contributed by Peter Lalor. No rational thinking person would argue that we should go back to technologies that require more labour to get the same output.

When we get to the point of arguing we should implement the technologies that require the most labour (ie renewables) to provide our electricity, then we really have lost the plot.


The most labour intensive form of renewable energy (reducto ad absurdum) is muscle power (humans and beasts of burden).

I recently read somewhere (I don’t exactly recall where) that kW.h for kW.h, humans can do twice the amount of mechanical work as horses for a given amount of grain consumed. This little fact probably underpinned the economics of human slavery in pre-industrial societies for a long time.



On the same basis, Ants can do 20 or a 100 times as much work as humans.

Furthermore, if we banned ants and termites, we’d halve world CO2 emissions in one go!

I have a chart that shows man’s daily per capita energy consumption for the past 200,000 years. It shows daily energy consumption for: food; home and commerce; industry and agriculture; transportation; total. It is for the periods:

Technological man
Industrial man
Advanced Agricultural man
Primitive Agricultural man
Hunting man
Primitive man

This chart persuades me that we are not going to move back to less dense sources of energy. So, playing with and promoting renewable energy is like trying to stop the tide coming i. It just isn’t going to happen.


This chart persuades me that we are not going to move back to less dense sources of energy. So, playing with and promoting renewable energy is like trying to stop the tide coming i. It just isn’t going to happen.

Yes, but I like to remind renewables advocates of some of the realities of history, and the consequences to be expected of any attempt to repeat it.


Hmm, I think the main points here are speed of deployment and economics, which at this stage appears to tip the balance decidedly in on the nuclear side. (If certain legislative impediments can be removed and approval systems streamlined).

However, the way some of you are speaking it sounds like you believe Industrial civilisation could never have arrived without fossil fuels or nuclear power.

What if Earth somehow missed it’s endowment of uranium and thorium and we evolved at a point in Earth’s history without fossil fuels? Are you all saying that we’d never have been able to industrialise on renewables?

Economic systems and town planning would have been vastly different. Certain heat based industries might have had the week off in overcast or rainy weather. Suburbia and the modern car-based civilisation might never have eventuated. “Just in time” delivery manufacturing systems, the so-called “3000 mile production line” might not have developed. Rather we’d have more localised city planning, local agriculture, and even local warehousing of components for our manufacturing basis would still be in practice, rather than an outdated phenomenon from a bygone era. Generally I think we’d have discovered and used electricity from other energy sources, and just developed lives and technologies around those limits.

I imagine society would be more local, more resilient to a variety of supply shocks, robust, and just generally locally self-sufficient. We would have developed naturally around the limits we would have experienced from the get-go.

And maybe that would have been a good thing, and we would never have been in the peak oil energy crisis we have now.


to P. Lang re:
from Totally Irrational Lalor:

if you adjusted your spark plugs once in a while to enhance performance you would see that I was just musing, based on incidents in podcasts by Tom Blees and Rod Adams, on the electoral implications of nuclear being much less labour-intensive per MW generated than fossil.

After all, you will be aware within AU of how job creation is used as an electoral enticement for all manner of policies.

So what BNC counterarguments are there when Renewabilists say, as they presumably could, that NPPs are power sector job killers?

Alternatively, when will you reveal your plans for social engineering in AU such as will make elections superfluous?


So, playing with and promoting renewable energy is like trying to stop the tide coming i. It just isn’t going to happen.
Except that everything else indicates the opposite. It seems every month some major new study explores how integrated renewable grids can provide baseload power, and as we all know, wind power has been growing by a factor of 10 every decade for the last few decades.


No eclipsenow, no study (that I’m aware of) has ever shown that “integrated renewable grids can provide baseload power”, in an adequate scientific manner, let alone demonstrated it at scale in the real world.


Unfortunately Peter Lalor is making a valid point. There have been those in both the U.K. and Australian coal industry that have said outright that nuclear energy will cause unemployment, and certainly the renewables=jobs argument has come up over and over in US and Canadian politics for the last several years.

Nuclear energy supporters must keep pointing out that the economic impacts of failing to adopt this technology will be much more profound than the loss of jobs in the coal sector, and that the construction sector doesn’t care what it is building, as long as its building something.


Hi Barry,
I guess the pre-deterministic descriptors in your paragraph re *adequate* scientific manner,

The papers might not be adequate to answer all the requirements you put on them, the countries have not yet implemented these ‘inadequate’ plans yet because the industry is still achieving the critical mass it needs as it builds exponentially, and this of course also affects scale.

The raw physics of breeder reactors might look good on paper, but do we have any demonstrated fuel cycle histories, at scale, at a demonstrated price history?

And people wonder why I remain agnostic.


Exactly what DV8 said. We need to be building hundreds of gigawatts of Gen III over the next decade. But Gen IV nuclear is still waaaaaay ahead of integrated renewables for baseload on the basis of first principals.


eclipsenow – The point is that we have plenty of cost data from GenII/III nuclear power stations to blow existing renewables out of the water right now.


Barry, just noticed, the IFR FAD 2 link on the sustainable nuclear tab is broken, and there’s no IFR FAD 4 link yet.


whoops… poorly phrased… “agnostic” over which way society will choose to go, not agnostic over the various economic arguments you’ve put to me about nuclear V today’s renewables. (And I emphasise, today’s renewables).

See, another reason I remain agnostic over the ultimate economic issues with renewables is no one has bothered to look up how much electricity 15 million Better Place V2G cars could store for a rainy day (when it is probably blowing!), or still, quiet, windless day (when it is probably as hot as!)

And as far as the utilities are concerned, the Better Place V2G cars are ‘free’ (of capital cost anyway) and only have to buy the electricity back.


@Peter Lalor:

I believe that the “Nukes bring good jobs” argument is generally used in the context of overcoming NIMBYism concerning plant location, rather than directly solving the employment problems of the entire country. NPPs bring good jobs, but not everywhere can have one. Best your community gets in on the ground floor. It was never going to be about a massive public works scheme just for the sake of keeping people busy.


eclipsenow – It typically takes a supportive law or regulation for local distribution companies to become interested in helping consumers attached distributed energy sources to the local grid, and while energy policy folks have been talking about these issues for decades most places don’t have much in the way of effective policies supporting distributed energy resources.

In order to manage the safety and reliable operations of the grid, grid operators like to have some control over devices connected to the grid. V2G asks us to imagine a world in which consumers are attaching to the grid at times and points of convenience to the consumer, and then have the grid operator pay the consumer for some limited access to the battery capabilities of the electric vehicle for the uncertain amount of time the vehicle remains connected. And advocates of these ideas ask us to believe, simultaneously, that electric vehicles with V2G technology will be available in large enough numbers to make it worth the trouble of someone to overcome all of these challenges, and yet not available in large enough numbers to overwhelm the electric system’s demand for load balancing service.

I haven’t done the analysis, but I can state with fairly high confidence that the demand for load balancing service is not perfectly elastic at the $5 – $10 day rates obtained by test cars in the current pilot projects they have been running in the States.

In other words, this system would have to be created by legislative fiat, probably over the objections of both the utilities and car owners, both of whom stand to lose money on the scheme, and the chances of that are very slim.


I might have misinterpreted his talk, but Better Place CEO Shai Agassi seems to imply Australia will be participating in such a scheme.

(If you listen to it, download the Audio only… the video is not worth seeing).

Also, the V2G wiki is interesting…

“Future battery developments[10] may change the economic equation, making it advantageous to use newer high capacity and longer-lived batteries in BEV/PHEVs and in grid load balancing and as a large energy cache for renewable grid resources. Even if cycled daily, such batteries would only require replacement/recycling every 55 years or so. Since BEVs can have up to 50 kWh worth of battery storage they represent somewhat more than the average home’s daily energy demand. Even without a PHEV’s gas generation capabilities such a vehicle could be used for emergency power for several days (for example, lighting, refrigerators etc with combined load of 1 kW could be powered for 50 hours)[citation needed]. This would be an example of V2H or Vehicle-to-home transmission. As such they may be seen as a complementary technology for intermittent renewable power resources such as wind or solar electric.”

But anyway, while we’re talking better place…


Check the video: only small scale so far, as it is a proof of concept while the work out the bugs, but these are real taxis picking up real passengers and spreading the word that EV’s can do 24/7 driving on battery swap alone if needed, and are quieter, accelerate faster, and have zero emissions.

I remember suggesting to Sydney Peak Oil doomers that the limitations of EV’s might be fixed by a battery swap system about 4 years ago when arguing with one of their more extreme doomers.

Dang but I wish I could see his face now.

Sometimes being a non-technical sociology major with a left-of-field creative bent can be a bonus… but if only I had been the guy in the room with, say, the Ford CEO to say… “Why can’t we just swap the batteries?” D’oh!


eclipsenow – First I do like the idea of BEVs, and it is definitely the path I wish to see us take. Second, I have never thought battery-swapping schemes were impossible. However battery swap and V2G are two very different things.

Costs matter and implementing such a system will be very expensive, both for the utilities, and for the vehicle owners, nether of which stand any chance at all of recovering their investment. This is the killer.

Huge changes in grid infrastructure would be needed, and a critical number of V2G vehicles would have to be in service, before the thing will work. Then as I wrote above the price of the power that is being trafficked is necessarily going to be too low to provide a return to the vehicle owners, and too high for the utility.

I place little weight on glowing predictions of what might be if this or that breakthrough is made, because most of these technologies are fairly mature to begin with, and history shows that the bulk of the major gains in any technology is at the beginning of the development cycle, not at the tail.

And finally, from a strictly competitive point of view, nuclear will just be the least expensive path to carbon mitigation, and that is what, in the end, it is all about.



Jobs doing what?

Consider how greatly the forms of work, even labor, have changed in the past 50 years.


It`s oversimplicistic when you say just give them people cheap power. It is JUST power.
Centralized power keeps the system running like it is. People do like changes.
Dezentralization is democratic and does not happen with Gen3 NPPs.
How about changing the economic system and creating jobs and time for the people instead so that people can develope their own ideas and install/pay for their own electricity production.
Something like the unconditional basic income woult help to shift capital to the people and away from big corporations.
The real problem solver to climate change would be people that have the freedom to choose from a variety of clean power sources and not have to worry about price.


it is about giving people cheap and clean power, otherwise they’ll stick with coal and stuff our climate up good and proper.

and not have to worry about price.

As I understand it Marcus, that is exactly what the BNC people are after, not worrying too much about price. If the customers ARE worried about price they might not choose renewables. BNC just disagree that renewables will scale that way.

Now, choosing renewables can result in not worrying about price from another direction. It can be achieved… as a certain lifestyle choice. That is, if everyone were to be content to live in Earthships (or “Earthship-like”) energy efficient homes and apartments, then private individuals would go from maybe a $1500 to $2000 dollar a year energy bill to a ZERO energy bill… and zero sewerage, zero water bill, and minimal garbage.

This is at the ‘cost’ of living in a smaller, more energy efficient home that is quite comfortable, and entirely satisfactory and large enough, but not the huge oversized McMansion McMonsters the western world seems to associate with ‘status’. Over the last 50 years home sizes have doubled while family sizes have halved, resulting in all of us in the Western world, on average, having 4 times as much space for all our clutter and junk.


Earthships and New Urbanism bring some sanity back to the ‘stuff’ issue.

However, various industries need HUGE amounts of reliable baseload cheap electricity, and that’s where these important arguments come in. I think BNC has made a very strong case for reconsidering nuclear power. Renewables *might* be possible, but I think it seems one has to build a considerably larger generation capacity to cover the various intermittency issues.

Various energy experts that are interviewed on BZE, well, they appear to think Renewables will be competitive and that intermittency is not that big a deal. We shall see.



ZERO energy bill… and zero sewerage, zero water bill, and minimal garbage

I’ve already done it plus I make most of my car fuel for less than 30c/L. The flip side is you have live somewhere you can get free energy dense materials and you can maintain inventories and bulky equipment without upsetting the neighbours. It also means that getting around by bus or electric vehicle is unlikely as you not only have to live out of town but regularly carry ute loads of firewood and drums of oil. You also have to remain in continuous good health to withstand the rigours involved.. so far so good.

This approach is simply not available to the majority of people with time and space poor lifestyles in the suburbs. Therefore it seems to me governments should provide adequate energy at an affordable price for the basic needs of that majority. Based on my impressions I don’t believe it can be done with renewable energy alone. I’m always amazed by people who tell me otherwise yet they haven’t done the hard yards.


Further to John Newland’s comment, we have to provide power for our hospitals and all the other things the population wants. If we increase the price of energy and we raise the price of everything. And we reduce the income to Australia as well, because our goods cost more to produce so it become cheaper to buy goods made overseas.

Marcus, your arguments are extremely oversimplistic. I agree that everyone should be free to install renewable energy on their homes and cut themselves of from the grid. But they should not be subsidised to do so by other citizens. Why should one group with deeply held, but irrational, beliefs in RE be allowed to force their beliefs on others?


Its that narrow minded view here that puts me off.

You have to watch out for model regions to get a bigger picture.
We should investigate the energy politics of regions that work (compared to US cities).
I already hinted to Güssing. Then there is
Lowest uemployment. All bussines startet succeeded (in the US 90% are gone after 5 years), no people fired since they started everything, Highest educational levels, lowest analfabetism and so on…
They set aside 40 Mil/€ every year for cultural activities..on a free basis.
A renewable scheme there would probably cost more than nuclear but surprise…it would create more good payed jobs for the community. What good does it do to free workers from work when they need the income?
Its a good thing that they do not need to make profit.
After loans, operational capital and maybe some investment in new operations (to create more jobs) the balance reads 0.

People in Güssing can tell you how it works. After creating hundreds of jobs and bringing back wealth to the region the electricity prices also came down.
Now it is payed for all the renewables, the jobs are still there and they are exporting power to the surrounding cities and industries.
If you had planted a nuke you would have created some jobs but it would have done nothing more to the region.
Seeing energy politics isolated from communities is faulty thinking.
Wrong economic systems with finanzial constraints like we have set up will not help either.

You could argue that a cooperative corporation owned/run nuke would be possible…I doubt that.

It would be great if somebody could write an article about Güssing or renewable regions that worked out. It would be hard to compare that to nuclear opearated regions in a way that reflects the complexity of the system at large.
Would be even harder if you have to consider future renewable developements and solutions.


Hmm, yes, you just reminded me of this German village featured on SBS some years ago. Interview with Herman Scheer.

The impacts on the local economy to the village were wild… each dollar going into renewables went into the local co-op, and recycled through the local economy.


Heads up – Ian Lowe is talking about the ETS right now and for the next 45 min on Australia Talks on Radio National (talkback).


Ian spoke at a Sydney Peak Oil — Sustainable Population Australia hosted event at NSW Parliament House November 2005, and seemed quite positive about renewables. I’m not sure if I’ll have time for reading the For / Against book by Ian and Barry (what with the career change and all) but I’ll definitely check for this podcast when it gets put up at…


This seems like another “Black Swan” to me..

“sentopic claims its gravel-based battery would be able to store equivalent amounts of energy but use less space and be cheaper to set up. Its system consists of two silos filled with a pulverised rock such as gravel. Electricity would be used to heat and pressurise argon gas that is then fed into one of the silos. By the time the gas leaves the chamber, it has cooled to ambient temperature but the gravel itself is heated to 500C.

After leaving the silo, the argon is then fed into the second silo, where it expands back to normal atmospheric pressure. This process acts like a giant refrigerator, causing the gas (and rock) temperature inside the second chamber to drop to -160C. The electrical energy generated originally by the wind turbines originally is stored as a temperature difference between the two rock-filled silos. To release the energy, the cycle is reversed, and as the energy passes from hot to cold it powers a generator that makes electricity.

Isentropic claims a round-trip energy efficiency of up to 80% and, because gravel is cheap, the cost of a system per kilowatt-hour of storage would be between $10 and $55.”


eclipsenow, I hope it works out – sounds interesting in principle and the energy density doesn’t look too bad. From the figures given, 540 cubic metres stores 16 MWh of energy, or 30 kWh per cubic metre. To store one day of output of a 1 GW power station would require 1,500 of those 7m tall, 7 m diameter twin silos. Let say you stacked them in a 15 x 15 m square (for each silo), that would require about 1 square km of silos (ignoring interconnections and local generators etc.) Could be useful for storing cheap baseload nuclear-generated electricity for peaking purposes.


the cost of a system per kilowatt-hour of storage would be between $10 and $55.”

So the capacity of storage would only be a tiny fraction of the capital cost of wind power.

In 2004, wind energy cost a fifth of what it did in the 1980s, and some expected that downward trend to continue as larger multi-megawatt turbines were mass-produced.[93] However, installed cost averaged €1,300 a kW in 2007,[94][not in citation given] compared to €1,100 a kW in 2005.[95][clarification needed] Not as many facilities can produce large modern turbines and their towers and foundations, so constraints develop in the supply of turbines resulting in higher costs.[96] Research from a wide variety of sources in various countries shows that support for wind power is consistently 70–80% among the general public.[97]

Whereas nuclear seems to be anywhere from $2500 USA to $6000 per kw. What’s that in Euro’s today, to compare to the above prices? ;-)



The capital cost of the recent wind farms built in Australia averaged $2600/kW. (ABARE)

On top of that you need extra transmission and storage or back up.


How many Australian dollars to the Euro today? ;-) The above wind price was in Euro’s at $1,100 a kW.

Also, we tend to import many of the components which would probably drive up price. I don’t think Australia has a wind turbine manufacturer yet?

My point is that nuclear seems to be above that price range anyway, and now here is the super-cheap storage (once verified that it works as per the article).


Eclipsenow, don’t mix your power and energy. $/kW is generating capacity (peak, in the case of wind), whereas $/kWh is energy storage. To store 1 day of energy from a 1 GW power plant requires 24 million kWh. At $55 per unit, that’s a storage cost of $1.3 billion for 24 hours of storage. Not ridiculously expensive by any means, but neither is it cheap as chips as you might have thought it to be, given the implicit comparison you made above. I’ve used the upper price figure cited, since we’ve not even seen a demonstration unit yet.

Regarding rise in steel and concrete prices, these will effect the cost of renewables at least 10 times more than nuclear power, see:

where I conclude:

Ratio of materials/land requirements, for equivalent solar thermal : nuclear (both calculated at 90 % capacity factor):
Concrete = 15 : 1; Steel = 75 : 1; Land = 2,530 : 1

Wind is about 10:1 net — but considerably higher if you want enough storage to give it a 90% CF (almost certainly worse than solar thermal).


Also, as the quote points out, the 2005 price was cheaper than the 2007 price as commodity prices have increased. Steel, concrete, everything’s up. So it’s probably also more expensive to build a nuclear power plant today than it was just 5 years ago. So I doubt ABARE is highlighting a fault with the technology so much as the world markets for steel and concrete being affected by high demand for commodities from China.


Thanks for that Barry… I’ll try and remember the terms…

So 1 GW talks about power output in a constant supply over time (in hours) but when we actually write 1GWh we are talking about a specific contained measurement of energy stored. Easy. Now to remember that…


I just listened to the Ian Lowe thing on Australia Talks back. It was mainly about why Australians have gone off climate change and that it does not dominate our nightly news or political discussion, and although renewable energy got a tiny plug from Ian and a few callers, there was nothing really spelling out the scale of the solutions required or the fact that nuclear could be a real heavy lifter for our baseload needs.


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