Open Thread

Open Thread 7

Open Thread 6 is getting overly bloated in its old age, at 650 comments, and is taking too much time to load. So it’s time for 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 get 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.



You may find this letter of interest, on the IFR and an upcoming book on Len Koch: The death of something wonderful.

TCASE #5 at the RiAus is coming up next week. There are still seats available, so book now (free, but you must register). Details below (and here):

Thinking critically about sustainable energy: Demand side management and energy storage

When: Wednesday 3rd of November 2010 – 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Venue: The Science Exchange Address: 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide

Click here to book for this free event.

Demand side management (DSM) aims to improve the efficiency of energy consumption by reducing demand and using supplementary energy sources at peak times. Emerging systems can store excess energy produced during low demand periods and return it to the grid during peak periods. Smartgrids, which can monitor and control domestic usage instantly, are just around the corner. Will these systems play a significant role in reducing our power consumption? Professor Barry Brook and an expert panel (Craig Oakeshott from AEMO, Andrew Dicks and Glenn Platt) explain the role of these technologies. This event is the fifth of six public forums on sustainable energy technologies.

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.

367 replies on “Open Thread 7”

Here is an interesting speech by Eric Loewen, VP of the American Nuclear Society, on 25 Oct. Definitely worth a read. Here is an extract:

We can do this. We can build new nuclear power plants in this great country. New nuclear power development. Why do I think this? We don’t have it that bad.

What if you were John Stevens, who was selected by the U.S. to continue building the Panama Canal? Considered the best construction engineer in the country at the age of 52, and of whom President Roosevelt said was “a big fellow, a man of daring and good sense, and burly power,” he faced in the creation of the Panama Canal an unprecedented feat of engineering. At its time, the Panama Canal project was the largest, most costly single effort ever mounted on earth. It spanned 40 years! It affected the lives of over 10,000 people. France was rocked to it foundations in its failure to complete the project. It marked a score of advances in planning, engineering and project controls. A visualization of the volume of earth that was removed is difficult to convey. The total excavation of the Canal would fill an unbelievable number of train cars that would encircle the world four times at the equator. Or with the same volume you could build 63 of the world’s largest pyramids. All we’re trying to do now is build a power plant. So what can we learn from the Panama Canal? Courage and tenacity need to be of the highest order to meet unexpected obstacles. We can and will overcome those obstacles.

Remember, this is not the revival of our industry, but rather the development of it. We are not dormant or in a weakened state. We have been and remain critical to stimulating economic growth, creating jobs, fostering research and innovation, and supplying critical base load electricity generation. And we do so in an environmentally sustainable manner.
So now it’s time to do our part. As you share information at this meeting to improve our industry, let’s remember the larger audience outside these walls. Remember your neighbors. Let’s help them put fear aside and embrace the knowledge that nuclear power is the safest, large-scale energy source on earth.


Barry Brook, on 29 October 2010 at 11:02 AM — I was extremely dubious about that last sentence, second clause, until regularly visiting your site.

Thank you for your efforts.


Loewen invokes a time when Americans believed in themselves, believed in their government, and had yet to face anything even close to a national failure. It is not the same nation that built the Panama Canal, and could take a leading role in prosecuting war in two separate theaters, against two separate enemies. Most importantly, they no longer believe in science, preferring to substitute faith for facts in too many domains. People like Loewen are the modern equivalent of the Lesser Prophets, and being paid attention to about as much.

He is right in that the only real battle in the fight for nuclear power is for the hearts and minds of the public. All the technical issues are secondary, or have known solutions. Nuclear power will rise if and only of it is pushed up from the bottom by the force of public demand, without it it is at the mercy of special interests and will never achieve what it is capable of.


Oh and apropos to nothing in particular, I see that it is estimated that during the next forty years about two thousand coal power stations must be replaced world wide, due to age. The opportunity this represents should not be taken lightly.


“Oh and apropos to nothing in particular, I see that it is estimated that during the next forty years about two thousand coal power stations must be replaced world wide, due to age. The opportunity this represents should not be taken lightly.”

So assuming that each coal power station has an average 500 MW capacity (I don’t know how correct this value is for a conservative estimate), that’s 500*2000 = 1 million MW that needs replacing. That is 1/10th of the 10 TW scenario from the last BNC thread, that needs to be built by necessity. This could have large roll-over effects influencing the additional capacity demand, if it gets momentum swinging in the right direction (i.e. towards nuclear).


I have the impression that grid energy providers (electricity and gas) have had a major rethink on their role in the last couple of years. Once they were service providers now they appear to see themselves differently. It seems when the Rudd ETS died in the arse the companies all took it upon themselves to obtain hefty price increases. The claimed grounds for this appear to be infrastructure renewal such as new transmission and replacing transformers. I heard one exec waffling on radio about everything and anything. Perhaps what he really meant is that they had to get in before carbon prices arrived. What GW Bush would call a pre-emptive strike.

Just one troubling aspect is the increase in the daily connection charge for grid tied microgeneration. If the fee is $1 and you get a minimal 20c feed-in tariff you have to export 5 kwh a day to the grid just to cover the fee. That could be $10k worth of PV panels or micro wind turbine for no tangible benefit. If the fee keeps increasing what are the implications?

Another troubling development is bill shock from smart metering, not yet here in Tas. Possibly users mistakenly thought appliance use would somehow be controlled automatically. The more likely explanation is that providers changed the pricing schedules and used the smart meters as cover.

Are the utility companies our friends or are they trying to pull a swiftie? Surely Electricite de France is not like any of the Australian power companies.


“If the fee keeps increasing what are the implications?”

That this whole grid tied microgeneration nonsense dies a well deserved and long overdue death. The processes for integrating new power production should correspond to its impact, complexities and benefits, and hooking any generator under one megawatt to the grid, is just not worth the trouble.

As for ‘smart metering’, this is just a euphemism for rationing. Rationing of the worst sort as it effects the poor more than the rich. Thus the folks that can’t pay the higher primetime rates, level demand for the wealthy that can afford it.

How this managed to get by the Green-Left is beyond me, and is yet another indication of how disconnected they are to energy realities.


I recall several years ago on The Oil Drum someone said in the long run the only things that would really work are nuclear power and rationing. That seems to be truer with the passing of time. I believe rationing politely called demand side management DSM is inevitable because the fossil fuel replacement problem is now too enormous.

Since Barry and others will be addressing DSM next week perhaps discussion should deferred. However I would like to propose a general rule that covers both microgeneration and smart metering; if the rules are going to be changed let people know well in advance. That is, give people a sporting chance to make the necessary adjustments and not change things out of the blue. Not just in the Anglosphere; if they cut PV subsidies in Germany (see sidebar) we’ll hear the yelling from here.


I have yet once to see ideology trump physics in the real world. If I may permitted a baseball metaphor: Mother nature always bats last, and she is batting 1.000. The Germans can scream all they want, they still can’t change facts just because they don’t like them.

Microgeneration fed to the grid in tiny amounts at best just makes heat, and at worse contributes to stability issues. It’s a sham and it will never get better. As far as reducing ones energy purchases, things like an integrated solar/electric, or solar/gas domestic hot water system (or pool heater) is more likely to yield a faster payback, and give longer service, than PV’s.

Yes it may be inevitable, but all the DSM systems being proposed are essentially regressive, impacting the poor far greater than the rich, and that is not fair rationing. As well it is a market distortion that impedes development of other sources. If the top half of society has got theirs, the poor can be left to suck a dry teat for all they are going to care, thus the group that can put real pressure on for change will not be motivated to make waves.

You know I am as far from being a Leftist as I can be without starting to goosestep, but this DSM scam is making me see Red (pun intended)


There are DSM systems that have been used for years that do not require smart meters. In the late 70’s we were renting a house in a suburb of the Greater Toronto Area, and this house used electric power both to heat domestic water and the water for the hydronic heating system. Both of these systems had apparatus that permitted the utility to shut them down remotely during high load conditions. There was some complex formula in place that in essence seemed to suggest that outages would be less than 15 min. in duration, and that they would be rolled through the neighborhood (as everyone was on the same system in the area) and it was unlikely that we would even notice it. And indeed we did not. Furthermore, rather than being punished for use, as is the case with smart meters, by higher prices, we were rewarded for participating, with overall lower rates.

There are passive systems that can be attached to inductive loads, that detect frequency variation on the incoming line. Small changes in frequency, are indications of the state of VAR on the grid, and having things like fridges, air conditioning, and other motors under automatic control, switch in and out on the bases of this value can save huge amounts of energy that would otherwise just turn to heat. Again, most of the time these are planned with a preferred rate to the customer for using them.

Smart metering is only a way to raise rates in those times where demand is high, and generally demand is high because there is a good reason. Pompous talk about social engineering notwithstanding, it looks to me like simple price gouging painted green.


I should clarify the above somewhat.

DSM is a term that covers an array of techniques, and some, like the two I described above, are for all intents and purposes, transparent for the consumer. There are several other load shedding schemes, like control of water tower pumps, and industrial process heat that also, in essence, use stored energy to permit dynamic load management.

Certainly too there is nothing wrong with time-of-day contracts that some industries can take advantage of that offer a preferential rate to those facilities that can shift high process loads to the night shift, and so on. These schemes though, have been around for decades, and the grim truth is that they have reached saturation, which is why attention has been turned to smaller consumers.

This is fine IF the principle of user transparency was maintained, but of course it is not, and that is the crux of my issue with things like smart metering.


A fair number of coal burners have been coming up for relicensing across the USA. For relicensing, the EPA now requires the installation of significant pollution abatement equipment, to the tune of around $1 per Watt of nameplate capacity. The result is often that the coal burners are instead going to shut down. One utility in South Carolina is going to shut down one 400 MWe unit and convert its twin next door into a wood burner. The TVA announced plans to shut down 7 coal burners and convert an additional one to a wood burner. [Don’t expect lots of wood burners; the one in South Carolina probably will use all the waste wood from the entire state and the TVA plant similarly in Tennessee.] The Navaho Nation contains two large (1.2 GWe each) coal burners. The operators are likely to close those rather than re-equip, according to a recent article in TNYT. [Both locations would be ideal for big NPPs, but the Navahos probably don’t want to have anything further to do with uranium, sorry.] The ~600 MWe Portland General Electric (PGE, different than PG&E in California) coal burner upwind from me is, it seems, going to have its $600 million upgrade and continue burning coal, despite some opposition in Portland, Oregon.

Not that I know about all plans and construction in the contiguous US, but AFAIK there is only one new coal burner currently being built (in wesstern Kansas) and definite plans going forth in Illinois, despite significant opposition in parts of Chicago (NIMBYism).


This IEA Wind Power Study

Click to access T2493.pdf

points out that most thermal producers can sart up in 4–6 hours. Indeed, this is an important source of baqckup for wind the Germany (and therefore neighboring countries). I suppose this reference was to the North German monster-sized coal burners radily visible from road or rail.

So my question is, could an NPP also be fully cycled that quickly? I was under the impression that is not done, but could an NPP be on similar stand-by (tertiary reserve)?


@David B. Benson

From the Areva web site:

“Load follow: between 60 and 100% nominal output, the EPR™ reactor can adjust it power output at a rate of 5% nominal power per minute at constant temperature, preserving the service life of the components and of the plant.”

I believe that existing German NPPs can load follow, but unfortunately, I’ve lost the reference.

I get the impression that it’s more of an economic than an engineering issue. Running NPPs at a low capacity factor is obviously going to be a fairly costly way of generating electricity.


quokka, on 31 October 2010 at 10:57 AM — Thanks. SOP in the US is to run the NPPs at full power, even if it means having to pay somebody to consume the power during periods of low demand. I’m under the vague impression the Germans do something similar, while I have it on the best authority that the French do indeed cycle their NPPs because that is almost all they have. Since the French are planning on building quite a slug of off-shore wind turbines, one suspects they will be doing ever more such cycling in the future.

I’m not suggesting all this makes the best of sense from a purely rational decision economic standpoint. It seems to me that the German practice of backing up wind with coal burners is at least somewhat more rational; no CO2 (and other junk) emitted when the coal burner isn’t running.


@David B. Benson – The only circumstances where US utilities are forced into negative pricing regimes is to accommodate wind. The nuclear plants in the US are all baseload stations, and blaming them for the fact that they cannot throttle-back to accommodate an intermittent generator like wind is sophistry. But it is typical of the both the antinuclear and pro-renewable arguments to try and shift blame in this shamless way.

Nor is it an inherent problem with NNPs in general that the current ones in service cannot load follow, as they were designed to provide baseload from the outset. Newer designs will correct that.


DV82XL, on 31 October 2010 at 12:33 PM — Possibly now you might be right, but my understanding is that when some of the NPPs in the USA were new they were oversized for the then existing baseload, hence negative pricing.

The French do in fact, cycle some of their reactors.

One of your sentences suggests you are ascribing positions to me I do not hold. To make my position clear, I currently advocate anything which is reasonably economic and doesn’t burn fossil carbon. I’ve learned enough about nuclear thermal power generation to view it as currently a decent solution with prospects for definite improvement. But up to a limited portion of the total load that is also true of wind turbine power (I encourage reading the IEA study) and in some regions, maybe also solar thermal. If the price of NPPs drops below the cost of CCGTs on a LCOE basis, then those other methods won’t be built anymore (which I would actually prefer).


Scott the big trip on the battery powered Audi may not have been done under typical conditions and household budgets. I’d guess the quick charger was higher voltage than home outlets. The drive may have been flattish and smooth. The drawdown may have been injurious for that type of battery. We aren’t told how many such deep cycles will shorten battery life. Nor are we told the battery price, weight and ease of refurbishment. It would seem to vastly outperform workhorse batteries proposed for the General Motors Volt.

Pending more info I’m sticking to my view that people will prefer hydrocarbon based mobility, assuming those hydrocarbons remain affordable.


@David B. Benson, I will need to see some reference to back up the claim that there was negative pricing due to overproduction when the existing fleet of NNPs were new. First, most of these were on supply grids with coal and hydro which can load follow with ease, secondly the market was a very regulated one at the time, which I am almost sure was not equipped to deal with negative pricing even on the spot market, and I am positive did not have a mechanism to allow for it on the forward market, which would be where the systematic overproduction that you are saying existed, would have to have been arbitraged.

BTW I was remarking on the argument, not suggesting you were a member of the groups that use it. However I will state for the record that I think wind and solar are stupid little toys and they will forever remain toys. They will never power an advanced civilization. They are a waste of our economic resources, our attention and our time. Without contributing any reliable capacity, they will nonetheless make nuclear, by far our most practical and reliable form of zero carbon energy, less profitable. Existing plants will be caught in a trap and new construction is being discouraged entirely. Furthermore, it is clear that they are little more than a green fig-leaf to cover the burning of natural gas, their ‘backup’ that generally is found to supply over 80% of the power these systems are supposed to generate.


I’m swinging to the view that most extra-urban road vehicles should eventually use compressed methane as fuel. The capital cost is moderate and the net energy is reasonable. That is mainly piston engine cars running on natgas, coal seam gas, scrubbed fermentation gas, synthetic methane or a blend. The 200 bar compression effort is minor and relatively safe as shown by scuba tanks. Coincidentally a CNG fillup is usually around 6 minutes I believe same as the ultra HV battery charger.

If methane for road transport is how things could pan out why oh why are we in such a hurry to flog it off?
Think of Australia’s troubled million barrel of oil a day habit as around 50 Mt a year of premium hydrocarbon. That means we should not be exporting so much gas nor adopting gas fired generation as the unwritten agenda for coal replacement.


DV82XL, on 31 October 2010 at 1:59 PM — I’ll eventually ask my source for more data regarding the negative pricing.

Having been through the IEA Wind Power Study

Click to access T2493.pdf

I’ll somewhat disagree about wind turbines and I’ll certainly disagree about the potential for solar thermal in certain locations. But for both there can only be about a 20% share of the capacity of the (correctly defined) grid. That leaves room for, guess what, France’s 80% nuclear.

Of course all that changes if NPPs can eventually supply considerably less expensive electricity. Not holding my breath.


The fact is that predictions aside wind and solar installations never come close to yielding their nameplate rating, and all of them need some sort of load following back up like gas or hydro to work.

Further, stripped of their subsidies, feed in tariffs, and guaranteed loads, they wouldn’t last an hour on the electric market, because they are not dispatchable, and too variable. Right now the grid operators consider them more trouble that they are worth.

It is interesting that the renewable supporters always demand that nuclear demonstrate hard positive economics, but are as quick to demand that the infrastructure adjust to the shortcomings of wind and solar, and as well pay them preferential rates.

BTW 20% is dreaming in color for wind and solar.


DV82XL, on 1 November 2010 at 7:23 AM — BPA will back up to 20% of installed total nameplate power with its vast hydro resources. In addition, BPA regulates when the wind farms can produce, this mostly having to do with minimum streamflows in the spring.

Denmark already has 20% wind and appears to be planning on 50% wind power, but that is only a subgrid scale, no matter what they call it; ample hydro backup from the Nordic neighbors.

The grid operators require some additional training around here and that training is being provided from down the hall and one floor down. If you’d actually read that paper you too would see how well done this is, especially in Spain. With modern computers and communications the adjustment to the variabity of wind isn’t that difficult. It does mean paying more attention to the weather as the Texas grid operator fairly recently learned the hard way.

As for the various pricing arrangements, the various energy markets don’t appear to follow what is termed rational decision economics, so railing about that won’t do a bit of good. However, if nuclear was demonstrably less expensive than CCGTs, you’d find all other generation methods being eventually abandoned. I don’t demand that, it’s rather the various decision makers who appear to need it.


…down the hall and one floor down eh? So you’re an industry shill.

The fact is, the price of electricity within a grid region is set at a single price known as the “market-clearing price” or MCP. In most organized electricity markets, electricity generators are encouraged to participate in a daily or day-ahead auction process whereby a uniform market price, the MCP, is established. The MCP is the offer price of the highest-priced generation within the market.

Consider a simple electricity system with baseload coal generators having low production costs of approximately $25/MWh, and gas-fired peakers having higher production costs of approximately $100/MWh. Off-peak, when demand is lower, only the coal generators may be necessary to meet demand. The market-clearing price for energy is set by the coal offer price, which can be expected to be around $25/MWh. However, on-peak, when demand is higher, both the coal and the gas-fired generation may be required to meet demand and the market-clearing price will be set by the offer of the gas-fired generation, which can be expected to be around $100/MWh. On-peak, both the coal and the gas-fired generation receive the market-clearing price.

ISOs typically operate using a day-ahead auction where generators are required to offer firm levels of production for each hour of the next power day. The energy price, in turn, is determined based on those bidding into the system; all generators receive the same price per megawatt hour of generation. Significant penalties are applied if a generator is unable to meet his commitment.

Since wind is an unreliable, intermittent energy source, power pools cannot rely on wind generation to be there at critical times. Since the production from a wind resource cannot be reliably forecasted, the ISOs do not require wind to schedule any of its production in the day-ahead energy market. Instead, wind resources are permitted to operate exclusively in the spot market carrying no penalties for non-performance and where prices are generally greater than the prices paid for the day-ahead energy market. Those selling into the spot market are paid at the clearing price of the spot market.

Day-ahead markets represent roughly 90% of the available generation with the spot market holding only a 10% share. Since the price paid for ninety-percent of the generation is established twenty-four hours in advance of the power day, any participation from wind will have only a marginal impact on prices limited to those resources operating within the real-time market.

Now wind is reliant on subsidies to compensate, in part, for any losses due to its fluctuating, intermittent nature. And more and more developers are under pressure from investors to secure power purchase agreements with utilities that will ensure long-term guarantees that their power will be purchased at a fixed price. Even with these purchase agreements in place, wind will still sell into the spot market. But the agreements assure the developers, and their investors, that they will be paid a stable price for each megawatt hour of generation.

The purchase price of wind for 20-year contracts in these schemes is being set based on a rate 2-3 times the anticipated future pricing of natural gas, the fuel generally being used to fire peekers which sell on the spot electric power market.

Now keeping in mind that the grid is often forced by law to buy wind preferentially to other generators, and buy all of it (thus negative pricing) it is hard for me to see how this benefits the end consumer. Not only that, but where wind is backed by coal, the coal station must keep burning fuel to maintain spinning reserve, so your computerized leveling magic can work thus the savings in CO2 will be far less than advertised.

Oh but you were talking about it being backed by hydro. Well here in Quebec we have lots of hydro, and lots of wind resources, and the idea was to couple them together. To make a long story short in those seasons where the wind blows, the reservoirs are so full the water has to be released through spillways, and the months when they are low on water, there is little wind.

And I am still waiting for proof of the unsupported statement you made up thread about NNP needing negative pricing when they first started. I’ve looked and I certainly can’t find any mention of this anywhere.


DV82XL, on 1 November 2010 at 8:44 AM — This is a university office. An important part of the study provided to the working power engineers and operators has to do with the understanding of the computers in substations as well as various forms of generators.

I am aware of how these various markets (sorta) work, but around here all the utilities are vertically integrated still and all buying some of BPA’s hydro plus a bit of other stuff such as wind and nuclear. For example, if I wanted to claim to be running of “wind power” I could pay a premium to Avista Utilties which they, in turn, presumably pass on to the wind farm operators; I choose not to. Leaving out the wind, my power comes from
51% hydro
25% coal
21% natgas
03% oddments swuch as biomass and 0.22% nuclear.

The IEA study just stated that northern Germany’s tertiary reserves were thermal without specifying coal or natgas. Whichever, those are usually not running except when there is too much or too little wind. The faster reserves appear to be OCGTs; those aren’t usually running either. The IEA study did complain about the usual day-ahead market; what wind requires is an intra-day market but it seems the Europeans have some other way of doing the accounting.

It’ll probably be several days before I can straighten out what my source was talking about; hold your breath.


My apologies for calling you a shill.

Thermal plants don’t have ‘cold start’ (as the term is used in the industry) capacity the way gas turbine stations do. Thus when they are on stand-by they still must burn fuel.

You do understand that the real time market is set in 5 and 15 min. blocks, as well other power related commodities ancillary services like transmission, regulation, and frequency discipline must be purchased as well for these blocks, and at a premium price.

The question that has to be asked, is if there is any real benefit to wind in terms of reduced carbon, and why should anyone put up with wind if there is a high penetration by nuclear. I can understand the people that insist that we will always have natural gas peaking, because while I believe that even this will go nuclear in time, in the short term they have a point. But I have yet to see a good argument for integrating an intermittent generator into the mix, when it cannot stand on its own economic feet, and has to be shoved down the throats of the electric power market by force of law.

BTW the sketch I gave up thread is very general, but almost all electric power markets work about the same.


DV82XL, on 1 November 2010 at 10:46 AM — I would suppose that a thermal plant can get going in 4–6 hours. If so, that’s enough.

Yes, there are smaller blocks which the ISO has to control. To my surprise, it turns out that wind turbines, being induction generators, have several desirable characteristics for providing control over the shorter time periods. So the operators around here need to learn about that as well; the Spaniards appear to be the best st this. Anyway, there is some payback for grid controllability in trade for the intermittency.

As best as I can determine, the use of wind turbines does reduce burning fossil carbon. For whatever reason, even the French are going to construct a substantial off-shore wind farm, much more than needed to replace their 5% reliance on coal. Maybe they intend to do even more electricity exporting to neighboring countries?

The electric power industry is highly regulated in any event; requiring some renewables is now part of it. So is the ever increased requirements for electirc power reliability, which is somewhat more difficult to meet, IMO.

Natural gas peaking is not necessary, except for rather small increments, if one runs NPPs French style.

As for the economics, all methods of generation receive some form of subsidy, even if only not paying the externalities, such as hydro. As for wind turbines, the argument in the USA is that traditionally all new technologies have been helped along by the government; aiplanes for example. The decision makers have accepted the argument.

I’ll have to ask the power engineering professors at lunch some day, but as best I can make it out here in the Pacific Northwest there is no such electric power market. BPA sells to the retailers what they need in addition to the retailers own generation. There is a highly limited market between the different retailers. This might seem old fashioned, but the dominance of BPA plays a big role in not (yet) restructuring the way other regions have.


For whatever reason, even the French are going to construct a substantial off-shore wind farm, much more than needed to replace their 5% reliance on coal. Maybe they intend to do even more electricity exporting to neighboring countries?

David, there is a simpler explanation. France, as an EU member, is obliged to produce 23% of its electricity from ‘renewable’ sources by 2020:

This figure is calculated arbitrarily on the basis that ” every nation in the 27-member bloc is required to increase its share of renewables by 5.5% from 2005 levels, with the remaining increase calculated on the basis of per capita gross domestic product (GDP)”.

France can do it partly from hydro, but it will have to seek large amounts of wind and solar to make up the remainder.

Inexhaustible nuclear fission doesn’t count. Go figure. You’ve got to shake your head.



It is interesting that the renewable supporters .. are as quick to demand that the infrastructure adjust to the shortcomings of wind and solar, and as well pay them preferential rates.

Here’s a prime local example example of exactly that, which I saw reported yesterday:

Rural systems struggling on high blood pressure lines

SOLAR-PANEL owners in parts of country NSW are finding their systems do not work because the grid cannot handle the energy they produce. In some cases owners are being asked to pay for improvements themselves.

Patricia Stuart, 42, and her husband, Ian Gillies, 43, spent $65,000 on a 10-kilowatt array of solar panels for their property at The Channon, in northern NSW.

They hoped by feeding energy back into the grid using the state government’s Solar Bonus Scheme, their panels would pay for themselves in six years. However, the system just kept switching itself off.

“We’ve got ‘high blood pressure’ lines,” Ms Stuart said. “They’re old lines and they’re not big enough to carry the load of electricity going both ways. The voltage kept going too high for our system.”

[the utility said] “If the customer wants to put on more load than the network was designed for, we would be seeking a contribution from the customer,” which could cost ”thousands”.

Ms Stuart said if that was the case they would have to take the system down.

Quelle horreur!


@David B. Benson, – you suppose start up times are enough, you think that nuclear plant had negative pricing when they were new, you claim induction generators have several desirable characteristics for providing control over the shorter time periods, and you assert that the use of wind turbines does reduce burning fossil carbon.

You making these claims without backing them up is meaningless noise, produce proof for what you write, because I don’t believe a word of it, and I can proved data that shows that most of what you are saying is simply wrong.

If you want to try and make a case for wind do it with numbers, everything else is conjecture, or wishful thinking.

BTW The Bonneville Power Administration uses the same basic system for selling power every one else does, or at least within the general description I gave up thread. A lot of power producers have long term contracts as well, it was just not germane to the discussion.


@John Morgan – That was the thing that made my jaw drop to the ground when I first heard of these domestic generation schemes back in the 80s’. No one seemed phased by the fact that the distribution network was never designed for two-way traffic.

Everyone that is but the engineers that were responsible for maintaining it, but who listens to maintenance anyway?


David B. Benson,

As best as I can determine, the use of wind turbines does reduce burning fossil carbon.

I’d be very interested to see any studies that have actually measured the emissions avoided by wind farms. Could you ask your “professor” mates – down the corridor and one floor down – if they can point us to any such study of actual measurements.

Note: I recognise there are many modelling studies that produce the results the wind advocates like to publicise, but ….


My understanding is that there are protocols for exporting surplus microgeneration to the grid covering voltage, frequency and harmonics. The set up has to be approved in advance. My gripe is changing the rules mid way through the game. Microgenerators may have based their investment decision on a payback of say 5 -15 years. If the conditions change that to 30 years or perhaps never (as alleged with micro wind turbines) then the umpire has changed the rules.

Example the Collingwood vs St Kilda game score was 9 goals 14 points to 10 goals 8 points, a draw if a goal is worth 6 points. Suppose after each side busted their nuts the umpire made a goal worth 5 or perhaps 7 points. You’d change the umpire.

I understand there are also flow reversal problems with HVDC lines, as in not too often.


John Newlands – Ya, there are protocols for exporting surplus microgeneration to the grid, it doesn’t mean that there will be a net gain of power to the grid from doing it. Take away the government mandates that force the distributors to accept these things, and they would be gone tomorrow. The truth is the overwhelming bulk of the electricity pumped back into the line from microgeneration turns into heat long before it does any useful work.

The laws of physics are not subject to change by legislation. Unfortunately, short-sighted government intervention in support of this idea has created a market so distorted, that certain technologies with little real contribution have become fashionable, favoring eco-bling icons that attract massive public subsidies and policy support, which creates an inherently disproportionate cost to the taxpayer.


DV82XL, on 1 November 2010 at 12:24 PM & Peter Lang, on 1 November 2010 at 1:47 PM — Please do read an IEA Wind Power Study

Click to access T2493.pdf

(which I have linked prevously at least once).

I could easily have disremembered about negative pricing for NPPs; hold your breath.


Excuse me? You don’t drop a link to a 240 page document in our laps and tell us to find the parts that prove your statements. Is that how its done at your university? You don’t write a paper, you just tell the prof that he can find the information in the library. Somehow I don’t think so.


DV82XL, on 2 November 2010 at 8:18 AM — It took me about half a day. Think of it as yoour homework assignment. :)


Barry Brook, on 1 November 2010 at 12:03 PM — Thanks and I shook my head.

I’ll guess that the result is a highly overpowered French grid so they’ll have to export more. Which means somehow paying for the extra transmission that will require.

So I shook my head again.


Seriously, this is your answer? “Think of it as your homework assignment” As far as I am concerned you pulled your ‘facts’ right out of your butt. Anyone can make up things as they go along to support whatever they want in a debate, the whole point of this process is to have a meaningful discussion, not just blow B.S. past each other.

When you make a statement you back it up with a reference if challenged, or withdraw it as wrong. That’s how it works

Your attitude, and your answer demonstrates high contempt for us, and it is clearly a transparent attempt by a coward to avoid admitting he was wrong. You have no credibility left whatsoever.


DV82XL, on 2 November 2010 at 10:11 AM — Touchy today, arn’t we? Sorry the attempt at humor failed, but think of it as payback for “shill”.

Now seriously, do study the document. It is indeed my reference for matters about wind turbines that I hadn’t previously known; I found it quite useful as a basis for rational discussion of the revolutionary changes wind power brings to grid operation. [I found it helpful for some other matters not yet mature enough to present.]


Now seriously, provide the references or admit they are not there, your blowing smoke around to try and hide the fact that you got caught us. Be a man and admit it, or prove me wrong and show me the passages that support you statements.


DV82XL, on 2 November 2010 at 10:22 AM — The entire document is the reference. I believe you will find it of considerable interest albeit rather repititious.


Since so much of what is discussed on BNC is predicated on a climate sensitivity of 2+, I ask the big question: *Is Lindzen Wrong*? (see, for example, So much of what has made me skeptical has been inconclusive; that is, just because an argument is sloppy, or an individual less than honest, or a data set ‘corrected’ for the wrong reasons, it does not logically follow that the underlying argument is false. Lindzen on climate sensitivity, however, seems to be the strongest direct refutation of the hypothesis to date.

From the very start it seemed intuitively implausible to me that the net feedback could be positive.

None of this is to argue that the energy discussions are not important — just that underpinning assumptions around AGW may be more shaky than some realise.



Your link has nothing to do with Lindzen. You can however see a debate between Dressler and Lindzen here. Dressler eats Lindzen’s lunch and discusses climate sensitivity in a very clear and straightforward manner.



You say “Your link has nothing to do with Lindzen”

This is so incomprehensibly at odds with the link I posted that I do not bother watching the video you post. If you would care to even start responding to the material I introduce, then I will in good faith follow the points and arguments you employ to do so, but not before.


Bass Strait scallop fishermen have complained that seismic testing by Geosciences Victoria has killed their catch. Maybe we don’t need no stinkin’ scallops if a big oil find is on the cards. Not so, the testing was to find sites to inject liquid CO2 in conjunction with carbon capture projects
From the map it looks as if the sites are about 200 km from major point sources of CO2 like Hazelwood brown coal fired power station.

Does this mean they will shut down Hazelwood if CCS proves too expensive? Or is it part of a stalling exercise by appearing to be doing something?



Your link ends up at #29 in Watts excruciatingly tedious series of photographing weather stations.

I would also point out that lots of evidence ranging from models to direct measurement, and paleoclimate studies all point to a sensitivity of 3C. Your “intuition’ really count for much.


ok – apologies quokka – I understand what happened now.

My aim here is not to engage in a spitball debate on climate sensitivity. No doubt it is possible to provide any number of counter ‘links’ to the one I post. So, what am I doing?

Whatever ‘side’ you are on, I think the argument presented by Lindzen is a serious one. And it does not suffer from the weaknesses that arise when fitting CO2 to temperature across a reference period.

I am always prepared to change my views, and if someone can explain to me what is wrong with Lindzen’s argument, or present a *compelling* counter argument, them I will be happy to see that. However, on past experience, I will probably need some indication that you have comprehended the point I am making. I have been aware of this WUWT page for many months, read it several times, and it is the clearest and most concise form of the argument that I have seen. That is why I post it.


rafnics, there are always many ways you can come at a complex problem like climate sensitivity, where direct observations are not amenable (at least in the short- to medium-term). Lindzen and Choi, and Schwartz, have theories regarding negative feedbacks dominating, and they have some merit. But when the ensemble of lines of evidence are gathered, Lindzen’s model estimate falls at the lower tail. Make what you will of the body of evidence. This figure is particularly useful for illustrating this general point, which avoids getting into arguments about the validity of individual models/proxies:

The associated post is worth reading:


Some interesting facts here:

“The six-unit Gravelines nuclear power plant near Dunkerque in northern France has become the first nuclear plant in the world to deliver 1000 billion kilowatt-hours (one petawatt-hour) of electricity.
“It is the first nuclear power site to generate this historic figure, which is equal to twice the annual consumption of the whole of France.”
“The nuclear reactors at Gravelines have saved 1000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that would have been emitted to the atmosphere had coal been burnt instead. The high-level waste from the plant – which has been subjected to reprocessing – fills a volume about one-third that of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

French reactor reaches generation landmark

I think the report got a bit overly enthusiastic in equating this power station to 200,000 2MW wind turbines. 10,000 seems more realistic. Still a lot of wind turbines.


Turns out there is something called ITER under way in France, supported by quite an international consortium of fusion scientists and engineers. The hope, I gather, is to demonstrate usable net power gain in a fusion reactor.



Thank you for the post. I have to take issue with this statement:

I think the report got a bit overly enthusiastic in equating this power station to 200,000 2MW wind turbines. 10,000 seems more realistic. Still a lot of wind turbines.

I’d suggest a near infinite number of wind turbines cannot replace nuclear power, because wind turbines cannot provide power reliably. :)


Thanks Barry,

The graphic has rhetorical power, but says nothing in response to Lindzen’s argument – nor anything much at all really, unless one simply ‘believes’ graphics.

The article:

It starts by claiming three strands of evidence:
1. paleoclimate data
2. recent empirical data
3. generally accepted climate models

Most certainly interested in (1) and (2), but (3) is a cry to authority, and it is precisely the climate models that are on the line here.

Agree that climate sensitivity is not about CO2 per se, but is about what happens when the surface warms up a bit, for whatever reason.

Call to authority.
Call to models.
Call to authority of Hansen.
“The main limit on the sensitivity value is that it has to be consistent with paleoclimatic data.”
Models again.

“Other Empirical Observations”
Gregory et al. (2002) — based more-or-less on temperature data
Call to authority of Hansen / models (in the Empirical Observations section no less!).

“Using a Bayesian statistical approach”

Knutti and Hegerl (2008) – source of figure

end blah

SO – nothing in there to move me at all. Maybe further digging into the paleoclimate data could be interesting (although this is a really difficult area to do well); but in terms of the claim to “recent empirical data”, I give a solid fail to this piece.

My challenge, if you like, to make an actual direct hit on Lindzen’s argument.

Perhaps as an easier challenge, I’ll put my own intuition on the line. As quokka notes, intuition does not necessarily count for much in argument, but it can be a powerful influence in our own thinking. The intuitive difficulty I have with a climate sensitivity much greater than 1 comes back to this point that it is not CO2 per se that the system responds to; rather it is ‘temperature’. If a little warming causing more warming, then as far as I can see the system is unstable. We know that the system is in fact very stable (in the longer term at least), and so to my mind the climate sensitivity is driven by negative feedbacks more powerfully than positive ones.

I expect there is a simple misconception in my thinking here (and could even now write my own counter…), and will be happy to deepen my understanding; but please, I’d much prefer a paragraph or two from someone who *knows* they are telling me something solid over links to blah.


Models again

rafnics, as you would no doubt be aware, science is all about models. Lindzen’s theory is also a model. There’s no point criticising some models and not others, just because they’re models. Doesn’t make sense. There are some published critiques of Lindzen & Choi 2009 coming out, and science is proceeding as it should do. If you are interested in the deep details, it would be worth exploring this literature:

Paleoclimate data is strong evidence for climate sensitivity because whilst we can never be certain that models include (and realistically represent) all relevant processes, we can be sure that observed geophysical responses to climate change, in the real world, do – thereby providing the fundamental basis for calibration. Recent empirical data is similar, BUT, is sensitive to the duration of lag effects, such as ocean heat content exchanges.

The intuitive difficulty I have with a climate sensitivity much greater than 1 comes back to this point that it is not CO2 per se that the system responds to; rather it is ‘temperature’. If a little warming causing more warming, then as far as I can see the system is unstable. We know that the system is in fact very stable (in the longer term at least), and so to my mind the climate sensitivity is driven by negative feedbacks more powerfully than positive ones.

The climate sensitivity of 1 comes from CO2 being the direct forcing. Add a +ve feedback, and this warming will be enhanced; add a diminishing feedback, and this warming will be diminished. Your intuition says that the +ve feedbacks balance the -ve feedbacks, and in the long run, of course that is true — the climate system is in *approximate* equilibrium and has been for billions of years. But that does not mean that there is not ‘room’ for the climate system’s state to move within narrower bounds, and we should be able to (eventually) define these. Thus we have ice ages and hothouse conditions in the past. These were, axiomatically, forced by *something*, yet they also eventually stabilised.

How can +ve feedbacks drive further system change without causing runaway changes, as I think you’re asking? Well, that could occur if the +ve feedbacks diminish in strength with each feedback loop — or at least reach some maximum feedback strength, and then diminish. So, for instance, CO2 has a direct forcing effect that causes warming, leading to an increase in water vapour and release of CO2 from the oceans, causing more warming, and so on. But, if, over the longer term, these feedbacks are weaker than the initial direct effect of CO2 inputs caused by the triggering mechanisms (such as fossil fuel combustion, supervolcanoes, whatever), then a new equilibrium will be reached. That’s the core definition of climate sensitivity — it’s a new equilibrium condition after all the feedbacks have ‘played out’ (diminished to the point of insignificance).


Barry or anyone:

I have purchased and read whyvswhy, barry and Ian Lowe’s nuclear book.

I may make some comments a bit later, but I really want to get hold of the footnotes and for some reason, the pdf file on the why vs why site does not load on my computer (pretty new Mac).

Barry, if you have access to the notes for the book, could i get them? you have my email but here it is again:

Have you, Barry, had a chance to respond to the studies Ian cites to support his renewables vision? His arguments, to be honest, don’t appear to pass the laugh test.

what do you make of the reference to the Diesendorf claim to replace a 1000 MW coal plant with about 800 MW combining wind, nat gas and bioelectricity?

it makes no sense on the face of it, unless I am missing something, which of course has occurred more than once.



rafnics, on 4 November 2010 at 1:39 AM — I early posted a link to my little study which suffices to demonstrate that Lindzen’s lowball estimate cannot be correct.

As for positive feedbacks and stability, many are simply misinformed regarding when it is possible to have both. This is being discussed in the comments of

More generally on climate stability, it is the case that fairly small forcings set it into other modes, even such little matters as orbital forcings causing descent into and recovery from glacials.


Anyone who still thinks this issue will no be won or lost on the back of public opinion would do well to look at what has happened in the state of Vermont.

Greenpeace can barely contain themselves:

This afternoon we’re a step closer to shutting down Vermont Yankee!

Anti-Nuclear CampaignIn an extremely close race, Peter Shumlin (D) defeated Brain Dubie (R) and will be the next Governor of the Green Mountain State. Shumlin is an avowed opponent of extending the license of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon past its expiration in 2012, citing the plant’s leaks and other problems and its owners’ poor record in dealing with state officials.

Dubie was open to granting the plant an extension to operate and wanted decisions about the Vermont Yankee’s future made by “experts” at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Public Service Board.

Entergy, which owns the decrepit 38 year old reactor, has vowed to challenge the state and attempt to relicense the reactor. Greenpeace and our allies won a major victory with the shut down vote and now have a Governor who will defend that vote. Our job, now, as Greenpeace is to use our powers of persuasion and convince Entergy to give up the ghost!

Below is the statement we released to the media upon Shumlin’s victory from our resident Vermonter aka Mark Floegel:

“Earlier this year, Peter Shumlin provided the impetus behind the Senate vote to retire the dirty, dangerous and dilapidated Vermont Yankee nuclear plant,” said Greenpeace’s Mark Floegel. “Mr. Shumlin’s election as governor proves again that Vermonters want a clean energy future. Entergy should withdraw its license renewal application and prepare to permanently retire the reactor in March 2012,” Floegel concluded.

In February the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 to deny Entergy and Vermont Yankee a certificate of public good. In a 26 to 4 vote, the Vermont Senate decided that the continued operation of the 38-year-old nuclear reactor was not in the best interest of Vermonters.

Greenpeace looks forward to working with the governor elect to ensure a safe and orderly shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Concurrently, rumor has it that Entergy Corp. will announce this week that it plans to sell the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Note that while the State of Vermont cannot rule on this plant’s license, (such things are a federal prerogative in the U.S.) the company that owns it is fed up with the State and and has decided that continuing to do business there is not worth the trouble.


DV82XL, Thanks for this. I put my own interpretation on it and posted it elswhere.

I also posted this, so I thought I’d post it here too.

Estimated US Energy Subsidies in 2006

Technology: $/MWh
Nuclear: $1.42

Wind: $8.22
Solar: $156.33
Hydro: $1.05

Coal: $1.29
Oil & Gas: $3.61

This shows that subsidies (just the ones included in you source document) for wind energy are 6 times and for solar energy are 110 times the subsidies for nuclear per MWh supplied.

Government financial subsidies, 2006:
IEA, Electricity and heat for USA, 2007


Wow – thanks Barry

a question: how do I post plots?

ps – thanks to Peter also – to me that seems about right in proportions, but no idea on scale

isn’t the US inventing money in any case?


Peter Lang, on 4 November 2010 at 7:22 PM — Thanks!

rafnics, on 5 November 2010 at 2:09 AM — I, of course, have read it and commented thereupon.


The solar power production costs will be as low as 12.6 eurocents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. At the same time, fossil fuel electricity costs around 15.6 eurocents. The study and estimation has been made by Phoenix Solar AG, of course, a German solar panel manufacturer.

The study also suggests that the current costs of building and commissioning new natural gas and coal-fired power plants are higher than the costs of solar cells production, which is currently around 23.8 cents per kWh.

derived from


Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon

The world’s largest rain forest has long been a bulwark of hope for a planet troubled by climate change. Covering an area the size of the continental United States, the Amazon holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water and generates a fifth of its oxygen. With the planet’s climate increasingly threatened by surging carbon emissions, the Amazon has been one of the few forces keeping them in check. But the latest scientific evidence suggests the forest may be unable to shield us from a hotter world.

Every ecosystem has some point beyond which it can’t go,” said Oliver Phillips, a tropical ecology professor at the University of Leeds who has spent decades studying how forests react to changing weather. “The concern now is that parts of the Amazon may be approaching that threshold.


In relation to the RealClimate piece on feedback, I have read it, and do not hold it in high esteem.
I have already taken the time to respond in some detail to one link posted in response to my link:

And now, until someone acts in kind and intelligently, and directly, critiques the Lindzen piece, I refrain from spending more of my time in this way. Fair enough?

In relation to Barry’s comment (4 November 2010 at 10:26 AM), I refrain from making more than a passing comment that the sorts of ‘models’ we are talking about here are quite new to science. What I do want to follow up on in the nature of positive feedback, at least one step beyond ‘intuition’ or belief in authority.

At a basic level; If 1 degree of warming induces a positive feedback that generates an extra X degrees of warming (as required by the AGW hypothesis), this extra will in turn induce a further X^2, which will in turn induce a further X^3 etc. Patently X must be less than 1. Now, this geometric series sums to 1 / (1 – X), and so is easy to plot. Simply for your consideration I include this here:


rafnics, your plot didn’t come out. There is no requirement that X must (or should) remain constant over each feedback cycle, since the determinants of X are many and complex and depend (among other things) or reservoirs and response times. That was one of my points. So x might be larger that 1 for a loop, and then diminish thereafter.


What can we do break the log jam?

I think most long time BNCers would acknowledge BNC is dominated by people from the Left side of politics.

They chat amongst themselves and reinforce their beliefs about what should be done and how it should be done. They tend to resist policy suggestions from the Conservative side of politics. In fact, they criticise and ridicule the Conservatives for not seeing things the same way as the Left sees things.

The Left tends to use derogatory terms like “Denier” and “Crock of the Week”. Do you really think this is going to convert anyone who has doubts about what the Left are preaching (preaching like an extremist religious group)?

For many, when they hear this sort of talk, it is not taken the way it is intended by the speaker. It is interpreted as: “the speaker is an extremist of the Left with deeply held convictions. What they are preaching is part of an agenda whose primary purpose is to impose the Left’s package of reforms on society”. That is how it is interpreted.

This interpretation is reinforced, for me, by the fact that most of the Left who support nuclear are more interested in arguing with the Conservatives about ideology than in trying to convert their Left brethren to change their anti-nuclear stance. The Left who believe in nuclear should be focusing their efforts on changing the policy of Greens, Greenpeace, etc, instead of trying to convert the Conservatives.

If the Left was more interested in cutting emissions than in trying to convert Conservatives to accept Left ideology, they would focus on trying to find common ground with the Conservatives. I’d suggest this:

1. Stop using derogatory terms like “Denier” and “Crock of the week”, etc. Reach out to the doubters instead.

2. Separate off all your other Left ideological baggage and leave it out of your arguments altogether.

3. Ask the Conservatives what they want instead of trying to tell them what, in your opinion, they should want.

4. Be prepared to adopt economically rational policies to achieve what you want. That way you can give the Conservatives what they want (reduced electricity prices, reduced government, reduce tax and no other Left baggage) and also get what you say you most want (reducing CO2 emissions).

5. Work on what can be done to remove the impediments to low-cost low-emissions electricity generation. Seriously tackle this one!!!!!

6. Focus on converting your Left brethren instead of on attacking and ridiculing the Conservatives.


Really, Peter?

I don’t really identify much as “Leftist”, but you can easily reverse your points to say the same about the Right.


1. Stop using derogatory terms like “Alarmist” and “Climate Change Fraud”, etc.

2. Separate off all your other Right ideological baggage and leave it out of your arguments altogether.

3. Ask the Left what they want instead of trying to tell them what, in your opinion, they should want (e.g. only the cheapest electricity).

4. Be prepared to adopt socially just policies to achieve what you want.

5. Work on what can be done to remove the influence of the fossil fuels industry, which impede on low-cost low-emissions electricity generation.

6. Focus on converting your Conservative brethren instead of on attacking and ridiculing the Left.

I’m not saying I necessarily disagree with all that you wrote, or agree with all of what I just wrote. But I don’t really think this gets us anywhere. In all honesty I don’t see the point in spending much time engaging with the ideological Right or Left. It’s the majority of those who are centrist/care less about politics who are worth talking to about these important issues.


Tom Keen — as is typically the case, I agree with you. As long was we make this a left/right issue, or even perceive it in this way, we get no where. I see both ‘sides’ guilty of this — but perhaps it has always, and will always, be that way. Human nature and all that.


The first wave of nuclear power development was gradually destroyed by a well-planned political campaign, which was part of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West. The long-term strategy of the Soviet Union was to weaken the West any way it could. During the Cold War the Soviet Union provided massive financial support to Communist parties worldwide. It is notable that the vast majority of the vociferous opponents of nuclear power have been Communists and left-wing politicians. It is therefore not unreasonable to surmise that the campaign against nuclear power originated in the Soviet Union. It was very well planned and was made plausible by basing it on physical facts that are correct, but exaggerated completely out of proportion, the traditional tool of Soviet propagandists.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has leveraged their vast natural gas resources to replace influence they lost with the break up of their empire and their loss of military hegemony in Eastern Europe. It became increasingly clear to them that this strategy was being undermined by the reemergence of interest in nuclear power. If Western nations built more and more nuclear reactors they could become less reliant on Russia gas. It was therefore again necessary to persuade them that nuclear reactors were unsafe and dangerous, so that public opinion would become opposed to nuclear power and so prevent more reactors from being built.

What we are seeing in Europe of late is just that.

I do not believe for an instant that protests on this scale are spontaneous. These are organized by a well oiled machine, that knows exactly what it is doing and has the funds to do so. The communication budget alone for this weekend probably ran close to a million euros, and the coordination we are seeing shows far to much advanced planning to have been carried off by Greenpeace, who just does not have the apparatus to pull something like this off.

I hate to sound like an old Cold warrior, seeing commies behind every tree, but this event is just too reminiscent of the protests in the Sixties, and the threat to Russian interests too clear to ignore the possibility.


Well speaking as a hardcore commie leftist who was very active in the sixties protests in Australia I can confirm that the most hard core were also the most anti-soviet and we had no objection to nuclear power.

The Democrats in the USA were as I recall the party that got into Vietnam under Kennedy and escalated under Johnson. The Republicans under Nixon got out. Leftists at the time certainly never regarded the Democrats as leftist and (nobody thought the Republicans were).

Parties like the British and Australian Labor Parties are not by any reasonable criteria leftist, though admittedly there are still people who think so. The Greens are polar opposites of Reds politically as well as in the color spectrum. They are openly reactionary and stand directly opposed to the barest minimum concepts of progress and support for a better life for workers common to any actual leftist.

There’s an obvious tactical alliance between the gas industry, wind industry and Greens that is well organized and financed. As far as I know the gas industry is closely associated with as well as competitive with the goal industry. I haven’t seen any evidence of a connection with Russian gas producers.

Currently there is no active left in western politics. That has left a lot of space for outright reactionary opposition to modernity and leaves traditional conservatives stuck with agreeing with leftists that this reactionary shit is intolerable. Its rather strange to be blaming either a non-existant communist left or the Russians for what is plainly the dominant ruling ideology of pessimism and fear.


@Arthur – While I know that it is difficult on this blog to avoid the distinction, my accusation of Russian influence has nothing to do with the tiresome Left vs Right tensions that are a constant undercurrent here. That the Soviet Union provided massive financial support to Communist parties worldwide during the Cold War is a matter of historical record, as is the fact that they used that support to leverage their foreign policy.

Furthermore, if you cannot see evidence of Gazprom’s influence on European politics, over the last decade, it is because you have your eyes closed.

And please don’t start making pointless remarks about the West doing the same in the Third World – we know already – it’s just not germane to the events right now in Germany.

@Luke Weston – Most people are attracted to some intuitive (and wrong) notion of epistemic fairness: Someone is making one claim, the other guy is making another claim, the two of them are therefore on equal footing. But insinuating that the open lies that are Caldicott’s stock in trade, are just as valid as the well researched, and well reasoned arguments of Gwyneth Cravens, is a mockery of the intellectual honesty this fool Schneider pretends to be serving.

There are many honest critics of the nuclear option who’s arguments could be examined and evaluated, rather than giving any credence to the rubbish that Caldicott utters. Far from showing the other side of the issue, it makes those that oppose nuclear power look like cartoon villains, which is not the case in general. At least her students a sophisticated enough to call out this stuff for what it is when they see it.



Glad you recognize that the absurd “left/right” stuff here has nothing to do with actual left and right politics. FYI the Communist Party in Australia was both strongly anti-Soviet and a conservative influence dragging back the much more radical (and and much more anti-Soviet) militant protests against the Vietnam war. The protests were inspired by the war, not by Soviet funds (and we openly carried “Viet Cong” flags to identify with the communist “enemy” so it isn’t a matter of concealed Soviet influence but open communist influence that was also strongly anti-Soviet and received no Soviet funding.

I think you’ll find that Margaret Thatcher’s enthusiasm for undermining the mining unions by switching Britain from coal to gas had a lot more to do with the situation in Europe that any machinations from Gazprom.

Do the tentacles of Gazprom also explain the situation in the USA, Australia etc? Seems to me the local gas industry has its own interests independent of Gazprom.


A $30 per tonne CO2 price is about equal to $11-$12 per tonne rise in coal price. With sea transported thermal coal currently at ~ $100 per tonne, that’s say 12% increase in fuel cost for coal fired electricity. Which is neither here nor there in view of the fact that coal prices have risen hugely over the last decade (300% ?).

For nations without abundant domestic coal supplies, relying on imported coal looks quite risky over the life time of new coal plants, both in price and security of supply.

Countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam must surely have taken account of this in opting for new nuclear.


Do the tentacles of Gazprom also explain the situation in the USA, Australia etc? Seems to me the local gas industry has its own interests independent of Gazprom.

One would assume. Consider that there is plans to build a gas fired plant to replace Vermont Yankee, and in Ontario, which has the greatest number of NPP in Canada, are tuning to gas to replace all their dirt burners, rather than let Bruce Power build another nuclear station at Nanticoke.

As for Margaret Thatcher pro-gas stance in the U.K., keep in mind that was in the heyday of North Sea gas.

My remark about Gazprom was in reference to Central and Eastern Europe, but gas interests have been lobbying against nuclear everywhere.


Oh and I see that there was more than one group claiming to be the legitimate Communist Party in Australia, and at least one of them was clearly pro-Soviet, a detail you accidentally left out.



There were 3. The largest one was anti-Soviet following invasion of Czechoslovakia. The militant wing of the protests was led by Maoists in some states, trots and anarchists in others, mpst of the activists were of course not communist at all. There was a very small pro-Soviet party which had little influence on the Vietnam protests (as far as I can recall they had nothing against nuclear power and the Maoists certainly didn’t).

If you are really curious about the party line on nuclear power at the height of the Cold War go to a research library that has “The Marxist Quarterly” Vol 3 No 2, April 1956 special issue on Atomic Power and Automation.

It is wildly enthusiastic about nuclear power and denounces the diversion of uranium resources from peaceful uses to weapons.


Arthur – You are missing the point: (or avoiding it) the Soviet Union used their influence with international communist groups to further their own ends during the Cold War. In many cases, that was to encourage the antinuclear movement. If they did not see the need to do so in Oz or not, isn’t germane to the hypothesis that they are using the same network to cause the problems we are seeing in Europe right now.

Of course they were all for nuclear power on the surface, they certainly used it at home, and they paid lip-service internationally to the ‘Peaceful Atom’ in their rhetoric, they just did not want the West to use it. This is about subterfuge, not ideology.

Clearly, it is now to the advantage of Russia, economically, and geopoliticaly to maintain and encourage European dependency on Russian supplied gas. Naturally they see growth in nuclear power as a threat to that. It would be foolish not to examine the possibility that there was some Russian influence in these very large protests.


I’m beginning to understand green chic. It’s all about gestures and some vague sense that nasty coal and oil will be replaced, but not just yet. What brought this to a head was hearing that a bus tour will visit the micro-hydro in the next valley from my place. That installation generates 7-14 kwe. Then I recalled that Monarto Zoo in South Australia has installed tracking PV as an attraction alongside the exotic animals. The best system output is over 300 kwh/day.

In both cases many times that power could be generated from the internal combustion engines of the buses and cars that visit. What’s going on? I suggest that these small installations are in effect religious shrines. Visitors become infused with a sense that all will be right with the world. Pity they can’t tell the difference between very small numbers and the large numbers of the real world.

I suspect we’ll go on this way until there is a reality check. Hopefully there will still be enough money to do more than gestures.


Rather than further derail the quite good thread on electricity prices, I’ll remark on biofuels on this open thread.

There are sensible biofuels and senseless ones. Ethanol from maize is in the latter category. But fuels based of vegatible oils can be sensible, although often are not. For example, rapeseed oil probably is just barely carbon neutral and after figuring in the production of nitrogen fertilizer might not make it up to the mark.

However jatropha, while banned in West Australia I gather, is quite a sensible choice in some places. It has the advantage of being poisonous, so isn’t a food the way palm oil is. It has the advantage that all vegatable oils have of being readily refined into biodiesel; alternatively a stationary diesel is easily converted to run on raw jatropha oil. After all Herr Diesel originally designed his engine to run on vegatable oil, presciently noting that the world would eventually run out of petroleum.

There is a jatropha plantation in Myanmar (Burma) and I have read about two successful co-operatives in India where jatropha is grown to provide otherwise off-grid villages with a few hours of electricity in the early part of the night.

The possiblity of producing significant amounts of biodiesel and bio-jet-fuel remains but a possibility; maybe someday that will work.

Another, but non-biological, possibliity is discussed in the link:


PB I make quite a lot of biodiesel using waste vegetable oil and catalysts, but at very low cost. I’ll omit numbers. The use of WVO could be regarded as ‘bottom feeding’ the way crabs eat dead whales that fall to the sea floor. However detritus feeding is a limited niche which won’t power the more active parts of the system. If all the trucks on a single major highway tried to run on biodiesel from used frying oil there wouldn’t be enough. Some claim that algae can produce enough fatty oil (triglyceride) to make plenty of biodiesel but this approach doesn’t seem to be working out.

Where I live (Tasmania) is too cold for jatropha so I’ve experimented with olive and Chinese tallow trees. They are also too slow growing. Leguminous oilseeds like canola seem to invite insect plagues. My conclusion is that we should largely replace liquid fuels with natural gas while it is still cheap. Therefore not burn so much in power stations. Convert some NG to jet fuel and range extender fuel for battery hybrid cars. Meanwhile try to get costs down on thermochemical fuels like Fischer Tropsch diesel, methanol, dimethyl ether and synthetic methane; if necessary with the assistance of nuclear hydrogen. Bio-ethanol and biodiesel can never replace 86 million barrels of oil a day.

Your link describes an electrochemical approach some variant of which may turn out to be least cost. When there is no oil or gas and food is expensive we will have to find a way of combining organic waste carbon with hydrogen and then cycling the products within the biosphere.


Jatropha is a bad weed in northern Australia, and a lot of money has and is being spent on eradicating it.

Biofuels and burning biomass for electricity generation strike me as being very backwards ways of addressing the issues of transitioning from fossil fuels. Yet they are often touted by politicians, industry and advocacy groups alike as being a clean source of energy.

Surely if people are thinking rationally about the environment and conservation, they would see that the only way to achieve a good outcome is by taking pressure off of the biosphere, not by placing more dependence on it. This yet another reason (among many) I support a transition from fossil fuels to nuclear, as it helps to achieve just that.


Since this is an open thread, I would like to promote somediscussion on UCG (underground coalseam gassification). I have not seem any coverage of this on BNC (but my apologieis if I’ve missed something).
Assuming (with a big A) that there turn out to be no major issues on leakage of aromatic hydrocarbons into the near-surface groundwater, this seems tome to be be a technology with promise.
It extracts a lot more energy from buried (and otherwise usless) coal seams than does CSG, it doesn’t need profile dewatering and it delivers a useful mix of gases from whic CO2 can be easilty removed for sequestration (assuming we can do this economically- and I don’t know if this is the case).
What am I missing and why has this not had the profile I think it deserves in the energy mix?
Over to those with a wider perspective than mine….


Along with the issues you mentioned, others which have not been solved with UCG are:

– When larger UCG patterns are used, subsidence of the surface will occur inevitably which may have a deleterious impact on structures and land use above the working seam. Most importantly subsidence may lead to disruption of overlying aquifers, and potential uncontrollable gas leakage.

– Poor heating value of the generated gas, as perforce, the exact physical composition of the working seam is not accurately known.

– And for the same reason, managing the burn-front is technically difficult, and it is unknown just how much control can be exercised.

-The process still needs large volumes of water.


The woes of UCG developer Cougar Energy illustrate the problems
If I recall George Monbiot thought that UCG would unlock all the nooks and crannies of otherwise inaccessible coal seams thereby postponing Peak Coal. By the way some reckon global Peak Coal will occur in 2011 but the downslope will be gradual.

Note the lack of control over the underground plumbing is similar to the problems of hot dry rock geothermal. HDR was supposed to be providing us with renewable baseload power a year ago but I gather this and other problems are proving insurmountable.


Leigh Bettenay,

Assuming (with a big A) that there turn out to be no major issues on leakage of aromatic hydrocarbons into the near-surface groundwater, this seems tome to be be a technology with promise.

Why would anyone make an assumption like that?

Shouldn’t we assume that of course it will leak and of course it will poison the water in the Great Artesian Basin?

That is, poison it for at least 2 million years – the time it takes for water to pass through the GAB.

For BNC’s overseas contributors, coal deposits are part of the Great Artesian Basin. The Great Artesian is the largest artesian basin in the world (so I understand), most of Queensland, much of NSW and North eastern area of South Australia, has porosity up to 20% in places (exceptionally high), is recharged in the highlands along the eastern side of Australia, and the water flows west through the aquifers to all parts of the basin . It provides drinking water for people and animals over an enormous area of otherwise dry, inland Australia.

In recent years these groups have been stuffing it up (or want to):

– Carbon Capture and Storage want to use it and are already running pilot projects

– Geothermal energy

– Coal seam methane (already several reports of toluene being releeased into the ground water in the GAB).

– Underground Coal Gassification

– Mining (all types)


DV82XL — I talked with Carl Hauser at lunch today about where he found out about NPPs with negative pricing overnight. He recalls reading about it, just a mention, in the report of the 2003 Northeast blackout. At that time there was probably almost no wind turbines connected to the Eastern grid. I opine that some industrial user, such as electric furnaces to make rebar out of scrap steel, was willing to be paid to operate graveyard shift.


Do you have a reference to back this story up, or are you going to tell me your leaving it to me to find one as an exercise?

On the other hand I don’t really care since you have demonstrated that any discussion with is a waste of my time. You are simply not worth engaging with.

I will not be responding to anything you write from now on.


Tom Keen, on 12 November 2010 at 3:40 PM — I don’t know how Jatropha species were introduced into nothern Australia, but small holders in Southeast Asia introduced some of these species, all native to central America (and maybe the Carribean islands) as a boder for their fields. The leaves are poisonous as well so the plantings help keep the pests out. In that circumstance, pressing the oil to burn or sell with the resulting oilcake for cookfires is an additional benefit.

I opine that Jatropha cultivation is suited mainly for the tropics and for those whose daily labor earns them only the most modest of livings. Nonetheless, it is a start towards a more energy intensive way of life.

It certainly isn’t a replacement for NPPs but is a suppliment for declining reserves of petroleum.


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