Are renewables a worthwhile or worthless investment?


It is sometimes argued that renewables sometimes create worthless energy at a very high cost; they only exist with huge taxpayers’ subsidies or as a result of users of non renewable energy being fined or taxed. It is further argued that if climate change is not caused by fossil fuel burning (perfectly feasible, but highly unlikely) then we will have invested in renewables at a very high cost for no reason, and we could have and should have used the money better.

It will not surprise you to learn that I disagree with these arguments and I think that they are false. The best way to explain why I think that renewables are valuable and important and necessary is to dissect the arguments against them, bit by bit. Continue reading

Why power cuts will get worse and worse and even the Wichita lineman won’t be able to cope

This week parts of the United Kingdom suffered power cuts. You might expect it in the depth of winter, but not on a rainy day in May. Why should there be any power cuts at all? Forty years ago, Jimmy Webb gave the clue in his song:

I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searching in the sun for another overload Continue reading

Personal Carbon Allowances or carbon taxation?

Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee think that personal carbon allowances would be a useful way of reducing emissions. The system that they have in mind is complicated and like most of the systems that really clever people invent it seeks to change people’s behaviour by a system of incentives and penalties and shies away from introducing any real measures, rather expecting that carbon emission reduction behaviour will follow as a result of the scheme.

Personal carbon allowances are supposed to work like this. Everyone would have a personal carbon cap and be given an allowance to emit. If they exceed their personal emissions they can buy allowances from people who have some spare and thus it would reward people who made positive efforts to reduce their emissions, just like your supermarket reward card. Continue reading

Is your roof construction suitable for solar panels?

Solar thermal systems – producing hot water and/or central heating support need panels and these panels are usually fixed to a roof. In the United Kingdom we have literally hundreds of roofing materials and types as well as roof designs and locations so a manufacturer like Genersys designs roof fixings which we hope will cover every type of roof. What follows below are details of the options that you as a consumer will have. Continue reading

The latest carbon emission savings device – the Carbon Reduction Commitment

 The 2007 Energy White Paper proposed a Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme which fills some of the very large gaps in the Emissions Trading Scheme but continues the ETS policy of “cap and trade” as a way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment (which I shall now call CRC) aims to reduce emissions by 1.2 million tonnes of carbon (or do they mean carbon dioxide) by 2020. I always think it hard to “cap and trade” in an item like carbon dioxide that has no commercial value; it is all rather artificial and involves a long lead in time before those aimed at have to undertake carbon reduction measures. Continue reading

Oil and currency – Britain’s nightmare scenario that may happen soon

I wrote yesterday about the very high oil prices and explained the various views of where the oil and natural gas prices will be in the future. You will remember that they have doubled in twelve months and I expect that they will double again over the next 12 to 24 months.

The United Kingdom’s energy policy over the past 10 years has been derisory and has not taken account of what I and others have been pointing out for years; fuel prices will increase owing to shortages of fuel and increasing demand. It is, I think, as simple as that.

If you look at the 2003 Energy White Paper and at the 2007 Energy White Paper you will, in the light of today’s oil prices, be astonished at just how superficially each white paper deals with the security of our fuel supplies. One relies on markets to provide what we want and the other talks about getting our fair share of the world’s energy – an infantile desire which we do not have the means or the stomach to enforce.

Our government is threatening to embark on a course of a rather hopeless round of trying to persuade OPEC to increase production. Gordon Brown hopes that oil companies will discover more oil. This of course makes a mockery of any climate change policy. Mr Brown will find it hard to reduce the tax take from oil (which is the simplest way of adjusting the price) because his government’s expenditure seems over committed.

So, imagine the doubling of oil prices in the next 24 months without tax relief. The people who will be hit hardest are those who live in rural areas where they need to use cars more and where they are likely to be off the gas grid network and using heating oil. Paying over £1.10 a litre for heating oil will cause real hardship.

But none of these are in themselves a nightmare scenario. That happens if the United States dollar strengthens against the pound sterling. At roughly $2 for every £1 the dollar is at its historical weakest.

Every time there has been a new American President the United States has had increased confidence and that increased confidence works through to more prosperous economy and that in turn creates a stronger dollar.

Of course, the dollar may not strengthen and the oil price may not keep getting harder but these are the conditions that create a nightmare for the United Kingdom: if the dollar strengthened to $1.50 to a pound and the oil price increased to $270 a barrel then instead of paying £67.50 a barrel we would pay £180 a barrel for oil (and £3 a litre for heating oil) and we seem to have done nothing as a nation to insure against this nightmare actually happening.

If you don’t worry too much because you are on natural gas – start worrying because natural gas too is priced in dollars and linked to the oil price.

The energy nightmare could start next year.

Oil prices keep getting higher – what will happen next?

The oil price is getting higher and higher. This time last year it was $66 a barrel. On 22nd May it reached $135 a barrel, jumping by 2% in just 24 hours. It seems that when the United States announced that its stocks (or as they say inventory) of oil showed that they are holding 5.4 million barrels less than they used to hold, the market expected the US to buy in oil to make up the shortages and that would cause prices to rise as demand rose.

There are various differing takes on why the oil price is rising and where it will go. Continue reading

The Clean Development Mechanism and Emissions Trading or a Carbon Tax?

The great and the good of the world have decided that one of the best ways to combat excessive carbon dioxide emissions is by way of a “Clean Development Mechanism”.

In December 1997 at Kyoto in Japan the world’s nations agreed that nations that have fixed limits for their greenhouse gas emissions can assist other nations to implement projects that reduce emissions by “removals” (that is to say carrying out an activity that would normal create emissions in a way that reduces the emissions) or by “sinks” (that is to say sequestrating the emissions). Where one of these projects is implemented the country providing the assistance can count the units of saved emissions as part of their own. Continue reading

Does buying a carbon offset genuinely offset carbon?

Carbon offsetting is a large industry which sells people things that might or might not be what they expect to purchase and might or might not work. The industry is entirely unregulated although there is a promised “Code of Conduct” for the UK there is no agreed standard about what people are allowed to sell and what they are allowed to claim in their sales pitch. When you have bought a product from this industry you have no idea whether you have actually done something useful or thrown away your money. Continue reading

Iceland, the Human Development Index and Whaling

A whale comes up to say \The United Nations Development Program defines whether a country is developed, and if so how developed by using an Index, the Human Development Index. This index is also a tool for calculating which countries are the most developed. The index contains measures of life expectancy, literacy, education, and gross domestic product per capita. I do not know whether the Index has all the correct weighting and so forth but it certainly seems to be accepted.

So, we have put all the details of all the nations in the world into the Human Development Index and are looking for the winner. And the winner of the category of the most developed country in the world is….Iceland.

The most developed country in the world is now set to resume whaling. Continue reading