Emissions from Scotland

Unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, Scotland seeks to cut emissions faster deeper and more thoroughly. It aims to reduce (from 1990 levels) emissions by 42% by 2020, which is in less than eight short years’ time, and by a massive 80% by 2050. If it can achieve this it will have led the rest of Europe in emission reduction. Continue reading

Energy Prices: no matter what we do the only way is up

In the United Kingdom the growing cost of energy has dominated the news. People must now pay significantly more for gas and electricity (and fuel oil and portable gas) than most of them ever expected to pay. The average fuel bill for a UK home is now £1350 each year. More and more people are being driven into fuel poverty and more and more people have to economise on energy. Continue reading

Energy use grows faster than economic activity

Two odd and apparently inconsistent statistics emerge from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy. One statistic shows that world demand for energy increased from 2009 to 2010 by 5.6%. That is a large increase in demand. The other statistic is that world economic activity grew by less than energy demand which was 4.9%. The explanation lies in where the growth in energy demand and the growth in economic activity mainly took place. Continue reading

Can we keep the lights on?

Can we, as a nation, keep the lights on, with these intermittent wind turbines? Can we keep the lights on, without nuclear power stations or coal burning power stations? Can we keep the lights on, with all these climate change targets? You often hear journalists and politicians ask these questions when discussing energy. The question indicates the importance of energy security, being able to flick a switch and know that the lights will come on, every time. However, they are asking the wrong question. Energy security is not about keeping the lights on. Continue reading

Weather is Temporary, Climate Permanent

People confuse weather with climate. Weather, like form, is temporary but climate like quality is permanent, or relatively so. When we say that there is climate change we are not speaking of changes in weather from day to day or even year to year or even decade to decade, but a process which has always happened. Until the industrial revolution that process was gentle and slow and mostly took hundreds of years but since the industrial revolution has moved much more quickly. If you measure this process as a trend over the centuries it can be seen more clearly. Continue reading

A Short Guide to the United Kingdom’s Renewable Energy Statistics

This year the United Kingdom is generating 3% of its energy requirements from renewable sources as defined by the European Union. That may seem to be cause for celebration, as that figure can only rise, we hope. Continue reading

The delta lands are sinking

When a river flows it picks up all kind of debris from the act of running water over rock, subsoil and soil. Generally rivers deposit this debris, known as sediment, at their moths where they often form large deltas, like the Nile delta or the Delta of the Mississippi. Deltas are made up of many islands formed by the constant deposit of sediment, and they are kept in check by the natural action of the river which washes some of the delta land into the sea. Continue reading

Energy, monopolies and cartels

 The ambition of every business is to become a monopoly, if it cannot achieve that, its ambition will be to become part of a cartel. The ambition of every government should be to prevent monopolies and to outlaw cartels.  A business having a monopoly or being part of a cartel enables it to make profits without any market mechanism to restrain those profits. It can charge what it likes and its owners will live a life of great riches. Continue reading

How much fuel is left in the world?

In London when I was much younger there were two fellows who walked around with sandwich boards, not because of their occupations, but as a result of their preoccupations. One chap’s board had a message that warned against the eating of beans and pulses, which according to this chap were at the root of all lasciviousness and evil. The other chap’s message was, at the front of his board, “the end of the world is nigh”. He wanted to tell the population of London that the world was about to end. On the back of his board the message read “prepare to meet thy doom”. Continue reading

Natural gas – going , going…

How much natural gas is left in the world depends, primarily, upon the definition that you use. In the energy industry they talk about “proven” or “proved” reserves, which is the amount of natural gas that can be taken from known places with reasonable certainty under current operating and economic conditions.

It is fairly obvious that all of the big gas fields have been discovered; there is little left to find, except perhaps around the poles.

According to the latest information at the end of 2008 there were 185.02 trillion cubic metres of natural gas. The largest deposits by far are in Russia (45 trillion) and the Middle East (50 trillion). US Canada and Mexico can only muster less than 9 trillion and the European Union less than 5 trillion. The UK has less than 0.34 trillion cubic metres of gas.

At the present rate of consumption the gas will last 60 years.

However, to get an accurate picture about natural gas reserves and consumption you have to go back first to the definition; one of the factors for reserves of gas being “proved” is that the gas must be economic to extract under current operating conditions. The higher the price of natural gas the more economic it becomes to extract gas and therefore fields that were not in the category of “proven” fall into that category, as the price of natural gas rises. Conversely, as the price of natural gas falls, fields that were proved become uneconomic and fall out of that category. Either way, the amount of natural gas within the earth remains finite and the same.

The second thing to bear in mind is that as poorer countries improve their standards of living and become “developed” so the consumption of gas will increase. More gas will be used to heat homes, as more people can afford this and more gas will be used for electricity generation. The future numbers of people using natural gas will increase for this reason.

The third thing to bear in mind is that the world’s population is increasing all the time and this will create more demand for gas, regardless of any increases in prosperity among poorer nations; the richer nations will still have children.

The fourth thing to bear in mind is that there will be some reduction is gas consumption (on an appliance basis or on a power station basis) as a result of increasing efficiencies. Today condensing boilers are more efficient that non-condensing boilers and use less gas; perhaps they do not use that much less gas, but there is an efficiency that will lead to less gas being used.

On large scale gas consumption by power stations at least half the gas used is wasted and sent into the atmosphere as waste heat. With the political will, this waste heat could be harnesses to much greater effect than at present, and when it is, there will be savings in the overall fossil fuel energy requirement.

Now, I am not a mathematician and cannot design or invent an algorithm to process and calculate what will happen about gas usage, and in any event, even if someone can, it will only be as robust as its assumptions prove to be correct.

If I consider each of the factors about future natural gas use, add to them the fact that natural gas is far less polluting than its main competitors of coal and oil, I think it is reasonable to conclude that we have enough natural gas to last us around thirty to forty years. The basis of this prediction is that in my opinion population growth and prosperity will outweigh efficiencies and discoveries. I do not think that I am wrong – the only things that I can foresee stopping population growth are climate change and environmental degradation.

The energy used by the children of those born today will be very different from the energy sources we now use.