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Can coal continue in a low carbon world?

Paul Hudson | 19:40 UK time, Sunday, 29 November 2009

Did you know that Yorkshire has the biggest carbon footprint of any region in Britain - and the second highest in all of Europe?

It's not because we drive our cars more than anyone else; or because we use more electricity. It's because of one of the most recognisable landmarks in Yorkshire, which is also one of the most controversial. We've all seen the famous cooling towers of Drax power station near Selby, and its neighbours at Ferrybridge and Eggborough.

Drax is the biggest coal-fired power station in Western Europe. In burning coal, it emits 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the same as a quarter of all the cars on the UK's roads in a year, and around 3% of the UK's total carbon dioxide output, making it the countries biggest single producer of C02. But without it, there would be a real danger the lights would go out. It generates 7% of all the UK's power, or enough electricity for all of Yorkshire

But are coal-fired power stations compatible with a low-carbon world? I've been inside Drax; they are taking steps to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. By next year over a million tonnes of Coal will be replaced by biomass materials such as straw and willow. Drax is also upgrading its turbines; once these upgrades are completed, the efficiency of the power station will rise from 38% to 40%, reducing fuel burn by ½ a million tonnes a year, and reducing C02 emissions by another 1 million tonnes. They also say that they will look closely at carbon capture if the technology is shown to work on a large scale.

But climate campaigners say it's not enough, and coal-fired power stations are simply incompatible with government targets and a greener future. By 2050, the UK government wants an 80% cut in emissions. They say that must mean an end to coal-fired facilities.

Coal is though a vital part of power generation, and along with gas is the only way to react to demand rises on a large scale. This is because nuclear power output is constant, whereas renewables such as wind only work when the wind blows. But if demand for electricity rockets, for example during bad weather, coal and gas fired stations can ramp up supply at short notice - something that other stations can't do.

It's a real dilemma; at the moment, Britain can't live without coal if we're to meet our current energy demands. But if we're to meet our targets to cut carbon emissions, we can't live with current emission levels from big coal-fired power stations like Drax, either.


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  • 1. At 11:22pm on 29 Nov 2009, Boleslas_Broda wrote:

    Seems you have much of your answer in your post, Paul.

    Cars are roughly 12% of the UK's CO2 output; by 2050 run them on electric batteries that are charged during off-peak times, since they need batteries to be mobile anyway.

    When demand peaks, stop charging the batteries.

    By your figures, the UK could retain seven Drax's in 2050, enough to (again by your figures) generate half of the UK's current power needs.

    Even if all other alternatives to CO2 emission and nuclear amounted to nothing more than meeting the growth in current demands, it seems coal can continue in a low carbon world and the world can go on much as it has been up until now.

    My grandfather's father passed on to him the birthright of clean air, as his father had before him for countless generations, no generation of man ever upsetting its balance beyond the ability of Nature to return it to the same equilibrium.

    Only the generations since my grandfather's birth have violated that fundamental principal of stewardship that guided the morals of every previous human generation.

    In their time, it was unthinkable to squander and spoil a shared resource. Men did not use the village well as a latrine. People did not throw their trash over the fence by night and say they were providing compost to help their neighbours garden grow.

    CO2 no longer returns to its equilibrium level in Nature. We now have the same ethical obligation of simple hygiene to protect others from the loss and expense we impose on them with our waste products.

    If Drax freely drains the carbon budget of the UK without compensation, it is a simple free rider, stealing that value from every other person in the UK.

    I understand one nation values CO2 emissions at 80 Euro to the tonne.

    Drax gets 168 million Euros of value a year for free, by that simple reckoning, filched from the pockets of everyone in the UK.

    So the question is, does coal have a place in a low-theft world?

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  • 2. At 01:13am on 30 Nov 2009, cmdocker wrote:

    Paul, as you know climategate is an immense story which i am sure you will cover in the future, but can you shed any light as to why the bbc are not giving it the attention it surely deserves.


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  • 3. At 09:58am on 30 Nov 2009, John Marshall wrote:

    You just do not understand the sceince and are perperuating the myth that CO2 drives temperatre/climate. It never did in the gealogical past so why would it now? If you have seen the ice core data you would realise that temperature rises before CO2 rises which is a good indicator that temperature drives CO2 not the other way round.
    Why do you perpetuate the myth that we pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other producer? Stop quoting in tonnes per annum and quote what proportion we produce of the annual CO2 produced. This figure is 3% of the total. If you do not believe me ask the US Dept of Energy.
    There are two problems with the greenhouse effect and CO2-
    1) Water vapour is at least 95% of the greenhouse effect, but as cloud not reradiation.
    2) The reradiation quoted as the problem does not exist because it violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. This is easily shown when a temperature profile is taken through the atmosphere. Models show a warm troposphere but the instruments show only adiabatic cooling as the physics dictate!
    Hadley/CRU use a totally wrong figure for CO2 residence time. They use 100-200 years, often quoted by the IPCC but they get their figures from HADCRUT, ALL research on CO2 residence time state that it is between 5-10 years, one researcher quoted that if he drove out of his tree lined drive the CO2 produced would go within 15 mins. Put the true figure for residence time into the models and all the model doom laden forecasts disappear.
    Reliance on models has gone too far! every model relies on correct inputs. Most of those used by HADCRUT are guesses, they call them educated guesses but they are still guesses. ALL models will produce different answers USING THE SAME INPUTS.
    Forget the models and look out of the window, do some empirical science and actually measure something and believe the data, do not alter what you do not like so as to prove a wrong theory!

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  • 4. At 10:18am on 30 Nov 2009, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    Another aspect of this is that the UK imports a large part of it's coal requirements (over 60%?) from countries such as Poland, Australia and Argentina, and the proportion is likely to increase. The transportation of this coal has it's own carbon footprint, which must be taken into consideration. Other things being equal, the carbon footprint of using domestically mined coal would be less than transporting it half-way around the world.

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  • 5. At 11:11am on 30 Nov 2009, Ally Gory wrote:

    Someone very kindly pointed me in the direction of this.


    Now I wouldn't claim to be conversant in the science discussed in this paper, but the conclusions are clear. "There are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effect, which explains the relevant physical phenomena. The terms "greenhouse effect" and "greenhouse gases" are deliberate misnomers." "In summary, there is no atmospheric greenhouse effect, in particular CO2-greenhouse effect, in theoretical physics and engineering thermodynamics."

    Come home to a coal fire.

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  • 6. At 12:20pm on 30 Nov 2009, EPF wrote:

    Nice blog Paul, an interesting topic to address. QuaesoVeritas, again a very nice point.

    Shame about John Marshall and Ally Gory really.

    Honestly, when will these people (2 named above) shut up. The data (note data not models) shows the earth has warmed, Chemists said this is 1896!!!! Climate Science simply works on showing an estimate of what might happen.

    Asd for CO2 residence time, that is clutching at straws, its been demonstrated again, by Chemists, before, not climate scientists, chemists, in labs, in experiments, not models that the residence time is long, you can't take someone's car in a drive as an example.

    Now, Ally, here is something for you, if GHG's are fake, and the greenhouse effect fake, how do you explain life on this planet?? A natural greenhosue effect, from CO2 circa 275ppm keeps enough heat in teh atmosphere for us to survive, warming the planet 18C. When this CO2 level drops (climate change but global cooling) we can end up in situations such as the 'Global Snowball' of circa 400million years ago, which almost killed us, some CO2 release, allowed warming which saved the planet.

    CO2 drives temperature, man emits CO2, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, CO2 has caused climate change to date since the 1860's, it will continue for the next 200-500years.

    Once again, Paul, a nice blog on an interesting topic, when you consider the NIMBY's who block wind turbines etc, nuclear being off the political agenda, we have a very limited choice in terms of fuel bar gas and coal from abroad for us to burn. In fact, Climate change should be a driver for us delivering a UK and europe wide fuel security away from needing imports from some countries that are not exactly stable!!!

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  • 7. At 12:55pm on 30 Nov 2009, Ally Gory wrote:

    "CO2 drives temperature"

    All by itself? My, it's really clever. Something tells me you haven't got that quite right. Now what would that be...?

    exiledportfan, your approval, or lack of it, is of no interest to me. If you wish to address the points made in the paper I linked to and quoted from, that's absolutely fine. As far as wind turbines are concerned, if you're such a fan, (no pun intended) how would you like to live of power solely generated by one? It's great when there's some wind to drive it, but what will you do when there's none?

    Maybe, somewhere, there's a proponent of AGW theory (yes, it is just a theory) who is less interested in attacking the people who disagree with them than what it is they have to say.

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  • 8. At 1:25pm on 30 Nov 2009, EPF wrote:

    I wasn't attacking, i was merely point somethings out,m you made the points, so i personally addressed them

    I was highlighting how you had gone unnecessarily off topic.

    As for a 100% renewable energy, i would be doing so, if it were available, unfortunately, i presently live in a city in rented accomodation, so little chance of changing energy suppliers and getting it so easily. However, it is presently feasilble on the small scale and i would if i could.

    However, if energy security issues are also only a theory, you are fine ain't you. I don't attack you, i have no need, i pity your stupidity and i look forward to the day when you realise you are wrong, horribly horribly wrong, because face it, if i am wrong, not bad ill come, but if you are wrong, well hundreds of millions will die globally. I'm sure you feel ok with this, thats fine, Dick Francis thought he was going to win the national on Devon Loch to

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  • 9. At 1:26pm on 30 Nov 2009, minuend wrote:

    So who sent you the emails Paul?

    1. Was it a whistleblower at CRU? (Did you sit on a scoop?)

    2. Was it your colleague Richard Black? (putting pressure on you to correct your story "What ever happened to Global Warming?")

    I can understand that you are between a hard place and a rock, but your judgement and integrity is being challenged.

    So who sent you the emails Paul?

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  • 10. At 1:44pm on 30 Nov 2009, Ally Gory wrote:

    Oh dear exiledportfan, when it becomes apparent you don't even understand what you say yourself, it doesn't lend you efforts any great weight, does it? Try being a little less hysterical and maybe cut down on the insults, eh?

    Did I say energy security was a theory? No, I did not. Is nuclear energy production off the political agenda? No, it is not, nor will it be for some considerable time, as it has to be built and paid for, which will make it mainstream politics for many years to come. This should have been attended to years ago, as the obsolescence of existing generators has hardly been a shock.

    What is perhaps of more concern is the effect of the output from the Drax power station, which, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, required considerable expenditure to address "acid rain". That is not a global warming issue, but it is certainly a factor to bear in mind.

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  • 11. At 2:22pm on 30 Nov 2009, Brian Haddock wrote:

    After the announcement that Hatfield would be at the fore front of new carbon capture technology by feeding it back into old north sea gas fields, I have the following question.

    Exon have been on TV in one of their adverts talking about producing petroleum from algae which feeds on Carbon Dioxide, would we be better pursuing that path over storing captured carbon dioxide, or is it not seen as green enough?

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  • 12. At 3:21pm on 30 Nov 2009, John Marshall wrote:

    If carbon dioxide does not drive temperature/climate why the fuss over carbon footprints? Whatever CO2 we produce, which is low compared to natural producers, it will not affect climate. All properly peer reviewed research shows that CO2 is a beneficial gas, without which there would be NO life on this planet! The average CO2 atmospheric content over geological history is in the region of 2500-3500 ppmv so at the present time this planet is short of CO2 so whatever coal we burn will be beneficial to life in general. Climate changes due to natural cycles which we cannot influence. ClimateGate proves that the data was altered because it did NOT show any correlation between CO2, which is rising, and temperature which is falling so there must be some other input that alters temperature and for that look at the only temperature input, the SUN.
    Production of oil from algae is a future possibility and could take over after peak oil. Peak oil is some way off, 50 years some estimates give so research into algae/oil production can improve and cheapen from its present high cost. Natural oil formation takes very high pressure, high temperature from burrial and millions of years but I am sure that technology will find the short cut. CO2 sequestration through burrial is an expensive not proven option with dangers that we do not understand.

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  • 13. At 4:07pm on 30 Nov 2009, EPF wrote:

    1) I would never deny the benefits of CO2, i have stated just that, the natural greenhouse effect promotes life on earth.
    2) Yes we have had higher values of CO2 in teh geological past, i'm not sure about your average value, infact i'd be inclined to think you made it up a tad, but i'm sure that over geological history the level of CO2 has been higher, certainly Cretaceous levels were high, 1000-3000ppm.

    However, you must accept


    Yes this planet can sustain life and senible temperatures under very higher CO2 concentrations, but when its a change of 1500ppm over 3million years (cretaceous lead in, i know CO2 for this period) its very possible. 0.0005ppm increase a year is nothing.

    However, any rapid period of change (may i direct you to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, circa 60million years ago), has devastating impacts, with mass extinctions. Zachos et al, 2005 i believe is a good reference to introduce the period to you. There CO2 changed rapidly with a rate of less than 1ppm a year, over 10,000 years, i think 50% of all benthic formainiferas were extinct in the ocean, it has a massive feedback on ocean productivity and life.

    The permian mass extinction, some debate over the trigger, but looking like geologists favour it being massive flood basalt volcanism from the Siberian traps, release massive amounts of CO2 and CH4 causing runaway global warming and a 95% oceanic, 75% terrestrial mass extinction.

    Even then, this was a rate of change of around 1-1.5ppm.

    Presently, rate fo change for mankind, based on DATA from the Keeling Record, by NOAA, is in the last 15 years up at 1.8-2.4ppm (data i plotted for me, in Excel, very easily repeated), thats a GREATER RATE OF CHANGE than my geological answers.

    You see, its how fast thinhs happen that affect the response, CO2 in stable(ish) conditions is a beneficial gas, if you pump an awful lot of it, into the atmosphere in a short space of time, then it will cause devastation. Don't believe models? Fine, look at the geology.

    If you don't believe the physics, read the AR4 by the IPCC, it has the formulas for radiative forcing, what generates heat, plug in some values for greenhouse gases and see what you get, no models, just data.

    However, i couldn't agree more about CCS, very worrying, like all geo-engineering. However, with sceptics plugging away and people not realising the danger we face, we will be backed into a corner of geo-engineer or see massive warming. Glorious isn't it?

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  • 14. At 4:48pm on 30 Nov 2009, ManmadeupGW wrote:

    According to the scientists pre industrila levels of CO2 were approx 0.0003% of the atmosphere.

    According to the scientists they are now 0.00038% of the atmosphere.

    According to the scientists on the IPCC the global warming was about 0.7C in the last 150 Years.

    We now no that this rise in temperature is probably half the value given the amount of manipulation of the data.

    Problem solved CO2 emissions have not been shown to be the cause of global warming.

    Therefore get the coal out of the ground and lets get back some energy independance. Coal, nuclear and hydraulic are the future for the uk supplemented with solar and wind.

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  • 15. At 5:47pm on 30 Nov 2009, Marcus Garvey wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 16. At 5:52pm on 30 Nov 2009, Marcus Garvey wrote:

    John Marshall - you like to quote pre-cambrian CO2 levels as some kind of ideal. Can you please think for a moment and tell me how many plants in the world are adapted to life in such an environment, remembering that pre-cambrian means anything before around 540 million years ago? How many crops that sustain us? just how many people were there alive and dependent on agriculture back then? What do you think would happen to the living world (puting aside climate change for a moment) if CO2 levels were to rise that high?

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  • 17. At 8:16pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jack Lamb wrote:

    Listening to the discussion on tonights programme gave me the screaming abdabs. The Dr. knew is stuff but not convincing but the guy from London had been reading far too many memo's

    One of the main keys to the problem of carbon in the atmosphere is storage. Money is stored in banks ( unfortunately not in my name ) Since the start of man we have been removing the carbon banks in the form of trees. No matter where you go you can see where they once were. I been in the Andes where there is no tree line anymore. Tree's take in CO2, storing most of it in their cell structure. How much waste ground and farming set aside do we see within just a few miles from our homes where trees could be planted. Instead of giving countries huge sums in aid to buy weapons get the to replant the trees.

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  • 18. At 9:17pm on 30 Nov 2009, David wrote:

    Firstly, I am not a sceptic only dubious about the limited solutions being offered by the Government. Climate Change is happening and we all need to do all we can to prepare for when it happens. And it will!

    However, please show some scale. Weighted statements do not do us any favours.

    Drax produces 21 million tons per year. This is not much. Insects produce 48 BILLION tons a year. 2285 Drax power stations = the insect population and I wont even mention trees, the oceons etc etc.

    Man is having an effect but it is only a tiny fraction of a percent of a difference. 450ppm of CO2 is not possible unless "mother earth" leads the way and cuts her carbon footprint.

    Secondly, It is said that electricity bills will have to rise by 45% a year every year for the next 10 years to pay for the carbon capture scheme. Work it out. £300, £435, £630, £914, £1326 etc. If it is true, no one will be able to afford energy any more and the economy will collapse (again)!

    Thirdly, if we use carbon capture and it escapes, most will die. CO2 is heavier than air and it will lie on the earths surface to suffocate us all.

    CO2 to be stored needs to be reduced in temperature to about -70c for only little pressure to be used. If it is kept at zero degrees (ish) the pressure required to liquify is HUGE (70 bar) and it could fracture and BLOW UP unless restrained by a concrete/steel structure. How much will that cost? There is more chance of that failing than drowning through rising oceans!

    Carbon capture has to be 100% safe and it is not without spending £trillions on each and every programme. At least we can adapt to rising oceans by moving house to higher ground! It just does not make financial sense!

    By the way do you know for YOU to go solar you would need a solar panel (15% efficiency) the size of half a football pitch. This is based on you using 2200kw* of energy per year rather than the 6-8,000 (ave) you are using right now.

    Man from Leeds Uni. Think again.

    The only way forward is to de-populate and adapt but this is not even being discussed at Copenhagen. Only things discussed will be financial related solutions that benefit the respective governments of the world (cap and trade, taxation etc) and this is not the way to tackle it. You can not solve a problem by taxing it! Copenhagen is a cop out.

    If people are serious there is a strategy that will work and cost little.

    (1) Stop cutting down the bloody rain forrest NOW
    (2) Limit EVERYONE in the world to 1 child (How? - I dont know but its a huge contibuting factor - half the population half the emmissions etc)for 3 generations. NB May also improve broken britain scenario.
    (3) Stop fishing the seas for 5 years.
    (4) Forget green tax and cap and trade etc this only alienates those on the fence about climate change.
    (5) Stop growing biofuel - use the land for food (biofuel is massive N2O production)
    (6) Stop international trade on everything
    (7) Forget Copenhagen talks and actually do something which does not involve money generation for politicians pockets.

    Thank you.

    *2200kw/year (est) will be your personal allowance by law - 2200/365=6.02kw per day allowance = one 2 kw heater for three hours allowed and nothing else - no car - no flying - no cooking - no tv - no job

    (sources available on request)

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  • 19. At 10:24pm on 30 Nov 2009, EPF wrote:


    Insects, the ocean, cows backsides produce greenhouse gases that are on a natural cycle, ie the last 1000 years of carbon, this is normal for the earth. natural.

    We release carbon tied up for 350million years or so, this carbon is what is dangerous. So there is no need to compare drax to insects.

    Also, your fears are the hype produced by sceptics to drive sceptic thoughts. I have studied earth science, i know about this stuff and i'm not as depressed about it as you are. 80% cuts are big, but there is a massive amount of gain to be made in efficiency throughout energy production. This should be a key part of the copenhagen conference.

    Also, you can use solar power carefully, in the UK, use a couple of roof based solar panels to heat your hot water, very good use of solar power which is limited in the UK, especially in the winter. However, northern scotland can do very well in the summer using solar power. Its about skillful planning.

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  • 20. At 10:34pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris Bradley wrote:

    Following your debate on Look North tonight, Drax is a the largest generator of electicity and so has to be the largest emitter of CO2, but per Kw of energy produced it is in fact also one of the cleanest . And yes this might mean Yorkshire has larger carbon emissions than any other county, but which other county is self sufficient in electric power? They are doing their best to reduce their emissions by encouraging home grown biomass technology.

    There are, within a 50 mile radius of Drax, over 70 farms growing miscanthus cane, which Drax is already burning - this crop wasn't mentioned in your report at all! Miscanthus is a dedicated bio-mass crop covering some 4000 acres and in another year or two will produce around 20,000 tons of green energy. This area is set to increase, and if we had real commitment from the government who want to talk 'green' but offer little support to growers, I believe the future of biomass to help Drax achieve their aims would be greatly accelerated.

    I grow 100 acres of miscanthus, which at 12' tall is a very impressive crop. I'm also a founder member of Miscanthus Growers Limited, a farmer led organisation set up this summer to help growers maximise the potential of this much needed energy source. All growers are dedicated and enthusiastic proponents of the green energy debate. Along with the demand shown by end users such as Drax this must be a very positive move in the direction of low CO2, home grown fuel.

    Listening to the university Professor, a self confessed anti-Drax activist, on tonight's programme talking about the need for home grown energy crops in the studio alongside the MP for Selby, made me realise that all interested parties are after the same goal. That being the much reduced burning of fossil fuels and the switch to home grown, sustainable energy sources. So why all the aggro?- We all want the same thing!

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  • 21. At 10:37pm on 30 Nov 2009, David wrote:

    Whether you believe in AGW or not it seems the only solutions offered up for discussion are going to cost us £trillions. Why??

    This is what is making so many people sceptic - they dont want to line the pockets of big business. There would be 99.9% less sceptics if the solutions were free or did not run the risk of putting millions into poverty while making "Gore & Co" rich (Gore/Goldman Sachs etc own carbon trading companies as does the EU - no wonder they want cap and trade!)

    Again, I will mention at this point, I am not a sceptic in relation to climate change, it is happening - that is obvious, but I am in relation to whether we spend £trillions on it before we know what we are dealing with. I do not think we can model climate change on a computer - there are far too many variables not accounted for and why is it all so secret?

    At Copenhagen, lets start talking about solutions that cost nothing but will have an impact. Population reduction would be the start. However, political correctness prevents this.

    Political correctness will damage the planet. We created political correctness. OMG We ARE responsible!

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  • 22. At 11:07pm on 30 Nov 2009, Paulville wrote:

    Some basic figures based on 2007 data (BERR UK Energy In Brief 2008)...

    Coal produced 34% of electricity generated in 2007. But due to it's very high carbon footprint of between 900 and 1000 gCO2/kWh the emissions produced from that 34% was actually 58% of total electricity CO2 emissions.
    eg. You get rid of coal, you cut electricity CO2 emissions by some 60%.
    The mix of fuels changes somewhat from year to year, but coal is the biggest chunk of electricity emissions.

    The Energy Technologies Institute is going to conduct Network Capacity research to identify solutions for the increased use of renewables.

    Also the International Energy Agency released a report about renewables variability called:
    Empowering Variable Renewables - Options for Flexible Electricity Systems-

    It's conclusion was that it wasn't an unsolvable or major problem, especially with todays technology and engineering skills.

    An article about the grid capable of 35% renewables capacity by 2020:

    An engineers job Paul H, is to develop technologies and solutions for the problems we face. This sometimes means change.

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  • 23. At 11:18pm on 30 Nov 2009, Paulville wrote:

    Dear Ally Gory.

    Someone pointed me to these:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    I particularly like the Peter Laut letter, I wonder what Paul Hudson thinks?

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  • 24. At 11:41pm on 30 Nov 2009, simon wrote:

    Good report on Drax power station Paul. There seems to be a difference of opinion between a majority of the general population who believe that climate change is caused mostly by natural factors, and the government, most of the media and a large goup of scientists who say man is mainly responsible. I believe that natural factors play a much bigger part than is widely reported and we can do little to change this, although it is certainly a good thing to preserve declining fossil fuels as much as possible.

    David wrote:
    Whether you believe in AGW or not it seems the only solutions offered up for discussion are going to cost us £trillions. Why??

    This is what is making so many people sceptic - they dont want to line the pockets of big business. There would be 99.9% less sceptics if the solutions were free or did not run the risk of putting millions into poverty while making "Gore & Co" rich (Gore/Goldman Sachs etc own carbon trading companies as does the EU - no wonder they want cap and trade!)

    I agree with this David, another way for Goldman to make millions, as well as winning from both sides with the credit crunch.

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  • 25. At 00:15am on 01 Dec 2009, Jack Hughes wrote:

    I drove past Drax yesterday and saw the huge power cables taking electricity to the rest of the country via the national grid.

    Nearby are 2 windmills. Only one was turning - the other was "resting". I could not see any power cables leading away from these windmills. This suggests that the power output was feeble. Big power needs big cables.

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  • 26. At 11:11am on 01 Dec 2009, John Marshall wrote:

    Exiledportfan writes that I should look at AR4 which contains actual data and explains the reradiation. Well, does it? No because this repeort was based on corrupt datasets so it has no meaning what so ever. As I have said before the reradiative part of the greenhouse effect, the bit that alarmists are worried about, is not possible because of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics:- heat cannot flow from cool to warm and the higher layers of the atmosphere must be cooler due to adiabatic expansion and the data shows that these layers are cooler! I do not care what the models show. And any amount of maths formulae do not prove anything if the basic premis for those formulae are wrong!

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  • 27. At 11:46am on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    An example of why people think their thoughts are being coerced on climate change....

    The front page of The Times today. "MAJOR CITIES AT RISK FROM RISING SEA LEVEL THREAT" and then further down the page in large blue letters "7M"

    How far will the sea rise according to the report? Not 7m but "up to 140cm". What is that then? 1cm, 4cm 20cm? 39cm? 139cm? BY 2100!

    NEWSFLASH: sea levels are not and never have been constant. In 1341 the sea at Bambrough Castle came right to the bottom of St Oswalds Gate. This is fact. It is written down in history. Now it is no where near. Who is to say that the 1341 level is not normal and we now live in a time where the sea levels are dangerously low?

    Lets just accept change is going to happen and direct resources into coping with it. Take politics/profit out of it - we deserve better!

    By the way, turns out the "7M" refers to the population of Dhaka in Bangladesh.

    No wonder people feel like they are being conned.

    Also, I would like to see some figures on the energy stored in straw, willow etc compared to coal. I have a solid fuel fire and I know for a fact that wood burns at a far lower temp than coal.

    If anyone has the figures I would be interested in seeing them. It is pretty much just O-level chemistry - remember burning peanuts on a bunson? Converting matter to Joules using heat?

    I theorise that KG for KG, the same amount of CO2 is produced as basically coal is just a concerntrated straw/willow product. The only advantage would then be that it is renewable but that is not the reason why it is being used is it? We are being told it will reduce CO2.

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  • 28. At 12:12pm on 01 Dec 2009, Marcus Garvey wrote:

    Hmm, I had a message removed but please don't jump to conclusions there was nothing offensive in it I thought!

    I'll try to re-word and see if this one gets in.

    Ally Gory, regarding the G. Gerlich and R. D. Tscheuschner paper that you cited, it's been comprehensively rebutted. If they were correct, the earth would be a ball of ice. It doesnt take an expert to see through their claims. For example, in the specific example you quote, they dispute that atmospheric physics works in the same way as a glass house. Yet no-one has been claiming that the so-called greenhouse effect has anything to do with how a greenhouse works.

    Please don't just uncritically accept bogus arguments simply because they fit your preconceived ideas.

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  • 29. At 12:28pm on 01 Dec 2009, John Marshall wrote:

    I think that Exiledportfan also wants to know where I get the average CO2 figures for the planet throughout geological history. If he were to look at any book on geology it would show the levels throughout the last 2.5 billion years and from this an average is easy to extract. My figures of 2500-3500ppmv are of necessity wide due to the errors expected from such data. As I have also said, but this will not be in any text book at least any that I have read, is the level during the first 0.5 - 1.0 billion years of earth's history. Levels must have been around 20% because oxygen, which makes up 20% of the present atmosphere, could not have been present due to the hot start of earths formation. Oxygen is highly reactive so must have combined with other elements in the cloud of matter from which earth formed. This cloud became very hot, hot enough to melt the constituents and permit layering from which we now have inner and outer core, mantle, crust. After about 1Ba primitive life started as cyanobacteria which uses CO2 and produces oxygen rather like plants do today. How this life started we are still unsure.

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  • 30. At 1:07pm on 01 Dec 2009, Ally Gory wrote:

    Marcus Garvey, if you had read the article properly, they do state the use of "greenhouse" when discussing the claimed effects of increasing CO2 is a misnomer. I even quoted that above. Why then is it the popular description?

    If the paper has been rebutted, I will search for that, but I suggest, as usual, the AGW champiopns' dogmatic approach to any doubter makes your opinion less than pleasant reading. There is no need or excuse for that.

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  • 31. At 1:25pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    The Times also reports as fact that rising sea levels are responsible for Carteret Atoll having to be evacuated and uses this as evidence of AGW.

    Not exactly true according to science (why perpatuate a lie or is it just bad research)

    "The Carteret islands likely consist of a base of coral that sits atop an extinct volcanic mount. In the usual geological course of events first proposed by Charles Darwin, such islands eventually subside due to weathering and erosion, as well as isostatic adjustments of the sea floor. It has also been speculated that dynamite fishing in the Carterets such as occurred in the island during the prolonged Bougainville conflict may be contributing to the increased inundation. Coral reefs buffer against wave and tidal action, and so their degradation may increase an island's level of exposure to those forces. Another suggestion is that tectonic movement may be causing the gradual subsidence of the atoll"

    I would like also to add that this is where France test their underwater nuclear bombs. May be that has an impact also??

    Historically other populated islands, for example, Tuanaki, in the Cook Islands, is known to have sunk entirely between 1842 and 1844, was that also down AGW?

    Conclusion - perhaps the island is naturally sinking not sea levels are rising. I hope the AGW lobby will join with me in celebrating this small indication that it is not the end of the world and perhaps we do not know it all yet. Good job we did not offer the world £billons to avoid a rising sea level. What? We did already? D'0h!

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  • 32. At 1:28pm on 01 Dec 2009, Paulville wrote:

    David said:
    "In 1341 the sea at Bambrough Castle came right to the bottom of St Oswalds Gate. This is fact. It is written down in history. Now it is no where near. Who is to say that the 1341 level is not normal and we now live in a time where the sea levels are dangerously low?"

    Coastal landscapes change due to silting up, sediment build up and marine erosion. Also of course the South/South East land mass is dropping and the North is rising due the the 'bounce' caused by the end of the Ice Age. Photos I have seen suggest a degree of silting with sand dunes and erosion etc.
    The only fact in your statement is that the sea is now in a different place! Wow, that is so unusual.

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  • 33. At 1:35pm on 01 Dec 2009, Paulville wrote:

    Ally Gory:"Marcus Garvey, if you had read the article properly, they do state the use of "greenhouse" when discussing the claimed effects of increasing CO2 is a misnomer. I even quoted that above. Why then is it the popular description?"

    Why do we use the term Window in relation to a box on a computer screen?
    Or a 'bug' for a problem in a bit of computer code?

    Words are reused in language, they don't have to have a literal menaing.

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  • 34. At 1:36pm on 01 Dec 2009, Marcus Garvey wrote:

    Why is it the popular description? Because it is a simple analogy aiding a very superficial understanding, i.e. that CO2 helps trap heat. Why would a scientific paper spend time discussing this, when no one has been suggesting that the radiative forcing of CO2 works in the same way as a real greenhouse prevents convective cooling? Semantic point scoring perhaps?

    I'm simply pointing out to you that your source is not credible. If you find that less than pleasant reading that's unfortunate. You initially stated that you're not conversant with the science in the paper. In that case, what in particular was it that made you think the paper was worth mentioning? My guess is simple expediency: it's circulated widely in the anti-warming blogosphere and you felt it suited your argument. Am I right?

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  • 35. At 2:30pm on 01 Dec 2009, Ally Gory wrote:

    No Marcus, you are not right.

    By freely admitting I am not conversant in the physics behind the argument, I happily leave the door open for someone to point out, as you did, that it has been rebutted. That was not sufficient for you, as you felt compelled to add a comment about "preconceived ideas". That was unnecessary, but characterises the nature of replies from those of you who will brook no question.

    If the paper had merit, then it suggests the subject of this blog, especially carbon footprints, is unfounded. As it apparently has none, which is all you had to point out, then, ignoring miscanthus for the moment, generation from stations such as Drax must be a concern.

    Rather than seek some way to make this about me, why not simply point me in the right direction of the rebuttal of the paper?

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  • 36. At 2:36pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Here we go again. Gordon Brown spending £billions of OUR money on ill conceived ideas for the sake of a soundbite.

    Wind turbines do not generate in light or very strong winds, they are inefficint, expensive, ruin the environment, use huge amounts of CO2 in their construction and are totally unfit for purpose as they can not cope with fluctuations in requirements leading ultimately to powercuts.

    •Below 8-10 mph wind speed they do not generate and have to cut out for safety reasons above 56 mph. Their maximum generation is reached at about 30 mph which is uncommon in the UK. As a result onshore turbines produce only about 26% of their potential electricity.

    •They generate some power for 70-75% of the time but this is often a mere trickle, so the total electricity produced is only about 26% of their full potential.

    •Wind energy is free but extracting it is not.

    •The electricity produced cannot be stored and feeding it into the national grid is complex and costly – a bill ultimately paid by the consumer.

    •It would take 1,500 wind turbines spread over 20 km2 to produce the same electricity as a 1,000 megawatt nuclear power station – even then it would only be available when the wind blew and cannot, therefore, provide base load. By the way Drax produces 4megawatt so to replace only 25% of Drax's we would need to site the full 1500 turbines.

    •A turbine 375 feet high requires a base of some 1000 tons of reinforced concrete, to say nothing of the materials needed to build service roads. Together with peat destruction on peat-rich sites, this means that wind farms can take years to pay back the carbon dioxide they release during and after construction, reducing even further their contribution to climate change.

    •Wind power is an exceptionally costly method by which to try and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as pointed out in a recent Audit Commission Report to the Government.

    So lets review using Drax as the model. To replace 1 megawatt of power (25% of Drax) we will need 1500 wind turbines. But if the wind is not between 10-56mph they will go offline. And presumably the additional 25% power will then again have to come from Drax and presumably Drax can charge what they want for this as we will have no choice. I know a little of how electricity trading works and this will be at a huge premium.

    Sorry, but I can see tears when the bill comes in. Like I said Gordon Brown spending our money for us.

    Surely there is an alternative?

    Each person responsible for their own power. Shut the National Grid down by 2050!

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  • 37. At 2:55pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:


    "Coastal landscapes change due to silting up, sediment build up and marine erosion. Also of course the South/South East land mass is dropping and the North is rising due the the 'bounce' caused by the end of the Ice Age. Photos I have seen suggest a degree of silting with sand dunes and erosion etc.
    The only fact in your statement is that the sea is now in a different place! Wow, that is so unusual."

    May I quote you when there is a thread about AGW changing our costline please.

    I dont agree though unless the sea did not really come up to St Oswalds gate. The sea would have to have dropped a matter of meters and silting would not account for this. Perhaps you have to see it to know what I mean. Is there any evidence of dropping sea levels from medieval London tidal Thames or any other rivers. Maybe there is. Vikings manages to navigate many rivers which are now too small for longboats. Mmmm perhaps this is also down to silting up. But surely there has not been that much silt layed down in the last 700 years. Can I have a £billion to investigate Gordon?

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  • 38. At 3:05pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    What is wrong with a waste incinerator? (as in demonstrations at Tockwith)- great idea in principal just build it away from residential homes then no problem - endless fuel and gets rid of waste.

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  • 39. At 4:10pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Thinking outside the box…………..

    • A human can generate about 100w/h of electricity on a treadmill.

    • We have 80,000 people in prison.

    • Each can produce 1kw a day.

    • Convert our prisons to human powered generators of electricity

    • Sentence people in kilowatts rather than years and months.

    • 365kw for petty theft

    • 7000kw for murder.

    • The sooner they complete their sentence sooner they can get out!

    Solves energy problem, crime problem, obesity problem, full prison problem etc.

    Also for the 4 million unemployed.

    • Pay the unemployed based on kilowatt creation.

    • 1 kilowatt pays £20 instead of JSA (currently £60 per week)

    Suddenly there will be no unemployed as well

    21st century workhouses. Limitless cheep renewable minimum CO2 production

    Is it not worth at least a trial?
    Or are we not really serious about the problem?

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  • 40. At 4:33pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    5 kilowatts for speeding/parking offence is better than a fine and points

    Seriously, the more I think about it the better the idea gets. People could volunteer to work there over the years and get "kilowatt credits" which they can redeem at 65 in leu of a pension.

    This will make it more of a debt/credit trade with society rather than a punishment.

    What are your thoughts?

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  • 41. At 4:37pm on 01 Dec 2009, Mark Taylor wrote:

    From the article:

    "Yorkshire has the biggest carbon footprint of any region in Britain"

    It occurs to me that there is a parallel here to the argument about China:

    We look at China and complain that they are producing huge amounts of carbon dioxide, ignoring the fact that a lot of that is because they are making things that we consume - we have exported our emissions to China.

    Similarly, we could look at Yorkshire, (those of us who aren't already there, that is,) and complain that 'they' are producing huge amounts of carbon dioxide, ignoring the fact that a lot of that is because they are generating electricity that we use - we have exported our emissions to Yorkshire.

    Isn't there some amazing statistic that that single chimney at Drax puts out more carbon dioxide than something like the smallest 100 (or whatever) countries put together?

    Mr Hudson: I asked in a comment to a previous post if you had stated your opinion on the fundamental concerns here, ie. are you convinced that AGW is happening? Perhaps you have addressed this directly in another post - if so, apologies, but I suggest it would be useful to do so again. As this is a blog and not a 'news' article, surely you can tell us what you really think.

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  • 42. At 5:02pm on 01 Dec 2009, Mark Taylor wrote:

    @ David:

    You write: A human can generate about 100w/h of electricity on a treadmill.

 We have 80,000 people in prison. Each can produce 1kw a day.

    A watt is a unit of power, not energy. Energy is measured in joules. I'm afraid your calculations are meaningless.

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  • 43. At 5:13pm on 01 Dec 2009, Boleslas_Broda wrote:

    To simplify what J.M. is saying about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics -- I'll be glad if he corrects my explanation where it differs from his understanding:

    Suppose between all its warming sources, the ground emits 500 units of heat.

    All 500 heat units have to go somewhere, none 'disappear'.

    In the long run all 500 heat units make it to space and go away.

    On the way between ground and space, these 500 heat units encounter air.

    Of this 500 unit 'heat budget' the air gets, it must spend it all.

    Some of the budget drives winds, changing how the heat acts for a time until the wind releases that energy again as heat. Through wind, some powers storms, released as heat again in lightning, thunder, and so on.

    Some goes directly through the air to space without stopping.

    J.M. talks about back radiation being impossible.

    What he explains is 500 units go out of the ground, no units come back to it from the air at all, because the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that no heat goes from cooler to warmer bodies.

    What other Thermodynamics teachers I've encountered say is 500 units go out, 350 come back (to become part of the next packet of 500) to the ground, leaving the difference of ground 150 heat units net lost to the air.

    At the layer of the mechanics underpinning Thermodynamics, heat is the vibration of molecules.

    When molecules encounter other molecules, the one that is vibrating more gives some of its energy to the one that is vibrating less.

    Molecules move at random, and in any mix of molecules the distribution of vibrational energy is bound to have differences.

    The whole of the Laws of Thermodynamics pretty much just sums up the statistical behaviour of huge groups of molecules -- groups so huge that deviation from the mean is numerically nearly impossible.

    What J.M. is saying, in short, is that once the heat leaves the ground, all the molecules in the air always line up like a heat laser and shoot all the heat in one single direction towards space. In pure Theory, this is even possible, as a special application of Maxwell's Demon.

    What others say is that heat in air behaves like heat does everywhere else, and moves in all directions, with a general net tendency to be lost from the hotter ground toward cooler air.

    Decide for yourself which one you observe and makes sense to you.

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  • 44. At 5:47pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:


    You write: "You write: A human can generate about 100w/h of electricity on a treadmill.

 We have 80,000 people in prison. Each can produce 1kw a day.

    A watt is a unit of power, not energy. Energy is measured in joules. I'm afraid your calculations are meaningless."

    At least I am trying - fill in the figures yourself - jeeez!. As a theory I think it is workable though in practice too many "humans rights" to overcome. Can't we even try it? 10 cons on treadmills - see what they produce?

    What do you envisage by 2050? Give us a solution!

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  • 45. At 5:58pm on 01 Dec 2009, EPF wrote:

    John Marshall, so with your law of thermodynamics, do you deny the natural greenhouse effect?

    If you think its not possible, i suggest you do some research into the global energy budget.

    As for the AR4, i await all your evidence that this has been faked. Please, beyound 4 dodgy e-mails out of thousands. I'm sure that all the models are fake, especially when one of the models in AR4 is used to also generate weather forecasts for you everyday of your life...

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  • 46. At 6:04pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 47. At 6:04pm on 01 Dec 2009, Mark Taylor wrote:

    @ David:

    It's not the figures, it's the units. If I say "Make a cake with 500 feet of flour and bake for 30 gallons" it's useless.

    I'm not sure if this is the time or place to engage in a debate on ethics. Perhaps you were inspired by Swift's "A Modest Proposal"?

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  • 48. At 9:12pm on 01 Dec 2009, Boleslas_Broda wrote:

    Or David's as directly influence by "The Matrix"?

    Don't get me wrong, people are pretty chemically efficient, but they're still carbon-fueled and emit CO2. And the transport of that fuel has an energy overhead.

    Better trade-off would be if the prisoners remained in enforced indolence, or even sleep. A sentence of medically induced coma might reduce the emissions of convicts by a substantial level.

    Although that sounds more like "Demolition Man", so the literary quality of the debate appears to be spirally lower with every line I type.

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  • 49. At 11:05pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    You wrote: "I'm not sure if this is the time or place to engage in a debate on ethics"

    This debate will never be solved without mentioning ethics.

    The only real solution to the CC problem will be depopulation and adaption. Are you telling me there is no ethical debate involved there?

    I guess you agree that we should pay up without asking questions? You are a sceptics dream!

    I will look up "A Modest Proposal" it sounds like an interesting read.

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  • 50. At 11:14pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    I have just read a summary of Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and I am offended that you think my idea is on a parr with killing and eating children. I question your sanity.

    If you believe this problem can only be solved by spending money while avoiding any moral debate then I hope you can swim.

    My ideas are quite in line with The Club of Rome. The driving force and money behind the AGW movement.

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  • 51. At 01:48am on 02 Dec 2009, Boleslas_Broda wrote:

    David, to be a bit fair, as Swift was Irish and witty, he only meant the killing and eating of Irish children destined to starve anyway, and only where it sated English aristocrats' appetites.

    An idea that in Swift's time was no less satirically normative than modern ideas for purloining the birthrights of children of current and future generations, such as emitting more CO2 than the air can absorb.


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  • 52. At 4:25pm on 02 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    LOL (as they say in blogspeak)

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