Sunday, 14 October 2012

Going 'Not so Green" ...

Europe, and Germany in particular, faces a dilemma. The cost of 'energy' is about to rise extremely sharply. A minimum rise in the cost for electricity is mooted at 10% and some argue it will go higher. There are a number of reasons for it, among them a reduction in subsidies for solar and wind, but there is also the rising cost of fuel for the power generators. Currently Germany gets most of its gas supply from Russia, a portion of its electricity comes from neighbouring countries and it's own gas potential remains undeveloped because the Greens refuse to allow the only way it can be exploited - fracking.

The current Environment Minister has quite a problem on his hands. The closing down of the nuclear stations and the 'freeze' on building anything other than wind or solar farms, has left the country with a bit of a shortfall in power reserves during the last winter. Several times the demand came very close to exceeding supplies and power blackouts became a very real possibility. It isn't helped by the variability in the output of the 'renewable' sources either. Yes, there are times when the windfarms are delivering considerable amounts of power, but the problem is that these seldom coincide with peak demand and, when they do, distribution is not possible because the infrastruture can't carry it. Added to this each of the Federal 'Lande' has its own ideas on how to meet the energy challenge - and agreement is rare.

There is no 'simple' solution. You can't just hook up more and more generators to the existing national grid. It isn't designed for it. Yes, what is probably needed is an entirely new grid, one that is 'intelligent' and capable of shunting power from areas of overproduction to areas of demand at the touch of a button, but no such grid exists anywhere and nor is one likely to be created in the near future. So, dreams of having up to 80% of our power need supplied by solar or wind power in 30 years time is pie in the sky at best and, at worst, a monumental con.

So now we have the German government approving the building of new coal fired power stations to close the gap. Why coal? Why not gas? First, Germany has a lot of coal and so do its neighbours. We have gas as well, but the Greens won't allow its development. Why not gas? It's cleaner, but it comes from Russia and, in recent years, that country has cut off gas supplies to several of its neighbours after imposing massive price hikes. The German government isn't stupid. They aren't going to allow themselves to be held to ransom by a foreign power. So, until their own gas can be developed, or a solution found to the objections to nuclear generation, they are reverting to coal, deploying new technologies to try and keep it cleaner - but, as the Greens have been quick to scream, it will result in the production of more of the evil 'C.'

As a realist I look at it this way. We cannot sustain our present standard of living, or hope to move forward by cutting out our current technologies, which is what many 'Greens' seem to want. The world is not better when run on the lines of subsistence farming, basic services in our homes and seriously expensive technologies imposed on any industrial activity. It certainly isn't better when you have centralised control of economic distribution, production, travel and employment. So we need to be free to choose our own lifestyles, employers and use of our income. We need, as nations, to be able to develop our society, our economic activity and our technology. We can't do any of that if we are constantly constrained by concerns about nebulous matters very often driven by fear of change rather than fact.

And none of this is actually helped by the current multi-billion dollar business that the various 'ecological movements' have become. We do tend to forget - or perhaps fail to realise - that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam and the rest are now mega corporations. They have to defend their incomes from massive government handouts, public donations, corporate support and even from invetsment in windfarms and other 'eco-industries.' It is essential to their continued 'business' that they keep the fear factor high and sustain the flow of, "the sky is falling; we're all gonna die!" headlines. This problem is causing a lot of concern in scientific circles as the 'Anthropogenic Global Warming' proponents defend the huge research grants they enjoy and attack any 'heretic' who dares to suggest their may be other factors in play.

We clearly need much less posturing, demonstrating and campaigning, and a lot more serious thinking and exploration of ways to really move forward and find ways to do things more efficiently and better. Calling names, blockading and shouting slogans doesn't move anything forward - it simply holds everyone back. It must be one of the ironies of this situation that, even as the west is forced to close industries and revert to coal for power generation, India and China are expanding both nuclear and coal burning power generating capacity. While the west has done a great deal to reduce CO2 and other emmissions, the Far East has increased them by a far higher percentage.

Time, perhaps, for the Greens and their supporters to 'get real.' Certainly time for a fresh look at a whole range of technologies we've ignored until now, and, perhaps, a chance for the west to take a lead in some real technological advances.


  1. Another guilty links:

    Scientists have said that the Met figures are too short a period to really tell yet......

  2. Only 16 years? Well the CO2 record is only 30, and the satellite measured data about the same. Depending on who you talk to the earlier temperature data is "not accurate" or "accurate, but not universal" so I guess we'll have to wait and see. I still have a book on my shelves written by the leading scientists on climatology in the 1970s that says we were about to plunge back into an Ice Age ...