Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Follow the Money – Energy Review

Last weekend there was a notable presence of people on the streets in major cities all around the world. They were marching here in London, Paris, New York and elsewhere in support of a call to the world’s leaders for action on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, the numpties of UKIP et al continue to deny that human beings and our rapacious exploitation of our natural environment (our life support system) is having any effect whatsoever on our long term survivability. These are the people who complain bitterly about green taxes and subsidies for clean renewable energy but are completely oblivious to the financial support (via taxation) given to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries.

Fossil fuel subsidies growing despite concerns -BBC
They also seem to think that we (Barkingside 21) are part of a global conspiracy aimed at world domination that also involves an obscure Charitable Trust named 'Common Purpose' whom nobody else seems to have heard of.

Fortunately, judging by the numbers who were on the streets (plus those, like me, who couldn’t make it) they have rather a lot of people to convince that the scientists are wrong. But all is not well. 70% of Conservative MP's (that’s effectively the UK government) think there's no proof that climate change is caused by human activity and 20% think the idea is 'environmentalist propaganda'.

It may, or may not, be a coincidence that the moves to dump Mrs Thatcher came immediately after her climate speech to the Royal Society in 1988 but I wouldn’t want to condone conspiracy theories. And the financial support given by the fossil fuel and nuclear industries to UK political parties is itself a self fulfilling prophesy in that those funds come from the subsidies and tax breaks in the first place. That’s our (taxpayer’s) money.

There is Granny Weatherwax’s view that progress just means bad things happen faster. This may well be the view of those with a vested interest in the status quo but there is also a thing called serendipity and we humans (as a species) seem to have it in abundance. Let’s have a look at what’s happening in the real energy world and see what the Tory and UKIP Luddites are up against.

Oil industry on borrowed time as switch to gas and solar accelerates
The props beneath the global oil industry are slowly decaying. The big traded energy companies resemble the telecom giants of the late 1990s, heavily leveraged to a business model already threatened by fast-moving technology.
Political will is only barrier to 100% renewables
Where the100% renewable target is adopted, it gives the clearest signal to business that investments in clean technologies will be secure. The report says: “The benefits range from savings on fossil fuel imports, improved energy, and economic security, as well as reduced energy and electricity costs for governments, local residents and businesses."
Nuclear power - insanity at taxpayers' and consumers' expense
Nuclear power exists for one reason only, writes Ralph Nader - government support. Without the taxpayer subsidies, accident liability waivers and exploited consumers, nuclear power wouldn't exist. And even with all the above, it can barely hold on. It's time to end the nuclear boondoggle for once and for all.
Japan: 'solar islands' replace nuclear power
As Japan seeks to end reliance on nuclear power, one of the answers is floating 'solar islands', writes Jon Major. A 70MW solar island opened last year, and two additional plants have just been announced.
Scotland's double first: tidal array and twin-bladed offshore wind turbines
Two-bladed designs at this scale are a major innovation for the offshore wind industry and the deployment offshore of the turbines at Methil will be the first in the world of its kind.
Bright and breezy future for renewables in an independent Scotland
Scotland might traditionally be known for its North Sea gas reserves but it also leads the way in renewable power. The current devolved Scottish government wants 100% of the nation’s electricity generation to come from renewables by 2020.
A Solar Revolution
The advance of solar power around the world is bringing instant, dramatic improvements to people's lives, so why aren’t more governments overhauling their dysfunctional energy policies?
New transparent solar cells can be used on windows, smartphone screens
Not only are they transparent, these solar cells are also flexible. The researchers are now working on scaling the technology up for commercial applications such as window coverings for residential and office buildings, smartphone and tablet screens, electronic signs, and car windows.
Soon, Europe Might Not Need Any New Power Plants
Within a few decades, large-scale, centralized electricity generation from fossil fuels could be a thing of the past in Europe. That’s the word from investment bank UBS, which just released a new report anticipating a three pronged assault from solar power, battery technology, and electric vehicles that will render obsolete traditional power generation by large utilities that rely on coal or natural gas.
Fracked off - natural gas victims flee Colorado's toxic air
Lives and health are being ruined by pollution from taxpayer-subsidized gas wells, flaring and refining plants, while property values collapse. Now a mass of environmental refugees are fleeing the ravaged state.
US shale oil drillers flaring and venting billions of dollars in natural gas
It's a process so wasteful that it's sparked class action lawsuits from landowners, who say they've lost millions of dollars worth of gas due to flaring. Some of the air emissions from flared wells can also be toxic or carcinogenic.
Rockefellers to switch investments to 'clean energy'
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn (£31bn) in fossil fuel assets.
The big question is whether the pace of technological innovation is fast and strong enough to ease us through this period before calamity sets upon us. I will not be around when that question is answered.

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