Monday, June 02, 2008

A Convenient Truth?

solar panels I have alluded to something like this in past discussions with Judith. This is from New Scientist, but if you want to read the full article you have to subscribe. Never fear you can read it free here.

We have heard all about Al Gore's inconvenient truths on climate change. Now comes an extremely convenient truth from his German counterpart. Social Democrat MP Hermann Scheer, who has been dubbed more revolutionary than Greenpeace, says the great unspoken truth is how painless it will be to convert the world to renewable energy, especially solar power. So much so that the Kyoto protocol is a waste of time that makes what is easy and cheap seem hard and expensive. The sun king tells Fred Pearce we are as close to the solar revolution now as we were, a decade or so ago, to the cellphone revolution

A large proportion of Germany's electricity could be generated from the sun, and the barriers to achieving this are political, not economic or technological.

The protocol [Kyoto] starts from the premise that the solutions to climate change will be an economic burden. So it is all about how we share this burden. But it is not an economic burden; it is a new economic opportunity. So I don't accept the idea of issuing emission rights that can be traded.

It is not normal in civilised societies to dump household waste in the street. You pay for it to be taken away. But with energy emissions we are allowed to dump our waste in the atmosphere.

It is a great mistake to think about growing biofuels only from the few plants that provide food. You couldn't go about it in a worse way than trying to turn corn into ethanol, as the US is doing.

..we have to have localised energy production, near the farms. Solar and wind power is also best provided locally. This is completely different from the fossil fuel energy system, where production and consumption are separate - often on opposite sides of the world - and you need a huge amount of infrastructure to link them up.

People talk about introducing a low-carbon economy. I don't like that term. It is a way to smuggle in nuclear power generation and carbon capture. We should talk instead about a renewable energy economy. There is plenty of renewable energy for all our needs.

All the great technological revolutions happen much more quickly than even the experts and enthusiasts guess. The forecasts for the spread of cellphones and IT were all overtaken by the reality. The renewables revolution will be the same. The IT and mobile phone revolutions were also the first technological revolutions in modern times that were not about centralising power. They were about decentralising. And this will happen to energy from renewables. The big old-fashioned power stations and long supply chains will be replaced by local supplies for local markets. This is changing the tide of history.

All you ever wanted to know about Solar energy, except price. For the techies.


  1. Wind power is chronically unreliable except under optimum conditions; am willing to be open-minded about solar panels, except that my current understanding is that they don't provide enough power for modern needs.

    Next thought: oil is not just used as a fuel, it is also an essential ingredient in manufacturing - of course, once is becomes unrealistically expensive or unobtainable, then new materials will be invented.

    Last thought: we get lectured and dictated daily to by the so-called great and good about CO2 emissions etc, then they go and 'have to' fly around the globe for 'important' meetings that could just as easily be held via conference calls and video links. So why should we trust anything they say?

  2. Blimey Judith that was quick.

    1. Modern needs or modern waste? The trend is to design power consumption down, possibly to the point where some appliances could operate on rechargeable batteries.

    2. Yes, oil is the basis of the plastics industry.

    3. Yes again. The trick is to be able to pick out the gems.

  3. Well, as you know B21, I hang upon your every word.

    Is now a good time to mention the updated petition by the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine, wherein 31 thousand scientists signed a document stating that global warming is not attributable to human activity, and that there is definitely NOT a scientific consensus upon the harmfulness of C02 emissions and methane?

    I do appreciate that drawing attention to this puts me, according to the Bishop of Stafford, into much the same category as child abusers, but heigh ho, we truth-seekers must suffer for our principles.

    ps. As ever, before the yelling starts, I am definitely in favour of caring for the environment.

  4. What leaps out here is;

    "The IT and mobile phone revolutions ... were not about centralising power. They were about decentralising. And this will happen to energy from renewables. The big old-fashioned power stations and long supply chains will be replaced by local supplies for local markets."

    "the barriers to achieving this are political"


    Problem is, cui bono - or in this case, might this mean fewer bones for the blue-chip dogs to hoard in their well stuffed mangers.

  5. Judith,

    All information and evidence has to be interpreted. The process of interpretation is filtered through the belief system, values and life experience of the interpreter which in themselves are heavily influenced by social conditioning and the accepted conventional wisdom of the culture they operate in.

    My view is that our expectations of Science are far too high for what we can reasonably expect it to deliver at the present time.

    Practical science, or technology, is fine. Here we can do repeatable experiments that produce the same result every time. This is how we have got electricity, internal combustion engines and hip replacements.

    Theoretical science is a problem. Where the subject is too large or complex, like evolution or long range weather, we resort to theories and models, based on incomplete or sporadic evidence. That is not to say that any conclusion reached is wrong, merely that we must view it with some suspicion.

    It has also often been the case where those who stand against accepted conventional wisdom end up being the new accepted conventional wisdom. That is not to say that everybody who does this is correct, merely that they might be.

    I realise that this may not be very helpful, but being a practical, boy scout, belt and braces sort of bloke I think we need a contingency plan – just in case!

  6. Yes, Dorothea
    And since they are those who bankroll the Political Parties, they will continue to resist such changes.

    I think Machiavelli had something to say on that in The Prince.

  7. Just a reminder that blue-chip companies provide the profits that pay for anyone with a non-state pension or annuity.

  8. Quite so, but blue chips don’t last forever. The next generation of blue chips [perhaps smaller and nimbler and localised] should be encouraged rather than squeezed out by the vested interests of a closed shop.

    But then as we have seen, closed shops cannot always survive the pressures of technological and social pressures. In this respect Government should have the strength and will to act as an enabler for renewal rather than as an agent for stagnation.

  9. Judith,
    it is not only blue chips that bankroll pensions or annuities, it is every council tax payer in the land, in Redbridge's
    case last year to the tune of £17 MILLION - £1 in every £5 of council tax collected, The largest single individual item of expenditure, which is not supported in any way by the Government