Comment posted Fife Council joins Aberdeenshire in asking for suspension of wind farm applications by Dr Douglas McKenzie.
I’m not sure that wind and nuclear are either or. They both have advantages and some major disadvantages.
Nuclear must be considered the most reliable and able to deliver a very high power density compared with wind. So from a reliability viewpoint nuclear wins hands down.
From a cost viewpoint there probably isn’t much in it (though it is very difficult to determine the actual cost of nuclear given that nobody seems keen to build any new plants and the improbability of decommissioning).
So nuclear one up and a score draw on the second.
But then we look at environmental impact, NIMBYism and the security risk. Here wind wins hands down. No one is going to commit an act of terrorism with a wind turbine so no need for elaborate security. Worst outcome of a major earthquake or tsunami with turbines is that someone walking their dog underneath one might be squashed by a falling turbine or tower. Worst case scenario with a nuclear accident is some thousands of deaths (some quick, some slow) and a large part of your country that has to be abandoned for generations. A similar story with technology failure.
NIMBYism with nuclear dwarfs any problems with wind.
Biggest problem, though, are legacy issues. Wind power has no real legacy issues. Despite Newsroom’s pessimism, turbine blades and towers can be recycled and the footprint of the turbines can be absorbed within a couple of years. Nuclear plants produce radioactive waste that lasts between months (at the low end) to thousands of years. In my view, this is the major drawback of nuclear fission. Is it really right to answer our current energy needs by saddling future generations with a problem that we have no idea how to deal with?
As I have pontificated oft before, the best solution is to use a sensible mix of renewables and nuclear, at least until we develop a good method of energy storage.
Dr Douglas McKenzie also commented
- Robert: I certainly wish I could invoice someone (anyone!) for the time I spend on here.
I was trying hard to ignore Malcolm as I recognise he is a hopeless case, unwilling to genuinely debate the issues but, eventually, he manages to find some new outrageous assertion that makes me reach for my laptop. This is not out of some hugely strong belief that I am right, it is much more his apparently unfounded and messianic belief that he is. Messianic I can live with but only if it is backed with rigorous facts and argument. But I have no truck with blind faith when all the facts point in the opposite direction.
- Malcolm: my wife has a theory that you just deliberately provoke me to have me waste my time thundering away on the keyboard. “Simon” used to have a similar effect. It is a weakness of mine.
But here I go again…
First, there is nothing daft about Robert’s idea of a tunnel. I’m sure people said the Clyde Tunnel was a daft idea, or the Glasgow Underground, or the Mersey Tunnel or the Millennium Dome (no, sorry,, that was a daft idea). The engineering isn’t too difficult (we have built a much longer Channel Tunnel after all). The only question is whether or not the economics make it feasible but I for one do not rule it out until I have seen some sort of feasibility study.
CCS: the 1 billion is for a pilot demonstration plant and is no more (or less) for the whole UK population than is Scottish wind. My real point, Malcolm, is that you just don’t seem to have a clue about the real cost of energy. The numbers are huge – almost as big as bank bailouts. Energy is dictated in decades and in billions. £400M is small change in energy terms (and you still haven’t pointed us to some facts to back up your assertion of the figures).
The news from Brazil was desperately depressing for anyone who cares about our species, our planet and – above all – our children. Must have missed the bit at the summit where they declared that global warming wasn’t an issue.
Lots of oil being discovered, true. But how much is sweet light crude? How much is in nice, easy places to get at? (ie not in any place that ends in “tic” or is more than 300m in depth?). And how does the discovery of new reserves match up with demand? That’s rising and rising fast. Problem is that the Chinese have all the money and the demand (and indeed the reserves).
As Karl says, flare up in the Arabian Gulf, coupled with, say, a big storm in the Gulf of Mexico that knocks out oil production and suddenly we are looking at fuel shortages in the UK.: rationing, emergency vehicles and the army the priority. Suddenly the shelves at Tesco empty because there is no fuel for their lorries (and you can’t reach the shops anyway as your car has run out of petrol). In the UK we are about a week away from starvation and the vulnerability is our transport system because it depends on oil – oil that we have pitiful reserves of. At least we are better off than our Continental cousins in that we could ration North Sea oil production. But you just keep in your complacent world where oil is ever abundant.
Surely so much better to develop a society that can live on its own energy production, unbeholden to anyone else? That means a good mix of energy for transport and power production.
As usual you have a poor grasp of the actual facts: the three day week was actually the Tory Government trying to tough it out with the miners (who were led by Joe Gormley not Scargill) at a time of global energy emergency caused by the 1973 Yom Kippur War. My point is that fossil fuel supplies are extremely vulnerable to political action both internally and externally of the UK. Our dependence on gas (50% of our electricity production and the UK now a net importer despite the North Sea)means that we are now vulnerable to the whims of Mr Putin. What Stalin couldn’t achieve with his armies, Putin could do with a large spanner.
I’m not the brightest person around Malcolm. I have had the good fortune to have rubbed shoulders with many very bright people to whom I struggle to hold a candle. It is interesting that you constantly try to denigrate me: if it is not my boring prose it is my intellect. Makes me think the person with the problem here is not me Malcolm.
I think where we really differ though is not our intellect nor our passion or belief but on ethics. You reveal so much in your last sentences where you say that it is justifiable to leave problems to our children to solve. I was brought up to believe that it was the role and indeed duty of the current generation to do all we can for the next: our children. Instead we have given them huge public debts, nuclear waste, rising CO2 levels and global warming, a population heading towards 9 billion and an energy policy based on a rapidly shrinking natural resource.
So, forgive me Malcolm, if I use the time I have left and the talents I have been given to at least try to make a better world for my two wee daughters and all of their bright-faced contemporaries worldwide.
- Malcolm: you go round and round more often than a high efficiency wind turbine!
Your numbers are meaningless without context and it would help their credibility if you would cite where they are coming from.
Some context: the UK Government is offering a 1 billion pound prize for a successful CCS demonstrator. That rather dwarves the subsidy figures you give for wind and is just for a project. Subsidies for fossil fuels globally run into hundreds of BILLIONS of pounds annually.
Why is the “panic” over global warming over. Or do you just mean in your household (or indeed just in your own head?).
As to fossil fuels supplying us with reliable power production, remember the three day week? Or the “panic” over gas supplies from Russia to Europe in recent years or what about the blackouts in California – one of the most technologically advanced parts of the planet? Simple fact is that one day there will not be enough fossil fuels to meet demand and that day will have evil consequences (and that’s before we get onto the CO2 problem). That time may be soon, it may be decades away – we will only know AFTER it has happened.
But surely it is sensible to do something about it NOW rather than when we have an acute emergency?
All electricity producing technologies require reserves to be available – not just renewables. But I think I’ve pointed that out to you before.
- JimB: You make an interesting point but your arithmetic isn’t correct.
If we take an ideal carbon source such as graphite (you could use diamond but that would be a bit of a waste) and burn one tonne of it in air, each carbon atom that forms the graphite lattice binds with two oxygen atoms to form carbon dioxide. Your atomic numbers are correct (the actual weights differ slightly because of stable isotopes but let’s ignore that for now as the differences are very small and it’s a Saturday morning). Carbon = 12 and 2 x Oxygen = 2 x 16 = 32 => Total: 44 (12/44 so the carbon represents 27.27% of the total mass of the CO2. However, in your post you are forgetting that the one tonne of carbon is made up of atoms of atomic weight of 12, so rather than needing 32 tonnes of oxygen it needs 3.6 tonnes of oxygen to completely covert it into CO2 (44/12 = 3.6).
Although your numbers are out, your general premise is correct: burning carbon consumes oxygen and as you burn more carbon you are using up more oxygen from the atmosphere.
So the next question is does this matter? Figures for anthropogenic CO2 vary but a good estimate is about 30 gigatonnes per annum. So this means an additional _22 gigatonnes of oxygen are removed from the atmosphere. That sounds scary. However, the atmosphere contains 1 million gigatonnes of oxygen so it would take a long time for our production of CO2 to significantly reduce the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.
The story is complicated though by the carbon and oxygen cycles. Carbon dioxide on its own is pretty unreactive under normal atmospheric conditions (hence its persistence). However, plants covert carbon dioxide into sugars and liberate oxygen as a by-product of the process. Some climate sceptics think that rising CO2 levels will just mean more plant growth and under this sort of model you would either have atmospheric oxygen staying at the same level or even increasing (more CO2, more plant growth, more oxygen released). However, CO2 is rarely the factor limiting plant growth (nutrients tend to be more important) so increasing CO2 levels may in fact have little or no direct effect on photosynthesis.
There is, however, concern over one aspect of anthropogenic CO2 and that relates to ocean acidification. Much of the global oxygen is produced not by forests but by planktonic algae in the oceans. As CO2 dissolves in water it forms a weak acid (carbonic acid). many algae are sensitive to changes in acidity so some scientists are concerned that rapid acidification may inhibit algal growth and thus reduce the amount of oxygen being released into the atmosphere. This is a genuine concern but it is very difficult to put some sort of estimate on the probability that oceanic acidification will result in reduced oxygen production because of the complexities of the various atmospheric/ocean cycles involved and in the algae themselves as the latter may adapt to the conditions.
Food for thought
If this is a club at least there isn’t a membership fee!
- No, Spain’s problems have nothing to do with government mismanagement, socialist or otherwise. In fact Spain’s public finances were in pretty good shape with little in the way of a deficit ahead of the current crisis. Like Ireland (and unlike Greece) their problems are entirely down to irresponsible lending by their banks.
And that’s not an opinion.
Recent comments by Dr Douglas McKenzie
- Rustle with Russell
More utter rubbish from Lynda Henderson. Have you actually spoken to Bob Allen? Whoever told you the story sold you a pup and in your arrogance you cannot admit to be wrong so you make up this story that he was persuaded not to resign.
Your position is completely untenable.
- Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
I’m afraid you condemn yourself by your own words. I don’t think that anyone reading what you have written here and the language you have used would conclude anything other than that you have a deep dislike for Mr Russell and that dislike is leading you to basically lose all sense of either proportion or impartiality. It doesn’t matter how well (or otherwise) you know Mr Russell you are clearly exercised by your interpretation of his actions and it is leading you well beyond the pale in what I would consider fair comment.
This vendetta against Mr Russell and the SNP is destroying FA’s credibility and I have to confess that I’m seriously considering whether or not to continue reading FA (which will cheer Malcolm up if nothing else). I for one am becoming increasingly disenchanted by the constant negativity and sheer nastiness that has crept into this blog. I say that with a lot more sorrow than anger because I think that FA could have been great and indeed still could but there has to be a degree of balance, civility and indeed humour. All we are getting here is bile and it is causing me heartburn.
- Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
To be honest, this post clearly shows that you are speaking from your personal dislike of Mr Russell rather than an unbiased analysis of the man. Phrases such as “publicity hungry coward” are well beyond what is reasonable comment.
- Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
You don’t seem to understand the separation of a MSP’s duty to his or her constituency and their responsibilities as a Government Minister.
Yet again, this is another instance where a member of the Government can do no right: speak up and be condemned as “desperate” or stay silent and be accused of not serving your constituents’ interests.
It is just as well that Mr Russell has broad shoulders!
- Atlantic Islands Centre for Luing: biggest investment in island’s history
Well done Luing – an inspiration to all of Argyll’s communities.
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