The Week That Was
March 15, 2003
1. New on the Web: RENEWABLE ENERGY: A COLD APPRAISAL OF A HOT TOPIC (for publication in Geotimes)








2. MIT study opts for diesel-hybrid car
By Nancy Stauffer

Even with aggressive research, the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle will not be better than the diesel hybrid (a vehicle powered by a conventional engine supplemented by an electric motor) in terms of total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, says a study recently released by the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment (LFEE).

And while hybrid vehicles are already appearing on the roads, adoption of the hydrogen-based vehicle will require major infrastructure changes to make compressed hydrogen available. If we need to curb greenhouse gases within the next 20 years, improving mainstream gasoline and diesel engines and transmissions and expanding the use of hybrids is the way to go.

3. UK unveils greener energy plans
By Alex Kirby, BBC News Online environment correspondent

The UK Government has unveiled plans for a switch towards cleaner forms of energy, and away from fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The long-awaited Energy White Paper, published on Monday, spells out plans for radically cutting the pollution blamed for global warming. It proposes reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere to 60% of 1990 levels by about 2050.

It also announces the running-down of nuclear power stations, which currently supply about 25% of UK electricity.

Instead, the White Paper encourages renewable power, such as wind and wave energy, and energy efficiency. These, it says, "will have to achieve far more in the next 20 years than previously. We believe such ambitious progress is achievable, but uncertain."

It says the government will aim to go far beyond its stated goal that 10% of electricity should come from renewables by 2010 - up from 3% now. "We now set the ambition of doubling renewables' share of electricity generation in the decade after that", it says.

Measures to cut down on the amount of energy actually used, or wasted, are also proposed.
The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is using a rare speech on the environment to commit the UK to the ambitious energy goals. The Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, told the BBC the White Paper signalled "a good day" for the environment, although the UK would have to strive to meet its targets.

But some analysts doubt whether targets, particularly those on CO2, can be achieved without nuclear energy.

Britain's 16 nuclear power stations will all reach the end of their working lives in about 30 years, and the White Paper does not back the building of any more at present. But it keeps its options open. It says: "We do not rule out the possibility that at some point in the future new nuclear build might be necessary if we are to meet our carbon targets."

The Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a major new nuclear programme would have undermined the drive for efficiency and renewables. But she added: "We are not absolutely ruling out new nuclear build forever."

Environmental groups have welcomed the move away from nuclear power. Friends of the Earth said: "The White Paper will hopefully sound the final death knell for nuclear power in Britain".
Some householders as well as the nuclear industry may be disgruntled by the proposals, which will add to electricity prices.

The paper says the new policies will add between five and 15% to household electricity prices, up to 25% to industrial electricity prices and up to 30% to industrial gas prices by 2020.

It has already been derided as "incompetent, irrelevant and frankly dangerous" by Sir Bernard Ingham, secretary of the Supporters of Nuclear Energy group. "At a time when greenhouse emissions are rising in Britain, it proposes to continue to allow the nuclear industry, which emits no greenhouse gases, to run down," he said.

By 2010 the UK is on course to be a net fuel importer, for the first time since the industrial revolution. By 2020, the White Paper says, imported energy could be supplying three-quarters of the UK's needs. It says coal is still important for generating power.
There will be more research into ways of storing CO2 where it cannot affect the climate, probably deep underground.

But it does not tackle aircraft carbon emissions, which are a rapidly rising proportion of total emissions.

Nor does it say much about land transport, which in the UK will soon emit more CO2 than electricity generation.

SEPP Comment: Perhaps this is just a political ploy by Tony Blair. But see TWTW March 1, for speech by Environment Minister Meacher

4. An energy policy full of hot air

Sunday Telegraph
By Mary Fagan, Deputy Sunday City Editor (Filed: 23/02/2003)

Well, knock me down with a feather. The Government is actually, finally, about to publish its very long-awaited Renewables Policy. Oops! What I meant to say is that the Government will tomorrow publish its White Paper on the UK's future energy policy. Some policy.

As far as I can tell, the energy White Paper will be something between a fudge and a farce. To those in the industry it has been obvious for months that it will focus almost entirely on renewable energy such as wind farms (for which it is nigh impossible to get planning permission) and wave power (which is still almost non-existent in the UK today).

The target, ludicrously, was to have hugely uneconomic renewables accounting for 20 per cent of the UK's energy needs by 2020.

Now, it seems, the Government has got cold feet even on that. I am told that the "target" has become an "aspiration". The reason given is that the Treasury ain't too hot on targets. The reality is that even the most eco-friendly minister knows that we don't stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting to the 20 per cent goal by the end of the next decade.

The sad fact is that this White Paper is destined to be one of the biggest lost opportunities in the history of this Government. It will not tackle the real energy issues facing the country. It will bottle out of any commitment (or otherwise) to nuclear power. And, for fear of upsetting John Prescott, the deputy prime minister and planning supremo, it will even fail to sort out once and for all the very real planning problems faced by its precious renewables industry. You know - not in my back yard.

The one breakthrough, I gather, is that the Government has finally realized that you can't just switch on the wind. Now, this may not seem like rocketscience, but it's been a long time getting through to the collective ministerial brain.

That leaves the Government with a dilemma. Does it back up electricity generated by the fickle wind with power from that nasty old (but carbon-free) nuclear stuff? Or does it use good old UK coal? For an anti-nuke government committed to a carbon-free future, that's quite a tricky one, really.

Maybe we should just let the lights go out. Not much of a vote winner, but as far as solutions go, it sure is carbon free.

5. Wind power

Daily Telegraph Friday February 28 2003
End column By Peter Simple (pseudonym)

In a prodigious emission of gaseous verbiage, Tony Blair, taking a few moments off from his precious war, told a gathering of environmentalists that the destruction of the environment was as great a threat to the world as poverty, inequality, deteriorating relations between Islam and the West, weapons of mass destruction or any other current menace you can think of.

He announced that to help the environment there would be a target to reduce fossil fuel emissions in Britain by 60 per cent by the year 2050. This is said to be part of his vision of a future "sustainable" world in which "renewable" sources of energy will mitigate the effects of the dreaded fossil fuels.

All this depends on the belief that it is possible to foretell the future by extrapolation from the present. This belief is no more valid than divination by crystals, eggshells or the entrails of dead animals. But for gullible people it justifies the sacrifice of present good for the sake of a supposedly better future.

The Prime Minister's words were backed up by the issue of a government White Paper recommending such "renewable" sources of energy as wind, tidal and solar power. The captains of the booming wind industry, who want to spread their horrible wind farms over all available parts of the country, must be rubbing their hands. Others, who abhor the intrusion of these hideous, noisy, towering, bird-slaughtering structures into the few remaining quiet and beautiful parts of the country, will be wringing their hands. This is not a small matter.

It does not concern only a few old-fashioned aesthetes and Luddite romantics ("landscape fascists", a wonderful coinage by fanatical "Friends of the Earth"). It concerns everyone who hopes, forlornly perhaps, that England, in spite of everything, may still be a country fit for human beings to live in. What will become of us when there are no places of refuge or respite from ever advancing industry in a world of unending industrialised war?

It may be worth mentioning that wind power, though a very profitable business for some, is expensive, unreliable and inefficient; that not all scientists believe in global warming anyhow and that there are scientists who believe that fossil fuel emission is only one of the innumerable factors that control the world's climate.

However, global warming has become as firmly fixed in the popular mind as an unquestioned article of faith, as any much-derided medieval superstition.

6. Support for nuclear energy in Europe

In Britain, the Royal Society plans to release its White Paper in support of nuclear energy in mid-2003.

EU Energy Commissioner Palacio declares there is no possibility that nuclear powerplants can be replace by renewable energy sources.

In the German Bundestag, Gudrun Kopp. energy speaker for the liberal party FDG, sees no possibility of shutting down nuclear reactors, as currently planned.

Russia budgets 700 million Euros for 2003 for modernizing nuclear powerplants.

Meanwhile, India is pushing ahead with its 500 MW fast-nuclear-breeder prototype reactor and may soon lead the world in the eventual use of plentiful thorium resources as nuclear fuel. Construction is to start in April 2003, with operation scheduled in 2009.


7. Radon therapy going strong

Eight German spas offer radon therapy against arthritis and other illnesses, using radon-containing water and air inhalation. Typical exposure in a 3-week treatment is 8-9 mSv (800-900 millirem) -- compared to the average natural background of 2.4 mSv/yr.

See and also


8. UN climate efforts continue

The next Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP-9) is scheduled to be in Milan Dec 1-12, 2003. Meanwhile, rumors have it that Russia will announce ratification of Kyoto at the next Summit on Sustainable Development in August, putting Kyoto over the top. Then again, they may not. With Kyoto binding on all ratifiers, it would go into operation and Russia will be able to sell its CO2 allowances. Let's see if this comes to pass and what the market says about the price for the allowances.



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