Labour’s dodgy drilling policy avoids climate reality

In his interview on TV3’s The Nation last weekend David Shearer declared a Labour Party policy on oil and gas drilling which, like the Government’s, fails to confront the reality of climate change. Drilling will continue. The approval processes will be improved, the regulations will be tight, the money gained will be used well, but drilling will continue. He acknowledged that “at the end of the day” fossil fuels are out. They cannot continue to be our future. But we can use them to transition to renewables. They can remain a strand in our development. ”There’s a potential there and while there’s a potential we should be looking at it.”

Transition is a word which acquires a convenient elasticity in the language of those who argue for the continued exploration for fossil fuels. We all realise that the change from fossil energy can’t happen overnight. There has to be a period of transition. But to use that fact to justify continued new exploration and development of fossil fuels is to rob the transition of all urgency and treat it rather as something we will need to gradually prepare for as fossil reserves are finally exhausted.

The message from the science is clear. If we burn more than a third of the fossil fuel reserves already discovered we will cause a level of warming likely to prove catastrophic for human society.

Political parties and governments which support expanded exploration and development of fossil resources either do not understand the severity of the scientific message or are so consumed by the prospects of economic wealth that they are determined not to heed it.

Earnest discussion about making deep sea drilling safe for the environment by ensuring the availability of technology to deal quickly with a leaking well is beside the point. The far greater danger of deep sea drilling is that any discoveries it results in may be used to delay the move to low-carbon energy we so desperately need. The financial investment is huge and the pressure to ensure a return on it likely to be determined.

New Zealand is not alone in attempting to straddle professed concern about climate change and a willingness to expand the search for more fossil fuels. But that doesn’t make it a defensible position. Its intellectual hollowness is plain. Its consequences if we go on to burn all that is discovered will be disastrous long before we have finished.

I was in the process of reviewing Gabrielle Walker’s book on Antarctica when I listened to the interview with Shearer. I thought of the great West Antarctic ice sheet and its vulnerability the scientists she wrote about are discovering. I wondered if any National Party or Labour Party politicians in New Zealand feel the kind of rising alarm that seems to me the only appropriate response to what the science is revealing.

It’s an alarm which dwarfs the prospect of gaining wealth from further exploration for a fuel that we must learn to manage without at a quicker pace than Shearer seemed ready to contemplate. But evidently it’s an alarm which remains muted for most of our politicians.

128 thoughts on “Labour’s dodgy drilling policy avoids climate reality”

  1. The NZ Green Party are proposing to fund their “Green Bank” from the proceeds of oil production in NZ

    So no oil production = no “green bank”, I guess

    1. For once you are correct andy. But as usual only give half the story. The initial funding of the Green Bank would be from raising the royalties on oil production. This would have the benefit of limiting oil production, and investing the wealth gained towards greener technologies.

        1. Bryan Leyland would be very upset to hear you say that – he always makes quite a point of insisting that he makes more money from his investments in green technologies than from fossil fuels.

          1. Bryan Leyland has a stake in a small hydro scheme.
            I am referring to the wealth that is destroyed by the wind and solar industries

            See Spain, for example
            Then, I didn’t think that wealth was an aspirational goal in these parts

  2. Regretfully both major parties in NZ (as around the world) are still deeply in love with neo-liberal economics – even though the “hidden hand” has been show to be a false god. The vestiges of the 1984 “revolution” are still in the NZ Labour ranks Goff, Mallard, et al, and the unshakable belief that growing the national cake will enable every one to get a bigger slice is still there. It is of course a myth, as has been repeatedly demonstrated over the past 30 years. But still this fundamental economics persists. So I do not find it surprising that Labour are prepared to risk the lives of the last 55 Maui dolphin, or the purity of our beaches, or add to our already high per capita GHG emissions. This is simply the result of bowing to the god of materialistic growth over humanity.

    1. Regarding the 55 Maui dolphin, Statoil recently stated that in 40 years of operation, they have never seen any injuries or deaths due to seismic exploration, and all their NZ operations will have independent observers on board

      So we “risk” the lives of 55 Maui Dolphin with a dataset of zero, yet we build wind turbines where we have concrete evidence of significant bird kill.

        1. I was specifically referring to Dolphins rather than birds with respect to the oil industry, and the supporting article from Statoil is here

          I don’t know specifics of how many and what type of birds are killed by the oil industry, but I am pretty sure the oil industry doesn’t have legal exception from killing protected species such as Bald Eagles. I would imagine there would be (rightly) a massive outcry were this to happen, but in the US this is the case for the wind industry.

          See, for example.

          1. It is your claim of “significant” bird kills that is made up nonsense, as you well know. Virtually all human activity has an impact on wildlife, and yet the only thing you complain about is wind turbines. Until I hear you campaigning for windows to be abolished, I will be skeptical of your credentials as a conservationist.

            The Bald Eagle is still legally protected – despite being rated as Least Concern by the IUCN – because the main human-caused deaths are by shooting and poison. Without that protection it is likely that the population would decrease rapidly. Wind turbines are simply not a significant cause of mortality for the Bald Eagle, and it is dishonest of you to keep saying that they are.

            1. Presumably a few million may be considered “significant”
              At least, a figure greater than zero is more significant than the figure of zero dolphins that have been killed by Statoil’s seismic exploration.

              I know that windows kills birds, but none as far as I know kill Bald Eagles.

              The Bald Eagle is indeed protected but if you are a wind energy company you have a free pass to kill them.

              The wind company NextEra was filmed chopping down a Bald Eagle nest by Esther Wrightman, who was served a 7 figure SLAPP suit for posting the video on Youtube.

              There was not a single squeak from the “environmental” movement over this outrage

            2. Yes indeed, cars kill people.

              I am not proposing that we “ban” wind turbines because they kill birds, or that they spray toxic chemicals across the land when they catch fire, or that they cause health problems in humans. Some collateral damage is expected as we transition to a “low carbon” economy, even if it causes extinctions and misery.

              What I am suggesting is that the idea that we should ban all seismic surveying (as gets suggested quite often) because it “harms” dolphins and whales, with a dataset of zero, is somewhat inconsistent with the concept that the wind industry gets a free pass to kill protected Bald Eagles in the USA, without a single voice of objection from the environmental movement

              This leads me to the conclusion that the environmental movement doesn’t actually care about the environment at all.

            3. AndyS, nobody really wants to see birds killed, but In my opinion the priority is wind power and clean energy. This is not hypocrisy by environmentalists it is simple prioritising. There is also no evidence of big bird strike problems in NZ.

            4. NigelJ says this is not hypocrisy

              Yes it is. You are defending the slaughter of the Bald Eagle

              I find it very hard to think of any other word other than hypocrisy to describe this position.

              If an oil company were granted legal exemption from killing animals and birds you would be screaming from the rooftops

              Everytime a bird gets covers in tar and oil, it is all over Greenpeace posters, yet when a bird of prey is lying injured or dead under a wind turbine, we hear not a squeak

              It is hardly surprising to me though. There are many parallels outside of environmentalism too.

            5. Andys, you are being melodramatic. Some bald eagles get killed but this is not some mass slaughter. And no greenie is saying this is a nice thing. Just as they are critical of dolphins dying related to the oil drilling.

              However look at the bigger picture. As Thomas points out the research shows more birds get killed by fossil fuel power than wind power (in constant terms like gwh) so wind is preferable. Wind power is the lesser of the evils.

            6. I nearly ran over an osprey eating roadkill the last time I was in the US. The number of bald eagles killed by cars would be greater than the number killed by windmills.
              I doubt survey vessels are a significant threat to Maui dolphins but fishing nets certainly are. Maui dolphin numbers are possibly below critical mass, which would be very sad.

            7. Bald eagles have made a good comeback since DDT was phased out, but the California Condor is much rarer. Having spent a fortune on captive breeding ( and trained the foundlings to avoid power lines and humans ), the US Wildlife Service would be cross if their expensive raptors started flying into turbine blades. The windfarm developers are well aware of this, going so far as radar tracking of birds to make sure they’re not straying into proposed windfarm areas, or even to shut operating turbines down if one approaches.
              ‘Revival Of Iconic California Condor Threatens State’s Wind Farm Boom’ – Forbes Magazine Jan 16, 2012

            8. Indeed, the condor situation is much more comparable to the Maui’s Dolphin scenario. Note the cautionary approach being adopted by the wind farm developers, as opposed to andy’s “there is no problem” attitude. Once again we see the moral bankruptcy of andy’s position.

            9. Do you have a reference for your “few million” number or is that just made up? Thought so, made up.

              Your comparison between Bald Eagles and Maui’s Dolphin is specious.

              Bald Eagle: IUCN status Least Concern, global population 115,000+, resident across most of North America.

              Maui’s Dolphin: IUCN status Critically Endangered, global population ~55, resident only in certain areas of North Island NZ.

              That would tend to suggest a slightly different approach to conservation is required. The tolerance to risk of the Maui’s population is zero, therefore any activity that threatens them is not good. Once again, andy, you demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of risk management.

            10. CTG writes

              Once again we see the moral bankruptcy of andy’s position

              I find it interesting that you describe me in this way

              You find it acceptable for wind farm developers to be allowed to kill Bald Eagles. without prosecution, and yet you find my “position” that there is no empirical evidence that seismic exploration kills marine life “morally bankrupt”

              Interesting, I’ll have a think about that

            11. Andy, you should read a bit more widely.
              Then would realize that bird mortality varies greatly between electricity generation. But not the way your wind farm haters want us to believe, as fossil fuel power stations killed over 10 times more birds per GWh than wind farms and even nuclear power stations killed more than wind farms.

              The study estimates that wind farms and nuclear power stations are responsible each for between 0.3 and 0.4 fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh. While this paper should be respected as a preliminary assessment, the estimate means that wind farms killed approximately seven thousand birds in the United States in 2006 but nuclear plants killed about 327,000 and fossil-fueled power plants 14.5 million.


            12. Interesting, I’ll have a think about that

              Well, there’s a first time for everything, I suppose. But let’s assume that you won’t actually think about it.

              It might be an idea not to simply take the word of an oil company that seismic exploration does not affect cetaceans (what possible reason could they have to lie about that?). You could, for example, look to see what cetacean experts have to say:

              * cetaceans can b
              e disturbed
              by seismic exploration

              * seismic exploration can interfere with cetacean communication

              * Where feeding, orientation, hazard avoidance, migration or social behavior
              are altered, it is possible that populations could be adversely affected.

              Combined with the fact that our local experts agree that the impacts on Maui’s Dolphin are too risky to be allowed, your oil company claims are rather hollow. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

              And as I pointed out before, the handful of Bald Eagle deaths that might inadvertently arise from wind farms do not pose a significant threat to the Bald Eagle population, and therefore the exemption from prosecution given to those companies is eminently sensible – the protection is still in place to deter the intentional deaths from poisoning and shooting that would undoubtedly occur if the protection were lifted.

              So how about for once, you actually do think about these issues without prejudice? Yeah, right.

            13. CTG’s references.

              “Can be disturbed”.
              “May be…”

              Is a long way from “will be killed”

              Don’t you think?
              I don’t doubt that seismic exploration “disturbs” animals. I worked in this industry many years ago. Firing a very large compressed airgun array will definitely “disturb” anything in the vicinity

              However, a seismic survey is a temporary event, and it is the only way to find oil.

              Statoil say that they have never seen any evidence of mammals being killed or injured in 40 years. You may not believe them, but I have yet to see any other evidence that this has happened, and they will have independent observers on their boats in NZ

            14. andy, perhaps you should do a bit of reading before you start spouting gargbage. The *whole point* of the references I gave you was that the effects of seismic exploration are a lot more subtle than dead dolphins immediately floating belly up. I don’t doubt that Statoil have not seen any dead floating bodies; this does not mean that seismic exploration has not effect or is harmless.

              With a small population at the brink of extinction such as Maui’s, even small disturbances to feeding or breeding behaviour may be enough to tip it over the edge.

              How about for once in your dumb fucking life, you actually listen to what the experts have to say. Is that really too much to ask?

            15. CTG writes

              How about for once in your dumb fucking life, you actually listen to what the experts have to say. Is that really too much to ask?

              Yes it is too much to ask. I don’t trust your so-called experts that have an axe to grind, and I don’t take kindly to unmoderated abuse and swearing directed at me.

            16. Stop lying, and I will stop abusing you.

              It’s illuminating that you choose to malign respectable scientists while taking an oil company at face value. As I said, your moral bankruptcy is in plain sight.

            17. “I don’t trust your so-called experts that have an axe to grind,….” … instead Andy trusts his own gut, and boy does he have an axe to grind….

              This is the prototypical state of mind of the common climate change denier “know it all” as showcased across a wide spectrum of the right wing scene from the US Republicans to the Heartland scene to ACT and to the cabal of self appointed arm chair ‘experts’ eeked on by hang outs such as Watts, Nova……

            18. CTG says stop lying and I will stop abusing you

              I am not lying. So you can stop abusing me now

            19. Thomas writes

              “I don’t trust your so-called experts that have an axe to grind,….” … instead Andy trusts his own gut,

              Funnily enough you were just opining about the relative avian moralities in the wind and fossil fuel industries, which seemed to be based almost entirely on your gut instinct

            20. Nonsense Andy. You know for wall that I derive my information from the work of scientists. Not from my gut. You however…
              What don’t you get about the links I and others quoted for you? Study after study comes to the same outcome: Avian casualties of wind farms pale into insignificance when compared with the rest of the human civilization impact and the fossil fuel industry ranks well above all other energy industry forms as a killer of wildlife, birds included.

              Get a grip Andy! You are the most persistent denier of just about anything BUT the sounds from your gut as you freely admit. Your quest is silly.

            21. andy, you insisted that there was zero evidence of harm to cetaceans from seismic exploration. This is not true, as I demonstrated with links to research showing harm. Your response to that evidence was to claim that the scientists producing that research were corrupt, which is also not true.

              If you say things that are not true, when you know them to be not true, that is called lying.

              Now, you can either act like a reasonable person, and withdraw your claims about the lack of harm to cetaceans from seismic exploration, or you can persist with your denials and lies. Up to you, but don’t be upset if I continue to call out your lies.

            22. Ctg makes some claims that I said things that I didn’t say and then calls me a liar for that.

              Let’s take one point for a start. ” Andy claims that scientists are corrupt, which they aren’t, therefore he is a liar”

              That is a remarkable piece of logic. I actually claims that scientists who study cetaceans may have an “axe to grid”.

              This is probably true of any scientist working in a field that they have some passion for. It doesn’t mean that they are corrupt

              Secondly, if I make a statement that person x is of a certain character, this is a value judgement that I am placing on that person, rather than an objective fact. Some people may thnk David Careron is a great guy. Some may think he is an idiot. Neither one is lying.

              I could get onto the subject of your papers in the unlikely event that you read this comment .

            23. So andy, you withdraw your statement that there is a “dataset of zero” regarding the effects of seismic exploration on cetaceans?

            24. Semantic games are very tedious andy. It is pretty clear what you meant by “axe to grind”, and it is pretty unpleasant no matter how many hairs you split.

              Your implication was that either the scientists quoted were misrepresenting the research, or else that the research itself was flawed. In either case, it shows your basic anti-science tendencies – any science with disagrees with your prejudices is immediately labelled as “suspect”. Pathetic.

            25. Actually CTG I think I might have been a little hasty in my “axe to grind” statement

              The scientists themselves probably don’t have an axe to grind. It is people like you who use them to further your agenda that have an axe to grind

              I see one of your papers claims that seismic surveying, boats, drilling and other “unnatural” noise “may disturb cetacians”

              No sh*t Sherlock!

              Noise disturbs me too
              Traffic, loud music, etc.

              Let’s ban everything, perhaps. Boats with engines amy disturb cetacians. Maybe we should ban them too.

              After all, general boat traffic is much more prevalent than the occasional seismic survey

              My “dataset of zero” is referring to the lack of dead whales and dolphins as a direct result of seismic surveying.

              I’m sure, as I have already said and based on my own personal experience, that seismic surveys may disturb wildlife to some degree.

              If you don’t want to see any further oil exploration, then the obvious thing is to stop using it and all its by-products,

              For example, petrol, diesel, all plastic products, lubricants ….

            26. So many strawmen.

              My “dataset of zero” is referring to the lack of dead whales and dolphins as a direct result of seismic surveying.

              I’ve lost count of how many times I have said this, but no one has ever suggested that cetaceans die as a direct result of surveying. The disturbance from the seismic airguns is a specific threat that results in additional effects. You were the one who brought up this subject, insisting that seismic exploration would be harmless to the Maui’s Dolphin. You have presented no credible evidence to support that position, whereas I have shown that there is a wealth of science to support the position of the local cetacean experts. But thank you for being so gracious as to withdraw your slanderous comments against those scientists.

              If you don’t want to see any further oil exploration, then the obvious thing is to stop using it and all its by-products,

              I didn’t say I wanted to stop oil production overnight. The oil reserves that we already know about would be more than enough to supply the products you mentioned if we stop using oil for transportation and energy. So there is no need to keep exploring for new oil sources.

              I know you are trying to paint me as some sort of anti-progress greenie, but if you would just leave your prejudices behind, there could be some interesting debate on the issue.

          2. Wow, Andy, where were you when the Brazilians needed your dodging and sideways shuffling skills in the World Cup semifinals?

            They pay better than Heartland, too.

            1. Thomas, the study by Ben Sovacool, in which he claims that nuclear plants kill more birds than wind turbines, forty times as many in fact, has not been without criticism. As I’ve written before on this site, it extrapolates from two very unusual and unrepeated events, one where a flock of birds died on a toxic copper mine waste pond ( but hey, it might as well have been uranium ), and the other where a flock of birds struck a power plant’s cooling towers ( it was a coal plant, but a nuclear plant, with no cooling towers, was adjacent. Lights were installed and the bird deaths ceased.) This website detailed some criticisms of Sovacool’s study, and to his credit, he wrote in to respond to them. You can read the exchange here ( warning, there’s a lot of it )-
              Unfortunately the zombie factoid, that reactors kill more birds than windfarms, is liable to keep cropping up unchallenged on the webs. Here’s Rod Adams-
              ‘We ( engineers ) generally do not think that numbers that are admittedly rough guesses based on little or no experimental information are actually “numbers”; they are just wild assertions. They certainly cannot be honestly used for statements like “fossil-fueled facilities are about 17 times more dangerous to birds on a per GWh basis than wind and nuclear power stations.” How the heck can you know that one number is 17 times higher than another number when you have no idea what either number really is?
              Why do you think it is valid to place 100-150 meter tall wind turbines whose blade tips could be moving as fast as 230 MPH ( in the same category as nuclear power stations that might not have any structures taller than 100 feet on site?’
              Especially when one reactor outperforms six hundred turbines.

            2. John, fossil fuel use definitely causes way more fatalities of wildlife, birds included, than wind farms.
              The interesting exchange you pointed to is reconfirming that.
              In any case, all human activities will imperil animal life. Just think about the slaughter of the large predatory fish in the oceans due to our activities including the ludicrous ‘sport’ of torturing sail fish by so called ‘sport fishers’.
              But back to wind farms: I am very confident that the environmental impact of Wind Farms is very small compared to the fossil fuel equivalent and I am also very confident that bird death due to wind farms are very small compared to those dying from the impacts of the fossil fuel industry.
              The harping on about wind turbine strike death of birds by wind energy haters is disingenuous nonsense when you look for a moment at the bigger picture of what humanity is doing.

            3. I think it is safe to say that nuclear power is relatively benign when considering bird strike risk. Unfortunately we have to look at a bit more than bird strike when formulating an energy policy. The problems for nuclear include the massive wedge of cash you have to sink to have just one plant, with the inherent risk of long delay in completion (or for the UK even getting started), and the massive hole it makes in your generation when it keeps dropping off line for months at a time with no warning (see Sizewell B).
              NZ just like the UK has stringent planning control over wind turbines and ornithology. One year plus of vantage point monitoring (multiple sites even for a small wind farm), breeding season surveys, migration route surveys, and add to that use of the new radar monitoring, all that just for your baseline evidence. Once that is gathered, many wind farm proposals that you have never heard of, get binned.
              I have posted the link here before but if you want to see the effect very large wind turbines can have on a sensitive bird habitat, look up the Bristol Ports one at Avonmouth, the whole Severn Estuary being a Ramsar site of international importance for migratory birds.
              Oh and tip speed – there is an optimum tip speed, that is why longer bladed turn at lower rpm. How unusual for you to pick up to 230mph (from a wind NIMBY website no less) for one turbine when all the others on the list were significantly slower. I do not know why the V112 has that maximum tip speed, but it must be uncommon because it is far removed from optimum energy capture. Perhaps it is a design response to high wind speed, using the gearing to shed energy. The sort of high wind speed when birds don’t go flying round structures.

  3. Not just the West Antarctic ice sheet Bryan, the marine-based sectors of East Antarctica, once thought to be safe, are most likely committed to disintegration too.

    Labour’s problem is that there is little differentiation between itself and National. National has moved further to the right, and Labour has too – becoming, in effect, National-lite.

    So neither National nor Labour understand that they are on the wrong side of both science and history. Quite sad really.

    1. Rob, I understand that East Antarctica is also vulnerable. I stuck with West in this post because it was the West that Gabrielle Walker was writing about. But in their current mood it appears that even the prospect of a totally ice-free earth would be insufficient to disturb politicians transfixed by the wealth to be gained from fossil fuels.

  4. The Greens are all over the climate change issue but apologists for population increase.
    Labour (and the Savings Working Group, Treasury, Gareth Morgan) relates immigration to house price increase; the Greens deny a relationship.
    The Royal Society of NZ are talking about the decline of our regions and need for an “exit strategy”. Meanwhile Auckland is a sucking vampire sqid growing on population increase but the phoney Greens are blind to the big green picture. As Sue Bradford said “a lot of people don’t realise we are a social justice party”. Whose fault is that?

    1. JH please provide specific proof that the Greens are apologists for population increase.

      Their website suggests they generally oppose significant global population growth,but are realistic that this growth isn’t going to stop by “tomorrow lunchtime”.

      They see NZs maximum capacity at about 5.7 million, based on environmental sustainability criteria. They seem to accept some immigraton into NZ, but are hardly saying “open the floodgates” to immigration.

      Others like the NZIER see our population going to 20 million and rather rapidly. I would certainly oppose this.

      The Greens policy seems reasonable to me.

  5. Establishing carrying capacity have been described as “excruciatingly difficult”. It is encouraging that the Greens have a population policy on the horizon.
    In the past they had a policy but Keith Lock was at great pains to point out:
    “It would also be racist to try to dictate family size, given that the various ethnic groups in our society have different birth rates.
    and“However, it would be quite wrong to take from this that we are asking parents to have less kids,” Mr Locke says.
    “It is anathema to myself – as it is to the Green Party – that any person should interest themselves in the right of any one to choose how many children they have,” said Mr Locke.
    A difference between left wingers and greens is that the left are loathe to blame issues on people (as in numbers or behaviours) instead they favour other paradigms power, racism, exploitation, colonisation. This is apparent when they take sides on the immigration/house prices debate. It is also apparent in their largesse towards refugees who are but a tip of an iceberg.
    The Greens remain willfully ignorant of Michael Reddell’s hypothesisyet you would expect real green’s to be sympathetic.

      1. No jh has a legitimate complaint against the Greens. Nandor Tanzos started a debate “The Greens are not a left wing party” the proposition was defeated and one of the best qualified protagonists (David Hay) hangs upside down on Marama Davidson’s Daily Blog post. The left have a different paradigm (eg immigration is Holy Writ as is The Treaty of Waitangi). Paradigms make all the difference to policy.

  6. To put andy’s claims from Statoil into context, here’s an example from my former field of behavioural ecology.

    Tim Birkhead had discovered that dunnocks – a legendarily monogamous bird – were in fact enthusiastic engagers in extra-pair copulation (EPC), or adultery to you and me. He then started looking at other species to see if this was common. On a trip to Australia, he arranged to visit a field site of some researchers who were studying zebra finches, another species considered to be life-long pair bonders. He asked the researchers if they had seen any EPCs, but in several months study they hadn’t seen a single instance. Birkhead set up his hide, and on the first morning alone he saw 3 EPCs occurring. Confused, he called the researchers to see why they had not observed this. It turned out they were interested in at-nest behaviour, and so had set up their hide less than a metre away from the next. Birkhead had his hide several metres away, to be able to follow the birds around. The zebra finches were smart enough to realise that being caught in an EPC would not be good for marital relations, and so they only ever did that well away from their own nest.

    So Statoil say that they have never seen a cetacean dead or injured in the immediate vicinity and aftermath of their seismic exploration. This narrow temporal and spatial window is the equivalent of that hide bang up against the zebra finch nest. Broaden the window, and the effects become apparent. Note that what the cetacean experts that andy despises are saying does not contradict Statoil’s claims – it’s just that what Statoil says is irrelevant. The wider scale and longer term effects on the cetacean are the concern, and I as I have pointed out repeatedly, the impact of these effects on a tiny population could be devastating.

    Far from being a “dataset of zero” as andy asserts, there is in fact a considerable body of literature on this subject.

    1. What is your position on seismic surveying in general then? If you were reading my comments, I stated that I have “no doubt” that seismic exploration disturbs wildlife to some degree, and as I also stated, I used to work in this industry a long time ago

      So would you propose that all seismic surveys should be stopped in NZ, everywhere in the world, or just in marine reserves?

      Would you propose that NIWA and GNS should stop seismic surveys too?

      1. I don’t think there is any particular need for any kind of exploration for fossil fuels, as we need to move to alternative fuel sources as soon as possible.

        Given that people like you are going to make that politically impossible in the short term, then at least we can start with banning the forms of exploration and extraction that have short-term negative consequences. So yes, banning seismic exploration in marine reserves would be a sensible starting point, and ultimately a world-wide ban.

        1. OK, so you advocate an immediate end to any further oil and gas exploration. Is that your position?

          If so, I am more than happy to help you in your quest

          Incidentally, seismic surveying is also used to help us understand risks from earthquakes. You also propose that we implement a worldwide ban on this too?

    2. CTG
      After telling a certain story that demonstrated the difficulty, indeed the impossibility, of proving a negative, I used to ask students to prove to me that Santa Claus does not exist. It was almost comical to see them gradually realise it could not be done.

  7. CTG ‘Far from being a “dataset of zero” as andy asserts, there is in fact a considerable body of literature on this subject.’
    To give Andy his due, most of your links seem to be about behavioural change, uncertainty, and the precautionary principle, although the Brazilians noted more whale strandings after a seismic survey campaign. In any case, Maui’s dolphins and polar bears are really just a sideshow, the real endangered species is us. So yes, the sooner fossil fuel prospecting ends, the better, and if the price goes up, there’ll be a bit more incentive to find clean alternatives. Perhaps even the oil companies, who seem to have more money than anybody else,
    might do something useful with it.

    1. Yes, that was my point, John – it’s the behavioural impacts that are the concern. In a population as close to the brink as Maui’s, it may only take a couple of years of zero recruitment due to disruption of mating behaviour to provide the knockout punch. That is why the precautionary principle applies in this case.

        1. If someone were proposing an offshore wind farm in the Maui’s Dolphin habitat, then the same precautionary principle should apply, yes. The whole point of a marine reserve is to provide protection to the habitat, and any activity that may interfere with the wildlife would need to be looked at very closely.

          There’s plenty of NZ coastline outside the Maui’s habitat that could be used for offshore wind, although the strength of currents and swells around NZ may be an issue. There’s some new floating wind farms that look promising, though.

        2. Great find Andy! This proves that: The proponents of alternative and sustainable energy concepts such as offshore wind, are well prepared to consider the ecological impact of their structures. The study you linked is most welcome indeed.

          Now you seem to want to spin a negative as it seems, out of the fact that such studies are done. Your “her we go again…” comment seems to indicate some glee on your side over your “find”.

          But have you actually read the study??? I doubt it.

          I have! Now it would seem that obviously during the duration of the construction (pile driving etc. ) environmental effects are negative but of short duration.
          However on the operational effects the evidence points to a host of positive effects of new structures being built (reef and habitat creation) and especially the positive effect of the fisheries exclusion around the area creates often a net beneficial effect for the environment long term that is significant. And yes, there may be negative effects from sound emanating from wind towers but as the study suggests, these are not very well know yet, but awareness of these can influence construction methods going forward to mitigate or eliminate risks.

          Further, and this is perhaps the main point one should make, if you compare offshore wind with offshore oil and gas drilling for example, it would be evident that offshore wind lacks completely the very significant risk of rare but catastrophic effects of well failures or major oil and gas spills resulting from oil and gas exploration!! Obviously in the overall assessment of an environmental cost/benefit analysis this surely must factor very high on the agenda.

          With so many offshore wells drilled in-fact the global environmental risk impact of oil and gas drilling is massive as there is some significant spill or the other virtually certain go happen on an annual basis.

          1. The main difference between oil and offshore wind is that oil actually produces some worthwhile energy output for the effort and cost involved.

            1. Interesting, you think that destroying our future is a worthwhile cost to pay for oil. I’ll have a think about that.

            2. You missed the bit about cost and effort involved, which was my point.

              How any turbines and how much money would be required to produce this amount of electricity from offshore wind?

              Also, I wonder at the ongoing maintenance of these huge structures, which will, of course, require boats and helicopters

  8. Maybe wind energy has some negative impacts on sea life, but this seems small. In comparison oil is causing global warming and fossil fuels also have direct negative effects on various species for example the article noted by Thomas on birds.

    If you look at the sum of the factors wind energy is preferable. AndyS can’t seem to add things up. Needs a refresher course in basic Maths.

    1. If I need a basic refresher in basic maths, then perhaps you can help me with these numbers?

      The offshore wind farm in South England will produce electricity at £155 per MWh

      The gas fired power station at Pembroke will produce electricity at £50 per MWh

      The gas fired power station will be half the capital cost of the offshore wind farm and produce 10 times as much electricity, and that will be on-demand.

      Can you help me with the basic maths here?

        1. I thought the externalised costs of burning “carbon”were already taken into account with carbon taxes etc in the UK.
          If not, then perhaps we need to triple the cost of electricity coming from gas to make offshore wind competitive

          This would be a great idea, I’m sure

        1. If the solution is simple, when is the UK planning to roll out so many offshore wind farms?

          Surely those pesky NIMBYs who want to protect their so-called “countryside” shouldn’t be an obstacle to industrialising the land?

          1. andyS, you forget that you rail against the UK onshore market incentive, and that NZ builds onshore wind turbines without such an incentive as the drivers in the UK and NZ markets are significantly different.
            NZ has a bit more onshore development resource headroom than the UK by the way! Why would NZ want to start building significant offshore wind at the moment with so much onshore potential?
            Re your ‘basic refresher in basic maths’ you left out price uncertainty of the fossil fuel and the externalities of fossil fuel extraction and combustion. Does your basic maths refresher go along the lines of ‘If andyS has ten apples, and throws some of them away, and wont tell you how many they have thrown away, and denies that they have thrown any away, and then reminds everyone about their Cambridge Maths degree, how many sandwiches is andyS short of a picknick?

      1. AndyS, since when were we living in the UK? I think we should be discussing things relevant to NZ and our costs, which will be quite different.

        And where are the sources for your numbers? Do they account for the environmental costs of fossil fuels?

        1. Since when were we living in the UK? Well, some here do.
          We don’t live in Palestine either, but everyone and his dog seems to have an opinion on it

  9. I have a question for AndyS. When you say that:

    “Everyone agrees that the zero degrees of surface warming we have experienced this century is the biggest crisis facing humanity.”

    I assume then, that the reason for the unprecedented melting of the Arctic, and glaciers across all 5 continents must have another explanation other than rising surface temperatures, which according to you is approximately zero degrees. Could you please set the record straight and explain to us exactly what it is that is causing all this melting?

    1. I have a question for Tony.
      If you are implying that the surface warming this century is not zero (within the error bounds of the data) then can you tell me what non-zero value it has, and what the error margins are?

      Maybe while you are at it, you can explain to me what causes ice ages and what caused the glaciers to recede since the last ice age

      1. What you seem to be suggesting is that unless we can put an accurate mathematical number on average surface temperatures and well defined confidence limits, then the unprecedented melting across 5 continents cannot be happening.

        Or are you suggesting that current warming across the entire globe is all just the natural progression of a Milankovitch cycle?

        Perhaps rather than trying to give subtle hints, you could spell out exactly what you mean. Give us the truth as you understand it. It’s no use trying to put doubt on existing theory, unless you can come up with a better theory that perhaps fits the data better still. You don’t get any brownie points for vagueness.

        1. What actually is the existing theory? That “most” of the warming since 1950 is due to anthropogenic GHG emissions, but not prior to 1950?

          Would that be a fair summary of the IPCC view?

      2. Another couple of questions for andy: what was the warming trend between 1980 and 1994 (inclusive), and what were the error margins?

        What is the warming trend from 1980 to present, and what are the error margins?

        1. Why are you asking me? The IPCC reports are a great place to find these answers.

          Why did you chose the 1980 date? The post war period of most warming was between 1976 and 1998, as I’m sure you know.

          1. I chose those dates, because like you I wanted to cherry-pick a period to demonstrate a point. It’s just that my point was to show how dishonest you are.

            Trend from 1980 – 1994: 0.072 ± 0.161 °C/decade (not significant)

            Trend from 2000- 2014: 0.070 ± 0.150 °C/decade (not significant)

            Trend from 1980 – 2014: 0.157 ± 0.046 °C/decade (significant)

            Just because the trend “this century” includes zero within its error margin, that does not mean that the trend this century is equal to zero. Nor does it mean that the significant warming trend seen in the 1980-2014 graph has “stopped”, as the continuation of that trend still lies within the error margin of the 2000-2014 trend.

            Given that all of this has been explained to you over and over again, it is dishonest of you to continue misrepresenting the facts this way.

    2. Andy is not here to acknowledge facts, he is here to try to score points in a futile semantic war he wants to wage.

      He says he has an education from Oxford in Mathematics, but has shown a stubborn disregard for reality like a half baked kindergarten kid.

      He keeps repeating the carp he reads at denier sites such as the so called “global warming pause” mythology, which has been refuted at-infinitum. He knows fore well that surface temps are not the same has heat content and have shown oscillations around the rising trend all along and he knows that over 90% of the heat content is manifest in ocean heat which has risen relentlessly over this century.

      But he still hopes to impress the occasional less informed passer-by with his “pause in warming” nonsense. Its pathetic, has been going on for well too long now and has gotten utterly boring.

      1. When I watched the IPCC outreach meeting in Wellington recently, featuring most of NZs prominent climate scientists, there was much talk of “The Pause”, so I find it a little hard listening to climate scientists talking about the Pause, and finding explanations for it, as you have also done Thomas, and then you telling me that The a pause doesn’t exist.

        If the Pause doesn’t exist then why do scientists discuss it and try to explain it ?

        1. AndyS, the “pause” is a slowdown in the rate of warming over the last 10 or 15 years and is expected to be temporary. It has been explained as a combination of two main things.

          Firstly the 11 year sunspot cycle has been at a low point recently. Secondly the el nino / la nina ocean cycle is in a phase where the oceans are absorbing more heat energy.

          All these cycles have a habit of reversing. The very first IPCC report predicted slow periods of warming mixed with periods of steeper warming, so you should think hard about that.

          1. Thanks for the information on “the pause”, Nigel
            Did you get your information on the “pause mythology” from “denier sites” as Thomas suggested?

            1. Actually andy as you well know there is no “pause” in the heating of the Earth. The atmospheric temp is gradually increasing year by year (as demonstrated quite clearly by CTG) and it may look like it is slow but this only represents a small fraction ( around 3%) of the heating of the Earth. We know from the continual SLR that the oceans are accumulating heat at an unprecedented rate,
              and we also know from direct measurements that land based ice masses are disappearing. As you might recall from your Secondary schooling science ice melts to water at a constant temperature. There is no increase in temperature – but there has been an accumulation of Heat. Glaciers and Ice Caps (GICs) , lost mass at a rate of 148 ± 30 Gt yr−1 from January 2003 to December 2010.
              Are you still sure that there is a “Pause” – if so please explain how this can be.

            2. In Chapter 9 of AR5, the “hiatus” (not Pause) is specifically defined as:

              the reduction in GMST trend during 1998–2012 as compared to the trend during 1951–2012

              It does not say that global warming stopped in 1998, or that there has been zero warming this century, or any of the other crap that you have made up. As I showed above, a slower warming trend over a 15 year period does not preclude an ongoing warming trend. If you had predicted in 1995 that there would be no more warming, or even that the slower warming trend would have continued, you would have been wrong, wrong, wrong. Just as you are wrong, wrong, wrong now.

            3. Indeed, and in me being wrong and saying that warming had stopped, not that I didn’t say that warming had stopped, merely that there had been zero degrees of warming, within the error bounds

              These are not the same thing. If a bus comes to a standstill at traffic lights, it has not stopped

              It is merely at a hiatus in its journey and driving will resume.

              People need to be very careful in their language.

              As am I.

            4. “zero degrees of warming, within the error bounds” is statistically meaningless. As I showed earlier, the warming trend this century is 0.070 ± 0.150 °C/decade. That is not zero, so saying that there has been zero degrees of warming is not correct. The fact that a zero slope lies within the error margins is irrelevant. The error margins go both ways – I could say that the warming trend has increased to 0.22 °C/decade, and that would be just as (in)valid as claiming that the trend is zero.

              The important thing is that the long-term warming trend is still within the error of margin. Warming has not stopped. There is not even enough evidence to suggest that the slowdown in warming rate will continue either. A couple of El Niño years will see to that.

            5. Don’t just refer to warming, be specific i.e. surface warming, tropospheric surface warming (heat) OR surface air temperature and explain acronyms like GMST (Global Mean Surface Temperature) if talking about temperature rather than heat. That way the door is not left open for rhetorical misrepresentation..

        2. The only real reason the scientists address this “Pause business” is the need to counteract the relentless propaganda put forward by the great propaganda merchants of the denier marketing system and their willing henchmen like yourself who are not ashamed to regurgitate the nonsense publicly.
          Of cause understanding climate dynamics is informative. If we had at the moment a hot excursion above the trend line for the last decade we would likewise try to absolutely understand why this is happening.

          1. So The Scientists need to address The Pause that doesn’t exist because of “henchmen” like me?

            Sound awfully Austin Powers.

            Mwa haha ….

          2. Many people overthink the reply to the pause myth. The simplest response for lurkers, when someone invokes the myth, is something like this:

            “2005 was the 2nd warmest year (of surface air temperatures) ever recorded, and 2010 was the warmest”

            No further explanation is necessary for most laypeople – you’ve just shotgunned the head off the zombie myth.

    3. Correct Thomas. Plus AndyS thinks a short term trend is meaningful. Again his maths isn’t too good. According to the IPCC (which he often quotes as an authority on things, when it suits) you need at least 30 years.

  10. SimonP
    -‘ Wind is comparable to oil from conventional sources, is better than nuclear, and far above shale oil extraction.’
    Your source has hydro at an EROI of 100, wind at 18, and nuclear at 10. However that is assuming uranium enrichment by diffusion, a technique dating from the Manhattan Project, which used vast quantities of electricity. France used to reserve three reactors just to run its enrichment plants. The centrifuge method, which uses about a fiftieth as much energy, is rapidly superseding diffusion, and as your source points out, this will bring the EROI of nuclear up to 50-75, well above wind and challenging coal. It will also mean that the main energy input for the three largest sources of emission free energy – hydro, nuclear and wind – will be the concrete and steel used to build the plants. ( Uranium mining uses very little energy compared to its output, and burning wood is not emission free.)
    The Clyde dam is rated at 430MW, runs at about 55% capacity factor ( about average for hydro ), and produces about 2,100 Gigawatt hours/year. It used 800,000 cubic metres of concrete.
    The Te Apiti wind farm has 55 x 1.65MW turbines, and put out 290 GWhrs in 2011, for a respectable 36% capacity factor. Each turbine used 210 cubic metres of concrete in its foundations – total about 11,500 cubic metres . ( Here’s a video of a Tasmanian wind farm under construction- about a hundred trucks of concrete per turbine.)
    If my figures are in the right ballpark, the Clyde dam is producing about seven times as much power as Te Apiti, but used nearly seventy times as much concrete – wind wins by ten.
    The EPR nuclear reactor, being built in three countries and with two at least planned for the UK, uses 200,000 m3 of concrete, will make 1600MW at about 90% capacity factor, and so should produce about six times as much power as Clyde for a quarter of the concrete – nuclear wins by 24. ( I could have used other reactor designs, most of which use less concrete, or other dams – Hoover is 2GW, used three million m3 of concrete, and only gets about 25% capacity factor.)
    You could double the results for nuclear ( sixty year life expectancy versus thirty for wind turbines ) and probably triple them for hydro. I don’t buy Beaker’s talk of recycling wind turbine concrete, from an emissions viewpoint the best way to decommission them would be just to plant something on top.

    1. Banging on about capacity factor again!
      Think about it. You build a hydro dam and it can only generate as many MWh as there is water to go down through the turbines. But if you add generator capacity to give it a peak capacity that it can not maintain day in day out, it can raise generation to meet peak loads and cash in on higher marginal cost, then cut generation to recharge water levels at periods of lower marginal cost (for instance when there is lots of wind generation. Result, greater income for the same MWh generated, and reduced use of fossil fuel peaking plant, cutting CO2 emissions. All this at the cost of a lower capacity factor – also known as no cost what so ever.
      “Te Apiti wind farm … for a respectable 36% capacity factor” The higher the capacity factor for a wind turbine, the more time it spends with its generator at maximum output. Put a bigger generator in the same turbine (same size blades and energy capture) at that location and it would generate more MWh for a lower capacity factor. Surely it is not hard to grasp the concept that the use of capacity factor to assess the relative merit of generators is a mugs game.

      1. I was actually mainly showing the relationship between physical inputs – taking concrete as a proxy, being the largest and pretty much scaling with steel – and the electricity output. This blog is about climate change, so cost of electricity is less aposite than reduction of emissions, but if cheap, clean electricity is available whenever needed, people are more likely to use it instead of higher-emission energy, such as gas for heating and, in future, petrol for transport.
        I’m sure wind farm operators would love to sell their power during peak price times, but since their output is pretty much random, they’d have to rely on guaranteed, subsidised prices; in any case, it’s cheaper to build longer blades and towers than bigger generators. ( The Clyde dam would have been 525MW, but they found a faultline under it and left out one tailrace and generator to make room for a joint that could accommodate movement under the dam.)

        1. “in any case, it’s cheaper to build longer blades and towers than bigger generators”….I think that longer blades and larger towers mean more power from the wind and would also mean a bigger generator to go with it.

          but since their output is pretty much random, they’d have to rely on guaranteed, subsidised prices
          John I suggest you actually do some research on how the electricity market works in NZ.
          The wind output of NZ wind farms is predicted with a good level of accuracy ahead of time with often a couple of days lead time. Wind farm operators then sell their predicted output into the auction process for the time ahead. The output is not at all random but predictable with a reasonable forecast time frame.

          Also, and this has been said here every time it was brought up: NZ wind farms do not receive a subsidy!
          NZ wind farms are reliably delivering the power they have pre-sold into the net into the NZ wholesale market.

          Do some back ground reading:

          1. Car salesman – ‘ This is the most environmentally friendly car in the yard!’
            Tire kicker – ‘ How so?’
            CS – ‘ It won’t start.’

            Beaker – ‘ My car works almost half the time, and with the new improved feature, you can even be pretty sure when!’

            1. No John, what a completely stupid analogy you put forward!

              Wind and other intermittent technologies add to the total of energy provided. If you work out how long the coal train would be that the world would have needed to send to coal fired power stations to make up for all the energy provide by Wind and Solar since say 2000 you will come to a very very long train. You can do the math and you will find the data for that on the net. Come on, show us some skill!

              Now back to the car analogy: My electric car which I drive every day gets its batteries filled with about 60% or so fossil fuel free electric energy (we live in NZ) where this is possible. And with further advances of FF free power provision we should be able to aim for close to 100% by 20something. Now that would be great. And my electric car dear John, starts every morning and does not even need an oil change, ever…!
              This is the way you have to approach this matter.

            2. Since I very much doubt that John will be able or willing to do the math of working out how much coal Wind energy saved us from burning I will assist:

              The following is the calculation for the total amount of electricity produced by wind world wide in 2012:
              534 TWh wind generation in 2012
              1842 kWh per ton of coal electricity equivalent
              2.90E+08 Tons of coal = wind production equivalent
              120 Tons of coal per rail wagon
              2.42 Million Rail wagons
              15m Wagon length
              36,237.79 km Train length

              To sum up: in 2012 wind energy saved the world from burning coal of the the equivalent of a train that would stretch 85% around the Earth!!!
              If you add up all the annually saved coal trains by wind since say 1980, how long will that train be….

              See John (and any other anti-wind minded people) it is the overall effect of adding fossil free energy provision into the mix that slowly but steadily saves us from burning massive amounts of fossil fuels. And every bit helps, from solar PV on the roof to the micro hydro around the corner. Getting the world off fossil fuels will be work of many ‘hands’ and none of them represents the one magic bullet. It is in the cooperation of all the strategies available that this goal will be reached.

              World wide production of energy from renewable resources.

              How much fossil fuels does it need to generate one kWh of electricity

              Australian rail wagon specifications

            3. I think a better analogy is an electric car that has a petrol generator in the boot in case you run out of power.

              We call this analogy the Holden Volt.

            4. Sure, or the perhaps even better Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which for normal commuters, runs very rarely on its generator if at all.
              Mitsubishi will extend this technology to the ASX and other members of its fleet shortly. Plug in hybrids will be a total game changer!
              I guess Toyota will have some catch up to do as their hybrids become rather boring without the plug in capability that they should have had from the get go!

            5. And… of cause on the same reference we find that solar PV produced just over 100 TWh (104 TWh with thermal solar included) of electricity in 2012.
              From the post above we see that each TWh electricity produced = 68 km of coal train! A number to remember.

              Therefore the solar production of 2012 was worth a train of 7072 km length.

              Added to the wind energy equivalent coal train the two (Wind+Solar equivalent coal trains) now comfortably reach around Earth with over 1000km to spare….!

            6. That’s a nice “sticky” comparison Thomas, like the Hiroshima bomb comparison. I will use it. 🙂 🙂 🙂

              Naturally I then looked up total coal production for 2012 and found that the coal train would wrap round the earth 24.42 times. Our wind + solar train amounts to only 4.4% of the 2012 coal train. Can you imagine how the coal industry would celebrate and claim to be sequestering their emissions if they buried only 4.4% of them? It has to be easier to replace coal.

              Instead their prolonged NIMBY campaign, bad mouthing wind and solar with the help of all their sooty gnomes, testifies to the inroads wind and solar are making on their margins. The blackhearted monster will be derailed berhaps?

            7. Yes your extension to the coal train of the coal barons is great. It puts the task we still have to accomplish in into the right perspective. We can simply look at initiatives towards the expansion of alternative energies as uncoupling rail cars on the coal barons snake of black death. We nibbled an Earth and a bit per year away (probably more in 2013/14) terms than the 2012 stats I found. Only 24 more trains to go…! 🙂

            8. Much less than 24 trains to go.Maybe just one or two as it is only necessary to eliminate their margins. Then much increased attention will be paid to clean and green baseload and storage!

        2. ” it’s cheaper to build longer blades and towers than bigger generators” Just flat wrong. Blades and towers are massive components (including the new segmented blades) unique to the wind turbine. Their dimensions also dictate wind farm site selection as you have to get them there. Compared to these generators and transmissions are routine. Regardless, this claim has precious little relevance to my contesting of your capacity factor nonsense.
          “I’m sure wind farm operators would love to sell their power during peak price times,” I will leave the wishful thinking to you, your previous dreams of two NZ nuclear power stations demonstrates a certain aptitude. Wind turbines are not dispatchable, and every grid needs dispatchable power to respond to constantly varying demand. By adding wind power the dispatchable generation dispatches less, fossil fuelled first in line with the marginal cost of generation. Any hydro generation displaced by wind power is still good as more hydro resource is preserved to meet peak demand (at higher marginal cost) further displacing fossil fuel consumption.
          “This blog is about climate change, so cost of electricity is less aposite than reduction of emissions” I don’t see a way you can ignore costs, particularly the externalities of fossil fuel consumption. Adding wind turbines to the grid is a fine example of BATNEEC.
          As Thomas notes, your comments suggest little understanding of the power market in NZ, or anywhere else frankly.

  11. About concrete: in recent years a zero emissions concrete cement and a carbon negative concrete supposedly also cheaper than the usual Portland cement have been announced and I read of some facility in West Auckland being built using the first mentioned above. I have been wondering why no concerted move toward these concretes? Afterall concrete cement is one of the larger sources of emissions. If the zero or carbon negative versions are comparable in strength change should be only a matter of mandating their use. The Romans too made more durable and greener concrete than we use now.

    On recycling concrete: I’ve noticed that all the concrete in large demolitions in my neighborhood gets recycled. Holland recycles nearly all its concrete. USA over 80% I’ve read.

    1. ‘..Added to the wind energy equivalent coal train the two (Wind+Solar equivalent coal trains) now comfortably reach around Earth with over 1000km to spare….!’
      Note that the nuclear-replacement coal train would wrap round the earth nearly four times. Unfortunately the 24-loop coal train is getting longer a lot faster than either the wind-and-sun train or the nuclear train. They’re both the little engines that couldn’t.
      On a similarly pessimistic note, kudos to Thomas for going electric ( I’ve put in a few hours helping convert a car to battery, but just make do with pedal power myself ) – however, New Zealand’s energy from oil is nearly double that from electricity. If a significant number of road users, rather than a handful of enthusiasts, move to batteries, even allowing for the much higher efficiency of electric motors versus internal combustion engines, you’re looking at a big rise in power demand. We don’t have enough hydro storage now to get through a winter without burning most of our annual coal and gas tally; with minimal winter PV ouput, wind not at it’s best then either, and hopefully more heat pumps and resistance water heaters instead of fuel heating, there will be more lacunae in a renewables-dominated system. A nuclear boosted grid would have a reliable surplus every night to charge up the commuters.

      1. John, perhaps you should look at the references I provided again: for 2012:
        Growth rate for Solar = 65%, growth rate for Wind = 18%, growth rate of fossil = 1.9%, growth rate for nuclear = -4.5%. (there is a minus in front of nuclear…!)
        I think your should mull a bit further about your ideas of where the dynamics of the energy market are pointing at the moment.

        As far as battery cars are concerned: Each of them comes with its own storage battery. Combined the fleet of cars will one day represent a significant buffer to absorb variable energy generation input and according to some planers, even provide peak load delivery to the net. In any case, the addition of battery buffered consumers able and happy to absorb intermittent supply with growth in alternative generation sounds like a good idea. Solar PV is ideally matched to cars parked and plugged in at work.

        Check these out:

  12. ‘..Growth rate for Solar = 65%, growth rate for Wind = 18%, growth rate of fossil = 1.9%, growth rate for nuclear = -4.5%. (there is a minus in front of nuclear…!)’
    Look again. Fossils grew 1.9% on a huge number = 281.3 GWhrs. Solar and wind grew 65% on a tiny number and 18% on a small number= 124.2 GWhrs. The coal train got longer. As for nuclear, don’t get me started. The shutting down of dozens of perfectly functional reactors, in Japan, Germany, the USA, and eastern Europe, nearly all replaced by coal or gas, is a crime against posterity, the planet, and common sense.

    1. Wait until the next couple of years stats are out…. then we see again which train changes length faster….! The race of the alternative power generation has just begun in earnest. And the recent collapse of the coal prices tells where the story is heading.

      Nuclear: Perhaps familiarize yourself again with the ongoing mayhem in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Neither of these stories is sorted, in fact in a way, both catastrophes are still in the infancy of their legacy. The land around Chernobyl won’t be fit for human habitation for another 20,000 years according to the authorities and further releases of radionuclides are still on going in both cases. Fukushima might get worse still…. I don’t blame people for wanting out of water cooled nuclear reactors.

      I am a Physicist and watch with some interest the 4th generation reactor developments. However we are still far from any of these designs coming on-line and being proven. Terrapower seems to have had some design set backs with their traveling wave reactor lately. So far much of the 4th gen tech is still in the lab or just in the concept stage.

      And even 4th gen reactors still represent very long term commitments in care and later decommissioning. We also still are in the infancy of learning all the issues of nuclear reactor decommissioning and will need to do so as many of the dangerous older reactors will need to be decommissioned sooner or later.

      Meanwhile, the growth rate of Solar and Wind continues going forward, solar in particular. And Solar allows Joe Average to install capacity with their personal means, which serves as massive multiplier of investment and initiative.

  13. Reduced coal prices, notably in the US where natural gas is being sold at well below its production cost, has led to increased use in Europe – coal use in Germany has gone up three years running.
    Most of the area round Chernobyl has background radiation levels well below dozens of regions with granite bedrock, thorium bearing monazite sands, or radium spas, where the inhabitants get on with their untroubled lives. The babushkas who’ve sneaked back into the zone, and are living in their old homes on what they grow there, also appear healthier than the evacuees. Japan had about a tenth of the quantity of radionucleides, and unlike the Soviet authorities, took stringent measures to stop the ingestion of iodine 131. This concentrates in the thyroid, and having only an eight day half life, delivers a potent, concentrated dose there, but is gone in three months. The immune system can easily handle low doses of contaminants which are not so concentrated, and which take thirty years to deliver half their sting. ( Cancers are treated with very high doses, with tissue around the tumour getting about half as much; given time between treatments to recover, the body generally repairs the damage, though minor glitches like red hair replacing gray are not uncommon.) The Ukraine and Belarus now have lower cancer rates, including thyroid cancer, than nuclear free Denmark, Ireland, or New Zealand.
    Solar where it is most prevalent – Germany, China, Italy, the US, Japan – is still far behind coal in all those countries. Nuclear has essentially eliminated coal power in France, Sweden, Switzerland, Ontario, and greatly reduced it in Belgium, Hungary, Czech Republic, and the Ukraine. Lithuania had the highest percentage of power from nuclear a few years ago, at over 90%, with correspondingly low CO2 emissions, but were forced to close the Ignalina reactors as a condition of entry to the EU, even though hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent to rectify the faults which destroyed Chernobyl 4. ( The positive reactivity flaws had been discovered, in advance, at Ignalina. Eleven Russian RBMKs were also retrofitted with safety improvements, and still produce about as much power as the entire German solar sector, but a lot more reliably.)
    China, as usual is the one to watch. The government recently scaled back its offshore wind ambitions from 5GW to 1.5. If the AP1000 reactors nearing completion come online without problems, they may reinstate plans to build reactors inland, having restricted new build to the coast after Fukushima. This would be greeted with sighs of relief by the smog plagued citizens ( wind turbines aren’t usually doing much on smoggy days.)

    1. Include South australia somewhere in your list, the state with everything:geothermal, wind, sun, gas, oil and uranium.
      2012-2013 figures:
      Gas 52%
      wind 27%
      coal 17%
      solarPV 4%
      the rest currently negigible.
      There will be substantial increases in wind, solar and geothermal near term, based on current projects. When SA first announced it’s 33% renewables by 2020 target it was thought by some bold and unlikely but they may have achieved that and more by year’s end.

      While considering nuclear, Sweden voted in a referendum to be rid of them but fortunately looked about and decided they might as well keep running until replacement. But nuclear always brings up the spectre of long lived radioactive waste. I wonder how much of that compares for harmfulness, with the heat trapping capability of CO2 over 100,000 years say, when there is too much of it,

      1. ‘ John, your comments about Chernobyl are disgusting. It would seem that you know how little about this subject. ‘
        Here is the report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.
        From Page 8-
        (f) A substantial increase in thyroid cancer incidence among persons
        exposed to the accident-related radiation as children or adolescents in 1986 has
        been observed in Belarus, Ukraine and four of the more affected regions of the
        Russian Federation. For the period 1991-2005, more than 6,000 cases were
        reported, of which a substantial portion could be attributed to drinking milk
        in 1986 contaminated with iodine-131. Although thyroid cancer incidence continues
        to increase for this group (see figure X for the trend in Belarus), up to 2005
        only 15 cases had proved fatal;
        (g) Among the general public, to date there has been no consistent evidence
        of any other health effect that can be attributed to radiation exposure.

          1. Thomas, it’s much easier to demonstrate a residual radioactivity than to demonstrate biological harm from it. The United Nations reports I cited exhaustively detailed studies of breast cancer, birth defects, cataracts, heart disease, leukemia etc etc. Many were double blind studies, where the clinical treatment providers were not aware of the variance in dose to the people affected, while those who tallied the exposure rates were not told the medical outcomes. Effects were found in the very large group of ‘liquidators’ brought in from all over the Soviet Union, and followed ever since, though the increases ( in some categories ) were not radically outside figures from other groups. However, for the exposed populations, who did not receive the same levels of radiation, the only demonstrable effect was the increase in thyroid cancer from Iodine 131, all caused within the first few months after the accident. This is not surprising, as higher levels of naturally occurring radiation elsewhere, and studies of the Hiroshima survivors, medical treatments and accidents, and work exposure such as radiographers and nuclear shipyard workers, also show only a weak effect above about 100 millisieverts per year, and no clear result below that level. For example, the Kerala coast in India has large deposits of thorium in monazite sands, which have been the focus of a long term effort to develop thorium burning reactors to solve the country’s chronic power shortages. The area most affected is about fifty kms long and one or two wide, and has higher background radiation than nearly all the Chernobyl restricted zone except for the immediate area around the power plant.
            To accentuate the positive, James Hansen has written a paper estimating that nuclear power has saved 1.8 million lives ( from avoided air pollution) and displaced 64 billion tons of CO2 emissions.

            1. John, as I said earlier, I am a Physicist. I am generally interested in and open to nuclear power options, especially the envisaged 4th gen reactors.

              Your comparison of Chernobyl and Karangappally is flawed. There is a significant difference in the mix of radionuclides spewed out by a reactor explosion and those found in Karangappally. Also the areas now deemed to be never settled again have doses of between100 and 1000 mS/y. Much worse than Karangappally.

  14. Germany’s coal consumption is largely used to make steel and their products made with it help keep the receiving country show a lower CO2 emissions figure. This is particularly true of China and the USA where much of the manufacturing has been transferred to China leaving the USA with lower emission figures. We have a similar problem with our methane emissions from cattle. We have the cattle and the emissions but the countries who buy our products get them emission free..

Leave a Reply