Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Corrupting Society?

There I was, browsing a typically lame Times leader article about coal, when something leaped out from the screen and smacked me around the chops. I was so gobsmacked by what I read that I had to re-read it several times.

The article itself - Cool on coal - was a sorry piece of work even by modern journalistic standards. Starting off by saying that coal should be "the last resort", the Times says ....

The cost of coal and construction are rocketing up. Most of the coal will be imported, mainly from Russia. The carbon dioxide emissions created will be about twice those produced in gas-burning facilities of equal power. With the looming threat of climate change, and growing concerns about energy security, waving through a new generation of dirty coal plants would be decadent and irresponsible.

OK - first of all, the cost of coal is going up, but it still remains considerably cheaper than oil and gas. Construction costs are considerably lower than construction costs for any other form of energy supply - and construction times are shorter too. CO2 emissions are only relevant if you accept the unproven hypothesis that CO2 will cause unstoppable global warming. - which has never happened in the past even though CO2 levels have been thousands of times higher than they are now. On the question of imports from Russia - where do they think the oil and gas is going to come from? The difference with coal is that we do have our own supply - with a little bit of effort we could soon reduce our dependence on foreign nations for energy to virtually zero.

As for the "looming threat of climate change" - this is such a lazy phrase. Climate change how? Warmer or cooler? The climate is always in a state of perpetual change - either warming or cooling - it is never ever constant. Nobody even knows what the temperature should be and humans inhabit areas regardless of extremes of warmth or cold.

And as for this non-existent threat "looming" - well, when exactly? The alarmists are now saying there will be a hiatus in the warming for 10 or so years (maybe more - and this on top of a hiatus that has already lasted for 10 years) - even though they were claiming until recently that the warming will continue unabated for the foreseeable future.

Some are even predicting that things will actually get a little cooler over the next 2 or 3 decades in which case we're going to need a lot more reliable power supply than a few windmills that barely work. I don't know about you, but the prospect of colder winters in England does not exactly fill me with joy.

The only thing "looming" right now is the certainty that in a few years time we are not going to have the ability to generate enough electricity for all our needs unless something is done NOW. The renewables can't fill the demand gap. Nuclear could, but building sufficient nuclear power stations in the time is unrealistic. More oil and gas? With an expanding market and decreasing supply these are only going to get more and more costly - plus the fact that they severely compromise "energy security".

Coal isn't the last resort - it's the only resort.

Even so - this lazy, ill-conceived and badly researched piece isn't what annoyed me. To be fair, I was reading it with the usual "yeah, yeah - same old nonsense" until I saw this.

A powerful alliance is forming around this view: 228 MPs have signed an early day motion calling for a public inquiry into the planned new plant at Kingsnorth, Kent. The Royal Society wants operating permits for coal-burning to be withdrawn unless there are massive emissions reductions.

The Royal Society wants "operating permits .... withdrawn"?

When did the Royal Society become a political organisation? As far as I was aware the Royal Society was supposed to be a non-political and impartial organisation. Sure, I know it has advised government in the past - but I'd always assumed that was done by reporting back on the scientific evidence or feasibility of any given subject. That is very different from declaring that operating permits should be withdrawn for coal burning power stations. If they want to make those decisions they should stand for Parliament. They are not there to dictate policy.

I'd argue that this goes against the motto of the Royal Society ’Nullius in verba’ which, according to the Royal Society themselves .......

....dates back to 1663, and is an expression of the determination of the Fellows to withstand the domination of authority.

How odd that an organisation determined to withstand the "domination of authority" now seeks to impose that authority on others. The phrase itself comes from Horace - the full text of which is given in the link above and translates to ......

You shall not ask for whom I fight
Nor in what school my peace I find;
I say no master has the right
To swear me to obedience blind.

Seems the Royal Society now think they have the right to force others to swear obedience to them.


Pop said...

"CO2 levels have been thousands of times higher than they are now"


Stan said...

Yeah - sorry about that. Thinking faster than I typed. Should have said thousands of ppm and 10 times higher than they are now.