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back to article Cheap energy revives US manufacturing, skint Brits shiver

The battle of crystal ball gazers over how much we'll be paying for energy in the future rages on. The government's advisory panel on global warming has weighed in, with a report on household energy bills. The Climate Change Committee uses slightly different assumptions to the Energy Department, and only looks at a slice of the …

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Build nuclear stations, please!

The gales the other week told me all I needed to know about the folly of wind farms. We all knew that when the wind doesn't blow, they don't work. Well, it turns out that when the wind blows too much, they fall over, catch fire or throw their component parts in all directions.

Brilliant.

Given such a narrow operating window which we don't control, how exactly do wind farms justify their cost?

UK.gov, please build some new nuclear plants!

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+1 on that.

I have read about the exciting era of scientific progress in the 50s and 60s, when nuclear power was about making exciting progress, not greenpeace and the like getting in the way.

The prediction was that by 2000, electricity would be an unmetered flat bill.

Nuclear power is the only clean energy (until the Sim City Microwave energy beams come online) then, electric cars might even start making sense!

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Anonymous Coward

how exactly do wind farms justify their cost?

That is simple, the return is made in political ammo

not just domestic but forign as well. plonk a giant 60ft windmill on every house in every city and see what happens, political suicide is what happens, out of sight (to the vast majority) out of mind

an "they" get to feel good about saving the planet too

All govenments are like this, left right or centre, they want nothing more than to stay in power no matter the cost an saying we're doing more for the world than anyone else is a big headline grabber

The problem with Nukes is that they are generally missunderstood (to a degree) and the media protrays them as bad, that wouldnt be good politics turning around and saying we building more Nukes, it would be portrayed as *Headline* DANGEROUS JAPANESE MELT DOWN PLANTS ON YOUR DOOR STEP, and will drive energy costs to higher levels than 70 years ago

Same ol story, you pander to everyone and everyone loses out

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Hells yeah.

I want to make alternate accounts just so I can upvote that more.

I'm all for moving off fossil fuels, but here is the rub. We need energy when we need energy, not when it happens to be windy or sunny. Lets imagine a UK powered by wind/solar/tidal.

Wind power = shit

Solar = great if you don't live in the UK

Tidal = pretty reliable, but it does have "pauses" at high and low tide.

Its not hard to imagine a day with no sun, no wind and at high/low tide we in fact get no energy at all. Woohoo. Break out the mud huts and the candles everyone! Welcome back to the Dark Ages!

Or, we could go nuclear. Reliable energy whenever we need it. We can build it in convinient locations, where power is needed not the top of Ben Nevis. It really doesn't take a genius to figure out which is better. If we go down the Thorium reactor route is even better still.

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Wind farms justify their costs

by being - you know - cheaper than anything else. Especially offshore.

Even Exxon say so in their medium term predictions.

http://www.exxonmobil.com/corporate/energy_outlook_eoelectricitycost.aspx

The 'won't work without backup' line is political spin, and practical nonsense. Coal and gas supplies aren't immune to interruption and even parliamentary reports have realised that there's an imminent gas peak due 2020-2030:

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn230.pdf

So good luck getting gas generation to work affordably - or at all - thirty years from now.

As for nukes - when you include clean-up and reprocessing costs and traditional nuke underperformance, and exclude subsidy, nukes are seriously expensive. Clean-up costs are estimated at £76bn, and keep doubling with worrying regularity. And there's still no long-term solution for waste storage.

And guess who pays for that? (Clue - we do.)

Sp yes - building something that's going to cost £100bn or more to clean up (let's be realistic), has a history of being run by irresponsible chancers and wide boys, with a low but non-zero chance of making large parts of the UK uninhabitable (totally unthinkable - just like Fukushima) is a *genius* plan, when you can spend the same money on a mix of renewables (q.v. tidal, etc) which have negligible clean-up costs, aren't any less reliable in practice than current alternatives, and never run out.

Or is that too obvious for people who can't be arsed to think independently and prefer to parrot talking points and rhetoric from dodgy lobby groups?

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@Simon Neill

Tidal doesn't have to have pauses, because we can have generators in different places which reach high and low tides at different times - we could have say 24 generators with no two having low time times closer together than 15 minutes, and expect to get full output from 22 and reduced from 2 at all times, so the only issue would be transmission. The technology isn't yet mature, but it could come soon.

Solar will work reasonably well in some parts of the UK, but perhaps the best chance for solar power for the UK is to import solar-generated electricty via France and Spain from N Africa - which only works if we (a) can trust the N Africans, (b) can trust the French, and (c) can build the necessary transmission infrastructure at a reasonable cost.

Nuclear is the best bet in the next decade or two, and with luck we will have fusion power sorted reasonably soon if the lunatics running things don't remove all funding for research in order to pay for wind turbine nonsense.

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Renewables cheap at the price

Compared to how much house insurance against extreme weather events has gone up the renewables component of increasing energy prices is well affordable. The main reason for rising household energy bills has much less to do with what is spent on windfarms, and much more to do with rapidly expanding asian industrialising economies buying their share of a relatively static oil and gas supply while pushing demand and prices up for everyone. This is the first recession where commodity prices are not going down and are unlikely to do so.

Mine's the coat with the draft excluder in the pocket, and tools for installing secondary glazing. The loft already has 10" insulation, and that's just the start. This summer I spent £50 and a few hours up a ladder breathably waterproofing the absorbent brickwork which was behaving in wet weather like a terracotta wine chiller. It's now throwing water off like a duck's back, and I'm glad to report we're already much warmer this year based on lower gas consumption.

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Don't count on it.

Cheap shale gas isn't going to remain all that cheap for much longer - 'Fracking,' and rules around same, are extraordinarliy controversial right now, and a more skeptical climate is emerging. Without fracking, the volume of extractable gas is quite sharply limited, and fracking has a *very* bad name right now.

New environmental controls on gas extration by fracking are certain to drive costs up sharply.

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You mean those environmental effects

Such a once in a million very minor earth quake or the completely false burning water from a tap film?

Do you have any evidence this crackdown is coming or is it just what you've asked Santa for Xmas?

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Only because fracking provides a convenient way for the watermelons to attack shale gas.

The fact that the two senior people in the government have links to renewable companies may well be another.

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I see the mouth-frother's are out of school...

So tell me, Gordon - At what point did I say I was on either side of the political fence? Oh, that's right - simply observing the phenomenon must clearly make me a partisan. Not.

Sad.

But then again, you've very neatly illustrated the problem - NEITHER side seems willing to honestly observe, report, and develop policy on the subject. Not you, who are clearly a partisan 'for,' nor either JohnMurray's 'watermelons' (I do so dearly love the demonizing and dismissive perjorative - *such* an honest way to discuss any public policy issue!).

And THAT, folks makes my point entirely clear - When there's this much controversy, when folks on either side are so deeply entrenched - the industry WILL get a bad name. It can't help it. Bad Names *always* lead to tougher regulatory environments and thus to higher costs, no matter how deserved they are - or are not.

Me? I live right in the middle of the problem - And by that, I don't mean the actual fuel source (though I live on the edges of that, too) - No, I mean the flaming idiocy and well-poisoning by various partisans. Nice goin' folks.

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What I dont't understand....

is why they regard power as any other commodity, and the more you use the less expensive it is. This is definitely true for households in the UK, but I think may be different elsewhere; those who use least pay most for a commodity they're allegedly trying to get people to alter their use patterns.

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Nuclear

Just go Nuclear and be done with it. Buying into an unreliable energy solution that requires a backup of another solution to work is not worth it.

Nuclear is safe and proven.

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Make use of those feed-in tariffs...

... while they last. When they inevitably go away you'll still have the means to help yourself. Too bad I own neither buildings nor land to get me some of that, but if enough people do then maybe it'll dampen the inevitable upsurge somewhat, too.

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Good article but I take exception to the statement that 'money cannot be magicked out of thin air'

A basic understanding of fractional reserve banking will reveal that this statement is entirely incorrect. The banks have been creating money as debt (ie out of thin air) for an awfuly long time!

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tariffs for showbiz

it is actually bizarre that heavy users of energy get a discount . the cost should ramp up as you use over say 1.5x the average 3bed semi heating cost. . All the excess cash should then go to supporting the poor buggers suffering at the bottom.

The likes of sting and bono who always bang on about the planet can show they care by paying more.

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Anonymous Coward

Wind power is a stupid waste of money. It is a concept dear to the Green Movement, who daily waft enough hot air to blow a city into orbit! But we can't count on them to blow when Mother Nature doesn't.

Even if anthropomorphic global warming is not happening (which seems as probable as the fact that it is occurring), we have limited organic feedstock in the form of oil and gas, so the risk of running out of plastics is serious. Just think how painful that would be.

We need a realistic nuclear power policy. How about thorium reactors. They leave little residue, are much safer than current nuclear power, and the fuel is plentiful. And we know how to build them! (No waiting for the 'Great Fusion Breakthrough"!)

This would be a much cheaper alternative for Britain than the Gordon Brown Memorial Wind Park, etc.

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Offshore

Offshore wind power is a waste of money. On shore wind is about the same price per unit as a new nuclear plant.

Note: not anti nuclear, would like to have a bunch to take the base-load and enjoy France's energy bills.

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NRG Bluewater offshore windfarm project abandoned

Once the US Federal Government decided to stop *assured* loan guarantees and killed tax credits to windfarms, NRG Bluewater got dropped like a crazy girlfriend by every investment source out there. Mind you, the Feds didn't say they *wouldn't* offer a loan guarantee - Only said that such a guarantee was not assured. Plus, they weren't going to subsidize it via tax credits (read: wealth re-distribution). That was more than enough to effectively kill the project.

This should tell you pretty much all you need to know about the economics and productivity of offshore windfarms in the US. If the mere uncertainty of a guaranteed loan and a lack of subsidies is enough to make an energy project uneconomical, you can be assured that the financiers don't believe the project is going to produce anything useful on its own.

Delaware just bought into a complete scam of a fuel-cell business, happily dumping the costs of subsidizing *that* pointless boondoggle by directly billing electricity users, so you know the State itself isn't shy of subsidizing dodgy projects. But even the gullible state legislators think offshore windfarms are too dodgy to back.

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Carbon policies will add a mere £110 a year.

I resent the use of the word "mere". This is no trifling amount and squandering it in this way to achieve little or nothing is an afront. There. I said it.

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Agreed.

100% agree. These people saying a "mere" £110/year are the ones paid £40k/year+ with expense accounts. The average wage in the UK a couple years ago was £24k.

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You silly, silly man - you didn't get the memo

You silly, silly man - you must not have gotten the memo.

EVERYTHING THE US DOES IS BAD. If the US lowers energy costs and increases its manufacturing, and improves its economy, then OBVIOUSLY this must be bad, and it is your DUTY as a journalist to find that spin: "The US is ROBBING the REST OF THE WORLD by dumping carbon on them."

Remember: it doesn't matter what we do - WE ARE THE US: WE ARE EVIL. We could find a way to power our whole economy on happy thoughts and rainbows, converting CO2 into a cure for AIDS, and it would be evil, somehow.

Even the very fact that I am pointing this out to you, given my US citizenship, is evil, and must be downvoted - GET IT RIGHT, MAN!

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Doesn't matter if the state is skint or not

The State doesn't have any money of its own so either consumers pay directly through higher bills or pay indirectly through higher general taxation. Heads the green lobby wins, tails the rest of society loses.

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"Climate change campaigner George Monbiot today suggested a rebate for the poorest 20pc by raising bills for wealthier households even further - "you would reverse the regressive element" - he suggested. But the middle will still have to find the bulk of it; "you can't distribute the problem away," says Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers' Alliance, and author of Let Them Eat Carbon."

Yay. Work and take care of yourself, and once again you get to subsidize the people who don't/won't. Wonderful.

Nice to know that hard work is equally "rewarded" on your side of the pond.

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Dodge a Bullet, Really?

"By remaining wary of climate change mitigation policies, the US economy seems to have dodged a bullet."

...in the short term at least... unless climate predictions are really even halfway accurate. In which case we're dodging a bullet, only to be hit by a nuclear missile.

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Meh

So if things do start going truly pear shaped, do you want to live in a country with a thriving manufacturing sector with the national reserves of technical and practical knowledge and experience this brings, or would you rather live in a country reliant on bankers and mediatits ?

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Dodge via Slumping

"The US economy seems to have dodged a bullet on this one."

Just really wish it involved more actual "dodging" and less "already sprawled on the floor bleeding out from other bullet wounds as this one whistled by overhead".

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New nucler is edging closer..

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Last_stage_of_UK_reactor_licensing_1412111.html

so it not all doom and gloom

The cost of renewable energy is in fact reasonably easily ascertained in its total effect..I have some crude code working now that enables me, using 5 minute data fro BMreports, collected in a database, to do close estimates..the fun starts when you try and achieve over 30% renewable on the grid,, then the cost starts to escalate - especially if you have nuclear as well because then there is less gas to 'replace' with wind.. and the coup de grace is at 100% wind when the cost is 9.81 a unit. That's £9.81 a unit.. :-)

I didn't add in grid costs because I don't have much in the way of data..this is powerstation and fuel costs alone.

Chris Huhnes wind targets will result in a minimum of the doubling of electricity prices, possibly up to three times - that's at 30% ' average renewable' which should save about 5-8% of the current gas used..

Contrast with nuclear where a policy of replacing coal with nuclear as the old plant dies, and going back to about 20GWe of gas plant to cover short duration demand adds very little to the cost at all, and results on about 80% CO2 emission reduction.

As long as you don't build any more wind of course. Wind is pointless when you go nuclear. There is no fossil fuel to offset any more..

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not all doom and gloom?

Unless you live in El Presidente Salmond's Nuclear Free Zone, that is...

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Thanks

You said:

"Wind is pointless when you go nuclear. There is no fossil fuel to offset any more"

And that sums it up nicely. I have been trying to get my head around UK energy policy for a while, and I just don't understand how the politicians can rationally make the choices they do. But suddenly, in a blinding flash, it was there. The scam quite simply went deeper than I thought.

Feel so stupid now, it was obvious really...

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We do realize...

That 11 billion US is less than what you would find between the couch cushions of the US economy,right? Saving that much is literally 0.1% of the GDP in 2009. To put it another way, that's a tad less than $40/year/US citizen, presuming that the savings quoted is yearly. Not exactly earth-shattering, or even enough to make most industries sit up and take notice.

And that's probably assuming that all the finds pan out, regulation stays away, and the US economy recovers enough to bother with manufacturing instead of outsourcing it to China and other locales.

I realize Andrew has a bone to pick with British government and society, but a proper frame of reference will go a long way in winning over hearts and minds.

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nuke the whales

you just haven't heard from all the "peak nuke" idiots yet....

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shale gas

whats not to love?

http://thetyee.ca/News/2011/12/09/US-Shale-Gas-Study/

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Idiots

"you can't distribute the problem away," says Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers' Alliance

Taxpayers' Alliance = Tory party = don't care about the poor.

They only want you pay NO tax. So we would all suffer apart from the rich -- who don't care in any case.

Sorry but these guys are muppets and while I'm a tax payer, I'm not in their gang.

Before the whole industry was privatised the rich paid substantially more in the support and running of the system. Now it's 'better' we all pay (ie the top end of society pay less). And we think privatisation is good.

Idiots.

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