back to article Carbon Trust: Rooftop windmills are eco own-goal

Rooftop wind turbines are actually net carbon emitters for most British properties, according to new research. Worse still, it appears that even if small turbines became common they could produce only a tiny fraction of the UK's energy requirements. The new report (pdf) is titled Small-scale wind energy and is issued by the …

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Anonymous Coward

@Tom

>1,000,000 crap innefficient £300 windmills will generate more

>electricity than a nuclear power station

The most recent nuclear station in the UK Sizewell B produces 1188MW.

Your cheapo windmils would have to churn out a kilowatt each. Your 70A 12V alternator produces a maximum 840W giving a theoretical max production of 840MW. When the wind blows.

Then subtract the energy required to service 1,000,000 geographically dispersed windmills.

Large wind turbines will always produce more power more efficiently than little windmills on peoples houses, so that's where the money should be spent, if you're going to spend it on windmills.

>that was built to provide profits for the already rich and will be a

>serious terrorist target*

Ah the old commie rant/terrorist fear double whammy super combo.

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Paris Hilton

STORAGE !

ALL TOGETHER NOW: It's not the GENERATION of power that's the problem, it's STORING it so it can be used when needed. Jeeze, how often do I have to say it: STORAGE, STORAGE, STORAGE !

Paris 'cos she understands storage. Or something rhyming with that.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC / Andrew Crystall

>We have "100 years" as 20 years ago we had "a few decades" of oil. It's genuinely early in exploiting resources of uranium, and even if we did run out of uranium (and you can get a lot back from breeder reactors) we could turn to the thorium cycle, where there's at least several times the fuel avaliable.

I think that 100 years was already incorporating the underestimates made by typical geo-surveying. A couple of months ago, New Scientist had an article estimating 50-80 years total known reserves and less than 20 before we hit peak production, with no-one willing to gamble on finding new reserves

I think you've missed the point the AC was trying to make - it's about cost, not volume. Even if we did find a new source of uranium, we can guarantee it's going to be damn difficult to dig out and process, because we have now looked in every place where we might find easy-to-extract uranium. So, we find enough for a 1000 years tomorrow? Great, but you'll find it's somewhere like the bottom of the Marianis trench, on an asteroid, or 30 miles underground. It's going to cost to get it. So fuel price is going to go up.

The AC also mentioned breeder reactors and the thorium cycle, and I'm afraid (s)he's right - it's no good claiming breeders are a solution unless we start building them NOW. We need them online before the uranium gets expensive, and that's not a long way off. Thorium reactors are a good answer, but again, we need to be developing their tech and building the reactors as soon as possible, and hardly anyone is even looking at them.

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Go

@JonB

"Now, we do have rather a lot of prisoners, ~80,000 so if each of those could give us a few KWh a day on the bikes... Hmm... Prison sentences measured in KWh might help..."

I like it as well... in fact let's go a bit further - we should extend this to the unemployed claiming benefits as well... so benefit money could be based on a KWh exchange rate...

There are currently about 800,000 claiming jobseekers allowance, so we've got quite a good generating capacity there - while they're not doing much else they can help with the energy crisis, thereby becoming a boon for society.

With 4 hours a day, they'd generate about:

880,000 x 200Wh x 4hrs = 704,000 KW

That's 704 MW (Sizewell B nuclear station produces 1,188 MW, so that's over half a nuclear power station!)

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Flame

Devil's Advocate

Of course, this all assumes that oil and gas has begun to run out, or will in the near future. But nobody knows whether this is the case or not, because any calculation based on reserves estimates (a la Hubbert) can be safely compared to pissing in the wind. If you've ever seen the amount of fixing and bullshit that goes into these reports then you know what I mean. They're political / commercial documents and no technical conclusions can be drawn from them.

What we have at the moment is a crisis of supply, not a crisis of accumulation. I predict that if Iraq begins to ramp up its production in the next few years, the oil price will stabilise and even begin to drop, but not back down to $20-30/barrel. But since a barrel of oil has traditionally been valued at less than a barrel of mineral water, maybe we're all paying closer to what we should be now.

We may be in a period of long-term decline, but it will be a damned long tail, with quite a few surprises along the way...

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Anonymous Coward

Nuclear RIP.

Hands up who thinks that nuclear power will save us from the energy crisis. you poor deluded fools, there is no way new nuclear will be built in this country no matter how strong the will to make BAU continue forever. Peak oil will see that all the costs grow so fast for everything from the steel and concrete to the exotic materials and fuel will just be so expensive that it will just never happen. Even if they started now it would just soak up all the available energy investment money and leave us with multiple multi billion pound holes in the ground. we have so missed the nuclear boat. Time to get that new jumper, start a garden and get on your bike, and maybe just invest in a windmill and solar.

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CO2 in production

Firstly I've checked the figures for where I live and it's not worth getting a small wind turbine and I live in the countryside so I'm convinced these things are more about cash than reducing CO2 (plus nuclear doesn't seem too bad an option to me) but on the general green power debate...

The CO2 cost of production is often comapred to the power generated during the lifecycle. If it costs more than it generates then the method is jumped on as being terrible, but it could still be "carbon quite small" even if it's not carbon neutral. Once the thing is manufactured the CO2 produced for every watt is zero. On the other hand the CO2 cost of building a coal fired power station is immense, but even if it were low every watt of electricity results in CO2. Therefore this is not a like for like comparison. Surely we shouldn't reject something for only being excellent rather than perfect.

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@ Robin A. Flood

What rhymes with storage? I'm missing the joke, I've only come up with forage and porridge.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC : A Nation of Cyclists

The unemployed don't have anything better to do, so they can cycle at peak times as well, coincidentally that also shifts their own demand flattening the demand peak.

Hmmm.. JSA is running at :-

* Person aged 16-17: £35.65

* Person aged 18-24: £46.85

* Person aged 25 or over: £59.15

My daytime leccy is around 20p/KWh (for the green stuff) so;

16-17 yr olds should produce 178 KWh / Week.

18-24 yr olds should produce 234 KWh / Week

25+ 295KWh/Week.

At a maximum that's 42KWh /day (7 days) assuming they can pedal for 8 hours, they need to generate 5267 Watts...

Ironically if they tried to pedal slower but for longer the night rate would kick in and they'd get even less for their efforts.

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Stop

@Tom

Your £70 70A alternator was probably a service exchange one, new ones from Bosch/Lucas are about £120 retail (unless I'm buying them from the wrong place)

But I'm a member of the nuclear camp, In my area (Mid/North Wales) we have both windfarms and a former reactor, and I'd much rather the reactor, as it's much more compact with regards to land use and generates a great deal more electricity for more of the time.

Also, we have a lot of microgeneration as there are still many farms without a mains connection, these tend to be on Diesel generators, as wind turbines are simply not reliable enough, even the centre of alternative technology down the road (aka Hippie Heaven) have two great big diesel generators as backup to their renewable supplies. To me, that says a lot.

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Boffin

Going Micro

If you really want microgeneration, it would be more sensible to build yourself a CHP system using a diesel (read: used cooking oil) engine, some 24V truck alternators, open-vented lead-acid batteries and old UPSes -- basically, just 24-to-230V inverters, but they can be picked up very cheaply second-hand when the original crappy sealed lead-acid batteries can no longer hold a charge. The engine's cooling system is plumbed through your existing radiator circuit using a three-way valve to select between it and the boiler. You can also add a 230V alternator into the mix, but you might end up having to buy this new rather than bodging it out of scrap.

The electricity you generate won't be suitable for feeding back into the grid, but you should cut down on your gas consumption by transferring heating to biodiesel (aside: since this is a non-roadgoing application, it won't impact on your 2500, or 5000 if you have a climate-change-denialist in your street, litres p.a.) and generate a fair proportion of your electricity needs. The batteries mean you can have your juice when it's needed. And it doesn't depend on the sun shining brightly enough or the wind blowing at the right speed -- only on people eating chips!

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Heart

micro generation plant

They should change the regulation in the UK to make it possible for every land owner in a rural area to set up one full size wind turbine without legal hassle from the local communities, neighbours and councils. Look at what the Swedes have done - you can today see one full size windturbine next to every other farm. These are often rather centrally located on those properties and so do not generally interfere with neighbours properties.

Except for adding their beatiful posture to the views of the "open landscape" in the countryside ofcourse!

oh - thats why it will never work here in the UK... tsss

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Alert

@"880,000 x 200Wh x 4hrs = 704,000 KW"

You mean 200W, not 200Wh

880,000 x 200W x 4hrs/day = 704MWhrs/day

Sizewell B nuclear station produces 1,188 MW and runs about 24 hours per day, or 28512MWhrs/day.

If you increase unemployment and prison population by a factor of ten (probably the correct government targets), and double the number of hours they pedal/row then they are almost equal to half a Sizewell B. As a punishment for incompetent arithmetic, repeat "Educational standards are not falling" three times. (This is how politicians deal with problems, so it must work ;-)

The price of a mini windmill has nothing to do with materials or engineering. Manufacturers can sell sufficient windmills if they can show payback in ten years (with inappropriate figures for maintenance and wind speed). Double the peak power output, and you can double the selling price.

The interest on a loan for £5000 for photovoltaic + solar heating + windmill is similar to my gas+electricity bills. Now add costs installation, maintenance and energy storage (because the sun does not shine at night, and the wind hardly ever blows). I would rather spend my money on insulation and heat recovery ventilation.

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Boffin

Water, water everywhere

George Monbiot will be pleased. He gives micro-wind pretty short shrift in "Heat", saying they're more likely to rip the side of your house off, or poze a hazard to light aircraft, than generate any useful power.

So now this is dead, can we have another look at mini- and micro-hydro? There are hundreds, if not thousands of sites in the UK where you can re-use existing mill estate to produce electricity. It's not as simple as hooking a generator up to the millwheel and letting the race do the rest, as these handy resources will demonstrate:

http://www.british-hydro.co.uk/index.asp

http://www.claptonmill.co.uk/mill.htm#hydro

Still, it's nice that periods of high rainfall coincide with periods of higest electricity demand, i.e. winter.

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Flats

Am I the only Reg reader who lives in a flat? All this talk of putting a solar water heater in your home is all very well for those that live in 2-up, 2-down town houses but does anybody have microgeneration suggestions for the (reasonable) number of people who live in a flat, and therefore don't have their own roof?

Now, my reasons for wanting microgeneration aren't green (I believe the greatest carbon savings come from building the biggest power plants possible), and they're not really even financial (unless you plan to live in your property for 10+ years it just seems to cost, because nobody pays extra to buy a property with microgeneration), but largely motivated by the incredible amount of hassle it is dealing with energy suppliers. If I could open the door to nPower salespeople and laugh in their faces before going back to watching the iPlayer on my 800W gaming rig in a bath I'm topping up with the kettle guilt-free it'd be worth every penny.

No Paris, because the only flat she knows about is lying on her back

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Anonymous Coward

@AC open landscape

"Except for adding their beatiful posture to the views of the "open landscape" in the countryside ofcourse!"

Ah yes - that old one about ruing the "beauty of nature".

Although it's not is it.

The vast majority of this county is covered in industrial scale agriculture, with vast swathes of mono-crop fields. May be OK to look at, but certainly not 'natural'.

Even the so called 'wilds' of the Scottish highlands, mostly bare hills and heather - are a completely man-made environment, as without us the entire country would still be covered in ancient Caledonian Forest (of which there is about 1% left). Same goes for other such 'wild' areas across the country.

So whilst windmills may be man-made - they're no more man-made than the entire setting of the British countryside they'll be sitting in!

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Micro-gen DOES work!!!

A relative of mine had no connection to the grid for a whole year, his only source of power was a 6 foot turbine and this was more than adequate for him and his family's electricity requirements. So there, it does work, have it!

Admittedly, he was living in a caravan in a field in the country at the time so in fairness his leccy requirements were almost nil.

But apart from that.....

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Say what, Sancho?

Now there's a thing. Who'da thunk and why did no one mention this before? Could have spared all sorts of eco-savvy folk money and looking like enviROI-numpties... like our next PM, for instance. Arthur, bring up more coal from the bunker, if you please! George, throw a few more rods in the reactor! Gives me a warm glow (I hope that's all it is) just thinking of the brain power being deployed on our behalves.

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Happy

@ AC posted Friday 8th August 2008 12:41 GMT

Exactly something the greens, planners and nimbys all conveniently forget.

I'm with you.

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Jobs Halo

It's a little known fact....

that wind turbines can wreck your house as well. Why do you think we stopped using windmills mid 19C. The short answer is because of the oscillating loading caused by the sails most of them had to be put out of use before they fell apart. The cost of maintaining them was higher than the cost of fossil energy. If you buy one big enough to make a real contribution to your energy consumption do not under any circumstances fasten to to your house.

Nothing new here then.

Of course you might want to stay awake on a windy night with your wind turbine is drumming away. On the other hand you could take it back to the DIY store and complain about the noise. Do not be surprised if you get the answer "What do you expect? It is a windmill".

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Sam

Alternative alternative

Piezoelectric cloth?

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Boffin

@Anonymous Coward - Devil's Advocate

While you're almost certainly right to disbelieve any published numbers for "proven" (meaning "not proven") and "probable" (meaning "wishful") oil reserves (famously, the House of Saud has published near-identical reserves numbers for the last thirty years, implying that, conveniently, they're finding oil as fast as they're pumping it), a more enlightening view of the industry comes from looking at the jobs they're hiring for now, and what those hires are doing.

At a party the other week, I was chatting to a girl who turned out to be an exploration geologist who spent her days inspecting "empty" oil fields to try and work out whether it was worth sinking a butt-load of cash into them to try and recover the last few percent, and what the oil price needed to be to make them profitable. (Precising), her opinion was that from an exploration perspective we hit peak oil several years ago: finding new reserves is becoming harder and harder, they're in ever-more unappealing locations and they're not as big as they used to be.

However, if you fancy a career staring at seismograph plots trying to work out whether there's any Texas T left under them thar hills then this is your time...

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Anonymous Coward

@conan : Flats

Oh I did chuckle at the idea of Conan living in a flat....

I too am flat bound with no outside space for any of this junk at all. However I suspect those of us with such a massively small land footprint are also those with the smallest carbon footprint. Given that flat dwellers are mostly in towns and cities within either walking or public transport distance to work, there's probably not much more you could do.

@AC: Ah yes - that old one about ruing the "beauty of nature".

Quite right, it annoys me when farmers go on about "maintaining" the countryside, like it needs their bloody maintenance! It's hardly going to revert to a concrete wasteland without them is it?

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Coat

You wouldn't get much power out of me

I had a similar idea about prisoners generating electrcity and posted it elsewhere on the internet around 2005. The unemployment figures are roughly 1.65 million (not quite sure where I read that), so in addition with prisoners all doing exercise i suppose you could generate enough to power a light bulb or two. I think those who suggested/agree with it should stand as Labour MP's as it is the same barmy intellectual nonsense coming from the PPE politicos. If you alerted your current (Labour) MP to this, I'm sure it would become a reality in 2057 or something like, but it would all grind to a halt due to Health & Safety/Diversity/Equality legislation, not to mention cost. As for turbines, there's no demand for them. I spoke to a couple of (would be) installers and they said that in the majority of cases customers wouldn't get planning permission. I'm off for a stroll in England's grey and unpleasant land. Ooo, a brown envelope full of cash... aren't turbines brilliant?

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The Green Brigade

Oh, I remember those chappies and chapesses from my student days. They spent fortunes on clothes that looked like there were from a jumble sale. Obviously they were not from a jumble sale as no self respecting jumble sale organiser (or donater come to mention it) would ever sell anything as grotty. Oh no, that look was designer.

They also used to smoke considerable amounts of skunk. Of course not a thought was paid to the carbon footprint created by growing the weed. (HINT: If you changed your house into a grow house then your electicity bill would be that of a small factory and the police would be alerted.)

I won't even begin to go into all the chemicals that were introduced into the environment by their consumption of other drugs. Not to mention the deforestation and exploitation in third world countries.

But they were so self righteous about it all. I recall they once had a protest and blocked a dual carriageway in Manchester. Reclaim the streets the proclaimed. They had a megawatt sound system blaring out music whilst they all danced around in their designer rags smoking weed and ingesting e's and snorting coke. In the background a fuckoff big generator powering it all. But hey, they had a point to make - right. SAVE THE PLANET!! Tossers.

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Go

Trehugger comments...

We have maybe 100 years of nuke fuel left at current consumption rates.

- assuming we don't dig any more up. That figure comes from 'proven reserves', which essentially are those we found before the 1960s (when we stopped looking). Any reasonable estimate gives upwards of 1000 years (at increased consumption rates), and that's not counting breeder reactors, which would do away with any shortage at all...

Demand is rising, especially if we want to replace any fossil usage with nuke. We are close to peak nuke fuel production (so prices are going to rise).

- peak nuke fuel!??!! there is an essentially limitless supply in all the world's granite! This cries out for a cite...

We are not building breeder reactors...

- actually, we are not building reactors full stop. We should start immediately...

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Flame

Greenies and big generators

There was one event billed as "green" whose organisers attempted to ban petrol and diesel generators from site.

Such a policy would almost certainly have led to most of the electricity used there originating from disposable batteries; probably about the most magenta* way of getting the stuff, especially given that this was in the days before white LEDs, so torch bulbs were filament bulbs. Disposable batteries create way more pollution than even those cheaply-made 2-stroke generators that have suspiciously-increasing VA ratings every time they are advertised.

* work it out .....

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Stop

What is this?

"A couple of months ago, New Scientist had an article estimating 50-80 years total known reserves and less than 20 before we hit peak production, with no-one willing to gamble on finding new reserves..."

The New Scientist? Citing a once-reputable magazine which has turned into a Greenpeace house mag? For a comment on this estimate from the British Geological Society, see http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19526140.700-uranium-reserves.html

"@ "then I don't believe the whole CO2 scam". Bloody big gamble that one. I'm personally skeptical (about everything), but if you're wrong then we're all toast."

Umm. I have looked at the theory of AGW. Oddly, it's not a proven hypothesis. It goes like this:

1 - The CO2 concentration has been going up.

2 - The average temperature of the world has been going up

3 - If the two are related, it might be that the CO2 (which 'absorbs' sunlight), is causing a bit of warming which causes more water vapour to form in a runaway feedback. Note that there are several ifs there.

4 - We can model this proposal on a computer, and if we pick the right figures, we can get the model to match the earlier warming.

5 - So the world is in peril unless we lower the CO2

Normally, a scientific hypothesis remains theoretical until it has actually made predictions which can be tested. Oddly, this hasn't happened with AGW. No predictions have been formally made and tested at all. Various phenomena, such as a stratospheric 'hot spot' are implied by AGW, but these have not been found to exist in reality. When increased CO2 and temperature are found in ice core data, the temperature always comes before the increased CO2. When this contary datais produced, odd mathematical fudges are produced to explain the lack of corroborating evidence away. Occasionally, people with embarrassing counter evidence are denied the opportunity to print. Appeals are made to 'concensus' and 'authority', but no one is proposing or funding investigations which are designed to prove or diprove the hypothesis.

There are now sets of embarrassing data, indicating, for instance, that the Earth is no longer warming up. Oddly, no one pays attention to these...

So, no, I don't think it's a gamble to reject this hypothesis. If I'm wrong then we might live in a Mediterranean climate, but there is no AGW proof, just assertion in the face of ever more negative evidence. I am being asked to drink the Kool-Aid and then jump on a passing comet....

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But is its carbon footprint lower than fossil fuel?

Shouldn't the question be whether its lifetime carbon footprint is overall less than generating the same energy using the most efficient fossil fuel? Not whether it is carbon neutral.

It's not going to be economic anytime soon though.

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Re: What is this?

"1 - The CO2 concentration has been going up.

2 - The average temperature of the world has been going up

3 - If the two are related, it might be that the CO2 (which 'absorbs' sunlight), is causing a bit of warming which causes more water vapour to form in a runaway feedback. Note that there are several ifs there.

4 - We can model this proposal on a computer, and if we pick the right figures, we can get the model to match the earlier warming.

5 - So the world is in peril unless we lower the CO2"

So what's wrong? This is true. Aoart from #3 which is "absorbs IR radiation from the earth" and #4 is misleading (are they supposed to pick figures that predict the wrong climate???).

What predictions haven't been met? Ten year old climate runs are correct within known errors for the climate seen in the ten years so far since they were done. Were they supposed to fast forward the earth or create a new one to test the models against?

As to "the earth is no longer warming up", this supposes

a) that the earth was warming, which shows AGW HAS been accurately predicted (from way back in the 17th century!!!)

b) presumes that you can draw that conclusion from the result

(b) is quite amusing: you're accusing climatologists of picking the right numbers and yet you go straight ahead and do it yourself! Hilarious!!!

Oh, and when you're living in a Medditeranean climate, what about those people who WERE in the Med? Will they just have to put up with Saharan climate? Or will they move north to avoid death? And we already have shitloads of problems with BNP and the Daily Hate Mail reader complaining about "johhny foreigner" coming over here and living.

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Anonymous Coward

@Mark : As to "the earth is no longer warming up", this supposes

>a) that the earth was warming,

Yes, it supposes that.

>which shows AGW HAS been accurately predicted (from way back in the 17th century!!!)

This is a random conclusion though, simply because the earth warmed in the past doesn't mean it was man-made. The earth cooled in the past, presumably you don't assume that mankind caused the last ice-age?

The recent events in Georgia, and our utter inability to influence them should make it abundantly clear that we need an alternative energy supply regardless of whether or not the AGW deniers are wrong or not. We're dependent upon a broad array of utter nut jobs for our fuel supplies.

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@JonB

"This is a random conclusion though, simply because the earth warmed in the past doesn't mean it was man-made. The earth cooled in the past, presumably you don't assume that mankind caused the last ice-age?"

Nope, CO2 was predicted in the 17th century.

How do you make that out to be a random conclusion? Even odder, your query IS a random conclusion.

No, the 17th century did not have Arrhenius decide that humans caused the last ice age. Where did you get the idea he did?

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@AC

"We have maybe 100 years of nuke fuel left at current consumption rates."

This argument put forward, mostly by the "green brigade" really gets my goat. Yes if you are referring to known Uranium deposits they may only last for 100 years. What this fail to take into account however is a number a rather large points. Firstly more reserves are being found, improvement in extraction techniques can make existing reserves far more viable. Secondly, why do people (mostly ignorant of how nuclear power is generated) believe Uranium is the only element that can be used in fission stations? Ever heard of Thorium?

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