back to article Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap

A topflight science brainbox at Cambridge University has weighed into the ever-louder and more unruly climate/energy debate with several things that so far have been mostly lacking: hard numbers, willingness to upset all sides, and an attempt to see whether the various agendas put forward would actually stack up. Professor …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. mark Silver badge
    Gates Horns

    makes sense!

    That's the only thing I've ever read that both makes sense and suggests some solutions that dont involve reverting to the middle ages.

    ...and I've read a lot about this.

    The trouble is Nimbys - they just want the power to keep coming out of their plugholes the same way it does now - magic pixie power

  2. Ben
    Thumb Up

    Great article....

    Excellent that someone is doing good work on this problem , rather than simply lying their tits off because it suits their political/commercial agenda OR running around our meeja reps propagating hysteria .......downloading and reading , got to be more informative than (see above). : tips hat to El Reg. Have a good weekend.

  3. David Adams
    Thumb Up

    Very interexting article

    Nice to see some figures with attached research for a change.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Biofuels.

    The biofuel section seems a little confused, surely biofuel is purely for transport?

    You wouldn't grow fields of wheat, convert them two ethanol to burn in a static power station, you'd just burn the wheat (or whatever).

  5. Adam Foxton
    Joke

    "letting his machine-learning lab at Cambridge run itself these days"

    Please tell me that can be taken literally and is true.

  6. Bob Marris
    Happy

    Intellectual humour?

    > He says he's largely letting his machine-learning lab at Cambridge run

    > itself these days

    Is this a Cambridge A.I. Prof's idea of a high-brow joke?

  7. Steven Raith

    nice to see some common sense

    on the whole energy thing.

    Something that has been lacking of late, outwith NUKES BAD! WIND FARMS GOOD! type shite that the various pressure groups keep spouting out.

  8. Jonathan
    Thumb Up

    Someone give this guy a medal!

    At last, some hard numbers and easily understandable facts related to present and future energy generation and consumption.

    Very good read, thanks El Reg.

  9. Gilbert Wham

    Scientist contributes sense to climate debate - will be soundly ignored shocker...

    More alarmingly:

    "He says he's largely letting his machine-learning lab at Cambridge run itself these days,"

    Bears watching, this chap. I'm keeping my torch & pitchfork handy, just in case...

  10. Michael
    Thumb Down

    Most of these numbers are well know and are wildly uncertain

    Its nice that people are leaving their fields of expertise to stick their oar in here: the field needs all the help it can get. ANd there are no single solutions, but there are many partial solutions which when added coherently become very substantial. But this effort is very short of the mark. I won't go on and on but...

    (a) Switching stuff and using low energy light bulbs >does< help. In my (rather high tech) house I brought electricity consumption down by 30% by this technique at essentially no inconvenience to me. Nationally, switching to low energy bulbs means that roughly 1 GWe of installed capacity can be switched off - about 2% o fUK demand or one power station we don't need to build.

    (b) Having stated that the biggest problem is thermal (space heating) the article then concentrates on electricity generation which is quite a different problem. There is no doubt that thermally the best thing we can do is to insulate our homes, shops and workplaces. Estimates differ, but reducing space heating demands by 30% would not be hard.

    (c) The authors assumed faith in clean coal is endearing. This is a technology which has never been demonstrated at scale, and the scale required is collosal. Taking world numbers of something on the order of 10 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum, this occupies a volume at a minimum 10 cubic kilometres. This volume has to be gas tight with an internal pressure of 50 bar and storage would have to be permanent. This volume would have to be built every year. For the UK the demands are proportionately less, but it makes storing nuclear waste look easy.

    So well done for stimulating a numerical based discussion, but no marks for plausibility.

    Michael de Podesta

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Nice work

    My job involves performance analysis of software, and I often use these kind of speculative calculations to evaluate possible options in order to guide where we allocate limited engineering effort for best gains.

    I haven't read the book yet, but I certainly will. This kind of thinking is absolutely essential if we are to find a properly sustainable solution to our energy requirements. Far too many people pontificate about their preferred options for power generation - sometimes with relatively high-level ears to hand - without any understanding of the logical conclusions.

    Government in particular seems to be capable of making decisions based upon little more than gut feeling about ideas and concepts. You need maths to make things work and fudging stats to get your ideal outcome only works in spreadsheets. See the NHS and tax.

  12. John Mangan
    Happy

    Fantastic . . .

    I know what I'm going to be reading this weekend. I've longed for someone to actually put realistic numbers on these various options; line them up side-by-side and let the spectators judge. Nobody likes nuclear but it does look like its that or fry.

  13. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Boffin

    We NEED mathematical appreciation of policies..

    Umm... if he (or any civil servant responsible for poilcy) applied his estimation skills to the figures behind Global Warming, he'd realise there's nothing to worry about, because there isn't ANY proof that it's happening at all.

    Mind you, I'm quite pro-nuclear. When it came out in the 1950s power was going to be so cheap it wouldn't be metered. You can actually do that with nuclear power, and I think that limitless free power would transform our society.

    Can't do it any other way....

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Not safe to base predictions..

    ..of how long various sources of energy will last based on American consumption levels because Americans will simply increase their consumption levels in line with what is available.

    So, assume the US of A will continue to find a use for around 20%-25% of the world's total available supply of energy for the forseeable future (as it does now) and see how that buggers the figures.

  15. Cathryn

    Africa's Sun

    The problem with planning to import solar power from Africa is that Africa will need it's own renewable energy sources. Now maybe there's enough to go around, but I'd like to think that we in Africa get first dibs on our own solar resources.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Brilliant, someone should make a movie!

    Al Gore repentant, An even more inconvenient truth.

    Unfortunately, like all religions, green-ism does not stand up to scientific scrutiny of the facts. The faithful -aka brainwashed- will ignore the facts and carry on believing what they want to believe, largely on the basis that what they have been taught in school and seen on (BBC) TV must be true.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heat by George Monbiot

    Has he not read it? A lot of this has already been pointed out. The important point is needing to reduce our energy requirement - and there's plenty of profligate waste right now...

  18. Chronos Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Yep

    About time we had someone with a bit o' sense talking about this. I would have gone a little further with the nuclear is simply dangerous issue, of course, since we have little idea how many lives have been lost to coal (the whole shabang - blacklung, cave-ins, firedamp), oil (what has four legs and goes "woof?" Piper Alpha), gas, offshore and onshore wind etc. to compare to the "known" number of lives lost to nuclear power.

    I'd also like to know how many people/animals/fish have been blended by hydro, not because I really give a damn, but it seems a particularly nasty way to go. Still, "Trawsfynydd Hydroelectric is brought to you in association with Moulinex - of course it blends!" may give them an additional revenue stream. Oh, and the RSPB can get stuffed; the more shite-hawks beaned by turbines, the better as far as I'm concerned. Those of you who live near the coast (or landfill) or own a boat that you have ever painted or cleaned will know exactly where I'm coming from.

    Aye, perspective is what we need and Professor MacKay seems to have it in bundles. That said, the current trend seems to be legislate for anything that stupid people may stub their toes on. Given that we're legislating against natural selection, why don't we simply hook a huge alternator to Darwin's grave? He's sure to be spinning at a rate of knots.

  19. Mark

    "willingness to upset all sides"

    Not sure why this is a good thing.

    Fits my personal personnel management scheme: denigrate annoy and harrass people until they do what I want.

    So next time I'm told off, I'll point them here.

    Sorted.

  20. MarkJ

    Refreshing...

    I'm always a little sceptical when I see a physicist who claims not to be pro-nuclear being pro-nuclear. Mainly because the only physicists who seem not to be pro-nuclear power are the ones being paid to research photo-voltaics and the like.

  21. AJames

    This is what we need

    An excellent article - I look forward to the book. If we are to have any chance of solving the looming global energy and climate crisis, we need to tell our politicians to stop posturing and start dealing with the hard facts. We owe it to our children and to future generations.

  22. Kit Temple

    Renewable efficiency levels

    From reading this article, I'm not clear if he has considered the constantly improving technologies of renewable energies. Renewable sources such as photovoltaics keep improving their efficiencies year by year. So if you implement a 10-year plan of rolling out renewable equipment, then the equipment installed in year 10 would be significantly more efficient.

    Also ignoring PV on roofs in favour of PV farms in Africa makes financial sense if all expenditure had to come directly from the government's pocket - but one benefit of installing PV on roofs is to share the cost with UK residents who pay out some of their capital and recoup it over the years.

  23. Tim
    Thumb Up

    Killing two birds:

    Why not burn all the obese people, thus eliminating the obesity problem, and their associated high energy consumption. This has the added benefit of making the whole of the US empty. We could then store all our landfill there!

  24. Mark

    "At present, there being no scarcity of uranium"

    Uh, reserves currently stand at about 50 years. And most power is NOT from nuclear.

    If we used breeder reactors, but then again, we nearly invaded iran because they wanted something that *could* possibly be used to create weapons-grade materials, which breeder reactors definitely do.

    If nuclear is so safe and cheap, why is it that new reactors are only built when the government pays the insurance tab and offsets decommissioning?

    As to the opening gambit, I notice that you haven't actually put any numbers to the "10% of the UK under wind turbines would save half of what a 50km daily drive would use up". Where's your figures?

  25. jeffrey

    hmm

    Didn't someone come up with an idea where you could convert sellafield for about £4Billion to recycle both existing and projected uk nuclear waste, an option which would supply the same amount of electrcity from nuclear power as the uk currently produces, but without having to by in fresh fuel for a period of about 100 years? I seem to recall we would offer to be the worlds recycling bin and other countries would pay us to take their nuclear waste of their hands, whereupon we would recycle it by putting it into our special reactors several times over to generate our own electricity?

  26. John Sager
    Unhappy

    He'll get Lomborged:(

    This is incendiary stuff to the planet-huggers, and I fear that, if his book gets to be as widely read as it should be, then he'll get the same kind of treatment as Lomborg did. Incidentally, I wish the 'save-the-planet' crowd would be rather more honest about their motivations. The planet doesn't need saving - It'll carry on fine and indeed a real environmental crisis will just provide lots more scope for evolution. There may be no more tigers but there will be other top predators doing their stuff. What would need saving is the human race, so I wish they would just acknowledge that selfish fact.

  27. James Anderson Bronze badge
    Happy

    Confirms what I always thought.

    Switching off the telly rather than leaving it on standby makes not a blind bit of difference.

    The good professor rubbished the idea even without pointing out that for six months of the year if your telly wasn't contributing its heat to the house the central heating would have to take up the slack.

    Looks like were going nuclear -- better get used to the idea.

  28. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Making use of the Sahara

    Interesting article. The problem with nuclear fission is still safe disposal of the waste. Until this has been solved the costs unlike the risks are unknown.

    Fortunately this is already starting - solar *and* wind power is being adopted in the Maghreb as a way to reduce electricity imports from countries like Spain. In addition to the direct economic benefits this has added social benefits because it requires a skilled local labour force to maintain the generators. Providing employment is one of the key ways to reduce social tension which is at least partly responsible for political radicalisation and emigration. The Sahara including the mountain ranges is easily big enough to generate enough electricity for the local countries and Europe and will require co-operation on both sides to be successful.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Biofuels.

    Well he's talking about (i think) the total amount of energy produced, whether you're using it in static stations or in vehicals is of little consequence.

    Shame no one that makes decisions will listen to the guy though.

  30. Austin Chamberlain

    A rare bit of rationality ...

    If only the various interest groups, companies, government bodies and politicians could be forced to handle things in such a rational manner.

  31. John Robson Silver badge

    That's a decent way of looking at the options...

    Oh - and @Biofuels (JonB)

    It's still biofuel if you burn the wheat, just hasn't been made into biopetrol.

    Basically then I've done the best I can for my Carbon footprint - I've stopped commuting 70 miles per day and now cycle to work...

  32. Richard
    Thumb Up

    Scary...

    Someone has actually applied common sense and hard maths to what has been up to now mainly a hot-air (ouch) debate. The guy is going to get abuse from all sides due to entrenched positions and narrow-mindedness, but this seems like the first practical scientifically based analysis.

    Total respect!

  33. Mark Land

    Good article, but

    I would hope that reduction of demand due to efficiencies and a shift of focus from consumerism may reduce our energy demands long term significantly.

    I agree that turning TVs off of standy is dumb, but that doesnt mean there is not other ways to use a lot less. For example, the article makes it quite clear that EU residents use a lot less energy per head than US at the moment, but I imagine there is still improvement to be made.

    I am very impressed with the article though, addresses the problems with real possible solutions. I have big doubts that any government would actually use science and numbers in this way, as historically they tend to rely on "common sense", and "interesting science, but, we know best"

    I have some optimism that economics will actually sort the problem out in the end, the higher cost of energy and hence consumables, will mean we will have to use less. For example, buying food from local farms or co-ops will become cheaper compared to the motorway/supermarket model that exists today, as requires less fuel to deliver the goods.

  34. Joe K
    Thumb Up

    I liked this

    Read like quality sci-fi in some places.

    "Fire up the thorium energy extractors dammit!! We need 30 gigawatts at once, Coronation Street is almost finished!"

  35. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Flame

    At last someone has realised...

    that with a maximum UK insolation on the order of half a kilowatt per square meter, solar power for anything other than low grade heating is a non-starter.

    Thinking about it, if you insist only on renewable power, your limit is that 500w/m^2, multiplied by whatever inefficiencies you can apply on the green technology of your choice.

    Fission for me please, until they get fusion (just around the corner, for the fortieth consecutive year!) working. Or perhaps vacuum fluctuation zero-point technology, or even magic pixie dust...

    Mine's the one with the Bremsenausstrallung blue glow...

  36. Simon
    Boffin

    This guy knows what hes talking about

    Long article but he touches on so much good sense.

    Firstly, I wish people would stop all this talk about re-newables. Wind and solar power, its such non-sense, especially in a country like the UK where supply is unreliable. Anyone who thinks we could rely on these supplies is talking pants.

    Home generated solar and wind power, tsk, anyone who buys into this is being ripped off.

    Electric cars as well, not a very efficient way of doing it, especially if you are charging it from a remote power station. Its a very lossy way of doing it, best wait until someone develops something mainstream that generates its power in the car (Like Hydrogen). Also electric cars are dangerous as they dont make a noise and you will get an increase in pedestrian accidents, however this could be solved by added a noise maker on the vehicle.

    Nuclear fission, grrr, why do people like Green peace hate nuclear so much? Its much cleaner than say coal, the waste products generated are exagerated. Nuclear waste is more about classification rather than danger. A pen that was used in an office of a nuclear power station is classified as such and has to be disposed as low level waste, this is usually just sticking it in a lanfill site away from normal landfill. The real dangerous stuff is produced in very small amounts, its a bit like the asbestos scares we get, its not that dangerous unless you do something really stupid.

    Nuclear fusion, I have spoken to people involved in this. The status is that they know how to do it, now its just a materials research problem to build a tokamak that will keep running without high maintenance costs. Still its expensive and a commercial design is always "20 years away" so we should stick with fission until then.

    Coal is still not a bad idea, theres maybe more coal in the ground than oil or gas. With moden technology it could be used as a very clean method of generation.

    DC transmission of electricity, briefly mentioned is a much better way of transmitting power than AC. You can transmit DC over hundreds of miles rather than a few miles with AC without the losses. Much higher power can be transmitted for a much smaller cost. If people want to do the "Green thing" then how about millions of solar cells in the Sahara with the power being transmitted to Europe via DC power lines to southern Europe, with enough spare for North Africa.

    So yes, listen to guys like this.

  37. Duncan Robertson
    Thumb Up

    Superb article!

    Whilst no tree-hugger, I do think that we need to do something about energy consumption in this country. This is coming from someone that works for an Oil and Gas Consultancy as well!!

    Anyway, there's no economical way to produce the amount of energy we need, let alone the amount we want, from renewables. Clean coal needs to be implemented, as does Nuclear. I think I'm right in saying that the UK has only ever had 1 Fast Breeder - Dounreay. YES, there were problems! It was built in the 50's, we didn't (and some may argue still don't) know much about Nuclear Physics. Through work carried out at Dounreay, we understand a lot more. And no I'm not just talking about the "What do we do to prevent this from happening again?" lessons learned... The amount of research that was carried out at Dounreay is staggering and we just shut it down. Eh? No, we need more of these Fast Breeders.

    Wind is too unreliable and takes up too many beauty spots and all that - according to most folk. Wave is not quite there yet. Tidal will take a fair amount of investment and there are only a few sites suited to large-scale development. There's the tree-huggers to consider here as well. Bio-fuel will mean the entire UK being covered with fields of Rape or something and then we'll go hungry.

    Sorry folks, either scale down your energy requirements - something that is not easy when we are so reliant on it - or embrace the Nuclear age! It's the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable. No more relying on the Saudis or Russians for Oil and Gas, then having them jack up prices on a whim. When you think what has caused the hike in Oil prices recently, a large portion of the blame has to land on these toe-rag stockbroker types who speculate on commodities prices. Yeah, you pricks, the price has gone up because you all bought loads. Leave it alone! You can afford to run your Porsche with your bonus. Some of us have to fork out £1.32 per litre (IN THE OIL CAPITAL OF EUROPE!!!) and do 70 miles a day just commuting. And no there is no bus! Why do I live here? Because it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. I drink clean water, off a hill, from the tap. My kids are safe. I leave my house unlocked, car with the keys in the ignition and I can breathe clean air.

    As far as where to put these new Nuclear stations, how about on the sites of the existing plants? They were chosen for a reason and you're also cutting de-commisioning costs long term.

    Rant over. That is all....

  38. michael

    there was grate desturbance in the force

    the sound of the hopes of a 1000 enviromentlists sudnley screaming out in trror and sudnley going silent

  39. Steve Crook

    Finally, some maths that actually makes sense.

    The analysis is spot on. We have no choice but to build Nuclear power stations. Personally, I don't like the idea, but the maths makes it clear that for a country that gets as little sun as we do, there's no choice. Just find the sites and build the bloody things.

    Also, it buries the idea that tidal and wind power are anything but a joke, which is a big bonus.

  40. yo

    Nuclear Power

    I quite like how the major issue about nuclear power is ignored, namely storage of spent fuel.

    I also find it extremely naive to suggest that increases in the price of fuel will not be passed on to the customer, which is what you suggest will happen.

    You are quite right in pointing out that most appliances that get flack for wasting energy, don't use much energy, but surely the point is that they waste energy and you hardly get any benefit.

    I've run an energy audit at home and came up with quite a lot of interesting data

    30W for 5.1 sound system

    15W for router

    100W for PC

    10W (phone chargers, tooth brush charger and battery charger)

    That's 155W or 3.7 kWh wasted every day.

    For the sake of argument make 100W for the average household, they might not have a pc on 24/7 but will have TVs, DVD players, Hi Fis and you are looking at 2.5GW, not massive but significant

  41. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Hooray! Someone with some common sense.

    Rather than guess at numbers and provide fantastic visions of a windmill in your garden running everything in your house, let's actually sit down and do the numbers sensibly. Someone give this man a medal. And alternate scenarios for the greenies - fantastic - let's show them why man MUST burn more uranium before anything like that ever gets viable.

    I love the way that everything is overexaggerated - "Let's assume we need much less energy and we can blanket the country with the best windmills for ever and destroy every habitat by doing whatever we want with loch water and STILL it's not close to viable".

    I was suitably impressed by the fusion numbers to want to instantly stop messing about with fluttering things in the breeze and letting the oceans slosh a couple of generators about and start researching fusion seriously as the only thing worth our time. And while we're getting there, let's just stick one or two more tiny nuclear reactors about to make up for all the lost renewable energy (and then some) for the next century or so.

    Slightly offtopic: I was in B&Q the other day. They sell a home wind-turbine. I was bored and had to wait for the wife to decide between eight identical shades of beige paint, so I did some mental arithmetic.

    If I bought it and installed it and achieved the theoretical maximum power from it, all day every day, it would pay for itself in about 8 years. It had a "design life" of five. That's not counting what happens if it falls off, breaks, wears, becomes less efficient, gets vandalised or happens to sit in a non-optimal location.

    So, theoretically, after 8 years of (hopefully) cash-free maintenance and gale-force winds, I would *just* start to get some free electricity. Not counting installation. Or delivery. Or the planning consultant. Or the planning permission. Or getting the electricity company to install their kit so I could pump back to the grid.

    And when I did start to save money, the enormous eyesore could *just* about generate enough electricity (after battery/conversion losses) to run a 1-bar electric fire if it was operating to it's perfect theoretical maximum. With reasonable averaging of windspeed, power, etc. I could *just* about get it to run a bulb or two in the shed 24/7 - energy saving ones at that.

    This thing had four-foot blades, was bigger than and cost more than my car. It doesn't take a genius to look at that in realistic terms and instantly dismiss it as not viable. Even with the advantages and efficiences gained by scaling up, it's simple to see why wind is, pretty much, useless as a power source. (If you still need an analogy, it's like trying to power your kids toys by blowing on one of those handheld-fans and wiring it's battery contacts up to their Tonka).

    The best bit was that EVERY bloke who walked past stopped and looked at it in admiration. I assume either brainwashing by the Green party or some sort of size comparison contest was in progress. Such was the interest generated by potentially "saving energy/money"that EVERY bloke looked. And then some of the more intelligent saw the numbers. The rest, I assume, already have one and are watching their voltmeters religiously to see when they start to claw their money back.

    BTW: If you want an eye opener about your electricity usage, get a pre-pay meter. Seriously, you'll never believe the difference that turning on an electric heater/kettle makes.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Why stop there?

    I'd go further... 30x the current nuclear to ~310GW. That would cover our total UK energy requirement 2700TWh (no external oil needed). Invest in synthetic methane & petrol refineries and run transport & home heating etc. on the _same_ infrastructure we have now without the dependence on Russia or the Gulf. Why tool up for hydrogen/electric cars when we have working petrol ones? Tax "real" petrol & diesel into the stoneage (e.g. double the duty, £2 or £3 per litre sounds good) & have v.low duty on zero carbon synthetic fuel.

    However this kind of change would require long term investment, forethought and balls. 3 things which governments lack when it is much quicker to build gas fired powerstations and buy gas from Norway & Russia.

    Just my 2p

  43. michael

    @JonB

    the point of this is he is converting all use in to an equivlent elecy output so aloth he says "biofules will genrate so much lecky" what he meanes is "bio fules will genrate so much car fule witch if they where lecky cars would be this much power taken form the grid"

  44. James Pickett
    Happy

    Just a thought...

    I once did a back-of-envelope calculation that revealed that the amount of sunshine (@1kW/m2) enjoyed by my garden on one summer's day would be enough to heat my house for a year, so I agree that solar energy is a Good Thing. Given that the oceans absorb a fair amount of it, and distribute it a bit, why not use heat pumps to capture some of that energy? You could even help restore the melting Arctic, always assuming that it actually is...

  45. Sulehir
    Go

    Fantastic

    It's truly a nice change to see a (mainly) unbiased evaluation. Everything else you seem to see is either greenpeace orientated "we'll build a few more windmills and everyone will have enough electricity" or just a big "trust us and maintain the status quo" from big business and government.

    I hope many people read his book and take note, Ill be sending copies round to everyone I know.

  46. Risky
    Thumb Up

    Great article

    I've bookmarked his page and might even have a read of the book yet. There is a desperate need for some rational thought on these matters and less of the "Don't Think Act Now!" hype.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Go nuclear, research fusion

    But didn't we know that already?

    BTW @ "no marks for plausibility" - no pleasing some people! But I found your estimates of 30% each from light bulb replacement and loft insulation *incredibly* endearing. I think we can get another 30% from hugging trees.

  48. Anne van der Bom

    Stay sceptic

    An advice that I forgot in my first post.

    Everybody seems very eager to believe this professor. He is only human and can make mistakes. Don't be lured into the belief that if a book contains that much of math, that it must be true.

    Stay sceptic!

  49. Anne van der Bom

    Homework

    Well I can already mention the first glaring mistake. It is the claim that 10% of britain would have to be covered in wind turbines to provide half engergy for enabling the cars in Brintain to travel 50 km/day. I checked up on his calculation and he comes to an amount of energy of 40kWh/day....... by using the calorific value of fuel!

    Aaaaargh. This is so fundamentally wrong. He completely the point that an average car engine is 20% efficient, and an electric motor around 90%.

    Actual real-world data of electricity consumption for an electric car (comparable to our current petrol cars!) is somewhere between 6 and 10 km per kWh. This is a full factor of 5 less!

    I wouldn't trust a professor that make mistakes that are so fundamentally and obviously wrong. And he is boasting about having all the numbers like he knows it all. I would say he didn't do his homework

  50. Mike Richards

    Uranium economy

    The HUGE problem with nuclear power is political - not the lentil knitters, but international politics. As the report points out, uranium reserves are pretty limited if the World decided that fission was the way forward (and it is increasingly looking that way).

    Thorium is in some way an even bigger problem than uranium since it needs to be transmuted into U233 before it can be used as a fuel. The Indians, who have some of the largest thorium reserves, have long experience in doing this. BUT U233 is an excellent material for bomb making. It can be used in a uranium cannon bomb (unlike plutonium), a much simpler, cheaper way of becoming a nuclear power as it doesn't need anything like the same level of expertise - the design of Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima didn't need to be tested and the South Africans assembled a number of similar weapons without ever testing their designs.

    The way to extend uranium reserves is through reprocessing and recycling U235 for further use and either blending in Pu239 to make MOX or to embark on a real fast breeder program using Pu239 as the fuel and U238 as the breeding blanket. This would mean a huge commitment to reprocessing - an economic disaster in the UK which is the only country to have ever gone wholeheartedly for the process, and something of an environment nightmare as it means finding repositories for spent actinides. Could any government make such a commitment?

    BUT the monster in this is the plutonium economy. Such a programme would require hundreds of tonnes of plutonium, all suitable for bomb making, to be shipped around the World on a continuous basis. It would mean providing countries with whom we have awkward, if not hostile, relationships with plutonium. Bearing in mind the fracas we're currently having with Iran over its uranium program does anyone countenance the US or Israel permitting Iran to receive plutonium shipments?

    Okay, we could avoid trans-shipments and say that everyone has a reprocessing program of their own. The technology is from the 1940s and is accessible to anyone with a supply of concrete, kerosene and some 1st year degree chemistry. Is the World ready for 200 odd reprocessing programmes all with the potential to divert plutonium into bomb programs?

    Or the US and the rest of the Security Council could say that all new nuclear economies must sign up to receive fuel from their enrichment and processing plants and return spent fuel to them. This hasn't worked too well in the past - India's successful civilian and military programs are a direct protest at trying to impose similar rules through the Non Proliferation Treaty, and Iran's current intransigence is in part down to the fact that under the Treaty every country is permitted to have their own civilian nuclear programs - including a complete fuel cycle. The West demanding that Iran must accept fuel from outside is not grounded in law.

    So can the readers of this mighty organ see how to get round these problems?

  51. JimC Silver badge

    Ecological Vandalism...

    At last too, some thought on the appalling ecological vanadalism of so called "Green Solutions". It just beggars belief that the "Greens" can be serious about that. It would involve ecological destruction on a positively Soviet scale, probably worse... At least the wildlife manages some kind of survival around Chernobyl...

  52. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Some unforseen problems.

    "If we used breeder reactors, but then again, we nearly invaded iran because they wanted something that *could* possibly be used to create weapons-grade materials, which breeder reactors definitely do.

    If nuclear is so safe and cheap, why is it that new reactors are only built when the government pays the insurance tab and offsets decommissioning?"

    Mark

    Umm... so you think that the US will invade us if we start creating weapons-grade materials? Whose side do you think they're on?? (on second thoughts, don't answer that...)

    New Reactors are only built when the government ensures that the planning permission will go through. Same as runways - they are cheap and guaranteed to make money at Heathrow, but they don't get built for exactly the same reason - too much protest and not enough government backing....

    Paris, in default of there being a better icon for expressing stupidity..

  53. fr33cycler

    It looks good but...

    ...there's always a certain conceit in these things that "at last someone should do the maths". Look at the Tyndall Centre's work on decarbonising the UK, or their "Living within a carbon budget" carried out for Friends of the Earth. It's a daft implication that they were based on nice pictures, not hard analysis. Its equally daft to call them woolly well sihing types - they are a team of scientists and statisticians that cover many disciplines.

    You could similarly look at energy modelling carried out by various other bodies planning future policy prescriptions - from Greenpeace to the Sustainable Development Commission. All of them have also used models to determine possible future scenarios.

    And BBC News had a "plan your own future energy scenario and see if you need nuclear" up on their website ages ago. I believe it ran on mathematical models, but perhaps it worked by asking a fluffy bunny rabbit the answer...

    Finally - maybe I've missed it, but does the good professor simply think we have to use that much energy - or could we possibly reduce our demand a bit???

    Finally to those pseudo scientists who love justifying standby/other electricty wasting devices on the basis it reduces the amount of energy your boiler uses to heat your home - try working out

    (a) whether you actually save your boiler any work at all when you are heating your home with wasted electricty in the summer and the boiler is off, or even during the day/overnight when many turn their heating off

    (b) how much carbon is released into the atmosphere for 1 kWh of heat from a gas boiler (which most of you have, though I accept not all) compared to 1 kWh of electricty

    (c) how useful is the heat you put into your room at lightbulb level?

    Its a stupid argument dressed up by those who may know a little science, want to prove their own indpendence of mind, but don't actually want to think too hard....

  54. Marvin the Martian
    Flame

    Lies, damn lies, and all without statistics.

    Hurray! Another person who has an unrelated expertise (an AI researcher) gives his 2cents worth (literally in this case). Oh, he's here to promote a book? That's allright then, ElReg, just pass the mike to him and praise him for "he's used numbers before, so he can do the math".

    For example, covering 10% of the land with windmills will power 1 car for 50km a day? Yes, one car per adult for 50km per day I can possibly believe, 500km I'd think more probable, and that would really be what we need.

    Clearly, insulation and more efficient water heating (for the mentioned daily showers) would help --- here in antediluvian Kings Cross, I have a central waterheater that pumps hot water to the flat, so inefficiently that we never heat, have single glazing yet summer and winter it's 24--28C here. So yes, start crunching numbers.

    I don't care whether average temperatures are now measurably up (ElReg's ongoing series disputing NASA's "up", what's your ultimate goal?), there's simple chemistry involved: you have a system in a relatively stable state, you start 150--200years ago pumping massive amounts of carbon into the atmo --- what do you expect? (a) nothing happens, (b) severe turbulence/ chaos/ disruptions or (c) all that plus a higher temp final equilibrium. ElReg keeps arguing (a) for sheer bloody mindedness; seems frankly a bit stupid bet to me.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Nuclear...?

    Well, if you stop saying "we'll site it next to that small village in the middle of nowhere" we might start believing it's safe. The natural home for safe power stations is inside the boundary of the M25 (or on the Thames estuary at least) because then we can avoid all the pointless transmission losses resulting from transferring electricity hundreds of miles. Hey, isn't the dome a good size for this?

    I don't object to the Beauly-Denny line on environmental grounds, I just think it shows how moronic our current out-of-sight-out-of-mind policy on electricity generation is....

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Simon

    "Also electric cars are dangerous as they dont make a noise and you will get an increase in pedestrian accidents,"

    They do actually make *some* noise, it's just that with the current levels of background noise pollution and the fact that we are all trained to listen for honking big diesel and petrol engines they are hard to notice.

    Remove the background noise and you will likely find it much easier to hear an electric car coming...

  57. fr33cycler

    I'm so pleased you posted that Anne....

    I'm now awaiting all the apologies from those who leapt in to say it was great because it confirmed what they wanted to hear....

    Hold on...was that a pin dropping?

    The car thing is also based on an increase in the number of miles driven in the UK, and a decrease in the average efficiency of the cars used to drive those miles. Yet petrol sales (and presumably miles, 'cos not that many people can have changed their cars in the last few weeks) have been cut about 20% by current high prices because people are using their cars more carefully. Imagine how much better that reduction would be if rther than being a freak effect of global economics, it was the result of longterm decisions by Government who had used the proceeds to invest in alternatives, and set up taxation schemes to drive greater innovation in more efficient cars...

  58. Ash
    Go

    Interesting

    Ignoring el regs blatant 'push anything green sceptical' editorial slant this was a very interesting article.

    It seems to me that a combination of nuclear, and wind power (with distributed storage) will be the most practical solution to our current oil dependence. It will be interesting to see if we have enough time to make the changes in our infrastructure before our pipelines get turned off though... the government will procrastinate and avoid any unpopular (but necessary) decisions of course. Up shit creek etc.

    One thing in the article seemed blatantly wrong however. Assuming that having a warm house and hygeine cleanliness etc has to take up current levels of energy use. A few simple changes in improved housing insulation, micro generation of hot water from solar-thermal, low energy lightbulbs, cycling to work on nice days etc could markedly reduce energy usage in these basic areas. Individuals CAN make a difference.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Anne van der Bom

    And you in turn missed the obvious point that electricity power stations are at best 40% efficient, and usually much less so - especially the "renewables". There are also losses in transmission and storage. A petrol can has the advantage that all the petrol doesn't run away when you leave it in the garage for a week.

    The good professor's figures stand up to scrutiny - unlike yours!

  60. chris
    Thumb Up

    But Anne!

    ...His conclusions fit the existing prejudices of a chunk of Register readers! *And* he has equations!

    As if environmentalists haven't been doing sums on energy consumption for a while. No-one read Mayer Hoffman's book then? Steven Pacala's work on the relationship between wealth and pollution creation that shows that it's the rich that are the problem?

    The message I get from this is: we can't live current energy-inefficient lifestyles forever, but most of the energy use is taking place on a societal not individual level.

    Therefore, society has to change. A las barricadas! Less tat, no bosses, longer holidays. What's not to like?

  61. Mike Bremford Silver badge

    @Marvin the Martian

    Er, 500km per day, per person on *average*? You are aware what average means aren't you?

    Your sums would have each and every one of us doing 100,000 miles per year, so unless you envisage a future filled entirely with travelling salesmen I assume your "he's a numbers man" comment was intended to be deliciously ironic. Well done.

  62. fr33cycler

    @anonymous coward

    True, some power stations are now less that 50% efficient (something many learned from those evil confusion dealers Greenpeace before you happenned to mention it), but they don't need to be in future and anyway it is somewhat irrelevant because he puts the car demand up against the output from the power stations (whether wind/solar, nuclear fuel or solar) and makes a statement that we will x million enough wind turbines to power those cars as if they were as inefficient petrol ones, not 5 times more efficient electric ones.

    Perhaps his figures stand up to your scrutiny, because you want to believe him.

  63. Anne van der Bom

    No I did not

    @Anonymous Coward:

    You missed the point completely. I and the professor was talking about wind turbines to provide the power for the cars, not conventional power plants!

    Please read carfully. And stay sceptic.

  64. Snert Lee

    tangents

    How green is the green plan when you've covered all the green bits up with concrete and cables for windmill support?

    I think the ideal answer would be a large reflector in space aimed wasted sunshine at enormous heat exchangers atop the earth-to-orbit bean stalk elevator.

  65. Chris
    Boffin

    solar power satellites

    As long as we're going to look at pie-in-the-sky solutions, what about power in the sky? The sun shines 24/7 in space. No clouds, no night. Collect it and beam it to Earth via microwaves.

    Or just put up a bunch of mirrors and reflect it down to stations in remote parts of the world where it can be converted to heat to drive conventional turbines.

    Or get that space elevator built and run cables down the inside of the shaft...

    Lots of options "up there".

    -Chris

  66. Anne van der Bom

    More ammo from me

    The line of reasoning is classical: divide and conquer. I examines each alternative energy source separately, and then dismisses it as unable to cover our energy needs in an acceptable manner.

    We would need to cover 40% of our country in wind turbines, so forget wind.

    We would need to spend x trillion on solar cells, so forget solar.

    We would need 100 sq km of farmland for biofuels, so forget biofuels.

    We would need to drill 15000 holes for geothermal, so forget geothermal.

    You must always look at the combination of different types of renewals. Never put all your eggs in one basket.

    I am not stupid. I do realise that renewables offer a huge challenge and are riddled by a host of problems, but are they unsolvable problems? Decide for yourself.

  67. Drunken
    IT Angle

    Strange Comparisons

    The first page of the article threw me completely, what does this mean?

    "if we covered the windiest 10 per cent of the country with windmills, we might be able to generate half of the energy used by driving a car 50 km per day each"

    Is that every car in the UK, or is it if every person drove a car they would get to 25km each? Or has he taken the actual average consumption of each car? I have no idea.

    And why compare cars which generally run off fuel, and not electricity. Electric cars are generally much more efficient, just their range is pretty poor.

    Oh well I'm confused. Time to have some beer, that will clear it all up.

  68. J
    Flame

    Very interesting, gotta read the book now

    Well, at least much better than what one regularly reads on the subject: wild speculation without any figures, where anything goes. When there are numbers and explicit assumptions, it's finally possible to check the plausibility (or not) of the conclusions. Let's hope more such thinking is done.

  69. Paul McKeigue
    Dead Vulture

    breeders and fast reactors

    There's enough uranium for the next few decades, so no need to rush with building breeder reactors. The risk of weapons proliferation is pretty minimal from a civilian reactor operated under IAEA safeguards: unless the reactor is specially designed to minimize build-up of Pu-240, the plutonium will be useless for weapons.

    The ideal design would be something like the Integral Fast Reactor, abandoned in 1994 after a prototype had been built. No need for uranium enrichment, transuranics never leave the site as they are processed in situ, and the waste is no longer radioactive after 200 years.

  70. Anne van der Bom

    Please don't believe me

    In line of my advise to stay sceptic, here is my calculation on the hot bath vs. tv on standby.

    A hot bath is around 70 l of water that needs to be heated from 15C to 35C. With a 90% efficient heater, that takes an amount of energy of (70000 * 4.2 * 20) / 0.9 = 6.5 MJ.

    A tv on standby consumes around 2 W of electrical power. With the average generating efficiency at 35%, that amount of energy buy you 6.5 million / (2 / 0.35) = 1.13 million seconds = 13 days standby time. Since a tv is on standby only 20 hours per day (and in use the other 4), I will apply a correction of 24/20, coming to around 16 days. Two weeks, not 6 months.

    This assumes the hot water for the bath is not created by a electrical boiler, but a gas fired boiler. In case of an electrical boiler, I would need to apply the 35% generating efficiency to the hot water too, making the hot bath equivalent to around 6 weeks of tv standby time. Another miss by a factor of 4.

    The 2 W standby figure is what I believe is a pretty common value.

    Please do not believe me. Check my math and assumptions! Stay sceptic.

  71. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    windmills

    I think the idea of replacing our power generation with windmills has been and will always be a complete non starter.

    I think it was calculated out that the UK would need 35 000 to 40 000 of the things... and then have to double up on them in various locations around the country to keep the grid supplied... and then keep some nice gas power stations running in standby mode in case the wind dropped out too far.

    Someone mentioned his garden recieves 1kw/meter in sunshine..... ever found out how much power it recieves in jan at 7.30pm?

    Nuclear is a flawed technology, however it is a technology we have now, plus the fact the waste issues could be solved if the government of the day had enough backbone.

    But when it comes down to it, because most people believe electricky is made by magic pixies who live in the wall socket, I guess f all will be done to solve our impending power generation crisis

    Boris

    PS someone send that article to the green party/friends of the earth/the BBC and any other supporter of the so called 'green' movement

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Anne van der Bom

    Anne, in using a 12L/100 km value, inherently he's accounted for the inefficiency of the automobile. Otherwise, he would have chosen 2.4L/100 km (divided by 5) to account for your claimed 20% efficiency. Are you suggesting he multiply through again by 5 times to account for it again, to be honest I'm not sure what your issue is with this. The calorific value he chose was based on the heat of combustion (had a quick look, 10kwh/L is fine for gasoline). The point of the section was to say, just as it says "how much power does a car consume", a average petrol car (read...not 100% efficient), not an electric car, running on gasoline of a given calorific value. The value he came up with as a ballpark is fine, there is nothing fundementally wrong with what he's done. I agree with being a skeptic, but I confess the tone of your posts here lead me away from thinking your a skeptic to thinking you've got a bit of an axe to grind. Read the section again, I don't think you've understood it very well.

  73. Dunstan Vavasour
    Thumb Up

    Demand, supply and price

    What this ignores, of course, is that as supplies tighten the price will go up and we'll use energy differently.

    The nations which are getting wealthy now aren't going to establish such a wasteful modus vivendi because it will impoverish them as fast as they emerge.And as prices rise, we *will* moderate our usage - we're already seeing "low cost" airlines suspending routes because they can't make them pay with fuel the price it is. As fuel prices ratchet upwards consumption patterns will change, not because gummint say so but because people are making choices about how to spend their money, and decide to put some clothes on rather then turn on the patio heater.

  74. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Paris Hilton

    Transportation of de light

    Before Winston Churchill ruined the planet by buying into Persian Oil, all mass transport in this country went by sail. OK if we had to use tugs and barges these days and move the population the way it used to move in daies ofe yore, we'd still have had to use diesel by now.

    But we'd use considerably less than road transport costs.

    Without a major revolution in such matters though, as the noted science bod indicates, we are living beyond our means.

    And if we don't want nuclear plants in every town, the way our grandparents had coal gas manufacturies, then we will have to shoot all the bean counters and then, when the time comes, all the politicians.

    No bad thing IMO.

  75. Darryl

    Actually

    "we might be able to generate half of the energy used by driving a car 50 km per day each."

    is not the same as

    "we might be able to plug a car into a wind turbine".

    It's a comparison of an example of energy generated to an example of energy consumed.

    But one of the favourite tactics of Greenies is to leap on comparison examples like the above and "prove" how preposterous they are when they come from anyone except for Al Gore and Greenpeace. I'm surprised you didn't make fun of how long an extension cord would be needed to plug the car into the windmill.

    I agree, stay skeptic. Question everything you're told by governments and special interest groups, including the Green propaganda.

  76. Anne van der Bom

    More ammo from me - type

    Oops. Make that 100.000 sq. km of farmland.

  77. Simon

    @Anonymous Coward, Electric cars

    I was actually following a car a few days ago that was spookily silent, then i spotted the Prius badge on the back.

    I was on a motorbike (No, my bike is fairly quiet) with the visor open and i could just hear the wheels gently rolling on the tarmac.

    I have an annoyance with pedestrians who think its ok to walk out in front you because its "Not their problem" (So I have been told...) so all it takes is a car driver to not be looking and you have an accident.

    Yeah, I know its more than simply the car not being heard, but its going to add to the danger.

    Where i work we have a charming little electric car that pics up the recycling bins and it plays a cute little tune while it drives around.

    Hey maybe when people are using electric cars there will be a mobile phone ring tone type fad for cars.

    Now what tune would you have your car play, hmmm?

  78. Anne van der Bom

    Thanks for the attempt

    @Anonymous Coward:

    You bet I've got an axe to grind with a professor that makes such obvious mistakes and nonetheless has the nerve of presenting his arguments as the final word in the renewables debate.

    You state that he used a fuel consumption figure of 12 l/100 km. You misread that, he used 12km/l, which (you may check that by yourself) is pretty much the average fuel consumption of a european car. Then you divide by 5 and conclude that an average car should consume 2.4 l/100. This is ~42 km/l or (in Imperial Units) 117 mpg. I know of no car that can do 117 mpg, let alone the average british car.

    If you had read a bit further down, you would have seen that he ends up with a figure of 40 kWh per day (based on 50 km per day). That 40 kWh/day is what I used in my calculation. So actually, what fuel consumption he based his calculation on, is of no importance.

    The 1.25 km/kWh consumption figure he ends up with is roughly five times as much as the actual consumption of an electric car in every day use. That is not what I would call a ballpark estimate.

    Thanks for the serious approach. Much better than the sheepish hooray hallelujah posts at the top of the page.

  79. Mark

    @Dodgy Geezer & turning off telly

    Dodgy, you silly cunt, the problem isn't the US will invade us but that if we use breeder reactors, how can we tell iran (and the international community to back us up) that the iranian breeder programme should be stopped because it is only going to be used for weapons manufacture?

    So us using breeder reactors means we can't control the weapons-grade materials.

    That's a political problem.

    And as for "turning off the telly doesn't save naff all", well how much is your telly giving you on standby? Nothing. So what do you lose when you turn it OFF? Nothing. It still isn't giving you a picture. Sure you may have to get off your fat arse to turn it on/off but people PAY for exercise.

    Oh, and to the AC: wind turbines aren't electrical stations. Ergo, power stations being 40% efficient doesn't change squat. Since this "educated" man was talking about the power output of the wind farms, the only subsequent losses are transmission. Damn near 100%. So the only component significantly reducing power efficiency is the motor in the car. And that's 90%.

    Just because an idea "proves" you right doesn't mean you're right.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    How about some budget numbers?

    A lot of this bloke's number crunching is based on the (in)efficiency of present-day technology. Here in the US at least, our yearly government expenditure on improving alternative energy tech is equivalent to a day of the Iraq war. The viability of alternatives will change significantly once relevant research begins seeing subsidies on par with oil+war. Unfortunately for most of us, that moment will be cunningly delayed until global developed markets reach their recessionary bottoms.

  81. Jim Lewis
    Stop

    Decentralised production reduces demand

    One of the major benefits of PV Solar and micro generation in general is that the power is produced much closer to where it is used.

    This is very important as a large proportion of the electricity generated, (and hence how much you pay for your electricity), is actually wasted in transmission.

    An example is traditional coal fired power stations. At best they turn around 30% of the energy in coal into electricity.

    At the point where you use it, a further 8% of that energy has been lost in transmission, IE coal delivers only around 22% of its energy to you home.

    Clearly generating power where you use it reduces the demand dramatically, and reduces the need identified in this report for massive wind farms or whatever.

    His biggest mistake is not recognising that far from reducing our usage of electricity, (which is acheivable as mentioned by other posters above), the much bigger issue is mking our distribution more efficient and decentralised.

    Guess why the big power firms aren't very keen on this approach?

    For information about practical application of micro generation on a large scale please visit the Woking counci site.

    By using community sized space heating and PV solr this authority has made real inorads into achieving reductions in CO2 emissions in line with Kyoto agreements.

    http://www.woking.gov.uk/environment/climate/Greeninitiatives

    As someone else said, wading into the debate with misinformation dressed up as serious scientific research does little to progress the issue.

    Back to the AI lab sir.

  82. Sollace
    Thumb Down

    @Anne van der Bom again...Re: you're hot water calculation.

    1. 15 to 35C. The average human is about 38C, A 35C bath, that's not hot it's tepid. The author was using 10C to 50C, that's a lot more typical, though if we want to skew the numbers I suppose we could be warming Saharan water from say a balmy 45C to 50C and save a whole lot of energy. Makes ther case better!

    2. 70L. Based on a typical Canadian Bathtubs internal size (maybe Europe's different) of roughly 142cmx61cmx36cm, 70L gets me 8.1 cm of soaking glory. The author suggests larger dimensions and deeper water, again more realistic.

    So the hot bath is now defined as 8cm of lukewarm water. I'd like everyone to go home and try this out tonight.

    3. Now we heat it. You assume a 90% gas heater. Why? This gets around the irritating 35% generating efficiency you goose the 2W standy unit with. Nice.

    Personally, When I bath I use a small bucket (10L) and limit the temperature to a balmy 25C. I like it brisk. Did I mention I have black solar coils on my thatch roof in my equatorial abode, so I'm pretty efficient.

    Tongue in cheek aside, you can manipulate your numbers to make your case, and in your case I think perhaps you're being a bit generous to your case. Again, you're not being skeptical, you're agenda is obvious here. From what I've read of the paper, the author is making ballpark calculations, and it's obvious, he makes no effort to hide this. The values he chooses are general, typical, what the average person uses. Be average, it's what everyone else is, and if you base your case on anything else, your argument doesn't hold much water (hot, tepid or brisk), because it assumes the best of people, that they'll change out of the good of their heart. Perhaps you've noticed, that's not reality.

    Sollace

  83. Chris G Silver badge

    O.I.M.B.Y.s

    It seems as though all this interesting calculation is being made for us europeans and yanks and excluding the vast majority of the worlds population. If we want perfect low or zero carbon lifestyles Only In My Back Yard, then we really need to address another issue of prime importance to the world. And one that it seems only the chinese have addressed so far. That is that the world would function much better with a human population of around 2 billion. much less abuse of global resources , a MUCH smaller carbon footprint for humanity as a whole and far easier to address issues about lifestyle and it's apparent link to climate change/ pollution etc. The ultimate problem is everybody has a right to a decent standard of living, whether they live in Africa or Ealing but if there are too many of them all demanding their rights then the planet is going to suffer. The next big issue? Population control. Soon A government near you will have a spy in your pants!

  84. Adam Foxton
    Stop

    @James Pickett

    "I once did a back-of-envelope calculation that revealed that the amount of sunshine (@1kW/m2) enjoyed by my garden on one summer's day would be enough to heat my house for a year, so I agree that solar energy is a Good Thing. Given that the oceans absorb a fair amount of it, and distribute it a bit, why not use heat pumps to capture some of that energy? You could even help restore the melting Arctic, always assuming that it actually is..."

    1kW/m^2 is the maximum you can capture. Solar panels are nowhere near this efficient- you'd be looking at 20 great days of sun to power your house. Also, your garden would die as if you were capturing 1kW/m^2 your garden would be pitch black. You'd be getting little/no natural heat or light, so you'd be using your bulbs and heating far more, racking up your power bills. It sure as hell wouldn't be economical!

    Furthermore this doesn't work with higher density housing (flats and the like).

    Oh, and thanks to those pesky laws of thermodynamics a heat pump between the Arctic and the mediterranean would melt the Arctic faster unless you were putting work into the system (pumping heat from the Arctic to the Mediterranean).

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    @Chris "solar powered satellites"

    with an answer like that, I'm guessing your last name's Carter?

  86. Graeme Balir
    Joke

    New energy supply

    Surely the Prof. has missed a trick on any energy problems ... use politicians! An endless supply of hot air is available from the surplus of useless govt yesmen/women.

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good man

    I have a great respect for David MacKay. His writings on machine learning are excellent. He treats the subject with complete rigour, yet still makes it comprehensible and even fun to read. If he can do the same to energy policy it will be a breath of fresh air.

    As a physicist, I tend to have a feel for how much power various options can provide (the enormous energy density of nuclear fuels, for example compared with solar, wind or tide). So I'm not really surprised by his results. But most people don't have a physicists insight into such things and for them it needs to be spelled out. You really do need to do these calculations before making decisions!

    I would sound one note of warning. Physicists like to approximate. That's all well and good when making ball-park comparisons. But if a political group wants to oppose one of his models, I'm sure they'll find plenty of questionable assumptions they can latch on to. Energy policy is political, after all, as much as scientific. I hope his work manages to survive the political attacks.

  88. Alan Potter
    Stop

    @Anne - I don't believe you

    @Anne, I tried re-doing your calculations. I firstly put 70l of water into my bath (eight year old house), and it was about 4" deep. I normally would use twice that depth. let's ignore the fact that the bath slopes outwards, and call it 150l for a real average bath.

    Also, the water temperature measured as 9.8C, not 15C.

    So, going by your 90% calculation, we get: (140000 * 4.2 * 25.2) / 0.9 = 16.5MJ

    I have two TVs in my house. One, an elderly Sony, claims 0.8W on standby. Another, newer one just says "less than 1W". So let's call it 1W, just to keep the numbers simple.

    Using your same calculation, I get 16.5E6 / ( 1 / 0.35) = 5.775 million seconds. That - by your calculations, which I am happy to accept, is 66.8 days of standby time for gas-heated water or 200 days for electrically heated water.

    regards,

    /alan

  89. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up

    @Various, electric car noise..

    Completely sidestepping the energy calculations and stuff, on the subject of the noises that cars make - Lotus, Hethels best export, had a concept many, many years ago, which I think was an electric powered [or otherwise quiet] Lotus Esprit or Elise.

    To make up for the fact that performance car fans [like myself] would miss the noise of fossilised trees being detonated in a sonorous sequence of small explosions, they developed an interested internal and external speaker system that could synthethise the noise of pretty much any engine you could sample, and if I recall, the idea was that the drivetrain would simulate having a power curve and gears, rather than using, say, CVT.

    So your Leccy Esprit could sound like a Ferrari F355 flat plane crank V8, wailing through to a simulated 9000rpm and crackling on the simulated overrun, or you could have a turbo four pot hot hatch-esque noise, with snorting induction and turbotcharger dump valve blow off. Or a smooth, creamy V12.

    And at the end of the day, plug it into the wall.

    I always liked that idea - and I dare say should leccy or hydrogen cars come to fore in a big way, that sort of thing will be very popular.

    I will miss real petrol engines though - nothing like following someone on a charge, and measuring how hard they are trying by the size of the flames they are shooting from their exhaust....

    Steven R

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @fr33cycler

    To answer your question, I'm up in NE Scotland. Not exactly a sunny climate. Also, my house isn't exactly the best insulated, being 90-odd years old and being covered with small crevices that are just about impossible to get insulation to.

    Gas Central Heating on = very warm.

    No central heating on, nothing on standby (manually trip main breaker, go off on holiday for a week) = come back to a very, very cold house.

    No central heating on, lots of things stuck on standby = very liveable temperature. Not what you'd call "warm" but you can spend hours padding about in little to no clothing and not be freezing. One all-night torrenting session and the whole top floor's even more comfy.

    Things on standby make a helluva difference to the temperature in our house and I can imagine in others too.

  91. Sollace

    Re:Thanks for the attempt

    Yep, mixed up the L/km bit (clearly we need more fuel efficient cars in North America...). The point was, in using either figure, he's accounted for the engines efficiency, which you seem to think he didn't. Since I remain confused by what exactly he's done "fundementally wrong" in his calculation, can you do it for me. What is the energy consumption per day of a Petrol car, running on gas, going 50 km a day with a fuel economy of 12km/L. He says 40kWh, you say he's wrong. Fair enough, what is it? Remember, the point of that section was to calculate this value, not that of an electric car. I don't care what an electric car gets, it's not what he was calculating.

    As an aside, if he "has the nerve of presenting his arguments as the final word in the renewables debate", what exactly are you, I or anyone else doing? We're all presenting arguments....the nerve! His is one of the most balanced I've seen. By admitting you've an axe to grind, you're admitting to a lack of objectivity. That's great for an amusing argument, but not so great for intelligent policy.

  92. John B Stone
    Gates Horns

    The cats have the right idea

    The slide deck (on the linked site) is both enlightening and rather depressing. I was beginning to wonder if its major green contribution was in increasing the suicide rate (suicide being the greenest thing you can do). And then slide 164 - death by cats - priceless.

  93. Steen Hive
    Boffin

    He left out one very important factor

    How many brown people we are going to have to bomb/invade/kill/starve in each scenario to maintain our inefficiencies and profligate abuse of energy?

  94. Busted
    Stop

    @ Michael and anyone else that things CO2 is bad!

    "(a) Switching stuff and using low energy light bulbs >does< help. In my (rather high tech) house I brought electricity consumption down by 30% by this technique at essentially no inconvenience to me. Nationally, switching to low energy bulbs means that roughly 1 GWe of installed capacity can be switched off - about 2% o fUK demand or one power station we don't need to build."

    Nice to see you've replaced your normal non poluting light bulbs with ones containing lots of nasty chemicals well done there.

    "(c) The authors assumed faith in clean coal is endearing. This is a technology which has never been demonstrated at scale, and the scale required is collosal. Taking world numbers of something on the order of 10 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum, this occupies a volume at a minimum 10 cubic kilometres. This volume has to be gas tight with an internal pressure of 50 bar and storage would have to be permanent. This volume would have to be built every year. For the UK the demands are proportionately less, but it makes storing nuclear waste look easy."

    Oh that deadly CO2 again, you know we could just feed it to plant life I hear they quiet like it. I see your misconception that it's better we go with a really nasty polutant like nuclear waste or mercury light bulbs.

    WAKE UP MAN MADE GLOBAL WARMING IS A LIE!!!!

    Whats far more important is the amount of real polutants that big business pumps into our air and water supplies things like heavy metals, man made chemicals etc. CO2 is easily dealt with by more vegitation something that more CO2 actually encourages.

  95. Mark
    Flame

    They don't quiet like it

    except insofar as we can't hear them speak...

    Dump plants in straight carbon atmosphere. Seal it. Plant dies. Why???

    Because plants need water, potassium, nitrogen and lots of other stuff.

    Are we increasing the water (not where dessertification is happening because of higher temperatures)? Are we increasing the trace elements? Are we increasing fixed nitrogen (well, only by overuse of petro-based nitrogen fertilisers)?

    HOW DO YOU KNOW AGW IS A LIE?

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Everyone is missing the point

    The way to solve the energy problem?

    Reduce the demand. There are just too many people on this planet. All these figures and calculations mean nothing because they are based upon the scenario as it is now, with current population levels. In the past the amount of people in any one place was governed by the supply of food, now it needs to be by energy available.

    Want to build a new development there?" then how are you going to power it? Sorry sir not enough local power.

    All countries should have a one child policy and an incentive in cash on not having children, instead of the current situation where the government encourages the plebs to breed with child benefits.

    For the sake of my grandchildren I've decided not have children......?

  97. Marco

    Something's missing

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me this six page article neglects to mention what rate of energy consumption was used as basis of the calculations.

    Or was this swept away by saying "People who wash regularly, wear clean clothes, consume hot food or drink, use powered transport of any kind and live in warm houses have no need to worry about the energy they use to power their electronics; it’s insignificant compared to the other things"?

    My electricity consumption has dropped by 20% since using energy efficient light bulbs and turning electronics off instead of using stand-by. For others it might be more or less, but I would suppose that using energy better - without sacrificing comfort - should have an impact on how much of it we need to consume in the future. May it be through aforementioned lightbulbs or better isolated houses etc.

    Not to mention that some of you would certainly benefit from actually having to get up from time to time to turn on the TV or DVD player.

    That the professor thinks wind turbines are as dangerous as nuclear power is, well, a peculiar view. It may be true if you consider "as dangerous" as the danger of falling down when climbing on top of a wind turbine or nuclear reactor and trying to fix something, but it wasn't wind power that made Chernobyl uninhabitable for hundreds of years.

  98. Marco

    Re: @ Michael and anyone else that things CO2 is bad!

    >>> Nice to see you've replaced your normal non poluting light bulbs with ones containing lots of nasty chemicals well done there.

    The shortsightedness of some people here amazes me. There is one "nasty chemical" in these bulbs: mercury. Which actually is an element. And you probably don't know either that more mercury is produced by the average coal power plant powering an incandescent bulb for five years than if you smash a CFL on the ground outside.

  99. Michael Wright

    Can you get commercial insurance for nuclear?

    I know coal mining is hugely dangerous. According to Wikipedia, the PRC government acknowledged ~6 000 coal mining deaths in 2004. In all probability, the mining and use of coal has cost more lives this century than all the deaths attributable to nuclear energy, including not only Chernobyl, but also Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yes, I know you can't rely on PRC statistics, but they're probably understating the figures; and yes, PRC safety standards are hugely lower than modern Western ones, but older Western mines were dangerous, and the use of coal hugely polluting. I had rellies who died of miners' diseases, and I can remember the London smogs of the '50s. Coal has killed, and is still killing, a lot of people.

    But: there is an industry that makes its money out of calculating risks, and the last time I looked, you can't get commercial insurance for the risks of nuclear power.

    What do they know? Or is it just prejudice? This is the only thing that gives me pause about fission power plants.

    Of course, I'm in my sixties and have no kids, so it doesn't make much difference to me, but you lot need to get it sorted.

  100. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @ Simon AC DC

    Didn't George Westinghouse and Edisson already try this AC DC thing with the war of the currents? I was under the impression AC won because it lost less power due to the easier ability to up the voltage, which meant less resistance along the powerlines? Or does modern technology get round this?

    Just currious...

  101. Vendicar Decarian

    Sorry... Not possible

    "of how long various sources of energy will last based on American consumption levels because Americans will simply increase their consumption levels in line with what is available.

    So, assume the US of A will continue to find a use for around 20%-25% of the world's total available supply of energy for the forseeable future (as it does now) and see how that buggers the figures."

    Sorry, That is just not possible as the U.S. alone emits more CO2 than is environmentally sustainable.

    So if the U.S. does not reduce it's consumption it will have to be compelled to do so though sanctions, threats or outright acts of war targeted principally against it's energy imports.

    Odd though. No where in the article - and presuming the book in progress - is there consideration of a reduction in energy consumption.

    If covering all of england with windmills to produce enough power to run the nation is not practical, then reducing energy consmption by 50% reduces the windmill requirements by 50%.

    As to Nuclear, the principle problem is the sheer number of reactors required to power the world at U.S. levels of energy consumption. Some 200,000 typical 1 gigawatt reactors would need to be constructed world wide. Currently there is about 450 in operation world wide.

    To store the waste you would have to open a new nuclear repository once a month, and in 100,000 of reactor operation we have already experienced two core meltdowns. With apes running the show, is it tollerable to experience 2 Chernobyl type disasters per year globally?

    And then there is the political question. How are you going to prevent weapons proliferation when every small nation has several hunderd to several thousand reactors? Who enriches the fuel and who ensures that none is diverted for weapons production?

    Already in the last 7 years we have the Moronic AmeriKKKans threatening to wage war on two countries who the U.S. claims had/have clandestine nuclear programs. And the Iranian program is being actively inspected, while the U.S. and Israel deny the results of the inspections and beat the drums of war.

    Getting to an environmentally sustainable emissions level is however attainable. But most of the new sources of energy are going to have to be dramatic improvements in consumptive efficiencies.

    Don't like it? Too bad. Nature doesn't care.

  102. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    Improving PV efficicy.

    "From reading this article, I'm not clear if he has considered the constantly improving technologies of renewable energies. Renewable sources such as photovoltaics keep improving their efficiencies year by year. So if you implement a 10-year plan of rolling out renewable equipment, then the equipment installed in year 10 would be significantly more efficient."

    The maximum efficiency of PV cells demonstrated in the lab is now 42%. The current efficiency of the moon rays's PV cells keeping the low voltage lighting in your garden lit at night is around 3%.

    It is true that there have been very marginal improvements in PV efficiencies over the last few decades, but nothing substantial. Even less of an improvement is seen with what is commercially available. And if you were to average the new organic cells with the older and efficient polycrystaline cells I wouldn't at all be surprised if there has been a net REDUCTION in efficiency per unit surface area installed.

    The issue with PV is cost, not so much efficiency. If you are ag 42%, you can only half your cost by doubling efficiency - and since the improvement has only been around 12% over the last 2 decades of considerable research, 84% isn't likely any time in the near future.

    So with PV the target should be and is, reductions in the price of manufacture.

    We will have to see how the continuous production lines for polycrystaline cells that are now coming on line will reduce costs per watt.

    Business models show them being competitive per watt with grid power.

  103. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    Pretty Crappy Windmill/Calculations

    "And when I did start to save money, the enormous eyesore could *just* about generate enough electricity (after battery/conversion losses) to run a 1-bar electric fire if it was operating to it's perfect theoretical maximum. With reasonable averaging of windspeed, power, etc. I could *just* about get it to run a bulb or two in the shed 24/7 - energy saving ones at that."

    That's a pretty crappy windmill you were looking at.

    Energy saving bulbs, lets say 2 equivalent 60 watters consume about 13 watts, for a total of 26 watts. So running them for a day consumes 0.6 kilowatt hours of energy.

    Now there is a 400 watt (max) windmill available just down the street from me,

    This turbine will generate about 38KWh per month with an average wind speed of 5.4 m/s Enough to run your two light bulbs for 63 days.

    Still not a huge amount of power. But with an average wind speed of 10.8 m/s the energy obtained goes up to 152KWh per month.

    Now my home electric consumption is 330KWHh per month.and switching to solar thermal for hot water heating I can reduce that to about 250KWh per month So one wind turbine running in 10.8 m/S wind (perpetual) would provide me with a little over half of my electric power needs.

    Now the wind speed in this area averages around 7.5 m/s (or is it miles/hour, I forget), in any case, it is insufficient to provide enough driving force to efficently run such a turbine.

    2.5 miles down the road however, and there is sufficent wind.

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    All good ideas, but he's forgotten PLAN H

    Plan H would surely start with the premise that overpopulated countries can somehow reduce their global population by 20%, with the bulk of the reduction coming from grossly overpopulated areas like the 30 mile radius from London.

    This frees us from the burden of building new homes, which must surely be a drain on our energy resources. It makes for less congested roads, and roads with moving traffic are surely less energy consuming than roads with stop-start traffic.

    Quite where the surplus population would go to would be for the bureaucrats to figure out. At one time America was a good answer. More recently, Australia. Maybe we need a "new" Australia. Maybe we need a tax on sex, so that it happens naturally over several decades. What we certainly don't need is even more surplus population, and for every new person who comes into the country, at least two have to choose to leave.

  105. Dr Stephen Jones

    Bombing brown people

    @Steen:

    "How many brown people we are going to have to bomb/invade/kill/starve in each scenario to maintain our inefficiencies and profligate abuse of energy?"

    Don't worry, Al Gore's probably working on it.

    But remember - people have long memories and may one day remember your attempts to prevent them having decent living standards, health and education.

  106. Jay Zelos

    Elecy Cars

    The motors may be 90% efficient compared with the 15-30% of combustion engines, but you have to carry some serious battery power around to get anywhere.

    For 360 miles in a 30mpg petrol powered car you need approx 40KG's of fuel. For the same distance in a Honda EV+ electric car you need a 374KG Zinc Air battery pack or 3 times this for Metal Hydride, (what they came with when made).

    Even taking account of a smaller engine and no need for exhaust systems, this a significant amount of additional weight and would require additional energy to cart around.

    Energy Content

    0.21 KWh/kg for Zinc Air Battery

    0.07 KWh/kg for Metal Hydride Battery

    44.0 KWh/kg for Petrol

    I can't believe I went and looked all this up just for a comment!

    J

  107. Jeff Davies

    This "scientist" doesn't consider simply using less

    "Covering half the country in turbines would only generate enough energy to power half the cars".

    Fifty years ago this country used a fraction of the energy it uses now.

    Were people noticably cleaner? Was society worse?

    No. You can wash your whole body in a pint of water, you don't need 30 minutes in a power shower with 50 litres of water.

    In many ways society was better. People were fitter and happier, socialising more as they walked down the streets together. Maybe they even grew their own food. And food did taste better than the cr*p we get from supermarkets.

    How did we get here? Why on earth would someone buy sliced bread instead of proper bread? we allowed ourselves to get so busy, spending longer in work and trading this for quality of life.

    Why commute 30 miles each way every day? It's only the fact you have been able to do so cheaply that allowed you to choose this as an option. As fuel rises in price, people will simply move closer to work, or move work closer to their homes (get another job). The nature of work will change too.

    I personally think most men are more fulfilled in some way with manual jobs, so I can see many people finding this a good future.

    It's also perfectly possible to have a house in britain that requires zero heating even through winter (Grand Designs).

  108. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plan S for "Soylent"

    I wonder what would happen if we were able to reduce the planetary human population to 3 billion, and what affect that would have on CO2 production, and the energy mix.

  109. Jeff Davies

    "Reduce the demand. There are just too many people on this planet." damn

    It's worth pointing out at this point that 99% of the people on earth use nothing like as much energy as we use. It isn't them, it's us. We individually use more energy than thousands of people outside the privileged west. WE need to change the way WE live, and just use less energy.

  110. Sol Shapiro

    Need to consider transportation fuel sector separately

    Dr. Mackay has done an excellent job at a high level of assessing the possibilities for the world's future energy availability. In particular, I like his assessment of the limitation of land for biofuels and the need to go to breeder reactors if we are to use nuclear.

    He has, however, made one assumption about the fungibility of energy. Until we have batteries which can efficiently and economically store energy for transportation, we need to consider the need for liquid transportation fuel (hydrogen has a need for new infrastractures and storage.and I think is a poor bet.

    And so I feel the world should be looking for the interim solution of coal-to-liquid to augment oil and serve to keep price under control. Let's stop using coal for electric generation over the next several decades and use it for transportation - until we either have batteries, the algae process is developed or somebody figures out how to use solar energy, air and water to make liquid fuel.

    Write to Somarl@msn.com for direct discussion..

  111. anarchic-teapot

    If all the energy wasted

    on posting knee-jerk reactions in this thread was laid end-to-end, it would probably power a third-world country for a month. I'm off to the pub.

    Where's the powered-by-cow-farts icon?

  112. Chris Miller

    @Can you get commercial insurance for nuclear?

    No you can't. The reason is that insurance companies are quite happy to insure 100,000 drivers at £1,000 a year. Once every 12 years you write your car off, costing £10,000. Insurance company makes 20% margin very predictably because it insures a large number of drivers and even the largest possible claim isn't going to be more than a few million.

    Now consider nuclear insurance. Let's pretend there's a 100,000 years between accidents that would cost the insurance company £10 billion. Are you happy to charge £120,000 a year (and would you be happy to pay it)? If all goes well the insurer makes a small (in their scale of things) profit, but if it goes badly, the business goes bust.

    That's why governments, with a bottomless money pit (aka taxpayers), have to provide this type of cover.

  113. Danny Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    AC/DC 4 Mr Chriz

    "Didn't George Westinghouse and Edisson already try this AC DC thing with the war of the currents? I was under the impression AC won because it lost less power due to the easier ability to up the voltage, which meant less resistance along the powerlines? Or does modern technology get round this?"

    Yes, sort of, and yes. Early DC transmission would have meant far more repeater stations but power losses would have been lower once the repeater stations were established. Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC

    I've lived in various houses powered by renewables and batteries, and all of them have had 5 or 12 v DC lighting for convenience. I'm surprised all the attention on low-energy, long-life AC bulbs. Ultrabright LEDs are a future inevitability imo. Also inevitable is a drastic cut in common consumption since all these plans are politically unrealistic.

    Oh, and thermoelectrics is a major offsetting technology. Electricity generation from waste heat reclamation is an old technology which has come of age just in time, not a solution but a potential percentage offset to climate change.

  114. MarkMac
    Flame

    Its impressive...

    ...the way the rabid anti-greens have jumped on this article. /Naturally/ an article from a scientist essentially supporting their already-formed opinion is reasoned, logical and well thought through. Curiously, articles from scientists opposing their opinion are always riddled with mistakes.... hmm, anyone else spot the flaw here?

    I also liked your selective quoting: 10% of the UK covered in wind-farms = half the energy required to drive a car 50km. Kinda implies wind is ludicrously useless. But hang on - what has wind power got to do with cars? And thats still 150,000,000 kilometers of driving each day. And most of us dont drive 50km a day anyway... So what the prof is really saying is: if we car-shared and used efficient public transport, we could get the entire country's transport needs met from wind power. Sounds good to me!

    Oh look - I've spun the same numbers entirely differently.

    What's that quote about statistics?

  115. Mark
    Dead Vulture

    Re: Everyone is missing the point

    So die already.

    (see, there's a problem: people are already too many, and nobody likes the idea of dying. they're not that hot on no longer shagging, either).

    Please remember that the SE of England for example, has frequent shortages of water because there are too many people for this VERY WET ISLAND to support.

    So kill yourself. Show some commitment.

  116. Steen Hive
    Stop

    @Dr Stephen Jones

    "But remember - people have long memories and may one day remember your attempts to prevent them having decent living standards, health and education."

    "Dr"? - when someone poses a question it is customary to attempt to answer it, not indulge swivel-eyed, ad hominem attacks based on mistaken assumptions about the OP's political/environmental persuasions.

    You could perhaps define "decent living standards, health and education" that are acceptable to you and then give your estimate of how many people you would find acceptable that the west has to kill as we compete to keep our present wildly disproportionate share of ever scarcer resources?

  117. Chris Miller

    RTFM

    Although there are some well-informed comments, they're hugely outnumbered by those (on both sides of the argument) from people who've not read beyond p.10 of Prof MacKay's book. Come on people, the first section is only 120 pages!

    A good example is the "just use less" argument. Prof MacKay points out in his opening chapter (p.15) that 300m US citizens use roughly the same energy as 1.2bn Chinese citizens (and even the latter doesn't fit within anyone's definition of sustainable). So one way of reducing carbon usage is for everyone to reduce their energy consumption to that of a typical resident of the third world. How many people do you think such a world could support (clue: the medieval population of Britain was about 2% of the current number)?

    Prof MacKay and I (for one) favour the idea of finding ways of living with (roughly) current population levels all of whom have access to modern standards of hygiene and labour-saving technology. His (rather simple and unarguable) point is that we cannot achieve this by covering the planet in wind turbines. This doesn't mean that saving energy is wrong, but we have to recognise that if everyone in Europe converts to 'low-energy' lightbulbs, the carbon saving is roughly equivalent to China delaying the opening of each of their new (coal-fired) power stations by 6 months. Eliminating standby devices would save energy equivalent to driving about 1 mile each. The numbers don't necessarily resolve the argument, but they do tell you where to apply your efforts to best effect.

  118. Joe

    My own comment...

    Comforting to think no-one (not even a professor) knows what to do in face of the world energy/global warming crisis. At least the mobile phone charging myth gets debunked somewhat. What happens if you've got a dodgy phone battery though? Does the phone battery continuously keep charging ad-infinitum whilst discharging (or whatever it's doing) or what?

    And, just how can it be efficient to pump water up a mountain just to harness its energy for electricity production on the way back down? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

    What we need to do - in order to get a reliable source of energy - is plug ourselves into the cosmic grid. There's loads of energy wasted everyday out there in space. Any astronomer will tell you that.

  119. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Marco Re: @ Michael and anyone else that things CO2 is bad!

    >>>And you probably don't know either that more mercury is produced by the average coal power plant powering an incandescent bulb for five years than if you smash a CFL on the ground outside.

    No it doesn't.

    Do the calculation for yourself, you can find accurate Hg concentrations for different types of coal from the internet and you can find the real amount of Hg in a CFL. I read that on Greenpeace' website & calculated it for myself - it is wrong.

    If 100% UK power is from the highest Hg content coal and all the Hg ends up in the atmosphere, (not most in the ash & 99% of the rest scrubbed out the fumes) _then_ it is about the same. These assumptions are flawed!

    As we have ~33% _capacity_ as with coal generation in the UK, if it was all turned on & all the Hg still escaped then 6000 hours of a 100W bulb releases 3mg i.e. 1/2 - 1/3 of the Hg in a 11W CFL (6-8mg). As most is trapped in the ash or removed from the flu gas then it is tiny in comparison to smashing a CFL or sending it to landfill.

    They even have legislation in the USA about Hg release into the atmosphere & what you can do with the ash and they are often the worst at anything "environmental".

    Use Google, use a spreadsheet and work it out for yourself.

  120. mark

    @Various

    The book (as opposed to the article) addresses a number of issues that have been raised above such as the increased efficiency of electric cars & comparison with existing numbers such as the tyndall ones.

    It may contain a few dubious estimates but by and large it's a pretty well thought out starting point for a reasoned debate. It's led to me getting out my electricity and gas bills and old MOTs and working out how much of this is my fault.

    Well done el reg for bringing this to our attention.

  121. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Re : Overpopulation and Biofuels ..

    What would be the unit cost of converting all the Crematoriums in the country to function as local biofuel powered leccy generation facilities ?

    Isn't there a Govt. grant or tax break that could be used to offset the cost ?

    How much generation capacity could this supply ?

    Then all we'd need would be the reintoduction of a mandatory death sentence for murder and as a replacement for ASBO's ... retroactively ... with cremation as the only method of biofuel, sorry, remains disposal

    Results :

    - Increased power generation capacity.

    - Significant reduction in the prison population.

    - Reduced need for police on the streets, allowing them to get all of their paperwork done.

    - No need for extended detention times for suspects (which would be especially useful in the run up to Eastenders/Corrie/Emerdale Ominibus editions).

    - Reduction in the UK population.

    - Reduction in the number of rampaging mobs of yoofs and footie supporters.

    (currently working on "Plan S" - for "Soylent Green" to be applied to those whose religious beliefs require that they be buried as opposed to cremated)

  122. Jerome Fryer

    Thermal equilibrium

    What I have always wondered is why the idea of introducing additional thermal energy into the global climate (burn fossil fuels, use radioactive materials, microwave extra solar energy from outside the main layer of atmosphere) is, in itself, not considered to be "a bad thing".

    Given the Earth has a thermal equilibrium to maintain it seems obvious that introducing more heat (then trapping a larger proportion of it with a larger CO2 layer) is going to, well, heat the planet up a bit, eh?

    It doesn't matter what method you use to cook the planet if the (most) important thing is to avoid doing so.

  123. Vendicar Decarian

    Those who claim that reduction isn't possible are simply fools

    "My electricity consumption has dropped by 20% since using energy efficient light bulbs and turning electronics off instead of using stand-by. For others it might be more or less, but I would suppose that using energy better - without sacrificing comfort - should have an impact on how much of it we need to consume in the future. May it be through aforementioned lightbulbs or better isolated houses etc." - Marco

    Ya. That's about what I got when I switched to CF lighting. Afterward, I had to replace my refrigerator and hot water heater, (both died within 15 minutes of each other", and I got another 20% improvement.

    At the moment, the wall transformers, powering my telephone, PC speakers, clocks and the like - those little transformers you find everwhere, attached to all those low power appliances - are comprising about 18% of my electrical power consumption.

    Once the electric water heater goes - the new one - I'll probably switch to a flash water heater which produces hot water on demand rather than keepng 80 litres hot all the time. That will reduce my electric consumption by another 20 percent.

    At that point two solar panels would make me self sufficient in for electric with the exception of running the ceiling fans and the refrigerator.

    As it stands, the electric component of my electric power bill comes in at around $10 a month.

    Those who claim that reductions in consumption are not possible are simply fools.

  124. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    Ebike hub motors

    "The motors may be 90% efficient compared with the 15-30% of combustion engines, but you have to carry some serious battery power around to get anywhere."

    Ebike hub motors are around 90% efficient (typical max) and can drive a typical bicycle on flat ground at a speed of about +20 mph. With a auto sized car battery the range is around 40 kilometers or so.

    Course if you want to double the speed, you have to at least quadruple the battery size, and then you need a larger frame and bigger wheels, so maybe add another 50% on top of that. So 6 car batteries to drive a 40 MpH scooter 40 miles.

    And oh, the total cycle energy utilization for such a vehicle is <LESS> than a human powered bicycle.

    Further, this presumes a reasonably inefficient bicycle design. A sleek enclousure would reduce the drag by a factor of 2.

  125. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    The Eradication of the AmeriKKKan state

    "You could perhaps define "decent living standards, health and education" that are acceptable to you and then give your estimate of how many people you would find acceptable that the west has to kill as we compete to keep our present wildly disproportionate share of ever scarcer resources?"

    One thing that you have to remember is that the U.S. refuses to ratify the International convention on human rights. In fact more than Half of the U.S. population inist that the right to food, clothing, shelter, medical care, is just pure, unadulterated, communism.

    The eradication of the AmeriKKKan state is in order.

  126. Sumner R Andrews Jr

    Consensus Building

    The comments to this article are intelligent and reasoned irregardless of the perspective. The problem is that it is all bandwidth. IMHO the solution will be to take all of the MacKays and equally talented scientists, policy makers, and business professionals together and place them into a box hooked into an unprecedented massive computing modeling center and work out the optimal solution given the known constraints. They should be charged to come up with their solutions in a decade so that we can implement them in the following decade and begin our new lives from that point hence.

    There are very few calls for such a rapid response to the energy dependency and Climate Change problems. This option needs to be fleshed out as fully as Dr. MacKay's draft. Money should be raised, a website started, books written and a movement undertaken to convince our leaders to achieve the consensus that currently eludes them. Anybody up for a challenge?

    Sumner R. Andrews Jr.

  127. Mark

    Re: Thermal equilibrium

    If you merely directly heat the earth (dump lots of heat out) and don't increase the insulation, all that extra heat goes out to space, never to return.

    So the relative strength of the sun's radiation to our output is relevant.

    And we do naff all direct heating compared to the Sun.

    However, when it comes to heating the planet, the Sun isn't enough. We'd be a frozen ball of ice if it were only the Sun.

    Greenhouse gasses cause the earth to be as warm as it is.

    Now our output may be tiny compared to the natural output, however, we don't do anything to add to the sinks of GG and so our output should be compared to that produced not by normal processes (since normal processes have equal sinks: each leaf that falls is countered by a new leaf six months later, else all the trees would be naked) but to those processes that don't have sinks.

    E.g. volcanoes.

    And compared to volcanoes GG output, we are MASSIVE.

  128. Mark

    @Chris Miller

    Did you know that per capita, Sweden (not a third world country, I think you'd agree) have half the CO2 output that we in the UK do.

    We're about as densely populated as Sweden and it's a damn sight colder there than it is in middle england UK.

    So we could halve our use and see no difference.

    The US use far more than us per capita.

  129. Gary Heston
    Coat

    Nuclear waste disposal is trivial...

    ...encase the fuel slugs in a layer of lead, then stack them down at the bottom of some of those empty oil wells. Once the stack gets within about 1000' (about 305M) of the surface, fill with concrete.

    netgeek

  130. Ian
    Stop

    Solve one problem, create another

    Good article, but doesn't solve the problem, well it might solve a problem but not this one.

    As I see it if the standard status of earth before we started meddling with it was, sun shines on earth, some energy gets through atmosphere, some gets absorbed by clouds, some makes plants grow, some plants dye or get eaten and then the animal dyes and turn into coal/oil, some get absorbed by ocean, some reflected by ocean, some absorbed by clouds, some escapes back out of atmosphere.

    What is the total amount of energy that we have to play with that gets delivery per day and stays in our atmosphere?

    Obviously it is seasonal, more energy for us in the summer (although we used to use the most energy in the winter to stay warm, although not sure with air con now)

    Equator gets the most energy, North Pole, South Pole the least.

    The use of fossil fuels adds to our standard planets energy usage, releasing energy stored from previous years.

    Won't solar panel absorb more energy than plants (they are green, not black so at least they are reflecting some of the light), won't this trap more energy on the earth also changing the balance?

    And where these solar panel are going isn't it currently deserts which reflects most of the light?

    As for trap energy in Africa and release it in Northern Europe, that really is going to upset the wind.

    Carbon trading is one thing, obviously more carbon in the atmosphere the harder it is for energy to escape our atmosphere, but reducing it won't necessarily help. The amount of additional energy being put into the atmosphere needs to be reduced, fossil, green or otherwise.

    (Also water vapour, methane is pretty good at trapping energy).

    Still, well need to be using more energy when the next ice age comes, or preferably somewhere warmer in the galaxy.

    According to Encarta the earth entered an ice age 1.6 million years ago, and although ice sheets withdrew from America and Europe 10,000 years ago, some scientists are not sure if the Quaternary Ice Age is over yet. And ice ages apparently last a few million years.

    So either we'll be back to an ice age shortly, or another 150 million years.

  131. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    So die already. Mark

    "So die already." - Mark

    You will be dead soon enough Mark. If you leave less than two children then the world will be less burdened by your arrival.

  132. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    Itsy Bitsy, Micro, Tiny

    "What I have always wondered is why the idea of introducing additional thermal energy into the global climate (burn fossil fuels, use radioactive materials, microwave extra solar energy from outside the main layer of atmosphere) is, in itself, not considered to be "a bad thing"". - Jerome

    Because it is miniscule compared with the energy input from the sun, and the energy loss to space.

    Absolutely Miniscule.

    And that should tell you something about how much energy is available for solar power.

  133. Sam Tana

    Small savings

    @Chris Miller:

    "Eliminating standby devices would save energy equivalent to driving about 1 mile each."

    That's about 60 million miles. That's a lot of energy, not a little.

    Seems to me that if you can reasonably save energy, you should. And whether or not global warming is a lie, cutting pollution has to be a good idea.

  134. The natural philosopher
    Thumb Up

    Plagiarism, or simply great minds..

    I have been coming up with - within reasonable research, assumption and statistical variations, exactly the same numbers..all published on the net in various fora.

    I am not sure whether to be annoyed at not getting the kudos, or relieved that someone with more clout than I, has taken up the identical challenge, and come up with more or less the same potential solutions.

    I am less accomodating though. I refused to spend money needlessly. My estimate of the UK total power consumption was 350GW and my solution included nothing but 100 x 3.5GW nucear power stations, and the little bit of biofuel needed for miltary and aviation, though synthetic hydrogen is another possibility.

    That, with battery cars and an 3 times upscale in the national grid capacity, seemed to be adequate without ruining the countryside.

    I believe the professor has missed one trick: The cheapest solution for storing energy to be used for domestic heating is nothing more than a large - several cubic meters - insulated tank of boiling hot water. If my calculations are correct that would be enough to keep the average house warm for several days in winter with no more than a small pump and heat exchanger.

    My all nuclear solution needs no storage anyway: its sized to the peak requirements. Any excess capacity would be in the form of waste heat that could be used by greenhouses, fish farms and outdoor heated swimming pools clustered around every nuclear installation, to allow low carbon tropical fruit, seafish, out of season vegetables and unseasonally nice swimmimg ponds. ;-)

    As he points out, with nuclear there is no energy shortage nor any need to be particularly energy efficient. Cheap lightbulbs and CRT TV's would heat our houses and also give off useful light and entertainment at night, and mercury poison filled CFLs could be consigned to a footnote in history.

    Nice one professor. Keep up the good work.

  135. Neoc

    Some thoughts...

    "DC transmission of electricity, briefly mentioned is a much better way of transmitting power than AC. You can transmit DC over hundreds of miles rather than a few miles with AC without the losses."

    ??? That's weird. I could have sworn it was the other way around and it was the major (but not the only) reason why AC won over DC - the fact it didn't have to be produced locally.

    As for the "green" alternatives (solar, wind, tide, etc...) why is it that nobody looks any further down the line than instant power generation? What happens if the windstreams around the world start loosing (say) 5-10% of their power? What will that do to the climate? Ditto the tides, etc... The problem with so-called "green" solutions, is that they only look green if you consider only the moment of energy production - not how much crap is required to produce the equipment/installation/etc and the resulting impact on current climate patterns.

  136. Kevin Kitts
    Boffin

    I'm surprised...

    so few people mentioned Chernobyl with respect to nuclear power. Yes, it's very safe these days, but if something goes wrong, it goes wrong effectively forever. Not just in a small locale, either...a meltdown is a regional and *ongoing* disaster (as radioactive particulates can still come out of the area and float away, especially if repeated water flows are encountered by the pile melting downwards). The breadbasket of the Soviet Union was literally nuked in the process, and that changes the entire global trade landscape as they have to import more food each year (at added energy expense, too).

    Also, nuclear disposal is not easy. The waste will be radioactive for untold thousands of years, or at least until we discover the quantum physics equivalent of a philospoher's stone (to transmute the waste into some other useful compound or elements). Not only that, *the plant itself* is radioactive. Yes, it is. After years of housing the radioactive pile, the structures around it absorb the radiation, and begin to re-radiate that radioactivity. That's why workers wear badges, not just in case of a leak. The structure itself weakens due to absorbing that much radioactivity, making it more dangerous the longer it runs. The plant's ambient radiation rises during the plant's lifespan, and when it's decommissioned, the plant has to be disposed of as well. What remains to be discussed openly is whether or not the land where the plants are currently situated have also become radioactive, and how many plants can be operated in one place before the land itself starts killing people. They may dig out the radioactive dirt as well, but then you end up digging down into the water table eventually, so the land can't last forever either.

    Also, despite popular belief, nuclear plants *do* emit low-level radioactivity. This is because the water piped around the core becomes irradiated when the pipes inevitably become irradiated due to constant exposure (thus re-radiating into the cooling water). So, if you cluster reactors together, you will have clustered ambient radioactivity, much in the way that clustering cars in cities generates smog and acid rain in certain geographies. Furthermore, if you cluster nuclear plants, and one melts down, the others will probably go with it, furthering the effects of the disaster.

    I won't go into the debate about terrorist attacks on nuclear plants - we have people falling asleep at the controls here in the United States, and that's bad enough.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm expecting nuclear to be mandatory in the next 20 years, because telling people during the 1970's to cut back on power usage during the gas crisis did NOT work, and thus increased consumption will follow with the rise in population (and increased prices due to price-gouging by greedy bastards - kind of like today, actually). However, nuclear is by far and away a bad, bad idea. I try to use my brain in my down-time to figure out how to bridge the gaps between conventional and quantum physics in order to try to create an insane idea for a better energy technology. However, so far I've had no luck. So, expect what you see coming. You won't be able to escape it unless one of you can come up with a new way to manipulate physics to generate power.

    If you don't, you have only three options:

    1. World War 3 sending us into the Third (and final) Dark Age in a vain effort by nuclear-weapon-wielding powers to grab what's left of the world's dwindling resources. There's brinksmanship, and then there's nuclear spoilsports. "If I can't rule the world, no one can!" *BOOM*. "If we can't rule ourselves, no one can! Live free or die!" *BOOM*. "Your religion is different than ours!" *BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM*. "You can't steal my stuff!" *BOOM* Once it starts, it's too late. Look up "Archduke Ferdinand", if you don't believe me.

    2. Forced conservation and population control, leading to widespread starvation, food riots, revolutions and endless civil wars ending up in nuclear regional wars, destroying the human-habitable environment and civilization in the process (there's that Third Dark Age again).

    3. Global cooperation (and I mean everyone - less than total participation means #2 above and maybe #1 as well). Not communism, not socialism, not capitalism, not dictatorship-style domination, but true cooperation as a species. A confederation-style global government, if you like. China runs its government its own way, USA does theirs, Russia does theirs, etc, and people shut up about the differences - but we all quit fighting and shafting each other, and cooperate to save *all* of us from extinction. Unless we cooperate to get out into space, the human race is toast. Get used to it. No one will suffer one country other than itself to rule the world alone.

    ...well, maybe there's the return of Jesus Christ, and maybe aliens will save us, but I really don't want to have to resort to those things if I don't have to. God helps those who help themselves (and each other, for that matter).

    If you want statistics, try this: without food imports, 1.6 billion Chinese people must subsist on their own arable land, 1 square foot of which must sustain 7 adults. If half of the Chinese population have a child, this would raise their population from 1.6 billion to 2.0 billion. That same square foot of arable land (nine months later) must sustain *9 adults*. This means that each adult would have to consume 21% less food in order to not require imports. Now imagine that population increase *every 9 months* (one-child laws notwithstanding). Growth of this kind, or even near it, is *not* sustainable, not even for a country the size of China. That's not including India, the United States, or any other countries with booming populations. Add it up, and you'll probably see 10 billion people worldwide by 2020. Even then, the inevitable overpopulation of the planet will make the human race choose between housing and food and energy generation as every last scrap of land becomes inhabited (even Antarctica - melt the glaciers for tap water!). Throw in nuclear plant disasters making large regions unlivable (and non-arable), and you have a recipe for self-destruction (short of global cooperation). Bad, bad idea.

    We need a Manhattan Project for advanced quantum physics and fusion power, I say. Once we solve those problems, we not only have power, but advanced propulsion units for feasible space travel. Bring it on, before it's too late. Hell, I'll lead the project myself. I may not know much about quantum physics, but I know damn well where I can find some people who do (and hire them). And as you can tell by my excessive verbosity, I am highly motivated.

  137. michael
    Joke

    @chris

    "Or get that space elevator built and run cables down the inside of the shaft...

    Lots of options "up there"."

    http://techfox.comicgenesis.com/d/20010416.html

    I like this one

  138. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Personally

    To cover my electricty usage of 2500 kW per year,

    costing £250 at todays rate of 10p per kW

    Generally solar panels cost about £3 a Watt

    e.g a 100 Watt panel would cost £300

    according to

    Photovoltaic Geographical Information System - Interactive Maps

    http://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvgis/apps3/pvest.php

    I would need 3 kW in London costing £9,000 36 years to pay for itself

    2.3 in South France costing £6,900 28 years

    1.8 in Spain costing £5,400 22 years

    1.3 in North Africa costing £3,900 16 years

    plus the price of a few bits (eg inverters, batteries) and still not supplying enough power in winter.

    Solar panels would have to come down to a sixth of the price, about 50p a Watt, to make the investment viable.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Wind turbines would be a better solution for me

    according to the

    UK Wind Speed Database

    http://www.bwea.com/noabl/

    http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/sources/renewables/explained/wind/windspeed-database/page27326.html

    my average windspeed is about 5.5 meters/second (12 mph)

    The 2kw 48v &120v DC turbine for sale at

    http://www.ukclimatecentre.co.uk/

    would suit my needs , giving out 300Watts at 5.5 m/s (2600 kW per year)

    costing about £2000 for the system, it would take 8 years to pay for itself.

    Its really close though, because turbines dont much work under 5 m/s.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    see also

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/greener-power-to-the-people-the-real-energy-alternative-837821.html

    http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/what_can_i_do_today/energy_saving_grants_and_offers

    I think you can get a grant of 30% of the install cost upto £2500

  139. michael

    re:dounreay

    haveing lived next to and worked at dounreay (as a it tech nothing to do with the reactors) I can tell you 3 things about it

    1. it has 2 test breader fast reactors 1/3 scale

    2. most of it's problems stem fro the fact that they are test reactors (when you test things it is to find out these problems) and form the fact of the bad beuractic desisions (eg there was somone who told me he had a ww2 compas at home that if he took on site would need to be sealed in a lead box and he could not take it out of the safezones)

    3. even with the worst problems it has (a shaft leaking raiodactive file can particles) it affected me less then the windfarm next to it

  140. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thorium

    I'm waiting in anticipation for the share scammers to start emailing me with their BUY BUY BUY recommendations for Thorium Power (THPW).

  141. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: @Biofuels (JonB)

    >It's still biofuel if you burn the wheat, just hasn't been made into biopetrol.

    Exactly, part of the reasoning of the low energy value of biofuels is that they get heavily processed into a more convenient form.

    You should also count the energy cost of making and recycling batteries in electric cars in their energy budget. Not just the energy required to move them around.

    As for the energy savers, I have electric water and space heating, reducing the power of lightbulbs is like pissing to put out a volcano.

  142. Steven Jones

    Read the book

    I read Prof McKay's book online about a year ago. It's been a long, long time since I did my physics degree, but the book felt very familiar in the type of approach a physicist takes to anlysing issues such as this. What I do note about many of the comments here is that they are qualitative, annecdotal and based on the article and not what Peter McKay has written which is much more comprehensive. it also see that people are quite happy to just make up stats - my favourite is "It's worth pointing out at this point that 99% of the people on earth use nothing like as much energy as we use". So that's 1% of the world's population is using that much energy - that would be around the 60 million mark then (taking the World's population at 6bn which is no doubt a bit out of date). The figure of 60m is conveniently close to that of the UK so presumably this statement implies that the US, Canada, western Europeans and so on use nothing like as much energy as the UK. If people can't be bothered to do a bit of basic arithmetic before making exaggerated statements, then I'm not surprised at the apparent inability of much of the population to get to grips with the real implications of this. Much of the environmental movement is based on selective statistics, emotiive arguments and unrealistic assumptions. It often degrades into not much more than sloganising such as "organic good" "GM bad". It feels more like something akin to a faith-based approach. Also some issues which are clearly at the heart of environmental problems, such as population growth, are not dealt with as they are deemed to be too sensitive. Frankly the real world doesn't care too much for such human niceties as not beeing able to get to grips with uncomfortable truths.

    There's far too much policy making in this country driven by posturing and token gestures. Somehow you it's more important to demonstrate your environmental credentials by emphasising not having TVs on standby. About 18 months ago the BBC ran a new article on just how bad the UK was on energy usage compared to the Germans on the basis of a response on how many people responded to a survey about not unpluggin their mobile phone chargers. In a little byline in the story it revealed that the Germans actually use more electrical energey per person than the UK. That's not to say that the UK is environmentally better then Germany, just that the basis on which the BBC reported this is not even vaguely objective.

    In the meantime, read the damned book - it's free after all. The trouble is, that for many people, it will not match their pre-conceptions and they therefore won't accept it. It's just so much easier to be able to argue using unquantified arguments or selective stats.

  143. Bruce Sinton
    Paris Hilton

    The Prof and Climate/Energy Scrap

    The fear of Nuclear Power among your posters is surprising, considering the fact that your readers are supposed to be intelligent.

    The French have 80% + of their electric power generated by Nuclear Power Stations.

    They don't seem to have any problems- and I am sure that I would soon hear about any little hitch.

    Sure Chernobyl in USSR was a disaster, as was almost everything in that mismanaged empire.

    Tens of millions died in the time of the Communist Dictatorship of Uncle Joe, and his successors , with widespread pollution like no other nation (even China) have seen.

    Down here in sunny New Zealand we have the coldest houses(uninsulated) in the world apparently, but we are now trying to improve. My house has underfloor insulation and a second lot of ceiling insulation installed. Paid for by an unusually enlightened Government. Got a modern electric hot water cylinder installed last year to replace the 1952 model! Very energy efficient now I understand.

    When I moved into this house 40 years ago , I dug trenches and installed field tile drain around the house to keep it dry (clay soil),-less heat required.

    Drive my car to town for shopping (about 2 mile trip) as arthritis makes pedal power a non starter.

    I guess I am trying to say that I am doing my bit to save energy (the usual low energy light bulbs etc), just as some of you younger types

    I don't however go in for the extreme things promoted by the Greenies (shows bias) like turning off the TV at the wall etc. With modern appliances , the standby power use is bugger all -my TV is less than 1watt.

    Peace and Joy to you all. -Greenies and Nuke lovers.

    Icon -Why not?

  144. Chris Miller
    Thumb Down

    @Mark & Sam Tana

    "We're about as densely populated as Sweden" - double the area of the UK and 15% of the population. Oh, and a lot of Sweden's power comes from hydroelectricity which (if you ignore minor details like building dams and flooding vegetation) can be presented as zero-carbon - not an option that's available in most of England at least.

    "That's about 60 million miles. That's a lot of energy, not a little. Seems to me that if you can reasonably save energy, you should." If everyone in the UK saved 1kWh a year is that a lot of energy? It's over 200 TJ, which sounds like a lot, but it's 1/6000 of our total electricity output, so it might affect the fourth significant figure of our CO2 emissions. To quote Prof MacKay, this is "innumerate codswallop", I personally would use a pithier description.

    I was urging people to read at least the first 100 pages of Prof MacKay's book, but I now see that some people can't even read three paragraphs of an Internet post.

  145. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    @ Kevin Kitts

    "However, nuclear is by far and away a bad, bad idea. I try to use my brain in my down-time to figure out how to bridge the gaps between conventional and quantum physics in order to try to create an insane idea for a better energy technology. However, so far I've had no luck. So, expect what you see coming. "

    Oh no! If you can't come up with something then we're doomed, DOOMED!!

  146. b
    Stop

    This "scientist" doesn't consider simply using less

    Did you even read the article? It's explicitly stated several times that the calculations used depend on everyone using less energy.

  147. Martin

    Couple of points....

    AC in Scotland - forgive me if I mention the fact that what most Scots seem to think is warm is what the rest of us in England think is damn freezing...!

    Bath vs standby calculations - the worst figure that anyone came up with was that having a single (shallow, tepid) bath used about the same energy as leaving the TV on standby for a fortnight, rather than six months as suggested by the Prof. Assuming five baths a week, that is one per cent of the power I need for my bath water. Not that big a deal, really.

  148. Mark

    Re: Some thoughts...

    No, this was the result of a pissing match between the two camps.

    AC won not on any technical merit but on marketing.

  149. Mark

    @Chris Miller

    And almost all of those people in big cities.

    Finland is even worse. Lots of land, almost all of it to fecking cold to live in, so most of the inhabitants are in a few cities.

    Population density != people/land area

  150. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @ Bruce Sinton

    "Sure Chernobyl in USSR was a disaster, as was almost everything in that mismanaged empire."

    That's what scares the sh1t out of most of us Brits.

    Public services are falling apart, the transport system is slowly choking itself to death, the Government is completely incompetant, we can't even build a football stadium on time or to budget and it looks like we are going to have to start a massive Nuclear Reactor building program!!!

    I assure you, we can teach the USSR a thing or two about incompetance.

    The new Reactors will be built to the absolute minimum safety specification allowed, by the lowest bidder, by a poorly skilled workforce and while the jobsworths in charge argue about how much the door handles cost, no-one will notice that the trainee Latvian sparky was holding the wiring diagram upside down while he was fitting the safety control system.

    We're screwed.

    Flames, 'cos we're all going to burn.

  151. graham crocker

    At Last! - A Reasoned Counterweight to the Media Eco-Mafia.

    Common sense at last! I remain concerned that the 'eco-mafia' - The highly eloquent, highly paid, arts biased opinion formers -Will pull out all the stops to obfuscate the truth and mislead the public.

    At heart is a truth that many will not or cannot grasp elementary ideas in the sciences and much prefer a world in-line with their cherrished misconceptions.

  152. Chris Birch
    Go

    Policy based on empiricism

    All too often, policy is decided by group-think and because it's a vote winner. It's rare to see policy set using empirical methods to determine what works and what doesn't. This article (and numerous other serious attempts to quantify energy generation) show that nuclear power is the only possible way to meet the government's carbon emission levels target, even though there is no chance of achieving it by 2020. MacKay isn't the only person to state this, the environmentalist Sir James Lovelock has been stating that nuclear energy is the only way to save the planet since 2004.

    I imagine that most readers on this web site are smart, technical people, probably with good science education. Therefore I implore you all to write to your MPs to debate future energy policy based on dispassionate analysis of data. Global climate change is a FAR bigger threat than global terrorism, lets get our political representatives to acknowledge that before it's too late.

  153. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    The Nuclear Paradise Solution

    "As he points out, with nuclear there is no energy shortage nor any need to be particularly energy efficient. Cheap lightbulbs and CRT TV's would heat our houses and also give off useful light and entertainment at night, and mercury poison filled CFLs could be consigned to a footnote in history." - Philosopher

    So you intend to provide this solution globally do you? And build some 200,000 nuclear power plants to service the world's energy needs.

    Iran and Iraq would get 400 each. Another 400 to syria.

    Good luck with that....

  154. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    CF bulbs are too heavy to lift and don't smell right

    "As for the energy savers, I have electric water and space heating, reducing the power of lightbulbs is like pissing to put out a volcano." - JonB

    Electric water heating will use about as much energy per person as lighting - depending on how much hot water you use. But the numbers are similar in magnitude.

    If you have electric space heating then it's all over for you. Huge amounts of power there.

    Clearly the primary thing you should change is your source of home heating. Augment with passive solar. Improve the insulation in the house (if not already insulated).

    However, since replacing light bulbs is simply a matter of screwing in a more efficient one when the old one dies..... What's your complaint about doing so?

    Are the CF's too heavy for you to lift?

  155. A J Stiles

    Misconceptions and stuff

    Pumped Storage: Pumping water up mountains to generate electricity on the way down is just a way of storing energy. You only get back as much as it cost to pump it up, minus a little bit to account for inefficiency (mostly, friction in the bearings and against the pipe walls). The advantage is that it's much quicker to *start* getting electricity out of a pumped-storage station than almost anything else. A sudden increase in demand can be met with stored energy, buying enough time to start up a conventional power station if the demand persists or not if it goes away. Think of it as being like a massive version of the capacitors found across the supply rails of CMOS logic ICs and audio amplifiers!

    AC vs DC: In the time of Edison and Tesla, AC was indeed more efficient for power distribution than DC. What has changed since then is the invention of semiconductor electronics, and specifically the switched-mode power supply. Nowadays it's no big deal to change DC into AC at any frequency you like, and back, without losing much.

    However, it's almost certain that the electronics industry would never have existed in the first place without widespread adoption of AC distribution. Nor, indeed, without the filament light bulb; from which the vacuum-tube valve is a direct descendant. And nobody would have invented the transistor if there had not already been valves to improve on .....

  156. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    20% power loss due to wall warts

    "I don't however go in for the extreme things promoted by the Greenies (shows bias) like turning off the TV at the wall etc. With modern appliances , the standby power use is bugger all -my TV is less than 1watt." - Bruce Sinton

    I have measured the power consumption for various products available to me, and used in my home. TV stand by power utilization I have not measured - but I have measured the power used by various small wall mounted transformers that powre things like telephones, computer speakers, clocks, drill recargers, and other small, low voltage items.

    In general they consume 9 watts of power - even when the device they are powering is turned off.

    So if you have 11 of them in your home, you are consuming 100 watts of power continuously. 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

    100 watts converts to 2.4 kilowatt hours per day.

    My total electic consumption is 11 kilowatts per day.

    So in my case (I have 9 of those pesky little transformers), about 20% of my power consumption is lost due to losses in the transformers themselves.

  157. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    To some, common sense is Rocket Science.

    ""That's about 60 million miles. That's a lot of energy, not a little. Seems to me that if you can reasonably save energy, you should." If everyone in the UK saved 1kWh a year is that a lot of energy? It's over 200 TJ, which sounds like a lot, but it's 1/6000 of our total electricity output, so it might affect the fourth significant figure of our CO2 emissions. To quote Prof MacKay, this is "innumerate codswallop", I personally would use a pithier description." - Sam Tana

    Saving 1KWh/year is equivalent to turning off 1 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours.

    By switching to CF lighting, most people would save that much every day.

    So instead of 1/6000th you save 365/6000ths, or 6% of the total generating capacity of the U.K.

    It's not rocket science people....

  158. Alex Tingle
    Thumb Up

    Play the Flash game...

    Here's the game of the book: http://makesyouthink.net/games/climate-challenge/

    (The makers of this Flash game did many of the same calculations, but present it as an educational game where you have to make policy choices and deal with the consequences.)

  159. Robin Trow

    At a Book on Global warming with Some Numbers

    I started to read the article and had to download the draft of the book.

    Absolutely brilliant. I've only got about 3/4 through part1 , but so far all the numbers seems to add up. They're all rough estimats, but that's explained in the Preface and it's important to find the order of magnitude of the problem rather the details.

    I'm considering sending the link to the to my MP. I expect he believes that turning off al the phone chargers and pc's on standby are all that's required!

  160. Sam Tana

    I agree with Vendicar, but...

    ... you've quoted me as disagreeing. I didn't make the "pithier description" comment you "credit" me with; it was Chris Miller - who reminds me of the man who would like to save up £100 but can only afford to put away £1 a week, so he doesn't bother because that's "only" 1/100 of his total goal.

    Looking for instant, one-hit solutions to a highly complex problem such as this really is "innumerate codswallop". Clearly we're consuming more energy than the planet can, in the long-term, supply via the sources we're currently exploiting. We need to expand all kinds of supply methods, develop technology *and* reduced demand. If we all cut our individual demand a little bit - even if it's "only" 1/6000 of our total electrical output - that's a contribution to the cause.

    It's not whether we should turn off our TVs at night rather than leaving them on stand-by that's the question. That, frankly, is a no-brainer. It's where to draw the line between economy/ecology and inconvenience.

  161. Joseph Gregory
    Coat

    Missing Information

    The CO2 output from the prolific village/town home wood and coal fires in Africa, India and China are totally missing from the causes of a rise in CO2.

    Giving a low CO2 output to large Asiatic/African countries seriously distorts the data and brings the rest of the information into disrepute. To simply blame the Western countries' Industrial Revolution for ALL of the given 0.00001% rise, (100ppm), since 1850 (See. Fig. 4), is to wear blinkers to what was happening in the rest of the world.

    As populations and industrialisation have risen sharply in the above countries, then the use of wood/coal home fires rise proportionally and add to measured world CO2 rises, which some scientists attempt wrongly to apply solely to the US and UK.

    A very modern political con trick is to pay a lot of scientists to produce page after page of confusing mumbo-jumbo on minuscule atmospheric changes and then have a hefty rise in taxes, government control and large fines for the crime of existing. A 0.00001% rise in CO2 is the equivalent to pulling a single blade of grass from a lawn and deserves the same level of interest.

  162. Chris Miller

    @mark

    20% (1.8m) of Sweden's population live in Stockholm. 15% (9m) of the UK population live in London, with almost as many again inside the M25. Do you still want to continue with your ludicrous argument that the population densities are roughly equal? The reason that there are large areas of Sweden that are lightly populated is not just because they're cold (Stockholm is often less than toasty), but because they're on the side of glacier-capped mountains. That's where the hydroelectricity comes from.

    BTW the definition of population density is *precisely* number of people/unit area. If you want to use some other measure, I think you'll have to come up with a new name for it in order to avoid confusion.

    PS You can safely ignore postings from Vendicar. S/he is (or has nicked the handle of) a well-known troll, as a Google search will reveal. Hi Scott!

  163. Chris Miller

    One more try ...

    @Sam, I initially said "This doesn't mean that saving energy is wrong" - it is wrong to waste resources, and that includes energy. But my point would have been more accurately represented as trying to save £10,000 by putting aside £1 a week. Now can you see that you'd never live long enough to achieve your goal?

    Significant reduction in CO2 output is like trying to save £10,000 - we'll never achieve it by the £1 a week options of switching off standby devices or buying low-energy lightbulbs. We need to save £100 a week by other means - massive nuclear build, breakthrough efficiency improvements in photovoltaics, elimination of 90% of mankind - take your pick.

    As Prof MacKay puts it (pithily): "if everyone does a little, we’ll achieve a little."

  164. Highlander

    @Michael de Podesta

    Epic fail sir. Epic fail.

    You dismiss this fellow's work with just a few anecdotal statements.

    But you fail utterly to consider the much broader picture that he is addressing. TOTAL energy consumption per person. That doesn't just include your nice CFFL light bulbs and low standby-power devices at home. Every single mile you travel in a mechanized form of transportation requires huge amounts of evergy. The products you buy,m are in a sense concentrated energy (mostly concentrated fossil fuels) The biggest point made here is that the electrical consumption of devices in our homes is so much less than other things. You have to stop thinking in terms of current electrical consumption and compare everything that consumes energy. Heating water electrically is expensive compared to everything else you run in your home except perhaps an air conditioning system. However compare that to the energy cost of moving yourself and your hunk of metal (car or motorcycle) and you find you're suddenly looking at a different equation. Even is you use public transportation the energy to drive that comes from somewhere. Then there is the industrial and agricultural use of energy in the production of all the products that we consume. The distribution of retail of those products costs energy. If you break everything in life down to it's energy costs (not how much CO2, not how much oil, or coal, or gas or electricity), just the pure energy cost they you remove all the arguments over what fuels to use. Since we know that oil and gas are running out, and will run out, it's fair and safe to assume a world without them.

    So, now take present day energy consumption for the 6 billion on Earth and find a way to power just that without oil and gas. Project population growth, allow for marginal increases in energy efficiency and try again. If you want a true insight into what this work does, look at that. Forget the dogma of one fuel verses another and look purely at the energy consumption of everything humans do in the modern age.

    In that context CFFL light bulbs are utterly irrelevant (not to mention a significant source of environmental mercury which is a nasty poison and unlike the spent Nuclear fuels, the mercury in CFFL lights largely ends up sitting in broken bulbs in landfill sites, or going through an incinerator and ensing up in the atmosphere. Yummy.

    No, you sir have fail to read the article and operate in the same context. Saving a whopping 2% of present generating capacity sounds great until you remove oil and gas (which means some of your generating capacity just disappeared) and then remember that now your transportation network and industry has to run on electricity. The increased demand multiplies the generation capacity needed to sustain the current (not even future) demand for energy. Suddenly that 2% of current capacity looks a lot less significant when it's less than 1% of whatever ridiculous generating capacity is needed to power the UK via electricity.

    But, hey, go ahead and dismiss the man and his work simply because you lack the imagination to think beyond your own electrical consumption and dogmatic views on the environment.

  165. Mark

    Re:One more try ...

    And by turning your TV off, rather than standby, what utility have you lost? Fuck all.

    So even if it saves you 1% of your power use, that's 1% less for no cost.

    So why not TURN THE FRIGGING THING OFF?

  166. Cris E
    Paris Hilton

    Show Your Work

    >"If you want statistics, try this: without food imports, 1.6 billion Chinese people must subsist on their own arable land, 1 square foot of which must sustain 7 adults. If half of the Chinese population have a child, this would raise their population from 1.6 billion to 2.0 billion. That same square foot of arable land (nine months later) must sustain *9 adults*. "

    Show your work. (No, no, not the having a child part, Paris.) Explain the piece where nine months pass and then there are hundreds of millions of new adults. No wonder they're having trouble feeding everyone...

  167. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    10 times 1% = 10 precent.

    "In that context CFFL light bulbs are utterly irrelevant (not to mention a significant source of environmental mercury which is a nasty poison and unlike the spent Nuclear fuels, the mercury in CFFL lights largely ends up sitting in broken bulbs in landfill sites, or going through an incinerator and ensing up in the atmosphere. Yummy."

    Oh, don't worry about the environmental mercury... It's less than what would be emitted into the atmosphere with coal used to power a similar brightness standard bulb. So even when it comes to mercury emissions, CF is generally superior.

    You are right on one thing though. CF lighting alone will not solve the problem. But then... WHo said it would?

    CF lighting is just part of the solution.

    As to transportation, I get from 51 to 70 mpg, depending On where I'm driving.

    How about you?

  168. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    Still to some it's rocket science

    "Significant reduction in CO2 output is like trying to save £10,000 - we'll never achieve it by the £1 a week options of switching off standby devices or buying low-energy lightbulbs. We need to save £100 a week by other means - massive nuclear build, breakthrough efficiency improvements in photovoltaics, elimination of 90% of mankind - take your pick." - Chris Miller.

    Gee.. How about making products that last twice as long - reducing the need of producing more products by half.

    That improves their lifetime energy cost by 50%.

    The face is, there are lots of ways to reduce energy consumption.

    Reductions in energy consumption of 50% are trivial for most people. Reductions of the required 80 to 90% are going to be more difficult.

    The nice thing though, is once you get to around the 70% mark, then dilute sources of energy - solar, wind, become capable of supplying the entire power demand.

    It's not rocket science People.

  169. Stephen

    TV Stand-by Power Usage

    "The 2 W standby figure is what I believe is a pretty common value."

    And wrong - modern, large LCD TVs use less than .5 W on stand-by often between .05 and .2W which puts your figures out by an order of magnitude and the original assumption back on the money.

  170. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    One Chernobyl every 4 months

    "Sure Chernobyl in USSR was a disaster, as was almost everything in that mismanaged empire." - Bruce Sinton

    Given that a nuclear powered globe would require nations like Ethyopia to have around 400 ot the things, what reassurances does Bruce Sinton offer to convince us that Chornobyl like catastrophy would not also occur in the second and third world nations?

  171. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    Crocker or Cracker?

    "I remain concerned that the 'eco-mafia' " - Grahm Cracker

    No doubt you also remain concerned about the saber toothed easter bunny and Santa and his murderous henchmen.

    I on the other hand am concerned that the ignorant apes will for some reason choose to remain ignorant.

    Already the next generation is lost.

  172. Vendicar Decarian
    Boffin

    Cement is quite porus Water quit liquid

    "encase the fuel slugs in a layer of lead, then stack them down at the bottom of some of those empty oil wells. Once the stack gets within about 1000' (about 305M) of the surface, fill with concrete." - Gary Heston

    Wells are wet, and cement is quite porus. The water in the wells will percolate into the cement, dissolve the lead, then dissolve the slugs and carry the waste into the water table.

  173. Chris Miller

    Dear Mark

    There have been 160+ posts so far, but I haven't seen any that claim that leaving your TV on standby is a good thing. The siren voices claiming this exist only inside your head - just ignore them. OTOH I have read quite a few posts pointing out that, even if everyone in the world follows this good advice, the effect on CO2 emissions will be trivially small. So, if your goal is to achieve significant reductions in CO2, switching off standby devices is effectively irrelevant (NB this is not the same as saying that it is intrinsically evil, stay with me here).

    A couple of tips for constructing future arguments:

    a) try to read and understand other people's comments; and

    b) try to construct a rational response without resorting to swearing and shouting.

    You may then find more people prepared to listen to you.

    All the best

    Chris

  174. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark

    >And by turning your TV off, rather than standby, what utility have you lost?

    The ability to turn it on from the remote.

    >So even if it saves you 1% of your power use

    What fantasy land do you live in where standby mode on a telly is 1% of your energy use?

    Are you forgetting the energy that you currently get from gas/oil perhaps?

    Since, as I mentioned before, I'm 100% electric, going from off to standby isn't even like pissing to put out the volcano, it's like trying to extinguish it with a shake.

    I value the 2W standby mode, to the point where I will pay 10p every 500 hours it's on, heck, I'd still pay 20p for it.

  175. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My 2p on all of this

    To address some of the points made:

    - stuff on standby. Yes it may save some power but I then have to switch it on physically at the device or the wall. May as well ask why people don't throw away their remotes and manually change channels?

    -Driving. We need legislation on emissions. if the EU made it illegal to sell a new car that pollutes more than X g/km of CO2 then manufacturers would pretty soon make more efficient cars. This is certainly possible:

    BMW 530i - 3L 6cy petrol - 182g/km CO2 - 0-62 6.3s 36.7mpg

    BMW 535d - 3L 6cy diesel - 178g/km CO2 - 0-62 6.4s 42.2 mpg

    Almost identical performance but 16% more efficient for the diesel. Oh and £5k more expensive to buy though.

    -Renewables. OK, IIRC energy cannot be created or destroyed, merely transferred from one form to another. So if you take energy out of the wind, slow the streams, intercept sunlight before it warms the earth etc. then what is the long term impact? I don't know, but I am as sure as sure that if turning your TV off standby is significant then taking energy out of the environment must be also.

    -Cost. I pay a premium for energy. I pay large amounts of taxes and duties which I am constantly told are to be used to offset the impact of the environmental effects of the fuels I use. I like to be warm, so I have central heating. I like holidays so I fly occasionally. I like to visit my poor, housebound silver haired grandmother who lives 60 miles away from me and I drive there. In short I pay the piper so I call the tune. What the piper does with the money afterwards is not my problem. It might be my grandkids, but I am sure they will turn out to be smarter than me...

    I am reminded of one of the best quotes of all time:

    "War, war never changes. The end of the world occurred pretty much as we had predicted: Too many humans, not enough space or resources to go around. The details are trivial and pointless, the reasons, as always, purely human ones."

  176. Jamie
    Stop

    Confirmation bias

    Some fantastic examples of confirmation bias here.

    Hundreds of scientists spend decades studying climatology and the geophysics of climate change and get articles published in peer reviewed journals.

    But they are obviously part of (a) a government plot to raise taxes, (b) an eco-media-mafia, (c) some sort of green/communist plot to destroy our way of life.

    One man writes a book and suddenly all truth and light is revealed. Clearly he has no personal agenda or bias. And obviously he has made no errors in his calculations.

    The book is simply another useful (more useful than most newspaper editorials or Bush's mumblings) contribution to the debate on energy policy which, after all, is inevitably about what is politically and economically acceptable as well as the underlying science.

  177. Ian Dedic
    Go

    @Jamie

    Having read through the downloaded book I don't think Mackay claims to have any unique insight or staggeringly original results, and he does say repeatedly that many of his numbers are estimates and likely to be in error -- and I don't think he shows any strong personal bias, except the one that much of what is said in this area is completely innumerate rubbish (save the planet by unplugging your mobile phone charger etc), which is difficlut to disagree with.

    What it does do better than anything else I've seen is to put the whole thing in perspective and give a real insight into how difficult it will be to wean the world off its fossil-fuel tit, and how most of the supposed solutions put forward by governments -- and environmentalists -- don't even come *close* to solving the problem, at least not without implementation on a truly heroic scale.

    And it's written in an accessible style which should make it understandable by not just the man in the street, but also journalists and even quite possibly politicians :-)

  178. Mark

    @Lee

    "- stuff on standby. Yes it may save some power but I then have to switch it on physically at the device or the wall. May as well ask why people don't throw away their remotes and manually change channels?"

    A) Why should you? When it's ON you can use the remote to, oh, I dunno, CHANGE CHANNELS.

    B) (and this is a particular gripe for me) more and more you can't get ANYTHING done on the front of the device, EVERYTHING useful is on the remote and the remote ONLY. So you should NOT throw it away

    C) WHO THE FUCK SAID YOU SHOUD? I didn't. I just told you to get off your flabby pasty white arse and push the power button because all you'll lose is a little red (or worse, that freaking godawful blue) LED. Unless you're REALLY hard up for entertainment, I wouldn't count this as much of a loss of utility.

  179. Mark

    @JonB

    "The ability to turn it on from the remote."

    Yes, and? You can (because your fat arse needs the exercise, you pasty white pig: and that's an insult to the pig: it's only 19% fat) turn it ON by the switch.

    And the advantage? You don't need to hunt for the remote.

  180. Mark

    Re: Dear Mark

    But saying it won't help much isn't a reason NOT to do it.

    If I give £1000 to children in need, that money won't help much.

    So I'll keep it.

    If I see someone being mugged, I won't likely be able to help much.

    So I'll let it pass.

    You've even said yourself NOT "it won't help at all" but "it won't significantly change". But it IS a help. And have you done your calculations? 4W 24/7 compared with watching TV 4/7 means that your TV isn't running at 200W, it's really running at 224W. 10% worse.

    How many things on "standby" do you have?

    TV. Computer. Kids computer. Answerphone. DVD player. Amp. VHS (for the old stuff you can't get on DVD and for recording). Four or so wall-warts for charging things, alarm clock etc.

    44W 24/7.

    You're there in the house and awake 2 hours in the morn and 4 hours evening. Most of the weekend. 40 hours out of 168.

    So those 44W are like 180W of useful stuff. Stuff you get use out of. Stuff that if you didn't have, you would see *some* *small* change in lifestyle.

    Or 44W you can lose for ZERO change in lifestyle.

    Multiply by 20 million housholds.

    That's a fair sized power station you don't have to build.

    How much does that cost to build?

    All denied because it means you change something in your life.

    Pathetic.

  181. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark

    I suppose you're the very model of the modern athletic man leaping from the sofa to change channel?

    Why not rig the thing up to an exercise bike? Not doing that? Oh you fat lazy pig.

    >If I see someone being mugged, I won't likely be able to help much.

    I thought you were some kind of muscle bound He Man from all that leaping to and from the sofa each channel change?

    >Four or so wall-warts for charging things, alarm clock etc.

    Another superb Markism!

    Lets all turn our frigging alarm clocks off once we've woken up then turn them back on and reset the time and alarm each night!

    If you don't want to then you must be a lazy pig!

    God what a witless twit you truly are.

  182. Mark

    @JonB

    Well all I've got to go on is that you don't think you can get out of your chair to turn your TV on.

    Ergo, pasty white flabby arse.

    It's called "logical deduction".

    Try it sometime.

  183. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark

    All you've got to go on is that I want to turn the telly on with the remote, the rest is your fantasy.

    Your "logic" is shite.

  184. Mark

    @JonB

    And all your arguments are idiotic.

    Tub-arse.

  185. The Jon
    Stop

    @kevin kitts

    "If you want statistics, try this: without food imports, 1.6 billion Chinese people must subsist on their own arable land, 1 square foot of which must sustain 7 adults. If half of the Chinese population have a child, this would raise their population from 1.6 billion to 2.0 billion. That same square foot of arable land (nine months later) must sustain *9 adults*. "

    Ok, lets look at the maths: 1 square foot must sustain 7 adults, so to sustain 1.6billion adults requires 228571428.6 square feet. There are 27878400 square feet in a square mile, so to feed the entire population of china (not all adults, but we'll let that pass) we need approx 8.2 square miles of arable land. But wait, the population of china will suddenly be 2billion, pushing this requirement to 10.25 square miles of arable land. Hmm seems a bit small. Lets look up the geography of China just to be sure...

    China has a land area of 9.5million square km = 3.6million square miles, of which a third is grassland (we'll assume that the grassland is available to be turned into arable land) = 1.2 million sq miles [source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_China]. So just 1/100000 of this is required to feed the entire population.

    Excellent, problem solved - according to your maths china could support up to 200 trillion people at 9 adults per square foot arable land, that gives us plenty of headroom.

    Did you really mean square feet?

  186. Chris Miller

    @The Jon

    Give it up mate. Kevin and Mark don't do logic or arithmetic. Even when you point out the egregious errors in their rants, they just spout a different set of twaddle and probably call you a lard-arse into the bargain.

    I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.

    George Bernard Shaw

  187. Mark

    @Chris Miller

    Why the hell should I bother with logic when Jon's best argument for "why not turn the telly off" being "cos I can't turn it on with the remote"?

    The TV still gets the same picture. Quality is unaffected by how you turn the frigging thing ON.

    Given that a ZERO change in utility of the television can save, oh, 0.1% of your bill means a net profit of 0.1%.

    It really would be bigger than that.

  188. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark

    Touché, a both witty and intelligent riposte.

    You have excelled yourself.

  189. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark

    You're getting your Jon's confused.

    >"Jon's best argument for "why not turn the telly off" being "cos I can't turn it on with the remote"?"

    Functionality of a telly is more than just the picture, this is why people buy tv's with remotes in the first place, can you even buy one without?

    The fact is though that you could recover all the energy ever expended by a TV over its whole lifetime on standby by simply missing one bath. That is the utter futility of your argument.

    For my actual telly (A 32" Sony LCD):-

    >Power Consumption (Standby) (W) 0.3

    So, for that to be 0.1% of my energy consumption, that'd make my total consumption 0.3W * 24hrs * 365 days = 2628 Wh or 2.6Kwh

    I pay around 13p average on my leccy so that costs me a whopping 34pence.

    (Making the rather generous assumption that I don't turn it on)

    Now, how much energy do you think it takes for me to heat enough hot water for a bath?

    Now, I, personally like the added benefit of my TV being turn of and on-able from the remote and quite happily pay 34 pence a year for it. I'd happily pay a quid actually.

    Shall we do the maths for cooking your dinner?

    Perhaps we should all eat fucking salad to save the planet?

  190. Mark

    @JonB

    You're a freak.

    I stated right at the beginning that you can just turn your TV off.

    your response?

    So I should just throw my remote away?

    You aren't interested in thinking in case you find by investigation that you're wrong about something.

    Your LCD screen may be 0.3 W, but why are you spending 13p just so you don't have to turn the TV on at the switch?

    I bet yuo don't even HAVE that TV (it's pretty modern, you buy it a couple of months ago?). I bet you just googled for LCD TV's and got the specs of one that was low.

    Even if you have, how many people have such a new TV?

    How about your HiFi? CD player? DVD? Computer?

  191. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark

    >you buy it a couple of months ago?

    Yes, last month in fact.

    >Even if you have, how many people have such a new TV?

    I know a few people with modern TV's.

    >You aren't interested in thinking in case you find by investigation that you're wrong about something.

    That's you here isn't it?

    The point I'm making (spelling it out now, because you're clearly vvvveeerrryyy ssslllooowww) is that the energy saved by turning the telly off rather than onto standby is so trifling that I've actually consumed more energy explaining it to you than leaving the telly on standby for a year.

    >your response?

    My response is that it's so small it doesn't matter, only the truly f'ing stupid would think they're saving the planet by dropping 3kwh/year!

  192. nommo
    Stop

    RTFM!!

    Prof *does* do the stand-by thing himself, and encourages everyone to do so.

    http://withouthotair.blogspot.com/2008/06/i-do-advocate-switching-off-electrical.html

    Don't delude yourselves my little wing-nut enviro-skeptic geeks - every little DOES help.

    Yes, that includes turning off your PC at night and having to reload your tabs (oh noooo! that's like almost as inconvenient as turnng off the power switch in my TV!) and choosing a webhost that is making efforts to reduce their consumption...

  193. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    my own world

    in my world I am living in a house built to the "top" UK standards of the year 2000. This house is conveniently placed on the "British Riviera" and so the climate here is VERY mild compared to the Scandinavian countries for example. Now for quite a few years I have made the rather annoying conclusion that the "modern" house I live in here in the UK actually requires more than three times the energy (heating and electricity) than a house built in the seventies I lived in ten years ago in Sweden. I really have to say that it is quite surprising especially if we remember that the winter in Sweden is not only longer but also significantly colder than the one on the southcoast of the UK. As there is no particular reason for why my current lifestyle would be using three times as much energy as the one I used to have when living in Sweden the main difference seems to be when it comes to insulation of house and central heating system (inclusive water). I am pretty sure that I used a lot of hot water for my bath and shower in Sweden and all the other luxury energy usage as now - also I did use the sauna in the swedish house on a weekly basis and I had eight computers running in a network a lot of the time (I used to do a lot of work from home) - today I only use one computer at home and not very often. I think I could go on and on about how my current energy usage should be much less than what it used to be - but the reality is that at the end of the day - the house I live in makes all the difference. The point is that I would definitively save a lot of money (energy) per year even if all I managed to do was to lower my heating cost to "normal" swedish levels. One would have thought that living in a climate where even the coldest winter nights barely touch freezing point would make it easy. But it seems that there is a systematic incompetence when it comes to building energy efficient houses in the UK. It turns out that the problem is not just insulation, but there are an amazing number of deficiencies in the building when compared to scandinavian built houses. So for example the central heating system is an amazing exercise where the tubes are going through walls uninsulated and in some parts heat the outside of the house - great. Then we have the latest water heating exercise - the hotwater pipes from the boiler - uninsulated through the house - it may be nice that the floor in the bathroom is warm when someone uses the shower but it certainly does not help to constrain the energy requirements for a hot bath... We could go on and on with these issues but as I see it the problem is not simple it is systemic and complex. But for a start it surely would have been nice to live in a house built to swedish standard.... or danish, finnish, norwegian etc...

  194. Robert Synnott

    Fast breeders

    "The amount of research that was carried out at Dounreay is staggering and we just shut it down. Eh? No, we need more of these Fast Breeders." - At current uranium prices and technology, they're not economical. There's only one large-scale one operating currently, in Russia.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019