back to article Greens wage war on clean low-carbon renewable energy

The most promising renewable energy of all is making pro-renewable Greens frightened and angry. It’s geothermal energy, which taps into the natural warmth below Earth's surface, providing an abundant heat source. Geothermal exploitation used to be about finding and retrieving hot water – but new technology allows water to be …

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  1. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Puritans

    According to Macaulay, "The puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators."

    In the case of Greens, lower consumption is an end in itself, not a way to conserve resources. The parallel is obvious. Greens are the new Puritans.

    1. HMB

      Re: Puritans

      There are intelligent, open minded environmentalists who want a better world. Unfortunately there are masses of people calling themselves greens who simply don't understand that affordable, plentiful energy saves end enriches human life on a scale impossible for the mind to truly comprehend.

      Apocalyptic misanthropy disguised as being green just makes me admire the Amish. At least when they say technology is bad, they actually avoid using most of it, unlike the AMDABG, who happily tell everyone to get used to being relatively poorer then hop on a plane to go tell another group the same thing.

    2. icetrout

      Re: Puritans

      Gang-Greenies aretoo Politically Correct to conserve resources of any type.If the Gang-Greenies were they would be going after the breeding habits of 3rd worlders...

  2. Mikel
    Unhappy

    I've seen nuclear fans hate on geothermal too

    I guess if you've got the one you like, all the others must be bad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've seen nuclear fans hate on geothermal too

      I don't have a favourite. My only criteria is that it must be cheap and reliable with minimal impact on the environment. That pretty much means any form of generation (in the Western world) except for wind and solar. Neither of which are either cheap or reliable.

      1. Marshalltown
        Thumb Up

        Re: I've seen nuclear fans hate on geothermal too

        Neither wind or solar are low-impact.

        1. BillG Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: I've seen nuclear fans hate on geothermal too

          Wind and Solar have a lot of politicians' personal cash tied up in them. In the USA, Nancy Pelosi has invested heavily in wind and solar so she is against everything else, including nuclear and geothermal.

          It's the fault of the politicians.

  3. Wibble

    Geo exporting

    I've often wondered why obviously geothermal rich countries such as Iceland don't export electricity. I suppose transporting it is the main challenge.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Geo exporting

      There's talk of a power interconnector between Iceland and the UK, and another to Norway. They'd both be long and across hostile seabed, but they're part of the proposed european grid.

      1. icetrout

        Re: Geo exporting

        Why not convert the geo-energy to laser energy for transport...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Geo exporting

          Not enough sharks to transport it?

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Geo exporting

      "I've often wondered why obviously geothermal rich countries such as Iceland don't export electricity. I suppose transporting it is the main challenge."

      In a sense, they do export electricity. A lot of aluminium ore is exported there to be refined, which is an extremely energy intensive activity.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Geo exporting

      If you have enough that you can afford to lose a large percentage, you can transport it by turning it into chemical fuel (hydrogen or synthetic oil spring to mind, but I dare say there are others) or by performing energy-intensive tasks like aluminium production.

    4. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Geo exporting

      The main reason is that the Icelandic power companies have previously concentrated on building power plants to service energy intensive industries such as aluminium smelting and ferro-silicon based in Iceland. This policy is going out of favour as the benefits of the factories are minimal in that they create relatively few jobs and their products are relatively low-value bulk materials whose value fluctuates wildly with changing global economics. More recently they've been exploring the potential for using hydro and geo power to power server farms which are a much higher value business.

      There's also been a big public backlash against the perceived transformation of public lands into private hands. The damming of some of the most spectacular rivers in the country such as at Kárahnjúkar and the three new dams planned on the lower Þjórsá has been immensely controversial and the recent sale of geothermal reserves in Reykjanes to a Canadian company, Magma, was very, very unpopular.

    5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Geo exporting

      They do, in the same way that Quebec exports cheap hydroelectric - in the form of Aluminium.

      Ship in Auminium oxide, apply shitloads of electric, ship out Aluminium

  4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    I've yet to meet a green protester

    who has also not had a drastic reduction in energy requirements per person on their agenda.

    Now, I'm not saying that we should go down the rampant energy use path, and that efficient use of energy should not be promoted, but the people shouting here are almost certainly the hair-shirt brigade that want to suggest that we should reduce our energy footprint to be the same as a Kalahari nomadic tribesman.

    So any project that suggests that we can keep our current energy use will be attacked from every possible angle.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I've yet to meet a green protester

      If living in Houston means you need outdoors AC for the barbecue on the patio then you either need to make fusion work or change your lifestyle.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Boffin

      Re: I've yet to meet a green protester

      @Peter Gathercole:

      Hello, I'm someone who thinks that a) our current levels of energy usage are unsustainable but that, b) does *not* fit your cliche'd stereotype "hair shirt" nonsense.

      As I've posted on these forums before, what we need to do is to use energy in a *more efficient* manner and develop effective and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. Of course when you continue to see Opinion Pieces written by axe-grinding authors spreading their own "misleading propaganda" any sensible arguments get lost in the mouth-frothing nonsense that follows.

      As someone said: "No matter how much information you give people, if their minds are made up, their minds are made up". Ironic, isn't it...?

  5. h4rm0ny

    Do you really have to call them environmentalists?

    It's obnoxious the way some people have tried to claim the word when there are many of us out here who actively work to protect the environment but happen to be, for example, pro-nuclear.

    There's an Old Guard that have a lock on the top of the environmental movement. There's no way any pro-Nuclear argument will ever get past the people at the top of Friends of the Earth, for example, no matter how much sense it makes. But where do the rest of us environmentally minded people go when we're put off from all the main environmental movements because of the closed-minded people at the top.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Do you really have to call them environmentalists?

      I'll stick my head out to get shot at as an 'enviro-mentalist'. I believe that we should be aiming for a sustainable level of energy use and for our methods of producing energy to be as non destructive to our environment as is reasonably possible (again, sustainability). I don't believe we should live in grass shacks and paddle a dachsund to work, nor should we abandon coal / gas etc tomorrow.

      What we do need is a real, solid commitment to getting our collective backsides moving towards diverse and sustainable power generation. That is likely to be a mix of solar, geothermal and nuclear fusion (should we ever get round to building commercial scale stations).

      I can understand the concern over geothermal, if for no other reason that history has shown us that people who stand to make money from something will lie through their teeth about the concequences of their actions. In Hawai'i we also have to respect the religious objections to geothermal. That being said, it is not new, so far it seems to be a good contender as a medium term and potential long term source of power.

      We spend ever increasing amounts of money getting oil and gas from increasingly more difficult fields. That money would have had us to the point of commercial fusion, at which point you have considerable amounts of extremely low carbon power with miniscule amounts (compared to fission) of waste. We need energy, lots of it, and from sources that won't run out and won't turn the world into los angeles with its wonderful 50ft visibility due to smog.

      It's ok to be an environmentalist just as it is to want to protect your levels of usage, everyone needs to consider that their future needs to be sustainable. Living in grass shacks isn't sustainable with our population levels, not is driving f450's to costco three times a day. Less bitching and more doing is the way forward. It's not like we don't have the answers already. We can continue using 'western' levels of power without turning the planet into a dump, but we have to start moving soon.

      1. John A Blackley

        Re: Do you really have to call them environmentalists?

        @ Rampant Spaniel:

        Wish I had more up votes to give.

        That is the most coherent conservation statement I have seen in many years.

      2. Aaron Em
        Thumb Down

        Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

        Fusion has yet to show a positive energy budget, despite decades of research.

        Fission, conversely, has such an enormously positive energy budget that most recent R&D on the subject has gone into reducing it. It's a much more reliable contender than geothermal, certainly, even in places where there are no aborigines objecting to holes in the ground -- and the waste objection is really a non-starter, considering that what we currently call "waste", being still hot and thus still usable fuel, is only "waste" if it's wasted, rather than being incorporated into radioisotope thermal generators or similar -- which would also be, by far, the safest place we could ever find to put it.

        Better still, the boundless electrical power available from fission plants offers the prospect of effectively free-of-charge hydrogen gas from water cracking (hydrolysis), which in turn offers the prospect of internal-combustion vehicles running not on filthy, expensive distilled dead dinosaurs, as now, but rather on a fuel which is not only cheap as chips but literally could not be any cleaner-burning.

        In short, with nuclear fusion and hydrogen-powered vehicles, we'd be able to maintain at least our current level of technological culture, safely and cleanly, for longer than we've even been writing down our history thus far.

        The only problems with implementing this idea, that I can see, are a) that "environmentalist" includes a completely irrational but quite wide streak of yellow on the subject of nuclear fission, and b) that "environmentalist" for a lot of people also seems to include a sort of crypto-Luddism which doesn't want our current culture to be sustained or sustainable, as best I can tell for religious reasons which leave me entirely unmoved. That said unsustainability implies Malthusian catastrophe seems not to faze those who are not actively pleased to contemplate such a result.

        Me, though, I like my species pretty well, and I'd rather do almost anything than watch millions upon millions of us die off horribly through plague and famine. Implementing fission doesn't strike me as that much of a stretch by comparison.

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

          Sorry forgot to say I agree entirely with the anti dead dinosaurs sentiment. If we can get power we can change our method of storing it for transport.

          To some degree I agree re nuclear waste. Over the life of a plant it does generate a lot of contaminated material, however I should have elaborated on my statement. My concern isn't the 'waste' per se, but our ability to cut corners in search of more dollars. We screw up, we get greedy. Fukushima could have been prevented by using a safer location or a larger wall but no doubt beancounters were whipped into lying by executives. When it went to shit nobody who made the poor decisions had to take responsibility. Fixing that would help sway a lot of those of us who distrust nuclear (not because of the design, but the implementation). As you state nuclear is one of the better currently available options.

          Check out ITER and DEMO. Ignore for a second how you feel about how well it works, just look at all the dick waving about who pays how much, where it will be and exactly how many scientists each country gets. Fusion might not work out but 20 something years have been wasted in a giant nob fest over pissing rights. We just need to find out. Maybe its a dead end, maybe its the answer, its about time we found out.

          1. Aaron Em

            Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

            People have been trying to implement fusion for better than thirty years now. No experimental fusion reactor has yet run at a positive energy budget for even so little as one second. "Maybe [it's] a dead end"? So far, it has yet to be anything else. Sure, if the academics keep plugging away at it for long enough, it might end up being useful for something. Right now, though, it's not worth considering as a replacement generation technology, precisely because it has never once, throughout its existence to date, demonstrated the slightest hint of any potential to fulfill that purpose.

            During the brouhaha over the Fukushima accident last year, I made the point that responsibility for nuclear generating stations should not be entrusted to an organization driven by a profit motive, but rather to one which could instead maintain the absolute and maniacal focus on safety of operation which is, in my I think not too controversial opinion, the only reasonable way for anyone in charge of a nuclear plant to behave.

            David Pollard, quite rightly, objected that democratic accountability was a necessity for any such endeavor -- in short, you'd need engineers to oversee something like that, but you'd need governmental oversight, which in this era means democratic oversight, for a hypothetical "US Nucleonics Corps" or what-have-you. You can't expect commoners to be engineers enough to exercise such oversight, and choosing a subset of the larger group just incurs the eternal quis custodiet problem.

            While at the time Mr. Pollard's argument stopped me in my tracks, I am now able to weasel my way out of that objection quite handily, simply by noting that mob rule seems less and less like a good idea to me in any case. "Power to the people" is all well and good in theory, but if it doesn't work in a datacenter, there's no reason to expect it to work in an even more complex, technical, and potentially dangerous field, such as nucleonics -- or, for that matter, government.

            Let us usher in a new era of responsible, professional rule -- let us dismantle our parliaments and lustrate their inhabitants; let us turn the public-opinion managers, professional liars and brain-washers that they are, out of their comfortable offices and set them to the alms-begging and whoring which are their rightful lot; let us replace all such with people with whom the job of managing nations is bred in the very bone -- and the problems you describe around nuclear fission, which right now are indeed quite real, will more or less solve themselves.

            Until that happens, I'm increasingly convinced, we're going to be more or less screwed no matter what we do.

            1. Rampant Spaniel

              Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

              Quite to the contrary, many of the experiment sin the last 20-30 years into fusion has met or exceeded its goals (JET as an example). The goal of these experiments was not to produce an excess of energy but to take steps towards that. The excess energy comes with scale, small scale test tokamaks wouldn't generate an excess or a sustained reaction. ITER will be the first fusion reactor designed to produce a surplus (generating 10 times more than it uses), DEMO (generating 25 times more than it uses, and on an continual basis) will be the first fusion power station (ITER generates an excess but it isn't harnessed for electrical generation). The scientists have been playing it safe and working up to a surplus, because if they had built a commercial scale 2000-4000MW surplus fusion plant theres a fair chance there would be a smouldering hole in Oxfordshire. The problem they have encountered is the delays in all the politiking between countries.

              With respect to who should be in charge of the operation of Nuclear plants, you are entirely correct. We are screwed. Companies will seek profit over safety to the point of buying politicians to allow them to cut corners. Politicians will be bought so they are out. The general public (which not exactly stupid) will make decisions based on FUD, gut instinct and potentially greed. Scientists by and large (as can be seen by expert witness testimony in courts) can be bought and sold just as politicians can. Frankly (and this is by no means meant to be disrespectful) I would rather see you in charge, you seem to have a balanced and realistic outlook.

              The only other way I can think of dealing with it is creating a solid link between the management (C level + board) of the company and the results of any disasters. i.e. if you want to have a nuclear power plant the entire management will live next to it, go for a swim once a week by the outflow and eat the local shellfish. When it is their families and their well being on the line I think they may pay a little less attention to suggestions about cutting corners to save a quarter of a percent in costs. If you look at windscale, fukushima, 3 mile island and chernobyl, all were preventable or manageable. Windscale piles were built in a hurry and no one went back to fix errors, fukushima didn't have a wall high enough (and the placing of nuclear reactors next to the shore in a country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis is dubious), 3 mile island could have been prevented by better training, the list goes on.

              The people making the decisions, those with oversight, don't have to live with the consequences. They don't end up with cancer, they don't end up paying out of their own pockets for clean ups, yet they get the financial benefits from cost cutting. The sooner they do the sooner we will see a rapid improvement in safety. You can bet the minute that law came in there would be a hell of a lot of meetings and site visits from suits the normal workers had never seen before.

              1. Aaron Em

                "I would rather see you in charge"

                Flattery will get you everywhere! I am really not at all suited to the job, either by constitution or by inclination; I'm just a sysadmin with a smart mouth and a good sense of his own limitations. But I certainly do appreciate the vote of confidence on a Monday morning.

                And do note, because it counts, that I propose not to turn it over to scientists, i.e., researchers, but to engineers, who are accustomed to delivering tangible results. Specifically, I'd turn it over to ex-naval nuclear engineers with experience of operating nuclear plants in a context where they not only live next door (or a few hatches) down from the thing, but also literally can not get away from it if it goes wrong -- it's awfully hard to bail out of a submarine under way, unless you can breathe water, and human "crush depth" is rather shallower than that at which nuclear subs generally cruise! When one's well-being and very life depend on operational safety, one becomes rather obsessive on the subjet, even perhaps maniacally so, which again strikes me as the very best kind of attitude for anyone involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of a nuclear plant.

                Of course, the Navy, not wishing either to waste highly trained personnel for no reason, or to play "penny wise, pound foolish" with boats costing a billion bucks a pop, supports this attitude right up the line. My notional US Nucleonics Corps would do just the same, only more so. The Navy also provides grave penalties for people who make culpable mistakes, and the Nucleonics Corps would emulate the Navy in that respect also. It's one thing to fail through no fault of one's own -- it is, of course, quite possible to do everything right, and still lose. But one who loses through not doing everything right may reasonably expect real penalties -- from being defrocked through being imprisoned to being publicly hanged, depending on the gravity of the error and its consequences. (After all, if one errs in such a way that it costs innocents their lives or well-being, why should one not expect to pay in like coin for one's negligence? It won't bring anyone back, of course, but neither will anything else, and such a response should make a salutary lesson for anyone who has similarly been letting his responsibilities go wanting.)

                You've got a point about politicians, but note again my comments on the subject of mob rule; absent that, we don't get the kind of politicians you're talking about, because there's no point to politicking in the first place -- one of the nicer points of absolute monarchy is that it doesn't have to hew to the mob's every whim! That's not to say it should ignore them entirely, which any sensible monarch wouldn't do -- as Charles I put it, right before Cromwell's thugs removed not only his crown, but the head on which he'd worn it:

                "[As for the people,] truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever; but I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consist in having of government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government, sirs; that is nothing pertaining to them; a subject and a sovereign are clear different things. And therefore until they do that, I mean that you do put the people in that liberty, as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves[...]"

                -- nor have we; the problems with mob rule are legion, as we've been discovering ever since, to the extent that even the most committed democrats loathe, under the name of "politics", the very system they purport to venerate. (Pity it never seems to occur to them that, under a system where the mob's trend or fad or hysteria du jour doesn't risk turning the whole world on its ear, the politics they so loathe need not exist at all!)

                Even under mob rule, buying the nuclear plants off their current owners and handing them over to the Nucleonics Corps, or equivalent, would solve some problems -- that said, and democracy being what it is, we still wouldn't have something really reliable, until we replace the government we have, with the government we need.

              2. Andydaws

                Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

                I am one of those engineers, at least by original training (and has found the standards of the private sector "British Energy" markedly higher than they were in my days when I trained with the CEGB/NNC, but we'll leave that to one side for the moment).

                There's one essential you seem to be missing here.

                Cost.

                I'll agree that fuson is likely to be one day technically viable. Don't forget however, there is a major radioactivity problem - the majority of the energy leaves the fusion reaction in the form of high energy neutrons, which not only activate the reactor structures themselves, but require the reactor to be surreounded with a capture blanket, in which these neutrons can first transfer their energy to a moderator type material (probably lithium or similar) and ultimately be captured. That too is likely to involve significant production of radioactive products of various types.

                However, we're seeing nothing at the moment that suggests that fuson plant is likely to be other than horrendously expensive - ITER, even at just 500MWth is looking likely to cost well north of €20Bn to complete; that's for a plant that lacks any steam-raising or other "balance of plant", and would be good for perhaps 150-200MW of electrical output. Weas yet don't have the faintest idea of the likely operating costs of a commercial scale plant, beyond knowing that they're likely to be extremely high - those neutron flux issues will mean that almost everthing will require remote handling, and the plant is hugely more complex than the internals or associated plant of a fission reactor.

                Even assuming we we able to add all the balance of plant without inflating costs, and reduce by a factor of ten the unit cost of a fusion plant itself (on a €/MW basis, by scaling and avoiding FOAK costs), and achieve similar unit operational costs to a fission plant, we'd be looking at unit output cost in the £350-400/MWh range - or about 5 times the unit cost of output from a new generation fission plant.

                That's a phenpmenally tall order.

            2. Philip Lewis
              Holmes

              Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

              Aaron, I hope this was at least a little tongue in cheek

              "Let us usher in a new era of responsible, professional rule"

              ... because, that would in all likelihood put the James Hansen's of the world in power, and for the life of me, I cannot think of a more horrifying scenario. He (and more than a few of his ilk) is(are) already in positions of extreme administrative power now, despite that we have a functional democracy (well sort of).

              IMHO, politicized science manipulated by "politicians with agendas" masquerading as scientists is more dangerous than democracy, and sadly, politicized is what I suspect would become of your "professional rule".

              1. Aaron Em

                Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

                Not tongue-in-cheek at all, Philip, -- that said, Hansen is but one of many who'd be lustrated under the regime I have in mind.

                Preferably, said lustration would be by means of enforced retirement from public life, at a pension equaling whatever he's making annually right now; both kindness, and the desire to avoid excess sanguinity during the process of transition, demand it.

                But if he can't surrender his political ambitions, even when it becomes inescapably clear they will never go anywhere again...Well, it shouldn't take more than a few hours for a work crew to erect both a gallows and a gibbet, somewhere nice and public like the Washington Mall -- I'd put it in front of the Lincoln Memorial, myself. Sic semper technocrates!

                To be as clear as possible on the subject: I am a royalist. Any monarch worth the crown would recognize Hansen and his ilk for what they are, and give them exactly as short a shrift as they deserve.

                1. Philip Lewis
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

                  Fair enough.

        2. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Fusion might work someday. Fission works *now*.

          It isn't quite objecting to holes in the ground, understanding the situation provides for a solution. The objection is to holes in the side of volcanoes as they are the home of Pele. It doesn't preclude other locations. Disrespecting other peoples views as primitive is not helpful.

          With respect to fusion vs fission. Fission has a place in our future unless or until fusion is proven practical. The issues with fusion are largely political (and vested interests). We have fusion that doesn't generate a surplus of energy, under construction now is ITER which should see plasma injected before the end of the decade. In theory it should take about 50MW to run and output 500MW. We thought fission was 'the answer' so we neglected fusion, then we dragged our feet. Finally we are close to answers.

          There are lots of questions over fusion, it may not be awesome but right now we do have to look. It is more environmentally sound than fission, we just need to move a lot quicker towards getting answers about its practicality. I think its reasonable to say if we can get a cleaner nuclear process, its worth a look right? It might not work, but so far the signs say it will.

          We need to start a gradual shift away from coal, then away from gas but this cannot happen until we have somewhere to go. Solar / geothermal and nuclear are our current most realistic options. In time fusion may replace fission (I ackowledge it may not but we need to find out quicker than we are) or something else may come along. I think whats clear is that breeding like rabbits and exhausting limited resources at an escalating rate in a manner which polutes the land, air and sea just isn't a long term plan.

          Scepticism is good, beligerance and inactivity isn't. When we put our minds to it we can be smart. Engineers with slide rules and log tables built a passenger plane that reliably exceeded twice the speed of sound. We have managed to stand on the moon and get home again. Concentrating a little more on making our lives more sustainable and a little less of big brother and idle american isn't beyond the realms of possibility.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Please spare a thought for poor old Mr. Question Mark

      He gets really excited when he sees someone writing a question. To not punctuate it at the end with help from our dear friend the question mark is putting him out of a job! He is lonely and unloved, can't we find some room for him in our hearts?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "No matter how much information you give people, if their minds are made up, their minds are made up,"

    I'm usually as cynical as the next man, but I do like to think that with a persuasive, well thought-out and factually backed-up enough argument, any intelligent person can be brought round. This "oh they'll never listen" stance is sometimes far too defeatist an attitude.

    1. Jason Hall

      @AC

      "I'm usually as cynical as the next man, but I do like to think that with a persuasive, well thought-out and factually backed-up enough argument, any intelligent person can be brought round. This "oh they'll never listen" stance is sometimes far too defeatist an attitude."

      Where is this magical place you live. It certainly isn't in the real world?

    2. h4rm0ny

      Just remember, you may not change the mind of the person you are arguing with, but you may change the minds of those listening to you both.

    3. Pete B

      Think the key word there is "...intelligent..."

    4. Nightkiller

      I like Ben-Gurion's response in the Movie "Cast a Giant Shadow": "We will listen to all of the reasons why it cannot be done and then we will do it."

    5. Marshalltown
      Trollface

      Intelligent?

      Remember that half the population falls on the left side of the bell-curve to begin with. And among the ones that aren't there are more than enough who are nominally intelligent, who still don't want to use it for anything so involved as analytical thought.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Intelligent?

        "Remember that half the population falls on the left side of the bell-curve to begin with"

        But those on the right-side of the bell-curve have more influence.

  7. Campbell
    Mushroom

    Blue

    Ah the Greens, nothing will every be good enough. But wait! Here's a novel idea, why don't you stop bitchin and moanin and come up with some frackin ideas?

    1. Luther Blissett

      Re: Blue

      Here's a frackin' good idea. Instead of using water+additives to frack wells, why not use an alkane gel? Comes back up as gas, and contamination of water is impossible.

      Been done. The process has already fracked over a 1000 wells. More expensive than water, so with shale gas prices at historic lows in the USA, the bak-of-envelope calc needs looking at by a bean-counter - and I don't mean bean-eater.

      Frackin' marvelous. Enough to make a Green green with envy. Ideas - the Greens just don't have new ones.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Blue

        "Here's a frackin' good idea. Instead of using water+additives to frack wells, why not use an alkane gel? Comes back up as gas, and contamination of water is impossible."

        It's interesting, but I would guess the logic is as follows: the people who do the frakking believe that water+additives is safe and wont contaminate water tables, therefore there is no advantage to using the gel. Secondly, whatever they do, the loudest parts of the environmental movement will still condemn them and shout that it's unsafe. Thus more cost for no benefit, unless groups like Friends of the Earth were willing to take a more nuanced view of things, which in my experience they are not.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's all about image

    Dont worry about it.... now that Pippa of the wonderful arse is working in Geothermal, I think that even hardened Greenos (like Pinkos, but even more moronic) might decide it's a good idea...

    http://thinkgeoenergy.com/archives/7702

  9. wiggers
    Alert

    FUD

    All new technologies, with the possible exception of digital watches, have been met by fear and loathing by those who managed to avoid the sciences at school because they were 'boring'. The loom, steam engines, electricity, nuclear power, mobile phones...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: FUD

      I think digital watches were accused of being channels of mind control due to the "crystal" inside and/or of sapping your "life energy" (probably causing your ectoplasm to dry out or something).

  10. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    Pint

    The goal?

    Hair shirts for all. Seriously.

    They'd be unhappy if everyone had a cold fusion brick in the their basement, and another one tucked into their emission-free hypercar.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The goal?

      That's one of the reasons I'd really like to see the Polywell fusor a.k.a. Bussard fusor be shown to work. Not only do I want to see a clean source of power, but I REALLY want to see the various "greens" (note: scare quotes) deal with a power source that is hard to argue against from a logical perspective.

      1. Veldan
        Facepalm

        Re: The goal?

        "but I REALLY want to see the various "greens" (note: scare quotes) deal with a power source that is hard to argue against from a logical perspective."

        Hasn't stopped them so far...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    doh

    there's always one.

    (moron that is)

  12. Beamerboy
    Mushroom

    Far too obvious

    Why do something cheap and easy when there is expensive and complex! Geothermal works well in the countries where there are already volcanoes and earthquakes, see Iceland for example, but they survive, not sure a bit of fracking will really cause any issue to the stable Great British Isles. Environmental lunacy!

    1. BoldMan

      Re: Far too obvious

      Where do you get this idea that Britain is stable? There are regular earthquakes across the UK and there is a huge rift fault across Scotland (Loch Ness sits in the fault trench). The earthquakes aren't very powerful but there are plenty of areas that are geothermally active. Stick a borehole down in Dartmoor and you'll get hot water out of it.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Hidden agenda.

    It's simple really. The diehard greenies don't want renewable or clean power.

    What they're after is the world living a bucolic, rural, low-tech existance[1] in harmony with nature and cutting off the power, causing the collapse of modern civilisation, is an obvious route to this. You may wish to think of their ideal as an Iron Age agrarian hell. I do.

    [1] And I'll bet that bloody sandals are in there somewhere too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hidden agenda.

      Indeed, they tend to have a similar philosophy to a certain US and UN backed Cambodian genocidal dictator and his band of merry men (they fought the Communist vietnamese don't you know)...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hidden agenda.

        "(they fought the Communist vietnamese don't you know)"

        ... who some time after booting the imperialists out of their own country decided to rally round and kick his self-righteous ass deep into the jungle where he was never heard from again.

    2. tkioz

      Re: Hidden agenda.

      People who want to live "as nature intended" need to be hit with a clue bat. I've seen nature up close and person, unlike most of those city dwelling morons who think it is a good idea... Nature is nasty, cold, brutish, and bloody. It's not a good thing. We cleared out of that existence on the backs of our ancestors and now these idiots want us to go back so they can feel self-righteous? Hell no.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
  14. Thomas 18
    Thumb Up

    People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

    like to complain about other things too. It's like everyone one of them has their particular solution in mind and none of them are willing to consider others.

    I propose we build nothing but:

    nuclear power plants in the UK

    solar power plants in Australia

    Geothermal plants in the US

    Wind power plants in Russia

    Coal power in China

    And tidal power in Germany (as a punitive measure for all the wars they've started).

    Then we can see which population dies off last and conclude the most effective power source.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

      "(as a punitive measure for all the wars they've started)"

      It was over seventy years ago you can hardly blame Germany now for what was done in their name then. You can't have possibly been alive at the time, maybe you should grow up a bit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wars

        Can't possibly have been alive? No, I am sure that there are no living people in the world that are more than 70 years old.

      2. Thomas 18
        Facepalm

        Re: People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

        Or you could get a sense of humour?

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

        Welcome to a renewal of the Morgenthau Plan?

        And if you talk "wars started", I guess the UK would have to go the way of Atlantis. Then be shat upon.

  15. vulcan

    Let's face it, the Greens are against all forms of alternative power. They don't like wind farms because they spoil the view, they don't like off shore wind farms because they disrupt the marine eccology.

    They will be happy when we all go back to the stone age, live in small groups (so no travel) and keep warm and cook using fire.

    Oh, hang on, that won't work becase burning stuff puts more CO2 up there.

  16. Lord Voldemortgage

    Greens Treatment

    Of course there isn't a single group of 'environmentalists' or 'greens' - plenty who would describe themselves as such support both nuclear and geothermal energy programmes and are not motivated by apocalyptic disaster scenarios.

    I don't see where polarising the argument gets anyone - scaring the floaters into line with the threat of ridicule isn't the way to win support long term.

    We need a true consensus arrived at without slandering opponents.

  17. mark 63 Silver badge
    Meh

    we're saved!

    I didnt know geothermal was any kind of option outside iceland and other volcanic areas , so this is good news.

    I'm against hydrocarbons - because they will imminently run out

    I'm for windfarms - even if its in my backyard making a noise

    does this make me a crazy enviromentalist? I just wanna stay warm - and with the running out of fossil fuels we are gonna be forced to align with nature.

    I have read much about the 'end of oil' and the alternatives, and its not a pretty picture. at all

    Very little mention was made of Geo , but now "Greenwire" say that geo could produce "three times the nation’s current energy production capacity" ?

    very optimistic

    oh wait, I mis read "Production capacity" as "demand". In the US there is a huge difference:

    Demand : Largest per head and per country in the world - 20 million barrels per day

    Production capacity - virtually nil

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: we're saved!

      "I just wanna stay warm - and with the running out of fossil fuels we are gonna be forced to align with nature."

      That was what the greens were worried about a generation ago. The problem now is that we've demonstrated that fossil fuels will *not* run out anytime soon. We have several centuries of coal lying about and many decades of oil and gas as extraction techniques improve.

      Of course, all the time that the political focus is kept on energy production, the destruction of habitats proceeds unchecked. (Sure, lots of greenies care about this too, but when they get the ear of a politician it is CO2 at the top of the list and we all know that politicians can't cope with lists of more than one item, so you can guess the rest.) In a couple of centuries time, we'll still be here, along with various species of arthropod vermin and lots of bacteria. Whether anything else survives is debatable.

      1. mark 63 Silver badge

        Re: plenty of fuel

        Ken i wish i shared your optimism on the "centuries of coal lying about and many decades of oil and gas as extraction techniques improve"

        can you point at any references? independant ones?

        A lot of the stuff i read is what you'd call "the peak oil brigade" and comes acrosss a bit paranoid - but i just cant fault the logic , the figures and the historical patterns.

        even if all the alternatives are ronded up , the lag time on the adjustment will be enough for society to tear itself apart.

        Best case scenarion - you are right - then in 50 years what will the population be? a sqaure foot each?

        1. YetAnotherBob
          Holmes

          Re: plenty of fuel

          The US is the 3rd or 4th largest producer of petroleum. The problem is that it is the largest user of petroleum. That is changing, as next year, China is expeceted to be the largest user of oil.

          The current known reserves of petroleum are sufficient for an estimated 50 years. The current reserves of coal are sufficient for an estimated 400 years, both at current usage rates.

          The current known reserves of Uranium are sufficient for an estimated 200 years. That is using existing technology. Using both plutonium, existing stocks of depleted Uranium, and thorium, Nuclear can be stretched out to 500 to 1000 years.

          Population growth has slowed. Europe and most of Asia now have declinimg populations. The fastest shrinking is currently Japan. China is expected to see population decline beginning in about 5 years. The population in the US and Canada is below reproduction levels, but is increasing by importing people from other areas of the world. UN projections have the maximumm population reached around 2050, at 9 Billion. It is currently around 7 Billion.

          Food supplies, if used wisely, and farmed effectivly could feed 15 Billion at modern European levels. That is just using currently available farm land, at current US farm efficiency.So, it looks like food won't be a problem, unless we turn to Bio Fuels, and start burning food again.

          For energy supplies, Fusion continues to be 20 years away, just as it has been since 1937. It's hard. A hot charged plasma creates electric current that make magnetic fields which oppose any fields used to contain it. For every step closer to a solution, we find two new problems.

          Also, every power generation has problems Coal dirties the air, as do oil fired power plants. Gas power plants produce CO2. Solar power plants heat the area, and shade the ground, preventing plant growth, which can collapse entire ecosystems if used extensively. Wind kills flying things, and if used large scale will impact rainfall patterns and reduce available fresh water supplies. Nuclear has radioactive by products (for a while). Geothermal appears to increase the incidence of earthquakes. Hydro power drowns entire ecosystems.

          It seems that no matter what we do, we have an impact on the world around us.

          What is needed is a real cost/benifit analysis.

          But, political opinions are mainly emotional, and do not respond rapidly to mere facts. Don't expect the "Greens" to change quickly. It will take a decade before they move to forbit any further Wind/Solar/Ocean current/wave energy schemes. That will be after they have experienced the harm those do several times.

          1. catprog

            Re: plenty of fuel

            >The current known reserves of petroleum are sufficient for an estimated 50 years. The current reserves of coal are sufficient for an estimated 400 years, both at current usage rates.

            >The current known reserves of Uranium are sufficient for an estimated 200 years. That is using existing technology. Using both plutonium, existing stocks of depleted Uranium, and thorium, Nuclear can be stretched out to 500 to 1000 years.

            the key word their is current usage rates.

            At just 1%/year increase

            42 years of petroleum

            163 years of coal

            112 years of current Uranium

            182-242 years with depleted Uranium, and thorium.

            if you go up to 5%/year

            27 years of petroleum

            64 years of coal

            50 years of current Uranium

            68 - 82 years with depleted Uranium, and thorium.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: we're saved!

      Meanwhile, well over 500,000 birds and countless bats are killed annually by wind turbines, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and other experts. The slaughter “could easily be over 500” golden eagles a year in our western states, says Save the Eagles International biologist Jim Wiegand.

  18. Ben 50
    FAIL

    Great parallel

    @Kubla Cant

    Macaulay also painted a ridiculous picture of another group of people's motivations to further his own prejudices.

    Greens are the new Puritans. Orlowski is the new Macaulay.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wasn't there a geothermal source setup in Newcastle ?

    strangely enough ....

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Wasn't there a geothermal source setup in Newcastle ?

      Yep, a 2km borehole into the gloriously named Ninety Fathom-Stublick Fault Zone to see if the underlying basement granite contains hot water. There is also geothermal district heating in Southampton.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > But it’s hard to see where else those environmentalists who are against hydrocarbons and nuclear energy can turn for low-carbon energy. Unless power cuts really are the goal.

    Their goal is to bring the developed world down to the developing worlds levels of affluence when it should be the other way round. One way of doing this is to restrict the amount of energy available.

  21. Peter Storm
    Unhappy

    "No matter how much information you give people, if their minds are made up, their minds are made up,"

    That's because you're just trying to confuse their intellectually challenged little minds with the facts.

  22. Ninetailed

    Goodness, the straw men are out in force today.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Is there enough to feed a bio-fuel power station?

  23. Rogier van Vlissingen

    Throwing out the baby with the bathwater too...

    Besides the issue raised in the article, which addresses an interesting set of problems related to deep geothermal energy, there is another more unfortunate issue, which is that there is a tendency in an uninformed press, to confuse all geothermal energy to be deep geothermal, like they do in Iceland, and which has its fair share of problems, that certainly need to be addressed in a serious way. However vast tracts of geothermal use only heat exchange with the largest solar collector in the world - the earth's crust, and if done right are remarkably effective, and relatively simple to deploy. This stuff gets lost in the shuffle sometimes.

  24. PeterC

    Lets all cross our fingers....

    Well it was always going to be tough as global population/consumption rose and the finite "cost effective" availability of fossil fuels came ever closer - weve known this since the 1970's - just chosen to ignore it. There are plenty of options open to us with regards energy - but they come with associated problems and risks on every financial and enviromental level you can imagine. For the current generation(s) whove lived through the era of being able to flick a switch and "everything just works regardless of cost" it is, and will continue to be a very hard process of change and adapting to a different and as yet - undefined future with regards energy.

    One of the problems we have is as humans were often guided in our decision making by the lure of "large profits" which doesnt always mean its the most long term or best solution/outcome for our future society.

    Were in a tight spot for sure - and whatever your political/enviromental persuasion we will likely need to use every drop of available "current energy technology" we can until we can come up with whatever will be our future energy solution, of course we might not actualy come up with something, or find that technically we have something on paper, but dont have the available energy reserves from fossil fuels left to quite literally re-tool the world to this new energy form. Its my last point which actually concerns me. We have a huge amount of legacy "industrial and consumer" machinery around the globe which can only exist and work through some kind of internal combustion engine - manufacturing new kit globally that works on an as yet undefined "tech" with what known reserves weve got left, will in my opinion be the challenge of a lifetime. Electricty is going to be in such demand we'd best hope that govt's around the globe start building alot of new power stations, although lodr knows what will power them and we'd best prey they rebuild the national grid to take the strain or end up like India recently. And when I say a new national grid I do mean something new... not extending the one weve got whihc wastes some 30% of iys energy in radiated heat loss becasue we need to keep power levels available for thos who want to" flick a switch and its just there...."

    Sorry people - whatever tech you believe in we will all HAVE to learn to use far less, no a lot less energy than we do now, and we need to make a start at it, rather than wait for your neighbour to do it first. Oh and lets keep all our fingers crossed we can find that elusive new energy tech that can actually be harnesssed, constructed around the globe..... right im off to rub some sticks for my fire....

    1. Filippo

      Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

      No. No, we don't. We don't have to do with less. That's just something you're saying. I mean, I agree with you that we're wasting a lot of power and that we should do something about this, but nobody can confidently say that we can't just go on like this for the next ten thousand years. Maybe we can, maybe we can't, but this rhetoric that there is an energy ceiling, that we're close to it, and that those who disagree are obviously insane really needs to stop. Every single person who predicted apocalypse in the last ten thousand years has always been wrong; consider the possibility that you could be wrong too.

      1. PeterC

        Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

        hi Filippo ... its not something im saying you know... I dont know about you but I get every energy supplier in the UK sending me paper mail outs telling me to use less energy, insulate more, look at alternatives etc admitedley so as to sell me something they offer. Central Govt is telling us all one way or another to use less... buy anyway....

        As for energy ceilings ... well I think it may depend on where you live in the world whether you think there is one or not. My friends in London would look at me and wonder what Iw as talkking about, my friends in Uganda would know exactly what im talking about, as for me as long as the wind doesnt blow too hard up here i get mains electricty..... although the wind blows hard 2-3 months a year and our supply stops.

        Please dont think im predicting an apocalypse.... (your words)... im predicting a very hard challenge re-tooling at some point.....

        1. JP19

          Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

          "every energy supplier in the UK sending me paper mail outs telling me to use less energy"

          Because they are forced to spend some of the money we pay them to tell us to use less energy and on generally ineffective energy efficiency improvements and farcically expensive and inefficient renewable generation schemes.

          Governments raising taxation to spend money on the same thing would be very unpopular (excepting environmentalist tossers) so forcing the energy companies to effectively tax and spend for them is a jolly good wheeze. They strut around preening their green credentials claiming "look how green and planet saving we are, spending billions on renewable offshore wind generation" while what they really did is told the energy companies to build this useless and very expensive generating capacity and bill your customers for it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

      We have that technology. It is called nuclear.

      1. PeterC

        Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

        Yes it probably is at the moment. Although it will cost us a fortune in subsidies and dealing with the spent fuel etc... much like quantative easing... we will push the problem down the road to our children and theirs etc

    3. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

      If you don't like oil then a high oil price (I'm not sure why you need to put scare quotes around "large profits") is the best thing you can wish for.

      Because investments are pouring into oil alternatives now. They didn't when oil was cheap.

      As a green, you should be praying for large profits every night.

      "Sorry people - whatever tech you believe in we will all HAVE to learn to use far less"

      That argument was lost a long time ago.

      1. PeterC

        Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

        very funny... "scare quotes"... (your words not mine I call them quote marks). Im merely pointing out that the drive for *large profits* (asteriks not scare quotes) does not always mean the best for society as a whole.... and ermm if the last 4 years hasnt taught us all that then we are truly screwed.

        Im pleased investments are pouring into oil alternatives, lets see what actually transpires for us consumers though.... as I doubt we will be able to afford it in the way we will be forced to.

        As for me im just becoming as self sufficient or as effciient as possible with the utilities we buy in so as to keep our monthly cost of living down and where possible look at alternatives where the money you do pay goes towards a better future for those to follow, its not rocket science or grenn, just common sense.

        Interesting you say the argument for using less was lost a long time ago...... I guess you must live in a major city or an area/region of abundence then, or simply have a substantial income with which to buy all you need? Where I live near a town of 20,000 people, 500 families are registered as living in severe poverty, have trouble paying energy bills, food costs and transport costs ... this is in central england, they have learned to use much much less than the families around them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

          > 500 families are registered as living in severe poverty, have trouble paying energy bills, food costs and transport costs

          Their energy bills are 14% higher than they should be due to subsidies for wind and solar. Since the companies who produce and transport and sell the food also have higher energy bills the food prices are also higher.

          > Although it will cost us a fortune in subsidies and dealing with the spent fuel etc (nuclear)

          I guess with all those nuclear costs electricity in France must be really expensive. Oh wait a minute France was charging €0.0697/kWh and the UK €0.1019/kWh last November (industrial customers). That is 46% more in the wind powered UK than the nuclear powered France.

          1. PeterC

            Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

            @ ac.. your figures for french nuclear electricty look interesting. Do you have the figures to hand for how much the UK's nuclear industry is subsidised through uk govt and tax payers too? As I understand it those sdame nuclear subsidies come into the game as much as wind and solar... in fact our new gen of nuclear plants will require a whole new level of subsidies to ensure private companies will get on baoard to help build them....

    4. John Diffenthal

      Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

      My understanding is that HV line distribution efficiency is well above your figures. The losses arise partly because we authorise the creation of power generation well away from population centres - physics takes care of the rest. If you build a generator in the north of Scotland to supply power to the south coast of Hampshire then don't be surprised if you lose a proportion of it on the way.

      There are alternatives, but a surprisingly simple one would be to build generators close to where the power is used.

      1. PeterC

        Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

        exactly...

  25. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

    That's because the UK has sod all high quality geothermal potential. Around Dartmoor is the best place and even that's not great. If you want realistic figures, MacKay's book says the biggest estimate of geothermal capacity in the UK comes to 1.1 kWh/day/person, which is about 2.75 MW, or 4/5ths of fuck all compared to the national electricity base load of 20/40 GW (summer/winter).

    Which is a shame, because when you've got it, geothermal is good.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

      That's using the OLD methods.

      MacKay's book is very out of date now.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

        @Andrew Orlowski: "MacKay's book is very out of date now"

        Published 2009 - not exactly written in Latin. :-)

        However, when it comes to geothermal power you're right about the new methods being better - the 2050 pathways document from DECC gives a "maximum technically feasible" capacity of 4-5GW. Technically feasible is always larger, sometimes much larger, than economically feasible, but even a GW or two is not to be sniffed at. The problem won't be the hippy type greens though, it'll be CPRE and Bill Bryson whingeing about how pylons spoil the rugged beauty of Dartmoor.

        Anybody should be completely free to object to power infrastructure in their area, but only on the condition that they have smart meters fitted and can be cut off whenever the grid needs to shed load. Nothing like bringing home the consequences of one's choices. :-)

      2. Aitor 1

        Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

        Yep, you are quite right.

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

      But if you look at Devon and Cornwall which have the highest geothermal gradients, you could put power plants there which would satisfy a large proportion of local consumption and relieve their dependence of being at the end of a very long distribution system which is vulnerable to damage.

      Also, even if you don't use geothermal for power generation, it can make for an excellent heat source for homes.

  26. Filippo
    Flame

    Power cuts *are* the goal. There is a substantial, and very vocal, subset of the environmentalist movement which believes that using large amounts of energy is intrinsically evil and will cause the apocalypse, and also that technological solutions are always intrinsically flawed.

    Basically, the real problem is that modern life is too complex to deal with - we have oceans of possibilities in front of us every day, we can interact with the whole planet, and if we want to make the right choices we need to develop an increasingly more complex mental model of how the world works. Some people can't deal with that and would love to turn back the clock to a time when your world was roughly ten miles wide, and could be easily understood - local production of all basic necessities, very little long-range travel, not many foreigners around, no large-scale projects. Not needing to know the internal politics of Iraq in order to figure out who to vote for. Not needing to learn new things every day just to keep your job.

    Of course, you can't just drop everything and go live in a commune, because then you would see that other people can keep on living happily in the modern world without you, and that would be like admitting that you're dumber than them. No, *everybody* needs to switch to the low-gear lifestyle. Constraining energy supply is one of the best ways to achieve that scenario. And threatening megadeath is one of the best ways to get people to constrain energy supply.

    But make no mistake - if solar suddenly became as economic and practical as coal, these guys would start finding something wrong with solar within five days.

    1. PeterC

      Im not sure the population in India who almost completely lost the national grid for days would feel that power cuts are the goal. Using large amounts of energy is not evil if you can pay for it, using large amounts of energy when you could be saving say 20% - 30% through more efficient practises is just plain stupid.

      As for *living in the modern world* or being able to deal with what you call modern life I guess its up to each of us to choose what that means for each of us individually - I cant see many tibetan mokns being too interested in much of what would appear to be your view of the modern world and all its technological and communication marvels - I doubt they feel that life is any less meaningful for not being one of the 85 million owners of an iphone either. Tibetan monks and other such peoples, live in communes all across the world and I I dont think they feel dumber than your average joe... probably quite the opposite.

      1. Cameron Colley

        @PeterC

        But people in India don't have power due largely to economic factors -- that has no bearing on whether there is some ceiling to how much power a person can or cannot use. When India's economy grows so will its power generation and supply infrastructure.

        You say it's not evil "... if you can pay for it ..." the point is that we in the West can and do -- people still drive SUVs in some states and people still use a plethora of electronic devices. Many of us fly abroad for holidays or business. All of this being taxed for "environmental reasons" yet we can and do still afford it.

        How is preventing someone in the US or Europe using huge amounts of energy helping that Indian without power? You're making the power equivalent of the "There are starving kids in Ethiopia..." argument parents used to try to make their kids finish their tea.

    2. dlr

      Yes, remember the reactions of famous activists/enviromentalists to the idea of the cheap and limitless energy from cold fusion: Paul Ehrlich's said it would be "Like giving an Idiot Child a Machine Gun." And Jeremy Rifkin said "It's the worst thing that could happen to our planet." (apparently because availability of cheap energy would be a signal to simply breed more humans). And as far as I can see, fewer humans is the real goal, everywhere and always for the hard core greens.

      I think their motto is, "Any humans is too many". Presumably they are planning on offing themselves as soon as they have reduced humanity to single digits.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        " Presumably they are planning on offing themselves as soon as they have reduced humanity to single digits."

        But that would *deprive* the world of their great intellect and insight..

        They do give a window into a world view that seems to regard humanity as a huge collection of verminous scum who the planet would *collectively* be better off without.

        It would seem that to them people are guilty of causing harm to the "environment" by the mere fact of their existence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          VHMET

          http://www.vhemt.org/

          Personally, the logical end of the rabid greenie position must be "former membership" of VHMET.

          Rather like the leader of the Youthenasia (I made that word up) in the sci-fi book Logan's run, who topped himself at 23 to "show the way" to sustainable civilisation.

          Dweeb

  27. tkioz
    FAIL

    Most Greens are Idiots

    Most Greens are Idiots. Self-righteous idiots at that. They want the "world" to be all clean and nice... while opposing everything that could do it in an efficient manner, because it offends their delicate sensibilities.

    Just look at their hate-boner for Nuclear Power, the modern designs are safe, clean, and efficient... yet you bring it up to a Greenie and it's like you molested his dog and took a dump on his dinner table. Okay so you suggest Geothermal and they throw a hissy fit about that too...

    Suggest Wind-Farms and they throw a fit about "carbon cost of production" (seriously, I had that conversation once) and then they scream about "danger to birds" (a non-sense argument, since modern farms don't draw them in, but push them away)...

    Hell about the only thing they like is Solar, the most inefficient and costly power generation tech of them all. You could cover the entire Australian outback with the damn things and need conventional power generation to "supplement" it.

    I mean WTH are we suppose to do? They don't seem to understand "a little pollution is better then a lot" they want a perfect solution NOW... Hell we could perfect cold fusion tomorrow and they'd complain about that because "it's nuclear and thus filthy"... Never mind a traditional coal fired power planet generates more radioactive waste then a nuclear power station...

    Gah! I want to clean up our power generation like any sane person, but damn I hate Greens and their "NO NO NO" attitudes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You are an idiot

      * SUPPOSED to

      You may have heard of something called the past tense.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Most Greens are Idiots

      And among the ones that aren't are those with substantial investment in/remuneration from existing 'renewable' energy sources - mainly wind and solar. They will use their not inconsiderable political clout to block any alternatives that will cut off the source of swill from their particular trough. Tim Yeo is an outstanding example.

  28. turkey
    Childcatcher

    Water contamination and fracking

    "...water contamination so dramatically illustrated in Gasland, with domestic water taps jetting out fire, preceded fracking by decades: it’s caused by methane much nearer the surface..."

    I'm no fracking expert, and haven't watched Gasland, but I understand that in order to get to the deep geothermal sources, you need to drill through the surface and through these pockets of methane? I am sure it is possible to detect these pockets and avoid them, and this is probably a common practice, but humans are quite capable of making big mistakes in their enthusiasm to reach the goal, and this raises quite reasonable concerns about water contamination from fracking.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Water contamination and fracking

      " but I understand that in order to get to the deep geothermal sources, you need to drill through the surface and through these pockets of methane?"

      The methane in Gaslands is at the surface. So, no.

      Methane is produced as part of the shale process, comparable to conventional gas extraction. See Howarth (2011) and Cathles (2012) for differing views on how much this might be.

      1. HeyMickey
        Headmaster

        Re: Water contamination and fracking

        Sure, but doesn't most of this new "Hot Dry Rock" geothermal power rely on performing frac jobs on granite which is undergoing/had recently undergone radioactive decay? You know, the kind that evolves Radon gas as it decays...

        PS: It's _frac_ not frack, there is no 'k' in 'hydraulic fracturing'.

    2. Anony-mouse

      Re: Water contamination and fracking

      Fluid migration from lower formations to upper formations (and vice versa) have already been controlled for generations by proper design of protective casing strings being set during the drilling operations. These casing strings, which are also cemented in the well while drilling, effectively isolate the various strata from each other. If this weren't so, then most of the drilling being done for hydrocarbons (as well as other drilling operations such as for geothermal) wouldn't be possible. I don't know too much about geothermal drilling, but I've worked in the oil and gas industry for over 30 years and as long as companies don't try to take shortcuts (yeah I mean you BP and Transocean, you bunch of tossers) to save money or time, this could be as safe as any other economic way of power generation.

      BTW, while I don't know the specifics on it, down in southern Louisiana in Cameron Parish the US DOE did actually operate a geothermal generation plant for some years. They drilled a couple of well down to around 25,000 feet or so and circulated fluid through the wells for steam generation to power a generator. They found that over time, the bottom hole temperature dropped enough to make the project not economically feasible and ended the project.

  29. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Cost?

    You make it sound easy. If wernt for then there dirty greens we'd all be rich and swimming in energy.

    The current hydrothermal systems (Iceland, Western US) is relatively easy and cheap and there is more of that in development but it's limited to a few locations.

    The enhanced geothermal systems you are talking about are expensive, and a lot of the best spots are in the middle of nowhere so you can add transport costs. When you have to drill a hole 6.5 km deep (the depth used as a max in the current map of available energy) the energy cost ends up requiring subsidies like your loved windmills.

    Even if there is no danger at all, most of the energy available is not worth the cost to extract it at current prices.

    And unlike gas, the best hot spots are in fault zones so I'm not sure you can say there is no danger.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cost?

      "Even if there is no danger at all, most of the energy available is not worth the cost to extract it at current prices."

      Of course its worth the 'cost' to extract it, it's nearly fully renewable, endless source of steady energy, where do you get your stats from?

      I'm pro everything that's not oil, even nuclear, sure Chernobyl was an awful disaster but it was old tech, with new tech we can make nuclear energy as safe as solar.

      Reducing our power consumption? To do that we need massive population control or an apocalypse, so no thanks.

      If we want a lot of energy fast for everyone we need to crack down hydrogen storage and efficient extraction from water via radio waves.

      Solar good, nuclear good, wind good, geothermal good, tidal good, hydrogen good, we have a lot of alternatives but we're not using them enough. And eco-terrorists talking smack about things which they have no technical comprehension about does not help to move things forward, in fact it makes things worse. If you protest new technology based on ignorance and bias, you're holding down humanity to even start using alternatives to oil, so you're helping the oil industry you silly pony tailed eco jihadists.

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: Cost?

        "Of course its worth the 'cost' to extract it, it's nearly fully renewable, endless source of steady energy, "

        It's not renewable at all, there is just a lot of it.

        It's not worth the cost if the cost to operate is more then you can sell the power for. If you have to use green subsidies to pay for it you are no better off then windmills / tidal / solar as a solution to the problem.

        There will be some places where it will be worth while (just like wind / solar...) but it's NOT a solution that will give us cheap power everywhere. It's not cold fusion.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Geothermal? Really?

      About 25 years ago I was working on an engineering project at an experimental geothermal station for Pacific Gas and Electric in the western U.S.

      A big problem with the process was that the steam invariably exited the ground at the point of least resistance. As soon as they capped it, putting even the slightest backpressure on it, the steam would find a different exit point, possibly hundreds of feet away. They had miles of pipes running all over the hillside. Perhaps the deep drilling will solve all that.

      The other problem was that the steam wasn't some kind of pure, friendly stuff that we all want to imagine. It was essentially boiling sulphuric acid. It was dangerous to breath the fumes, the stuff would eat away at most pipes, turbines or anything else they tried to pump it through, and the whole process was nearly as expensive as the value of the energy they would have captured.

      Maybe it's cleaner elsewhere. Hope so. But it always saddens me to see articles and hear arguments based almost entirely on politics and rhetoric rather than engineering considerations.

  30. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Geothermal does cause earthquakes - but small ones.

    The big new geothermal plant at Hellisheiði east of Reykjavik has been associated with a sharp uptick in earthquake activity around Hengill and Hveragerði. The earthquakes are being triggered by the injection of water after it has been bled of steam back into the reservoir. The largest of the quakes registers about 3.8 and they come in swarms of hundreds if not thousands spread over days or weeks. 3.8 is a noticeable jolt, but not really dangerous to anyone unless they're in a particularly fragile house - certainly not a problem in Iceland. The problem diminishes with time as the injection wells are brought up to full pressure and the rock around them becomes equally pressurised.

    There have been no effects on the water table at Hellisheiði, although if you do visit the power station (and it is beautiful), you can't help but notice that geothermal has one big downside - hydrogen sulfide. But if that is the worst problem - bring it on!

    The second big geothermal plant near Reykjavik at Svartsengi is also being used as a demonstration plant for methanol production. CO2 which is brought up in the well water is being separated and reacted with hydrogen to produce 5 million litres of methanol which will be added to petrol which is the country's biggest import by far.

    http://www.carbonrecycling.is/

    Geothermal in Britain is more difficult as our geothermal gradient is pitiful in comparison to Iceland and large parts of the US. However, it would be good to see some imagination in putting the resources of Devon, Cornwall and the Peak District to work in generating clean electricity.

  31. Blitheringeejit
    Stop

    Re " the most successful political movement of the past few decades, environmentalism"

    Not grinding an axe on either mentalist side here, but really? In the UK, one Green MP in one general election. I don't know much about other countries, and the Greens are doing OK in Germany - but I see no Green Party representatives in the US, only one in Canada (OK I got this from Wikipedia, feel free to correct me), and in most of Europe the Greens do somewhat worse than Communists, of whom no-one seems to be afraid any more.

    Just as those who call themselves environmentalists can be lazy and ignorant of what they speak, environmentalist-bashers often are too. The trick is to dispense with the whole Daily-Mail adversarial yar-boo approach and concentrate on the science - and specifically on the question of atmospheric carbon. Which is why it's depressing to find that the yar-boo approach still seems to dominate debate on El Reg - not just among commentards, but also on the part of Mr Orlowski, of whom we have a right to expect better.

    We need to take the focus off any quasi-moral dilemma about having equitable distribution, or issues around the economics of power generation and consumption - those are all human vanities, and irrelevant to the urgent issue - which (IMHO) is the simple engineering challenge of reducing the amount of carbon we dump in the atmosphere in order to power our lives, because this constitutes a significant change to the planet's ecosystem, and we can't be sure that it won't be apocalyptic for humanity. I'm not a mentalist in either camp, but I'm risk-averse, and in the absence of any control in our planetary carbon experiment, I would rather cut my consumption until I'm sure that we have an apocalypse-averting solution to current consumption levels - whether it comes from fission, fusion, renewables, diesel-shitting algae, or billions of wheel-driving hamsters on crystal meth.

    I don't even think it's useful to include the environmental impact of carbon extraction or renewable generation infrastructure in the urgent damage-limitation exercise we have to undertake. A lot of those arguments cut both ways, and no-one ever died of a spoiled view.

    Let's concentrate on what might kill us first, and worry about knocking down the stupid arguments of stupid people when we have the luxury of some energy security.

    Oh - one other thing. Rampant Spaniel - "...religious objections to geothermal"...? Really? Have you tried telling these religious people how much money they could make if they harvested the wealth of geothermal in Hawaii and sold it to Europe in zero-carbon form? I would so love to see flotillas of liquid hydrogen powered liquid hydrogen tankers bunging up the Panama canal...

  32. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    >> But it’s hard to see where else those environmentalists who are against hydrocarbons and nuclear energy can turn for low-carbon energy.

    Im my experience, they seem to fall into two groups.

    One group has drunk at the wind power "cool aid" tap and believes that wind power can be considered a reliable source of electricity - discussions about intermittency etc are met with a shrug and either "we'll buy it from where it *is* windy"[1] or "storage"[2].

    The other (larger IMO) group simply haven't even thought about it - they "just believe" that lots of renewables (usually windmills) can do the job, we just haven't thrown enough subsidy at it yet.

    >> Unless power cuts really are the goal.

    Sadly, for a significant number, that *IS* the goal.

    It's also my perception that a significant number (at least of the 'vocal' type) are deliberately dishonest - either that or distinctly lacking in intelligence. A not uncommon statement of "fact" is that nuclear can never ever be clean or safe - after all, look at the state of those 40 year old plants at Fukushima. Meanwhile, wind turbines are getting better and better all the time. Ie, when it suits them, they can't allow for any techonological progress, but when it suits them the other way, it's progress all the way.

    [1] It's been shown that not infrequently there can be static high pressure over large parts of North/West Europe such that there's 'not a lot'; of wind from anywhere'

    [2] Yup, try explaining to someone who is either technically illiterate or doing a good impression that stacking up a few old car batteries won't do much !

  33. John Galt

    Has someone actually solved the technical problems?

    US DOE was studying dry rock geothermal 30+ years ago at Jimez near Los Alamos. There's a fundamental physical chemistry problem. I'd be fascinated to hear if someone has solved it.

    Hot water (> 150 C) dissolves quartz and pretty much anything else w/ ease. Which would be OK except that when you cool it down by extracting the heat energy from the water, all the dissolved solids come out of solution and plug up the pipes. So far as I know there's no way to avoid that. All those pretty quartz crystals you see in rock shops and new age stores were grown by precipitation from hot water circulating in the earth.

    However, it may be that at higher energy prices you can afford to clean the pipes.

    As for the heat source, it's actually non-renewable nuclear energy, so maybe that's the issue for the Greens.

  34. Eradicate all BB entrants

    A suggestion

    I believe the reason why the Green organisations fight any forms of potential renewable, clean, cheap energy is that it affects money being given to them.

    Once we have oodles of clean energy there will be no need for them, as the processes that are developed to produce it will filter into the rest of the industrial base meaning cleaner manufacturing methods as well. They are lobby organisations, and as long as there is a reason to lobby, people and governments will continue to throw cash at them.

    In short the greenies do not want to lose their jobs.

  35. vgrig_us

    "environmentalism, has relied so heavily on apocalypse"

    "environmentalism, has relied so heavily on apocalypse"

    i always thought that environmentalists and religious doomsdayers are same.

    just one example: very prominent environmentalist in one small country i know, 10-15 years before he became the voice for "green" weighted the soul of the rabbit : put it on the scales alive, killed it, put it on the scales again. Got a difference of few grams.

  36. JEDIDIAH
    Linux

    Just an anti-green pile on in here...

    I am rather disappointed with you lot that you are so eager to gloss over the obvious likely risks of taking a chemical cocktail and pumping it into the ground under high pressure. Anyone with half a brain and the ability to think critically should be giving fracking a great deal of scrutiny.

    You seem willing to over look the obvious just because you don't like the messenger.

    If the Greens declared the sky was blue, would you deny that too?

  37. Aitor 1

    fracking

    Fracking, generally speaking, IS dangerous. And the danger is for those living near the fracturing. not those who benefit from it. The dangers are known, not "suspected".

    Using chemicals to frack, is a really bad idea: you WILL put dangerous chemicals in the water and the environment. It might be a necessary evil, but still, not nice. But people like to drive their cars and having warm homes.

    Hidraulic fracturing for geothermal power doesn't need chemicals apart from those used to drill (mud): nothing to write home about if you use the correct (expensive) mud. You just need to legislate this.

    Operation does consume lots of water, but compared to the alternatives, it really is a good idea in most (but not all) places.

  38. 4ecks
    Trollface

    Geothermal will kill all life!

    OK, here's the sciency reason against Geothermal -

    Extracting heat-energy from the planet, converting it to "useful" energy (electricity), and then eventually back to heat will, due to entropy, kill everything.

    The atmosphere will heat up and the oceans boil away. The big ball of molten iron at the earths core will become solid, we will lose the magnetic fields protecting us from solar particles and all life will cease to be.

    Earth will become as barren as Mars !

    /very small print on

    This of course won't happen for many millennia, and the Earth will probably get hit by a "planet-killer" lump of rock first.

    /very small print off

    p.s. this research is (c) me, and may not be used by any ecomentalist greenies to argue their case - they've got to come up with their own absurd spin.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Geothermal will kill all life!

      You're not a *real* troll at all, are you?

      Nice work.

  39. Naughtyhorse

    the most successful political movement of the past few decades, environmentalism

    say what??

    dont you think that the product of John Nash's beautiful but fundamentally broken mind - Game Theory, that's given us thatcherism, reaganism, unfettered de-regulated markets for everything, and got everyone playing the worlds biggest game of 'fuck you buddy' might have been just a tad more successful?

  40. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    Actually the UK has quite a lot of geothermal potential

    The single borehole techniques studied in the 70s to reuse North Sea oil wells estimated power outputs of 500-1000 Kw per borehole with *no* fluid extraction/re-injection being used.

    A typical production platform drills about 20 wells on a site and the Earths crust is thin at these points c 900m, about the depths of those in Texas.

    EU funds have trialled inert closed loop fluid systems driving turbines at this range with fluid boiling points fo 35deg C and above. The fluids are inert and non toxic.

    The temperature differential is low (but not bad with the North Sea as a heat sink) so about 7% electrical from the thermal with a 30 year life expectancy of the equipment. and a million year life expectancy of the heat source.

  41. Latimer Alder
    Happy

    Great writing

    I entirely endorse the view that many self-declared 'environmentalists' have allowed their emotions and their panic to completely overrule their rational judgement. And when challenged they respond only with more emotional tirades.

    If and when they put their brains back in their skulls and can conduct a rational discussion, perhaps they will have soemthing useful to say. But until then they should be ignored.

    It all proves that Care in the Community was a misguided (if understandable) policy.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The goal of mankind should be to reverse our current production of waste, all kinds of waste, and create an environmentally safe system.

    We are exterminating biodiversity at an incredible pace, even bees are affected - if bees become extinct, humankind will have a couple of years to find a solution or vanish.

    Pumping tons of highly toxic stuff into the soil is not really what I call environmentally safe - be it of organic origin, since this no longer has a meaning - bacteria are genetically manipulated to produce any substance that then gets the "organic" adjective attached.

    Wind energy and solar energy on their own are jokes, although both can contribute.

    Nuclear energy, fusion and fission, is too little to late and as costly as dirty, respectively. I once saw a calculation that we could have millions of people producing energy on bicycles for 100 years paying each a Fortune 100 CEO salary every year and still be cheaper than nuclear fission power ... because you have tons of highly toxic waste to handle for millions of years. We chose 100 years because we have 50 years of uranium reserves and might find another 50 on the planet in the next 50 years - a very optimistic guess at that! We were also keeping the salary of all involved in waste management static at 2012 minimum wages, knowing the poor bastards cost more, in reality. We left out the cost of new power plants as well as the cost of dismantling hundreds of existing power plants - didn't even need that to ridicule you lot! You may notice the prices of the new French EPR plant are skyrocketing and the price of decommissioning and dismantling a single plant are unknown, most likely at least twice the price of a new plant, though! Never forget that your nuclear power plants are highly subsidized and cost much more than you think.

    As for the fusion project ... they are eating through funds at a tremendous pace, still have not been able to design a box that will withstand the physical laws that will be in action and won't be ready for a commercial prototype in the next 60 years (source ITER) - they no longer claim that they will be able to produce a commercial power plant - they simply hope they will in roughly 100 years.

    I remember back in the days when ethanol was first mentioned as a possible alternative for fossil fuel - everybody was laughing because of the prices back then ... sounds like some still haven't learned from the past.

    Geothermia is a solution, as long as all we do is pump O2 (or air) or H20 down the hole, period. Tidal energy is another solution - does not take a great amount of braincells to notice that something that can pull the oceans up a few meters, oceans which cover 70% of our lovely planet, is enough to power all our needs.

    We have been able to make packaging out of maize, even water bottles! I guess what we need is legislation to force all producers to use bio-degradable packaging, together with slightly modified sewer systems and compost systems we could then produce a tremendous amount of biogas and have degradable house waste (with very few exceptions like glass etc).

  43. deive

    I think someone may be getting a little confused...

    Fracking isn't about geothermal energy, at least not in the minds of the greenies - it is about shale gas (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing)

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