A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Forget Megawatts, ABC invents new unit of power — “size of Tasmania”

Outback couple build solar farm to prove fringe-of-grid power generation needs

Solar Panels, resting on a river of subsidies. Photo.Building a $14 million solar farm is an expensive way to send a message about electricity prices, but Doug and Lyn Scouller said they were left with few options.

In Normanton, 500 kilometres north of Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, the Scoullers built a solar farm big enough to power an area almost twice the size of Tasmania, in a move to prove to stakeholders the benefit of positioning power generation sites at the end of the grid.

In old fashioned terms, the “farm” produces five-megawatts. But yesterday, Tasmania didn’t use 5MW it used 1,072 MegaWatts. So this solar farm would have supplied 0.2% of the houses and businesses on an area “twice the size of Tasmania”. The only Tasmania-sized-areas that would be functioning on 5MW are in the empty desert or the Great Southern Ocean.

And we wonder why some Australians think solar power is a no brainer. If this little farm can supply 120,000 km2, we just need another 60 like it, and we could do the whole continent!

ABC journalists are not good with numbers. If only they had a billion dollars a year perhaps they could afford a specialized science team that understood that units of electricity are not reported in square kilometers. Oh wait…

Keep reading  →

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Laser Boron Fusion — What if it works? (Forget “climate change”)

 Here’s another “breakthrough” fusion claim. Thing is, one day, one of these will work.

Boron, Hydrogen, Fusion, Hora.

Something like this: Boron Hydrogen, Fusion, click to read about aneutronic fusion.

In the meantime, knowing that the future is nuclear, and the only question is when, we should burn all the coal we have while it is still worth something.

UPDATE: Everyone knows that fusion is the perennial baby of Hype-n-Hope. It’s easy to criticize, but why miss the chance to crush a few mantras instead? The renewables industry talks about how inevitable renewables are, so lets talk about the inevitable Fusion-Future that makes the “renewables” surge a temporary blip that will be superseded. The Fusion-Future adds urgency to coal use now — a real use-by date (albeit with blurry print).

PS: Yes, The Greens are going to hate it. A private energy generator, outside government control, not needing hand-outs, and one that solves “climate change” but without subsidies and strings. These companies might say what they think! They’re a power threat to global parasites. Remember: a dependent company is an obedient company — one that cheers for big-government.

Australia spends $5 billion a year installing inefficient, non-competitive renewables.  Instead, we could be spending that money on gene technology and nuclear power research. How much would that change the future for our children? We’re vying to be the top ranking self-sacrificing global sucker that strives for importance by offering to cripple its own economy to appease Climate Gods. Or we could lead the world in nuclear power and medicine. (They’re asking for $20m. Are we a quarry or a leader?)

At least this hopeful idea is an Australian production. Heinrich Hora has been working on this for decades. (See this from 1981). The caveat: As long as “they don’t uncover any major engineering hurdles…” Yeah. But when fusion does work, the entire climate industry, renewables, panic-merchants and co. becomes an ant-hill in history.

The Australian: Laser tech advances hailed as way to clean, cheap electricity

by Graham Lloyd:

The paper said simulations had shown 14mg of hydrogen boron could produce 300kWh of energy, opening the way for “an absolutely clean power reactor producing low-cost energy”.

“Now, in eight to 10 years I would expect to have small-scale reactors made from present-day technologies.” Professor Hora said solar panels and battery ­storage were a viable solution for outback regions.

“But for the big centres our ­reactors would work to replace present power generation,” he said, adding that about $500,000 was needed for seed capital, a ­further $20 million over two years and “if all develops as ­expected” a further $100m to complete design of the reactors.

 The press release:

Laser-boron fusion now ‘leading contender’ for energy

A laser-driven technique for creating fusion that dispenses with the need for radioactive fuel elements and leaves no toxic radioactive waste is now within reach, say researchers

A laser-driven technique for creating fusion that dispenses with the need for radioactive fuel elements and leaves no toxic radioactive waste is now within reach, say researchers.

Keep reading  →

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Global warming will weaken winds in the Northern Hemisphere, but speed them up downunder!

Now they tell us!

Climate warming to weaken wind power in northern hemisphere, increase in Australia: study

After building 341,000 wind turbines, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, now climate modelers reveal that winds will decrease in the Northern Hemisphere!

Warming temperatures caused by climate change are set to weaken wind energy in the northern hemisphere, a study shows, lessening the amount of wind power produced for wind farms.

However the southern hemisphere would see a boost in wind, which could potentially turn north-eastern Australia into an attractive investment for energy companies.

Rush, invest your money now.  The theory called polar amplification has the success rate of a coin toss. Buy a wind farm in NE Australia!

Luckily wind speeds are not also influenced by cloud cover, jet streams, oceans currents, forest growth, atmospheric tides, solar factors, magnetic fields, ozone levels, cosmic rays, or butterflies. Otherwise this study might be inadequate, uninformed guesswork being used to inform investment decisions!

Polar Amplification, cartoon, climate change.

Look out for Polar Amplifiers. Click to enlarge.

Key points:

  • Atmosphere instability which creates wind changing in northern hemisphere
  • North-east Australia could become an attractive investment for energy companies
  • At present there is only one operational wind farm in Queensland
Theoretically the North Pole is warming, and getting closer to temperatures at the equator – which reduces any reason for wind to go anywhere. So the big question is: will the wind farms be able to change the climate before the wind stops?
The second question:  how did ABC subed’s let that first “key point” pass and what happened to the commas?

Wind usually derives its energy from an instability in the atmosphere, and in the northern hemisphere a major source of that instability is the equator to pole temperature difference,” he said.

“We all know that the tropics are warmer than the arctic, but because the artic is warming at a much faster rate than the rest of the world — including the tropics and the latitudes — that temperature gradient is lessening.

“That is a well known phenomenon called polar amplification, or artic amplification.”

Yes, polar amplification, is called “polar” for a reason, and it’s wrong. The South Pole is a Pole too. (And Arctic has a c in it.)

But wait til you hear why winds are speeding up in the Southern Hemisphere:

It found in the southern hemisphere the difference between the average land and sea temperature was increasing, which would push greater wind production.

“As we know most of the southern hemisphere is dominated by ocean, relative to the northern hemisphere,” Professor Karnauskas said.

So in South America, the southern half of Africa and Australia, greenhouse gas warming was expected to increase the temperature over land faster than over the ocean. “The land-sea temperature difference in the southern hemisphere is actually increasing because the land is warming up so rapidly relative to the ocean,” he said.

“So the winds are able to derive greater energy from that temperature difference or instability.”

Call it cartoon science. Two dimensional and with reasoning by the Road Runner.
To be fair, the ABC didn’t ask a skeptical scientist for their opinion on the science but they did ask a climate scientist for his opinion on investments:

US could face drop in wind energy

For Australia, Professor Karnauskas said he expected there would be a boom in wind energy for the north-east of the country.

“This information may prove key in allocating resources and planning, for example where and when to build new farms and how to deal with differed maintenance with older wind farms,” he said.

“And helping to fine-tune the blend of renewables supporting the every growing regional energy consumption.

“It doesn’t mean that wind energy should take the place of any other part of the portfolio that’s in a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Professor Karnauskas’ study reported the central United States could face a 10 per cent drop in available wind energy by 2050.

And by the year 2100, that could be up to 40 per cent.

The idea that the Trump administration could use the report to push for a drop in wind energy investment was something Professor Karnauskas said he was nervous about.

“Wind power is and should remain considered as an important part of the portfolio of renewable investments as part of the broader strategy to reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

The ABC didn’t interview wind farm critics either, but they found space to interview a wind farm activist:

Andrew Bray, from the advocacy group Australian Wind Alliance, said he doubted a predicted boost in available wind energy in Queensland would make much of a difference in the level of wind farm investment.

He said there was already enough wind to go around.

“There’s incredible wind resources all across Australia,” he said.

“We recently had some research done which estimated that we could power Australia’s entire energy needs 12 times over just with the wind resources in eastern Australia.

Twelve times over! All we need is infinite money, and unlimited free lithium and cobalt. A gift. A gift at half the price.
Let’s use the $1b ABC budget to buy up wind farms and let the ABC run off those profits.  But cancel that damn RET first.

UPDATE: The researchers say there are three problems with GCM’s

Jo says “just three?”

The first… The resolution … is typically on the order of 1–2° or ~100 km.

The second … is that wind turbines integrate momentum from wind across the rotor disk, typically 40–120 m above the surface, whereas… wind information is available only at a height of 10 m and on standard pressure levels (for exmple, 1,000  mbar, 925 mbar, 850 mbar, and so on).

The third potential limitation of GCMs is the provision of monthly mean fields, whereas winds fluctuate at much higher frequencies…

Someone tell the researchers not to worry. The GCM’s other limitations include that they can’t predict the global temperature, historic long term temperatures, nor the regional, local, short term[1] [2] variations, they’re wrong about polar amplification [3], and can’t get the upper tropospheric pattern right either [4] [5]. Being comprehensive, they also fail on humidity[6], rainfall[7], drought[8] and they can’t do clouds[9]. See the references here.

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Midweek Unthreaded

Tips and other stuff….

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Save the world with internal combustion engines

Who cares about 50% more emissions?

China, energy, power generation, 2016, graph.

China is powered by 65% coal.

A new study in China compares cars with internal combustion engines to electric cars. Qiao et al estimate that from cradle-to-gate electric cars use about 50% more energy and produce around 50% more emissions. (Thanks to Kenneth Richards at NoTricksZone.)

All Greens should hereby recycle their EV and buy a gas guzzler.

This is not even “lifetime costs” which include disposal.

These results will come as no surprise to people who remember the detailed study in Norway of 2012 which found that “…in regions where fossil fuels are the main sources of power, electric cars offer no benefits and may even cause more harm, the report said.”

In China, these electric cars are powered by 65% coal. Call them “coal-fired-cars”.

The largest single difference was with the battery.

Below, marvel at the results of the Chinese study. (ICE means Internal Combustion Engine.  BEV means Battery Electric Vehicle.)

Not. Even. Close.

If you think CO2 matters, oil powered cars beat coal powered ones.

Electric cars, graph, internal combustion engine, emissions, energy use. 2017.

ICE = Internal Combustion Engine:  BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle. By every measure Electric cars use more energy and emit more CO2.

Even if electric vehicles are powered by the wind, there are other costs. For the UK to power a national electric fleet they’d have to turn Scotland into a wind farm. (We need stationary batteries to supply the mobile batteries. Add up the losses.) In Australia there are estimates that each extra electric car could cost another $2000 per year in network and generation costs. (Let’s add that to the registration cost for an EV shall we?)

Keep reading  →

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Matt Ridley on Brexit: Brits should give foreign aid to EU (with strings) as parting gift

Matt Ridley writes the letter Theresa May should send to the EU

For 40 years Britain has propped up the EU with nothing in return but complaints and insults.

The fifth biggest economy in the world can offer foreign aid to the failing EU but on the same terms as other needy states.


Dear Angela, Emmanuel and others (cc Donald, Jean-Claude, Michel),

I enclose a cheque for £40 billion as agreed. However, you will notice that it is post-dated March 30, 2019, and that it will bounce without a free-trade agreement between us, as I mentioned on the telephone. We are delighted to be in a position to be so unilaterally generous, and sorry that you find yourselves in such dire need of our help.

We cannot help feeling that a little more financial discipline on your part might have avoided the need for such a large sum.

For instance, we notice that all Eurocrats can draw generous final-salary pensions when they get to the end of their lucrative careers, throughout which they will have had handsome allowances and expenses and have paid specially low income tax at a flat rate. In Britain we regard this as regressive, or “unfair”, and are unhappy that hard-pressed British workers in, say, Sunderland should now be asked to guarantee the pensions of such wealthy people, when they have no such guarantee themselves.

Is manners to much to ask for?

We realise you cannot agree among yourselves whether to cut the budget or increase the national contributions once the second largest net contributor leaves the European Union, so you are desperate for us to help you out. That we have filled your coffers for 40 years in this way, always giving more than we received, might in some circles have elicited a measure of gratitude. However, we are surprised on looking back through the files to find no such letters of thanks, but rather quite a few reprimands, insults and aspersions.

Let’s call British support what it really is:

You will also notice that the cheque is drawn from our foreign aid budget (given the political chaos in Germany, Italy and Spain, this seems appropriate) and counts towards our 0.7 per cent of gross national income spend on aid. This means you will have to fill out forms certifying that the money was not wasted. These must be returned to the Department for International Development punctually, and failure to comply may result in fines. I am sure you will understand that this is necessary given that the money would otherwise have gone to help starving and sick people in Africa.

Read the whole fabulous letter with his digs at the BBC,  at The Rational Optimist

Matt Ridley for PM, I say.

h/t mothcatcher

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Transformation glitch? Biggest issue facing South Australia is electricity say 70%

A Sunday Mail survey (paywalled) shows that despite SA having more “free, cheap and clean” renewable electricity than just about anywhere in the world, the number one biggest issue for most South Australians is … “electricity”. And despite all the renewable jobs created, the second most common concern is “jobs”. Going for the Paradox-Trifecta: most strangely of all, with elected leaders who are leading the largest energy transformation since civilization began, the third “biggest issue” facing South Australians is “political leadership”.

Thanks to Eric Worrall, who describes South Australians as “the world’s renewable crash test dummies”.

Survey, South Australia, 2017, biggest concerns, results. Graph.

SA has an election coming up in March, but at the moment voters there are caught in the bind between the reality of electricity shocks, and the belief that “renewables are cheap”. Will the local Libs (the opposition) have the spine to stand up and speak the truth and make this election about energy and climate, or will they pander #metoo, and lose the unloseable?

Will the Libs get the message here? Most South Australians like the sound of renewables, but when it comes to the crunch, and the issues they will vote on, electricity prices and jobs will rule. This is a bubble ripe for the popping. As for political leadership — sucking up to global bullies and namecalling parasites is not leadership. Speaking up against the dominant paradigm and against the fashionable memes is. Saying things that are unpopular but true is leadership.

As long as Liberals wait for the opinion polls to change (and produce even more obvious results than this) they are not leaders.

In agenda-setting results on a cornerstone issue for the March state election, more than 3500 respondents overwhelmingly ranked affordability and reliability as the most important components of electricity supply in the Sunday Mail Your Say, SA survey.

Forging a renewable energy industry was also popular among respondents, demonstrating support for solar, wind and batteries.

This indicates a clear public distinction between perceived hip-pocket and job creation benefits of renewable energy and the costs of curbing carbon emissions.

“Transforming our economy” is code for using power generators to control the climate. It was slightly more popular with the under 25s (31%) than older folk. By 65 years and older, only 20% were still under the delusion that the biggest issue facing SA is that the state government should force an energy transformation in order to get better global weather. That this number is any positive integer at all is a mark of how pathetic our national debate, media reporting and education system is.

Wait – The state leading the way on renewables is a backwards laughing stock?

Early results of the same survey showed that nearly 9 out 10 South Australians are aware of how silly their state looks:

“… other results are a serious wake-up call — an overwhelming 89 per cent feel that SA is perceived unfavourably by the rest of the nation, while 73 per cent expect life will be more difficult in the future.

The negative perception of SA as a “backward state” — or worse, a “laughing stock” — still haunts us, evidenced by the survey’s comments and almost any internet thread discussing our problems.

Apparently it’s hard to be a tax burden on the rest of the nation while trying to do a no-brainer obvious energy transformation which no where else in the world is leaping to do to the same extent or without seven interconnectors to coal and nukes.

There is incredible arrogance in thinking that that there is no good reason the rest of the world has “missed” the simplistic solution to energy.

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Weekend Unthreaded

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Rising sea-levels in the Indian Ocean due to man-made “adjustments” not CO2

PMSML stands for Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level, though there is nothing permanent about sea-level data — like all obedient climate change data, it’s subject to change fifty years later – and the adjustments are as large as the trends.

We’ve seen this pattern in so many places. Now Cliff Ollier and Albert Parker have shown it in the Indian Ocean looking at Aden in Yemen, and Mumbai in India (and other places, and other data). Kenneth Richard at No Tricks Zone goes through it at length. James Delingpole calls it TideGate. The New York Times says nothing (just like last time).

Parker and Ollier conclude that at Mumbai, apparently the sea levels were “perfectly stable over the 20th century”. At Aden, sea levels trends are rising at a pitifully small quarter of a millimeter a year during the twentieth century. (And that’s their upper estimate). The lower estimate is minus five hundreths of a millimeter a year.  Looking at other sites as well they estimate a rise of …”about zero mm/year” in the last five decades. zero.

This, they say, agrees with other things like… coastal morphology, stratigraphy, radiocarbon dating, archaeological remains, and historical documentation. (But not so much with climate models). Across the world there are scores of scientists all looking at everyone else’s adjusted data and saying to themselves “my raw data doesn’t look right”.

Tide Gauge Hut in Aden

Tide Gauge Hut in Aden | Photo IOC Gloss

Suspicious adjustments?

Graph (a) below shows the segments of raw data from Mumbai tide gauges collected from 1878 – 2011. There is a breakpoint change in 1936 with a 677mm drop. But the red series ends in December, and the green series starts the following month in January. (We wish there was an overlap, but at least there is no gap). The red line trend goes slightly up, the green line goes slightly down. But add them together and thanks to the magic of unexplained modern adjustments, look at Graph (b)! The effect of CO2 is revealed!

Amazing what scientists can find these days. Especially ‘mazing how the ground under these gauges seems to be rising so that it hides the effects of climate change. A conspiracy, I tell you.

Sea Level Rise Mumbai adjusted, graph, 2017

Fig. 2 Mumbai tide gauge — Monthly average mean sea levels. a) raw data. (PSMSL 2017f). b) Revised local reference (RLR, adjusted) data.  (PSMSL 2017g)

Unlike the mainstream team Beenstock et al took the less conspiratorial approach and assumed that the land would be randomly subsiding and rising. Satellites confirmed that the placement of gauges was fairly random with respect to changing sea levels. Instead of trying to correct for that at each station individually, they just averaged the lot.  Beenstock estimated the trend in sea levels across a thousand gauges was just over one millimeter a year.

In Mumbai the PMSML team convert a small negative trend to a significant positive one:

Keep reading  →

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