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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Does Solar PV in half of Europe make more energy than it consumes?

You might think we’d know whether a solar PV system produced energy before we installed 1,000 Megawatts of it. But it’s hard to even know after the fact. Dr John Constable points us at an interesting new paper that discusses the odd creature called EROEI. This stands for energy return on energy invested. If you get back less than “one”, it sucks.

That sounds like a fine idea except everyone seems to get different answers to the same question. Solar PV in Switzerland achieves either a tenfold return or it costs a fifth of your energy. Plan your national policy with a Ouija Board?

Constable comes to the conclusion that the whole calculation is so uncertain it’s useless. There are so many subjective estimates on the “energy invested side” that the answer is almost irrelevant. Constable points out that what we really need to know is how the whole system responds to the addition of a new generator –but the whole grid analysis is even harder than just the EROEI to calculate.

His conclusion, it that we really need something more like a neural net to calculate the costs. Luckily we have one — us — and the contractual free [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

How progressive: ship dead trees 5,000km and burn them (use £450m for kindling)

It would make any hunter gatherer proud.

[The Times] Britain is wasting hundreds of millions of pounds subsidizing power stations to burn American wood pellets that do more harm to the climate than the coal they replaced, a study has found.

Chopping down trees and transporting wood across the Atlantic Ocean to feed power stations produces more greenhouse gases than much cheaper coal, according to the report. It blames the rush to meet EU renewable energy targets, which resulted in ministers making the false assumption that burning trees was carbon-neutral.

The UK tribes can thank chief Huhne (Energy and Climate secretary) for the 7.5 million tonnes of dead trees otherwise known as biomass — which  mostly come all the way from the US and Canada.

Naturally, doing something this improbable takes a lot of money.

Drax, Britain’s biggest power station, received more than £450 million in subsidies in 2015 for burning biomass, which was mostly American wood pellets.

Curiously, there are over 200 trillion cubic feet of dead trees stored under Lancashire. They may have been very very small trees, like algae sized, but nonetheless, 4,999 kilometers closer. Apparently when all the trees of [...]

Solar Homes use more grid electricity than non-solar homes

There are probably more solar panels in QLD than anywhere else in the world. Back in February last year, the boss of the Queensland state power company announced the awkward result that households with solar panels were using more electricity than those without. Apparently people without solar were turning off the air conditioner because electricity cost too much, but the solar users didn’t have to worry about the cost so much.

Queensland solar homes are using more grid electricity than non-solar, says Energex boss

Feb 2016:  Solar-powered homes in south-east Queensland, which boasts the world’s highest concentration of rooftop panels, have begun consuming on average more electricity from the grid than those without solar, the network operator has found.

Terry Effeney, the chief executive of state-owned power distributor Energex, said the trend – which belied the “green agenda” presumed to drive those customers – was among the challenges facing a region that nevertheless stood the best chance globally of making solar the cornerstone of its electricity network.

From October 2014 in Queensland, the average grid electricity use of solar homes started to exceed the average use of people without solar power and stayed higher for the at least the [...]

Y’think Donald Trump will bring in a carbon tax? (And pigs will knit socks.)

Bob Inglis is a former Republican congressman who lost out to a Tea Partier (you’ll see why). He’s visiting Australia to talk us into doing climate manipulation. I can’t see his reasoning catching on:

Former Republican congressman Bob Inglis says he knows it sounds improbable to say the US president would impose a carbon price, but he thinks reality will force Mr Trump’s hand.

“Donald Trump said climate change is a Chinese hoax and conspiracy – but he couldn’t possibly believe that,” Mr Inglis told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

Obviously it’s impossible for Inglis to believe Inglis Could Be Wrong.

In the five stages of grief, he’s stuck at number one…

Watch the contortions to fit that worldview into a round hole:

He laments the tribalism of the debate, saying there’s such fear among conservatives about being seen as weak in the face of the environmental left they refuse to hear anything.

He frames the question to conservatives as not whether they believe in climate change, but if they think free enterprise can solve it.

“We’ve got to build the confidence of the right so that [...]

Baby corals learn from mummy corals warming lessons

Corals survived through four hundred million years of climate change. Despite that, corals still surprise survivors of four years of academia with their ability to keep dealing with climate change.

It’s been known for years that after corals bleach in warmer water, they acclimatize.

Here one shiny young researcher shows her carbonnointed worldview. She asks a really interesting question:

In one study of corals, for instance, she exposed adults to increased temperature and acidification, then exposed their offspring to the same conditions to see if they are more successful because of their parents’ previous experience.

Then sees the answer through AlGoreEyes:

“Interestingly, we found that there is potential for beneficial acclimatization because of parental history,” she said. “There is a more positive metabolic response and ecological response, greater survivorship and growth if their parents have been preconditioned to future scenarios.”

What’s the difference: “Preconditioned to future scenarios” or “Evolved to survive past ones”?

Not a reference

University of Rhode Island. “Professor examines effects of climate change on coral reefs, shellfish.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2017. <>

If Greens cared about CO2 they would dump renewable targets

Those who say they want a “free market” in carbon still don’t understand what a free market is.

RET’s or Renewable Energy Targets are screwed (in the head): If Tony Abbotts Direct Action plan was useless, RETS are five times more useless.

In Australia the Renewable Energy Target (RET) in theory, helps wind and solar,  so we lower CO2 emissions and cool the world, slow storms, things like that. But Tom Quirk calculates it costs $57 a ton (at best) for those “savings”. Since the Direct Action plan cost $11 a ton,  we could reduce five times as much CO2 if we blew up the RET scheme.

The secret is that the Abbott plan tackled CO2 directly rather than picking winners (see “competition”, “free markets” that sort of thing).  Predictably, the Greens hated it — who needs CO2 reduction if you can support big-government-loving industries instead? (Especially the kind who lobby for the side of politics that wants more bureaucrats, more handouts, and less independent competition?)

Those who say they want a “free market” in carbon still don’t understand what a free market is. It’s pretty simple, if they want a reduction in CO2, they need to pay for a [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

Big-gov-brain wants “half a trillion” to add ice to the Arctic

Sometimes an idea comes along that adds another chapter to the Book of Stupid. You might think windmills on land are an indulgent, pointless fantasy, but take that idea and make it worse:

(CNN) A team of scientists has a surprisingly simple solution to saving the Arctic: We need to make more ice.

A team at Arizona State University has proposed building 10 million wind-powered pumps to draw up water and spill it out onto the surface of the ice, where it will freeze faster. Doing so would be complicated and expensive — it’s estimated to cost a cool $500 billion, and right now the proposal is only theoretical.

It’s not like we have anything better to do with half a trillion dollars.  Should we cure cancer or refrigerate one of the coldest places on Earth? Should we teach our kids about the fall of civilizations, or teach them to bow before prophets who keep predicting the end of the Arctic and getting it wrong?

Or we could add ice to the whole arctic for just $5 trillion

Tristan Hopper explains the beefed up plan would absorb the “entire steel production of the United States”, [...]

WA State Election Tidbit: Bill Crabtree. Wheatbelt. Launch in Northam Sunday

Click to read.

I’m happy to help a few dedicated skeptics and sane candidates with the gumption to try to improve the system from within. So this is a quick note for residents of the Central Wheatbelt WA. Check out Bill Crabtree, the no-till farming expert running for the Liberal Party at the State election in three weeks, he’s as honest and hardworking as they get. I know Bill personally, and he’s just the kind of guy I’d want in Parliament. A real farmer, not a career politician.

Meet him tomorrow: Sunday 4pm-8pm, Northam Country Club, 15 Wood Drive Northam.