Boris nukes

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A few weeks back Boris Johnson made reference to how the UK would shortly be building mini fusion reactors, courtesy of a generous grant of UK government funding (and thus brexit wasn’t going to be the disaster to UK science everyone is predicting). Of course, the actual nuclear scientists were quick to point out that this is about as accurate as pretty much any other Boris Johnson statement. Such as his claim there will be no border checks between Ireland and the UK post-brexit (which would result in the UK facing sanctions from the WTO, the EU, and the US, plus he’d be unable to prevent counterfeit goods or smugglers flooding the UK market and why would anyone give the UK a trade deal if you can smuggle stuff across the UK border via NI tariff free?).

In truth the UK leaving the EU also means the UK will be leaving Euroatom (The European agency that handles regulation and sale of nuclear materials). And given that the Tories plans for a UK regulator to replace them are in various states of chaos, the UK leaving the EU will probably mean an end to any significant nuclear research within the UK. While the UK will technically be still part of the ITER and JET fusion programs, its inevitable there will be some blowback as a result of brexit (e.g. scientists or their sick grandmother can’t get visas and walks off the job). About the only thing fortunate is that given the long time lines before we have a working commercial fusion reactor, its likely the UK will have rejoined the EU by the time this becomes a problem.

As with most Johnson lies the reality is a little different. Rolls Royce has a program to develop a mini nuclear power plant (fission based obviously, in the range of a few hundred megawatts), which the government has committed £18 million worth of matching funds too (i.e. the bulk of the funding will still have to come from Rolls Royce). To put this in prospective, funding for ITER is closer to 200 million euro’s per year (out of a total project cost estimated at 15 billion euro) with the EU contributing just under half of this (so Boris is promising the UK will spend about 25% the amount the EU spends on ITER every year).

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The EU spends more on fusion research than the next four countries combined

By contrast Hinkley C (which is being built by the French) is likely to cost £22 billion, which works out as a cast burn rate of £5 million per day (so that £18 million won’t keep the Hinkley C site going for a week). And many Tories are nuclear supporters who are going to vote for this clown!

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The Hinkley C engineering team greet the PM on a site visit

As for the prospects of mini-nukes rolling out across the country, polls show little public support with very few willing to live close to such a reactor. And as I’ve mentioned before, the downside of mini-nukes is their lower economies of scale, something even nuclear industry sources are quick to acknowledge, while talking up the benefits of them as a niche energy source. Given the fact that the two main obstacles to nuclear power right now are the high costs and the low level of public support, why in blue blazes would you pursue a form of nuclear that is more expensive and creates more flash points for public opposition. In fact it probably explains why RR have been in talks with the French about selling off some of their nuclear business.

The reality of nuclear energy is that it tends to favour large reactors, build by the larger nations, or transnational organisations, particularly when it comes to the regulation of such a safety critical industry. And this is even more true for nuclear fusion, given the enormous levels of research that will need to be applied to get the technology to work. Leaving the EU will inevitably diminish the UK’s ability to build, develop and service its nuclear industry. As in some many other areas the UK will be worse off out than in.

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Another election nobody wants

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Just before the EU referendum result in 2016 it looked likely we’d having an election in Ireland, as there was only a minority government who couldn’t really survive a no confidence vote. That didn’t happen and still hasn’t because it was considered unwise to have an election with brexit going on in the UK (hence the opposition agreed not to table any no confidence motions). Well the UK’s about to have its second brexit election (potentially leading to its 4th brexit PM) at what has to been the most inconvenient time in UK history. And, as I will explain later in this article, a third brexit election is a distinct possibility (and possibly a referendum too).

The cult of the one true brexit v’s the cult of the one true Corbyn v’s the cult of the one true Farage

And as campaigning kicks off we have the absurdity of

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Brexit and the game of dolts

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Brexit seems to becoming a byword for foolishness and folly as well as deceit and betrayal. And we need only look at the strategies being pursued by Corbyn and Johnson for proof of that. Both appear to be adopting a policy towards brexit that is reckless and foolhardy. But equally for both leaders, their stated policy is just a charade for what is their real agenda.

Corbyn for example says that he will support a general election as soon as the EU rules out no deal. This despite predictions suggesting he will likely lose a general election. Either by a small margin (but with the Tories losing enough seats to offer labour the chance of a coalition with other parties), or by some massive margin. Naturally this has labour MP’s with small majorities (and even some with big majorities) in jitters.

A more sensible strategy would…

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Nihilistic rebellion

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Monbiot having some fun enjoying his white middle class privilege….

This last week George Monbiot (the same person who was convinced by Fukushima to support Hinkley C and that brexit wouldn’t be so bad…even thought all talk of preserving environmental standards and workers rights has now been moved to the non legally binding part of the revised withdrawal agreement) encouraged people to join extinction rebellion and “get themselves arrested. Its a middle class thing I suppose. Good luck trying to get into the US or the EU post-brexit afterwards mind!

I’ve been a bit worried about the anti-climate change group extinction rebellion for sometime now. As I’ve mentioned before their stated aims are just plain crazy and their methods counter productive. Case in point, this week they held a protest halting commuter trains in London…..and promptly got beaten up by angry commuters (which if you’ve ever been on a London commuter train at rush hour, should hardly come as a surprise….which just goes to show how out of touch this lot are).

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…..London commuters having somewhat less fun

ER’s proposed solution to climate change is to use a “citizens forum”….to solve one of the most complex problems the human race has ever had to deal with. I recall joking that the likely outcome of such a forum would be a public brawl. Well what we saw on the railway platform the other day was ER’s long cherished citizens forum and the outcome was pretty much as I predicted. Too be clear, I’m not condoning such violence. I’m simply acknowledging the violence inherit in the system.

One of my long standing points on climate change is that there is little point advocating a policy if you aren’t going to get the majority of people to adopt it. And given how ER can’t even get its own supporters to match its high ideals (e.g. Emma Thompson telling people not to fly and stop eating beef, then sitting in first class eating a steak), its a bit rich expecting everyone else to do so.

But seriously, protesting against public transport (and this isn’t even the first time they targeted public transport, they did it before back in April), are you guys for real? Commuter light rail is about as energy efficient as you can get. Trains consume about 1.6 – 4.4 kWh’s per 100 person km, against 40 – 80 kWh/100 p-km for a car (so trains are at least 8 to 50 times better for the environment than driving). And while there are issues with decarbonising road transport, its a lot easier to implement those changes with public transport, trains in particular (as they can be easily electrified and take advantage of an increasingly decarbonised electricity grid).

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Switching to public transport over driving can often be one of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint

I’ve been meaning to write a more in-depth article about public transport and the difficulties in getting it to work on a larger scale (i.e. how to convenience the majority of road users to give up their cars) for some time now. But in summary, there are many problems, ranging from load factors, pricing, infrastructure costs, integration (having buses, trains and trams work together to allow seamless door to door journeys), cultural issues, etc. But one of the often overlooked factors is reliability.

If you want people to give up their cars they will only do that if they are reasonably assured that you will get them to their destination and home again. They need to be confident that they aren’t going to be late for work or get stranded somewhere. This has been a big problem with the UK’s public transport system since privatisation. Some have had one too many bad experiences, given up on public transport and now just drive everywhere, even in situations where it takes longer and is actually more expensive.

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So in that context, by undermining the reliability of public transport, to say this action was massively counter productive is to put it mildly. Some of those commuters delayed by this protest got in their cars (or a taxi) and drove to work instead. And some will probably keep on driving so long as these protests continue. And given the noted disparity between public transport and cars, it doesn’t take a huge number of them to do that to wipe out the environmental benefit of those who stick with public transport. To be blunt, short of Greta Thunberg showing up at the white house wearing a MAGA cap and driving a coal rolling humvee I cannot think of anything that would be more counter productive.

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And inevitably ER have been running damage control. Oh most of us opposed this action…but you let it go ahead anyway. We’re trying to undermine capitalist London. Firstly, capitalism and climate change are two completely different issues, don’t confuse the two (renewable energy companies exist in the same capitalist economy remember). And secondly what about the NHS nurses and teachers trying to get to work? What about their patients and pupils? Plus I happen to know (from people who work in London) that quite a few traders do cycle or jog to work (presumably to help deal with their anger management issues). So what are you going to block footpaths and cycle lanes? But look at all the publicity this action generated. Ya, almost entirely negative as it affords the right wing media a perfect open goal to take cheap shots at all environmental protesters (such as the school climate strikes). When you are attacked by both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph in the same week, you know you are in trouble.

In fact, at the risk of sounding a little conspiratorial, I think we do need to consider the possibility that some in ER might be shills in the pay of the fossil fuel industry. Its long been a tactic of the political right to infiltrate paid spies, informants and agent provocateurs into left/green protest groups in the hope of turning the public against them and giving the police the excuse to violently suppress an otherwise peaceful protests. Hence its entirely possible that this is what is going on behind the scenes within ER. They are doing the fossil fuel industries dirty work for them (wittingly or unwittingly…or perhaps half-wittingly!).

All in all, I’d argue the reality is that extinction rebellion aren’t really an environmental protest movement, nor even anti-capitalists (if they were then surely they’d be protesting outside Shell or BP’s HQ’s or outside the banks). They are a bunch of angry populist Nihilists raging against society in general, not unlike the gilets jaunes in France (who basically work for the far right). They may as well go around with placards saying down with that sort of thing”. Hell, I’m pretty sure that if we invented a viable alternative to fossil fuels they’d probably start gluing themselves to wind turbines. So no don’t join the “rebellion”, ignore George Monbiot and don’t get yourself arrested for no good reason.

If you want to do something about climate change there are various steps you can take (and as noted one of those is using public transport). You can join more legitimate protests and vote for parties that will implement real change (the Greens, SNP or lib dems) and oppose those who won’t (i.e. the Tories and labour, both of whom include quite a number of climate deniers in their ranks).

And certainly stopping brexit is crucial to any sort of pro-environmental movement in the UK right now. A point I bring up given the close links between Extinction Rebellion and Momentum (aka the Judean people’s front), allies of arch brexiter Jeremy Corbyn. Both of whom will be notably absent from this weekend’s anti-brexit rallies (most important day in UK politics in decades, likely to be the biggest protest and Corbyn’s going to be in Liverpool!).

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The age of snakeoil

The internet has brought many benefits. But it also has created many problems. And probably top of those problems is the ease with which bad ideas can quickly proliferate. Its all too easy to create a slick advertising campaign for something that fundamentally does not work or is just impossible (because it violates the basic laws of physics). Solar roadways, the Fyre festival, those water woo devices I tackled sometime ago (notably Fontus) and the Thernaos scandal are merely some examples of this trend.

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As a result we are now living in the age of the charlatan, the fraudster and the con artist. In much the same way some snake oil salesman could pull his one many show into a town in the old west and make a fortune selling turpentine to a couple of slack jawed yokels, the same can be done today – only they can defraud millions over the internet instead. It is perhaps no wonder we have the likes of Boris Johnson or Trump in charge of their respective countries, they perfectly fit in with the age. For they are by no means even the worst.

The problem is as I see it, we’ve lost our ability to spot bullshit. On the internet cool (but implausible) click bait tends to win out over pragmatic (but analytical) science, much like fake news. And politicians and company CEO’s are just as vulnerable to such persuasions as the rest of us. There s therefore a need to rediscover how to spot bullshit and apply some due diligence.

The next Steve Jobs

Now it has to be said, that to be successful as a business person (or a politician), you have to be able to blow your own trumpet. Some level of salesmanship is required. And yes some of our more successful entrepreneurs have been known to tell the odd white lie. Case in point, Bill Gate’s selling MS-DOS software to IBM, even thought he didn’t actually own it at the time of signing. Or how Apple basically ripped off the design of their first Apple Mac from Xerox. Then when Gates & IBM ripped off their idea, they got upset at him stealing the ideas that they’d stolen.

But my point is they were selling a product that actually existed. They might have been less that forward about certain technical details….such as who actually had invented it! But they were selling something real and deliverable. Part of the problem recently has been fraudsters selling a product that doesn’t currently exist, beyond some photoshopped images and a slick internet advertising campaign. They have in essence crossed the line between salesmanship and fraud.

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Beware of an entrepreneur in a black turtleneck!

And I’d argue that one of the first warning signs is anyone comparing themselves to Steve Jobs. This is what Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos used to do (to the point of going around in turtlenecks sweaters and making her voice sound deeper) and so too did the developer of the now infamous Jucerio, a $600 juicing machine that was rendered useless when it was realised you could just squeeze the bags instead with your hands (and he’s now promising to be the Steve Jobs of raw water…or bottled cholera as I’d call it).

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Now, don’t get me wrong, Steve Jobs was a visionary and played a key role in the computing revolution. But he wasn’t exactly the full shilling, known for having some strange habits and odd behaviour. His eccentric management style eventually led to a board room revolt against him, leading to his firing from Apple in the 1980’s. And he was more of a personality and a show man than a tech person, largely leaving the tech side of things to other better qualified people.

In fact I often find it strange how nobody wants to be the next Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffet. Even thought all have arguably been much more successful than Jobs. Presumably because that sounds like a lot of hard work and you might actually need to know something. So with all due respect to Jobs, I’d say anyone comparing themselves to him is a big red flag.

They laughed at Christopher Columbus

This is another warning sign. Firstly its not entirely true, there was scepticism about his proposals, but mostly from cartographers (not the catholic church) and not because people thought the earth was flat. It was well known since the time of Ptolemy that the earth was round and the ancient Greeks had even managed to estimate its circumference (as had Indian, Arab and Chinese astronomers). What Columbus was proposing was that everybody was wrong and that the earth was much smaller and hence a voyage west would get you to Asia quicker (which may have been because he mucked up his units studying Arab made maps, which used a different scale for miles). Obviously, this is not the case.

Unfortunately the Queen of Spain was as vulnerable to such slick showmanship as many of us in the modern day. So she gave money to this loon who went about trying to prove it was true (until she came to her senses and had him arrested). Hence why America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, who through careful analysis of the facts deduced that the world was the size calculated, that Asia hadn’t moved and thus any new lands had to be part of a new as of yet unseen continent.

The reason for a lot of this “laughed at Columbus” stuff was largely down to anti-catholic propaganda from the early 20th century, as it annoyed the piss out of right wing baptist southerners that they owed their country’s existence to a bunch of catholic European monarchs. Hence they latched onto a work of fiction (by Irving Washington) about ignorant catholic’s who believed the world was flat and didn’t believe Columbus and began spreading it as fact. Fake news is unfortunately nothing new.

The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They may have laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

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Black boxes

As noted several of these Charlatans will, via a slick advertising campaign, often present investors with something of a black box…..but be reluctant to discuss what’s inside. In fact with Theranos this was literally true, their product was an actual black box….which you literally had to pour blood into. Well needless to say, that should be alarming. After all one assumes if there’s some unique new technology inside it that would have been patented already (otherwise what happens when a competitor dismantles and reverse engineers it?) and its all too easy to get people to sign an NDA.

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….and beware of black boxes also!

I mean I’ve been on factory or lab tours round a facility where they know I’m working for a rival team of researchers. Yes they aren’t going to give me a ten minute power point presentation revealing all of their secrets, they’ll not discuss certain key details, but they can and will show you what’s going on and generally talk shop. So any unwillingness to do any of this should immediately trigger alarm bells.

And this is even more true if they don’t have a working prototype. Or they have one but it hasn’t been subjected to independent testing. This immediately signals that any sort of cost projections or marketing estimates can be ignored as pie in the sky. Until they actually have a working system its going to be impossible to tell how well the product will perform, nor how much it will cost to make. And anyone investing prior to this stage is gambling that the device can actually be developed and will work. In other words its a fairly high risk investment.

Technology readiness

Which brings us to another key red flag, technology readiness and what sources of funding the developer is chasing. Crowd funding or seeking venture capital funding for something that is at a high level of technical readiness doesn’t make a lot of sense. If the developer is really that close to market, why not just negotiate a line of credit with a bank? Naturally it implies that the banks keep asking awkward questions the developer is unable to answer (e.g. they insisted on independent testing or getting some outside expert in to review it), or they aren’t as close to prime time as claimed.

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At the opposite end of the scale a project with a relatively low level of readiness is a fairly high risk investment. And again, it makes little sense for the developer to seek private funding at this stage, when there’s plenty of money available from various research institutes and government agencies. The EU’s Horizon project for example provides tens of billions of euros worth of funding to develop new technologies. That the developer is ignoring this large pot of what is essentially free money suggests one of two things. Either they don’t know what they are doing (and thus don’t know such funding options exist). Or they were unable to convince the funding body that the project is worthy of funding (or that they can be trusted with public money). Either way, not something you’d probably want to invest in.

Reinventing the wheel

In fact, I’d take a step back and ask the most basic question right at the start, if your idea is so great why has nobody thought of it before? Because the odds are good that somebody had thought of it before, but dismissed it for a good reason. Hyperloop for example is not a new idea, its been proposed before in various forms. But they quickly realised it just wasn’t a practical proposal and ceased all research. Worst still if nobody has thought of it before, maybe its because such a device would need to break the basic laws of physics to work properly (as is the case with a number of the aforementioned water woo devices).

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The hyperloop concept has been proposed many times before

Granted times change and so does technology, but some things don’t change. Take for example flying cars or jet packs. Why don’t we have those? Because they are very expensive to build (well beyond the budget of anyone but the super rich) and difficult to fly. Plus, given how fuel inefficient they would be, their range would be poor. And air traffic control would struggle to cope with so many flying objects in close proximity to the ground. In short they combine all the disadvantages of a car with all of those of a helicopter. To the point where you are better off just driving to an airfield, getting in a plane/helicopter and flying to your destination.

Now granted, recent advances in drone technology, materials, batteries and electric motors has allowed a drone to be scaled up to the level where one can carry a person, as recently demonstrated by a French daredevil flying over the English channel. So while I could see a few niche rolls evolving for such devices (the play thing of billionaires, military uses, smuggling drugs and migrants across Trump’s wall, etc.). But its never going to go to be a mass market, as the other factors still apply.

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If there’s anything more terrifying for brexiters, its flying foreigners over the white cliffs of Dover

So the question has to be asked, is there some simple practical solution that exists right now that can do the same thing as the proposed product. Because more often than not, there is. Do you need a $600 wi-fi enabled monster in my kitchen to press fruit out of a bag, when can you just squeeze it with your hands? As opposed to getting “water from air” how about you just get it from the tap, a river, or even the sea and filter it or use reverse osmosis to remove the salt. Not only does this suggest that such a device will fail commercially, it suggests the crank developer proposing it hasn’t even done the most basic market research.

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Take solar roadways. Now the solar aspect of these has been widely debunked by many other sources, so I’m not going to dwell too long on that. What I’m going to focus on is the other aspects of this technology. The use of LED’s for road markings for example, because they don’t make a lot of sense. If we want to communicate hazard warnings to drivers, why not just broadcast that information directly to the vehicles? Most cars these days have driver assist features and an integrated sat-nav, as well as internet access (via Wi-Fi or a mobile phone bluetoothed to the car).

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Not only does this bring the benefit that warnings will be received much earlier (while the car is further away from the hazard), but we can also include an audio warning within the car, increasing the likelihood that drivers will react in time. Bottom line, it’s going to be easier to implement a software update on the car (or install a mobile phone app) than paving the road with LED displays. And there’s also an element of future proofing the system. How will a driverless car react to a bunch of disco lights suddenly flashing at it? Ignore them? Sit on the brakes and get rear-ended? Take evasive action and drive off the road? I don’t know and I’d rather not find out!

Also, when it comes to heating elements to clear snow, it would be more sensible to just use a snow plough than heating plates Or alternatively, for sections of road prone to icing where we don’t want to rely on a snow plough (e.g. the on or off ramps of motorways), how about just using a heat pump? This is something which has been demonstrated by a pilot project in the UK. And we are comparing a magical woo device that only works in la la land, to something in the real world built by real engineers, subject to real world testing, with real vehicles driving over it.

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A snow clearing heat pump under test in Japan

My point is that you can easily see how under the microscope of ration scrutiny such a concept rapidly falls apart pretty quickly.

The ponzi factor

Given all what I’ve said above, you’d wonder how they get away with it. I mean yes you can stumble on a slick advertising campaign online, or some fake news conspiracy theory, but there’s dedicated teams of debunkers out there who are quick to shoot down such ideas. And a few minutes or rational reasoning (or a quick google search) should expose the flaws in any such snake oil salesman’s pitch. So why do people fall for it? And why don’t they recognise that they were conned?

Well its down to something I’ve talked about before, what I call the ponzi factor. A key part of any con is to get the mark to emotionally commit to the con. The objective here is two fold. Firstly it reduces the chances of the mark backing out of the con when the inevitable cracks start to appear. And secondly, it means they are less likely to go running to the authorities after being fleeced (either because they still believe in the con, or are too embarrassed to report it).

Such is the power of myth. Its why people (such as the UK’s farmers or fishermen who voted brexit, or the farmers in the US who voted Trump) will remain committed to a con well after its obvious they’ve been fleeced. If they admit they’ve been conned then they will look stupid to their peers and their ego is too fragile to take that sort of a hit. Similarly, those taken in by solar roadways, LFTR’s or water woo devices will cling to this belief. And, as discussed, even politicians and business leaders can be taken in by such click bait. In fact even the developers themselves, who might not have set out to con people, has gone so far down the rabbit hole they start to believe their own propaganda (which has almost certainly happened to more than a few of them).

So what is the solution? Well clearly anyone prompting this stuff be they crowdfunding  or tech news websites needs to apply a bit more sceptical scrutiny to any such proposals. Granted they may not have the technical skills to do so, but why not just consult someone who can, such as an academic at a local university (this is something we do get asked to weigh in on from time to time by more professional investors). One idea being floated is a sort of Hypocratic oath for scientists and engineers (that said, plastic surgeons don’t follow such an oath, nor the ones supervising executions, so not sure if it would work if there’s not some sort of penalty for breaking the oath).

But ultimately it means taking any new ideas with a pinch of salt. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

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The downgrading of the UK’s shale gas potential

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While school protests about climate change under way and the country in chaos over brexit, fracking has quietly restarted in the UK…leading to more earthquakes. But a recent report from a pair of UK academics has cast doubt on the amount of shale gas available in the UK. They suggest that shale gas reserves are likely to be just 20% of the size previously estimated. And its still unclear how much of that can be viably tapped.

The problem boils down to how the original estimate was made. It was based on historic knowledge of this shale formation under the UK Midlands (which has been known about for many decades). Compiling the data on this formation, its size was estimated. The amount of gas available was then calculated with the aid of gas density estimates from US shale formations. However it turns out that the shale formations under the UK are very different from those in the US. Notably thanks to the UK’s wetter climate more water has filtered down into these shale formations, displacing the gas.

Also there’s the fact that the UK is just a smaller country, whose drinking water is more at risk from drilling. And while you can get away with polluting the water supply of some red necks in the Appalachians, do that to a town in the UK and the BGS will shut you down pretty quickly.

And it should be noted that even this new estimate is based on fairly optimistic assumptions, that might not prove to be true (e.g. that at least 10% can be converted from resources to reserves when the global average is closer to 7% for all energy resources and under 1% for unconventional gas). And why would the UK want to drill for shale gas when wind power prices keep falling (now about £40/MWh, half the cost of nuclear). And besides we can just buy the regular stuff off of Norway at dirt cheap prices.

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The world’s energy reserves are only about 7% of the world’s energy resources (for unconventional gas, less than 1%  of resources is classified as reserves). And only 1% of reserves are produced each year!

But I bring this up because I think it highlights a very important point, the difference between reserves and resources. Estimates of how much gas is underground is something of a guessing game. Its like trying to guess the number of marbles in a jar…but the jar is opaque (so there could be one rolling around at the bottom, there could a few mixed in with something else, or it could be full to the brim) and  the jar is buried several miles underground!

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And just because there’s gas under the ground doesn’t mean we can extract it. That’s easier said than done. It might not be technically feasible to do so. Or it might not be economically viable to try. And given how several major investment funds have recently gotten their fingers burned on fossil fuel plays, they might be reluctant to risk it. Plus the go too assumption that lower oil production will automatically mean higher prices and more investment doesn’t hold true anymore. Higher prices means renewables become a more economically viable alternative. And its always cheaper to just conserve.

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Bottom line, cornucopian assumptions of unlimited resources don’t stand up to rational scrutiny, as they are based on an assumption that we have access to magical technology and an infinite supply of money. But of course if we did, we’d not need to extract fossil fuels anymore!

Posted in clean energy, climate change, economics, efficiency, energy, fossil fuels, Passivhaus, peak oil, renewables, Shale Gas, Shale oil, sustainability, sustainable, Tar Sands | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why has no other country tried to leave the EU?

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I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone from another EU country (Holland) and it led to something of a thought experiment. Why has no other country ever tried to leave the EU?

I mean its not as if euroscepticism is an entirely British phenomenon. There’s been several occasions where populists eurosceptic parties have held a majority in government, most recently in Italy for example. And polls show there’s a possibility such a thing could go through. Yet despite all the vitriol and anti-EU rhetoric they haven’t put their money where their mouth is and tried to hold a referendum and leave, Why? Well the answer tells us more about the UK than it does about the EU.

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Most EU states are governed by constitutions which would require a legally binding referendum be held, prior to leaving, as an absolute minimum. In fact in some country’s you’d have…

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