Monthly Archives: December 2019

The True Cost of Renewables

Who speaks

Who speaks for the people who need affordable electricity?

I have been challenged by a friend of mine in one of our jolly Facebook banters to provide “peer-reviewed citations” for the proposition that renewable energy is more expensive than conventional energy. This turns out to be surprisingly tricky, not because the proposition is wrong, but because it is hard to put the issue in a nutshell, and even harder to keep it there.

Let me say at once that I am not at all against renewable energy. If I lived on Tristan da Cunha, I might well think that a wind turbine was a great idea.[1] And hydro is great if you happen to live near a large damable river. I have solar panels on my own roof, with a battery in the garage.[2]

So let’s rule out hydro, geothermal, crowding round a lighted match and all the other small players. In the renewables corner, we have solar generation and wind turbines. In the conventional corner, we have burning hydrocarbons (coal, oil and gas). Let’s leave out nuclear as well the time being; we don’t want people getting excited. , geothermal hydro

Even with that simplification, counting the comparative cost of renewables and conventional power is not easy. Are we talking about the cost of Continue reading

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Where is the Bus?

busWhen Brexit won the 2016 referendum, the flopsie remoaners complained that it was only because of lies. In particular, they focused on the Brexit campaign bus which gave the gross UK weekly contribution, when they thought it should have been the net figure, after deduction of what the EU spends in the UK.

Boris Johnson has just won a considerable majority in the general election. The flopsies will not like that at all. They will want to say the election was stolen by lies.

But this time, there is no very obvious bus.

My guess is that Continue reading

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A Whiff of Musk

VernonVernon Unsworth, the British cave diver who was instrumental in saving the lives of a Thai football team trapped in a cave, has lost his libel action against Elon Musk. Elon Musk had referred to Unsworth as a “pedo guy” on Twitter, and later tweeted: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true”.

As it happens, Vernon Unsworth is not a paedophile at all, and it might be thought that his action in defamation was something of a sure-fire winner. Musk’s defence was that when he called Unsworth a pedo, he didn’t literally mean that Unsworth was a pedo.

No, he just meant that Unsworth was a tosser.

Not that he was accusing Unsworth of masturbation either. He was just saying that Unsworth was a moron.

And no, he wasn’t accusing Unsworth of intellectual impairment either.

It turns out that, in the general stock of insults, people don’t generally Continue reading

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Climate change – what happened to the Isle of Oxney?

old_mapWhen I was a child, my maternal grandmother retired to Littlestone, on the Kent coast. The nearest town was New Romney, which used to be a thriving port not so very long ago. I recall seeing the metal rings that the ships used to tie up to on the harbour wall.

Not any more.

And what about the Isle of Oxney, just up the road? That is completely gone.

The ravages of climate change? Swamped by rising sea level?

Just the Continue reading

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Middle Agitprop

middlemarchOn the radio, the BBC has been running a dramatisation of George Eliot’s Middlemarch. It is a long time since I last read the novel. Putting a story of everyday provincial life on the radio, with different actors playing each character, inevitably reminds one just a little of a 19th-century version of The Archers Omnibus. Hey ho.

And there is something else.

As the narrative descends from the sunny uplands of Jane Austen to the dreary back alleys of Zola, so George Eliot’s subtle wit is replaced by the whining drone of Continue reading

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