Author: Paul Brown

About Paul Brown

Paul Brown, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former environment correspondent of The Guardian newspaper, and still writes columns for the paper.

Wind power bids to save the North Sea oil industry

Can the world’s largest floating offshore wind farms help the North Sea oil industry to cut carbon emissions? Should they?

LONDON, 12 July, 2021 – In one sense it is a renewable energy scheme that ticks all the wrong boxes. The idea is to help the North Sea oil industry survive longer by saving oil rigs money.

In another way the development is a great leap forward. Altogether 200 turbines are planned in two offshore wind farms that, without any public subsidy, will produce as much power as three large nuclear power stations.

The floating farms will be able to provide the forest of oil platforms in the North Sea with all the electricity they need, and also to produce surplus energy to supply large amounts of green hydrogen for sale.

The developer, Cerulean Winds, believes the key to the scheme’s success lies in the oil industry’s current need to use expensive gas piped to its platforms to generate the electricity needed to light and power its operations and pump the oil ashore. By selling the industry cheaper wind energy, it judges that it can make a profit without government subsidy, thereby avoiding months of negotiation and red tape.

Hearts and minds

Electricity generated direct from floating turbines near the oil fields would both undercut the current cost of generation and substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the offshore oil industry – something the industry has pledged to do and is desperate to achieve, to avoid not only further public opposition, but also carbon taxes.

The platform operators are committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, so buying carbon-free electricity would be a significant help.

The project will cost £10 billion (US$13.8bn), and the developers hope to be installing the turbines by 2024-2026, an ambitious timetable for such a huge project compared with the 10-20 years needed to plan and build a nuclear power station.

One farm will be sited in the Central Graben area of the North Sea, almost halfway to Norway, and the second west of Shetland.

“The UK oil and gas industry’s emissions have to be cut significantly to make production greener”

The development will far exceed the UK’s current target of 1GW of floating wind power by 2030. If it is successful it will cut installation costs substantially, paving the way for even bigger projects. Cerulean says it wants to install 14 to 15MW turbines – far larger than anything currently deployed.

One key aspect of the project is its ability to produce more power than the oil platforms will need, with the surplus going to produce green hydrogen (using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) for which there is a growing market.

Green hydrogen’s problem has been that it is more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, so-called grey hydrogen, which is carbon-intensive and needs unproven carbon capture and storage technology to make its production acceptable to the environment movement.

The future of what is called the hydrogen economy is still uncertain, but Cerulean predicts it will be able to produce enough green hydrogen to yield export potential worth £1bn.

Race against time

It says speed is essential for the project because its success depends on selling its electricity to the oil industry in time to for that to reach its carbon reduction targets. So it has already submitted proposals to the Scottish Government for seabed leases.

The dubious carrot it is offering the UK and Scottish governments is the prospect that it can help to keep the North Sea oil and gas industry producing fossil fuels for longer. Cerulean believes that if the industry can avoid carbon taxes and penalties for its emissions, it will be able to continue production.

Dan Jackson and Mark Dixon, the founders of the company, are industry veterans. Jackson says the UK has world-leading targets for the energy transition but needs a sense of urgency and “joined-up thinking.”

If oil platforms do not cut their pollution by the mid-2020s, he believes, increased emission penalties through carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields becoming uneconomic and facing shut-down.

Greener production?

“That would seriously compromise the UK oil and gas industry’s role in home-grown energy security,” he says. “It must remain a vital element in the transition journey for decades to come, but emissions have to be cut significantly to make the production greener.”

Cerulean says many of the current 160,000 jobs would be protected by its plan, with potentially 200,000 new roles in the wind and hydrogen industry within five years.

It is, many energy analysts would say, a brave company, perhaps even a foolhardy one. Not only are most climate scientists adamantly opposed to the continued use of fossil fuels. So too, increasingly, is the market. From that perspective, Cerulean’s joined-up thinking may very soon need to stretch a whole lot further. – Climate News Network

Can the world’s largest floating offshore wind farms help the North Sea oil industry to cut carbon emissions? Should they?

LONDON, 12 July, 2021 – In one sense it is a renewable energy scheme that ticks all the wrong boxes. The idea is to help the North Sea oil industry survive longer by saving oil rigs money.

In another way the development is a great leap forward. Altogether 200 turbines are planned in two offshore wind farms that, without any public subsidy, will produce as much power as three large nuclear power stations.

The floating farms will be able to provide the forest of oil platforms in the North Sea with all the electricity they need, and also to produce surplus energy to supply large amounts of green hydrogen for sale.

The developer, Cerulean Winds, believes the key to the scheme’s success lies in the oil industry’s current need to use expensive gas piped to its platforms to generate the electricity needed to light and power its operations and pump the oil ashore. By selling the industry cheaper wind energy, it judges that it can make a profit without government subsidy, thereby avoiding months of negotiation and red tape.

Hearts and minds

Electricity generated direct from floating turbines near the oil fields would both undercut the current cost of generation and substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the offshore oil industry – something the industry has pledged to do and is desperate to achieve, to avoid not only further public opposition, but also carbon taxes.

The platform operators are committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, so buying carbon-free electricity would be a significant help.

The project will cost £10 billion (US$13.8bn), and the developers hope to be installing the turbines by 2024-2026, an ambitious timetable for such a huge project compared with the 10-20 years needed to plan and build a nuclear power station.

One farm will be sited in the Central Graben area of the North Sea, almost halfway to Norway, and the second west of Shetland.

“The UK oil and gas industry’s emissions have to be cut significantly to make production greener”

The development will far exceed the UK’s current target of 1GW of floating wind power by 2030. If it is successful it will cut installation costs substantially, paving the way for even bigger projects. Cerulean says it wants to install 14 to 15MW turbines – far larger than anything currently deployed.

One key aspect of the project is its ability to produce more power than the oil platforms will need, with the surplus going to produce green hydrogen (using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) for which there is a growing market.

Green hydrogen’s problem has been that it is more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, so-called grey hydrogen, which is carbon-intensive and needs unproven carbon capture and storage technology to make its production acceptable to the environment movement.

The future of what is called the hydrogen economy is still uncertain, but Cerulean predicts it will be able to produce enough green hydrogen to yield export potential worth £1bn.

Race against time

It says speed is essential for the project because its success depends on selling its electricity to the oil industry in time to for that to reach its carbon reduction targets. So it has already submitted proposals to the Scottish Government for seabed leases.

The dubious carrot it is offering the UK and Scottish governments is the prospect that it can help to keep the North Sea oil and gas industry producing fossil fuels for longer. Cerulean believes that if the industry can avoid carbon taxes and penalties for its emissions, it will be able to continue production.

Dan Jackson and Mark Dixon, the founders of the company, are industry veterans. Jackson says the UK has world-leading targets for the energy transition but needs a sense of urgency and “joined-up thinking.”

If oil platforms do not cut their pollution by the mid-2020s, he believes, increased emission penalties through carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields becoming uneconomic and facing shut-down.

Greener production?

“That would seriously compromise the UK oil and gas industry’s role in home-grown energy security,” he says. “It must remain a vital element in the transition journey for decades to come, but emissions have to be cut significantly to make the production greener.”

Cerulean says many of the current 160,000 jobs would be protected by its plan, with potentially 200,000 new roles in the wind and hydrogen industry within five years.

It is, many energy analysts would say, a brave company, perhaps even a foolhardy one. Not only are most climate scientists adamantly opposed to the continued use of fossil fuels. So too, increasingly, is the market. From that perspective, Cerulean’s joined-up thinking may very soon need to stretch a whole lot further. – Climate News Network

Orkney’s renewable energy to fuel foreign needs

The tough climate of the North Atlantic is an ideal proving ground for Orkney’s renewable energy boom.

LONDON, 2 July, 2021 − A surplus of electricity from renewable sources is a luxury that many communities in a world threatened by climate change might wish for. This is the happy situation of Orkney, a wind-swept archipelago 10 miles (16 kms) north of the Scottish mainland on the edge of the Atlantic. Orkney’s renewable energy, a success at home, may soon be supplying consumers further afield.

Using a combination of wind, sun, tides and waves, the islands have been producing more than 100% of the electricity the residents need since 2013, and have now reached 130%.

The islanders are exploiting their renewable riches by developing a variety of pioneering schemes. Many are being installed by Scottish engineering companies that hope they will be scaled up and will benefit the rest of Europe, and of the entire world.

Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, which is successfully testing wave and tidal machines. But the islands are also pioneering other technologies and putting the surplus electricity to good use.

Spare power is already used to make hydrogen and oxygen. The Orcadians plan to use hydrogen to power the fleet of small boats they need to connect the populations of nine of the largest inhabited islands, and the fleet of larger ferries linking them to mainland Scotland.

“Where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity”

The 22,000 people of the islands have enthusiastically embraced renewable energy, with more than 1,000 households generating their own power, covering over 10% of the population. There is also a high take-up of electric vehicles – 267 at the last count.

The Orkney Islands Council is pushing for an interconnector linking Orkney and the mainland to export its surplus energy, which a recent report suggests could be worth up to £807 million (€938m) annually to the local economy.

This would mean building more wind turbines in the outlying islands, and also connecting tidal and wave energy installations to the grid.

The Orkney Renewable Energy Forum promotes all forms of renewables on the islands and details more than a dozen pioneering projects that have come to Orkney for testing.

Costs to dive

Because of the frequently stormy weather and exposure to the Atlantic rollers, Orkney has been attractive for companies needing especially to test novel wave power machines and undersea turbine installations. The sheer number of experiments allows Orkney to claim to be a world leader in the field.

Underwater turbines, known also as tidal stream turbines, were first tried in the islands. They exploit strong undersea currents and are now a proven technology. MeyGen began by successfully installing four 1.5 megawatt turbines between Orkney and the mainland. They performed better than expected, and a much larger development is now under way.

Although the United Kingdom has now left the European Union, the tidal technology developed in Orkney and Shetland – the island group to the north – is destined for wider European use. The EU has ambitious targets for generating tidal energy and companies are racing to exploit the many undersea tidal resources along the Atlantic and North Sea coastlines.

They believe that costs will fall as the technology develops, and predictable tidal currents will produce the regular output highly desirable for keeping electricity grids stable.

Wave machines, however, have not been so successful. Although some have clearly worked and produced power, the last push to full commercial deployment has proved difficult, and some companies have gone bankrupt.

South Seas beckon

Engineers have not given up, however, and the latest wave machine, 20 metres long and weighing 38 tonnes, has been towed to the islands and is currently being installed before tests start.

There are ambitious plans to connect it to the grid to prove that the technology lives up the maker’s claims that hundreds of such machines could power millions of homes.

Cameron McNatt of Mocean Energy, which is developing the machine, has high hopes for Orkney’s renewable energy. He said: “Scotland and the North Sea are really good proving grounds for this technology, and where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity.

“We anticipate our technology being used all over the world. Outside of Europe, the United States is a big target market for us, as is Australia and the Oceania region.” − Climate News Network

The tough climate of the North Atlantic is an ideal proving ground for Orkney’s renewable energy boom.

LONDON, 2 July, 2021 − A surplus of electricity from renewable sources is a luxury that many communities in a world threatened by climate change might wish for. This is the happy situation of Orkney, a wind-swept archipelago 10 miles (16 kms) north of the Scottish mainland on the edge of the Atlantic. Orkney’s renewable energy, a success at home, may soon be supplying consumers further afield.

Using a combination of wind, sun, tides and waves, the islands have been producing more than 100% of the electricity the residents need since 2013, and have now reached 130%.

The islanders are exploiting their renewable riches by developing a variety of pioneering schemes. Many are being installed by Scottish engineering companies that hope they will be scaled up and will benefit the rest of Europe, and of the entire world.

Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, which is successfully testing wave and tidal machines. But the islands are also pioneering other technologies and putting the surplus electricity to good use.

Spare power is already used to make hydrogen and oxygen. The Orcadians plan to use hydrogen to power the fleet of small boats they need to connect the populations of nine of the largest inhabited islands, and the fleet of larger ferries linking them to mainland Scotland.

“Where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity”

The 22,000 people of the islands have enthusiastically embraced renewable energy, with more than 1,000 households generating their own power, covering over 10% of the population. There is also a high take-up of electric vehicles – 267 at the last count.

The Orkney Islands Council is pushing for an interconnector linking Orkney and the mainland to export its surplus energy, which a recent report suggests could be worth up to £807 million (€938m) annually to the local economy.

This would mean building more wind turbines in the outlying islands, and also connecting tidal and wave energy installations to the grid.

The Orkney Renewable Energy Forum promotes all forms of renewables on the islands and details more than a dozen pioneering projects that have come to Orkney for testing.

Costs to dive

Because of the frequently stormy weather and exposure to the Atlantic rollers, Orkney has been attractive for companies needing especially to test novel wave power machines and undersea turbine installations. The sheer number of experiments allows Orkney to claim to be a world leader in the field.

Underwater turbines, known also as tidal stream turbines, were first tried in the islands. They exploit strong undersea currents and are now a proven technology. MeyGen began by successfully installing four 1.5 megawatt turbines between Orkney and the mainland. They performed better than expected, and a much larger development is now under way.

Although the United Kingdom has now left the European Union, the tidal technology developed in Orkney and Shetland – the island group to the north – is destined for wider European use. The EU has ambitious targets for generating tidal energy and companies are racing to exploit the many undersea tidal resources along the Atlantic and North Sea coastlines.

They believe that costs will fall as the technology develops, and predictable tidal currents will produce the regular output highly desirable for keeping electricity grids stable.

Wave machines, however, have not been so successful. Although some have clearly worked and produced power, the last push to full commercial deployment has proved difficult, and some companies have gone bankrupt.

South Seas beckon

Engineers have not given up, however, and the latest wave machine, 20 metres long and weighing 38 tonnes, has been towed to the islands and is currently being installed before tests start.

There are ambitious plans to connect it to the grid to prove that the technology lives up the maker’s claims that hundreds of such machines could power millions of homes.

Cameron McNatt of Mocean Energy, which is developing the machine, has high hopes for Orkney’s renewable energy. He said: “Scotland and the North Sea are really good proving grounds for this technology, and where you have a coastline and some waves, there is an opportunity.

“We anticipate our technology being used all over the world. Outside of Europe, the United States is a big target market for us, as is Australia and the Oceania region.” − Climate News Network

Nuclear legacy is a costly headache for the future

How do you safely store spent nuclear waste? No-one knows. It’ll be a costly headache for our descendants.

LONDON, 28 June, 2021 − Many states are leaving future generations an unsolved and costly headache: how to deal with highly dangerous nuclear waste.

The decision to start closing down the United Kingdom’s second generation of nuclear power stations earlier than originally planned has highlighted the failure of governments to resolve the increasingly expensive problem of the waste they leave behind them.

Heat-producing radioactive spent fuel needs constant cooling for decades to avoid catastrophic accidents, so future generations in countries that have embraced nuclear power will all be paying billions of dollars a year, every year, for at least the next century or two to deal with this highly dangerous legacy.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Nuclear Energy Agency looks at 12 member countries facing the problem: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The report shows that none of the 12 has yet got to grips with the legacy bequeathed by producing nuclear waste. None has any means yet of disposing of it. It says every country must quickly realise that the money the industry has put aside to deal with the problem is inadequate, leaving successive future generations with the bill for keeping themselves safe.

Failure to progress

Finland is closest to dealing with the internationally preferred route for making spent nuclear fuel safe: building an underground repository in rocks deep underground to store and ultimately seal up the waste in this final burial place.

The Finns have actually started building such a facility and regard it as the complete solution to the problem, even though it is still decades away from completion.

Finland’s progress is a shining example to the rest of the nuclear world. International rules require countries that create nuclear waste to deal with it within their own borders − yet most governments have failed to make progress on doing so. Some have spent decades looking for a suitable site and have failed to find one.

This has often been because local opposition has forced governments to abandon a chosen location, or because scientists judge the site too dangerous to store wastes for the required 100,000 years or so, because of poor geology. They may suspect a risk that the radioactivity could leak into water supplies, or rise to the surface and kill unwary future generations.

The funding shortfall has become much more problematic because of low inflation and the current Covid pandemic. Governments previously put money aside on the assumption that economies would constantly grow and positive interest rates would create massive long-term investments.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for nuclear wastes.

But the current low or negative return on government bonds means investments made in the past and designed to pay huge future bills will no longer be enough to deal with the cost of spent fuel and other high-level wastes.

The report says governments’ assumptions have proved optimistic. It is not directly critical of governments, but points out that “the polluter pays” principle is not being applied. New funding needs to be found, it says, if future generations are not to be saddled with this generation’s expensive and life-threatening legacy.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for past and present nuclear wastes.

As early as 1976, in the Flowers Report on nuclear power and the environment, the UK was warned that it should not build any more nuclear power stations until it had found a way of getting rid of the waste. The government agreed.

Since then, for more than 40 years, successive governments have been looking for a repository to make good on their promise. But none has yet been found, and none is expected until the current target date of 2045.

True cost unknown

Yet the OECD says the original nuclear weapons programme, plus the first generation of nuclear stations, now all closed, are costing today’s taxpayers US$4.58 billion a year (£3.3bn) just to manage the waste and keep the population safe. The cost is around $185bn (£133bn) for 17 sites over 120 years. There could be liabilities of another $200bn (£144bn) to restore the installations to greenfield sites.

The second generation of nuclear stations can call on the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, set up by the UK government when the French company EDF took over the newer British advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) in 2009 so that money from electricity sales could be invested to pay for de-fuelling and decommissioning at the end of their lives. The first of these, Dungeness B, on the English Channel coast, started de-fuelling this month.

The cost of dismantling this generation of reactors is estimated at $28.57bn (£20.59bn) by EDF  $10bn more than the Nuclear Liabilities Fund provides for. This shortfall is almost certainly a large under-estimate because the actual cost of closing the stations and storing the waste is unknown, let alone that of restoring the sites to greenfield conditions.

Partly this is because AGRs have never yet been taken out of service before there is a disposal route for the waste. If none is found, taxpayers will have to pay to keep it safe in closely managed stores for many decades.

Despite this, the current UK government is now building a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point in the West of England, and wants to build many more. Meanwhile the mounting financial liabilities for future generations who will need to keep the waste safe in a time of climate change are left unresolved. And so the costly headache remains for countless generations to come. − Climate News Network

How do you safely store spent nuclear waste? No-one knows. It’ll be a costly headache for our descendants.

LONDON, 28 June, 2021 − Many states are leaving future generations an unsolved and costly headache: how to deal with highly dangerous nuclear waste.

The decision to start closing down the United Kingdom’s second generation of nuclear power stations earlier than originally planned has highlighted the failure of governments to resolve the increasingly expensive problem of the waste they leave behind them.

Heat-producing radioactive spent fuel needs constant cooling for decades to avoid catastrophic accidents, so future generations in countries that have embraced nuclear power will all be paying billions of dollars a year, every year, for at least the next century or two to deal with this highly dangerous legacy.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Nuclear Energy Agency looks at 12 member countries facing the problem: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The report shows that none of the 12 has yet got to grips with the legacy bequeathed by producing nuclear waste. None has any means yet of disposing of it. It says every country must quickly realise that the money the industry has put aside to deal with the problem is inadequate, leaving successive future generations with the bill for keeping themselves safe.

Failure to progress

Finland is closest to dealing with the internationally preferred route for making spent nuclear fuel safe: building an underground repository in rocks deep underground to store and ultimately seal up the waste in this final burial place.

The Finns have actually started building such a facility and regard it as the complete solution to the problem, even though it is still decades away from completion.

Finland’s progress is a shining example to the rest of the nuclear world. International rules require countries that create nuclear waste to deal with it within their own borders − yet most governments have failed to make progress on doing so. Some have spent decades looking for a suitable site and have failed to find one.

This has often been because local opposition has forced governments to abandon a chosen location, or because scientists judge the site too dangerous to store wastes for the required 100,000 years or so, because of poor geology. They may suspect a risk that the radioactivity could leak into water supplies, or rise to the surface and kill unwary future generations.

The funding shortfall has become much more problematic because of low inflation and the current Covid pandemic. Governments previously put money aside on the assumption that economies would constantly grow and positive interest rates would create massive long-term investments.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for nuclear wastes.

But the current low or negative return on government bonds means investments made in the past and designed to pay huge future bills will no longer be enough to deal with the cost of spent fuel and other high-level wastes.

The report says governments’ assumptions have proved optimistic. It is not directly critical of governments, but points out that “the polluter pays” principle is not being applied. New funding needs to be found, it says, if future generations are not to be saddled with this generation’s expensive and life-threatening legacy.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for past and present nuclear wastes.

As early as 1976, in the Flowers Report on nuclear power and the environment, the UK was warned that it should not build any more nuclear power stations until it had found a way of getting rid of the waste. The government agreed.

Since then, for more than 40 years, successive governments have been looking for a repository to make good on their promise. But none has yet been found, and none is expected until the current target date of 2045.

True cost unknown

Yet the OECD says the original nuclear weapons programme, plus the first generation of nuclear stations, now all closed, are costing today’s taxpayers US$4.58 billion a year (£3.3bn) just to manage the waste and keep the population safe. The cost is around $185bn (£133bn) for 17 sites over 120 years. There could be liabilities of another $200bn (£144bn) to restore the installations to greenfield sites.

The second generation of nuclear stations can call on the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, set up by the UK government when the French company EDF took over the newer British advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) in 2009 so that money from electricity sales could be invested to pay for de-fuelling and decommissioning at the end of their lives. The first of these, Dungeness B, on the English Channel coast, started de-fuelling this month.

The cost of dismantling this generation of reactors is estimated at $28.57bn (£20.59bn) by EDF  $10bn more than the Nuclear Liabilities Fund provides for. This shortfall is almost certainly a large under-estimate because the actual cost of closing the stations and storing the waste is unknown, let alone that of restoring the sites to greenfield conditions.

Partly this is because AGRs have never yet been taken out of service before there is a disposal route for the waste. If none is found, taxpayers will have to pay to keep it safe in closely managed stores for many decades.

Despite this, the current UK government is now building a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point in the West of England, and wants to build many more. Meanwhile the mounting financial liabilities for future generations who will need to keep the waste safe in a time of climate change are left unresolved. And so the costly headache remains for countless generations to come. − Climate News Network

Maggot burgers can help to solve world hunger

Fancy maggot burgers for dinner? Eating animals and plants which revolt many of us could cut hunger caused by climate change.

LONDON, 14 June, 2021 − A diet of maggot burgers, green slime and seaweed may not appeal to most people, but scientists say it will be essential if the world is to avoid widespread malnutrition.

These “novel foods”, as the researchers beguilingly call them, may sound disgusting to some cultures, but the idea behind them is strictly serious. It does not recommend eating the ingredients raw, or even cooked, but processed into more familiar foods.

It has been developed by a team at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge, UK, who accept that knowing what a recipe contains is a potential barrier to novel foods, so “consideration must be given to (people’s) gastronomic preferences.” Their research is published in the journal Nature Food.

One way to sidestep the problem of repugnance could be to make pasta, burgers, energy bars and similar foods to look and taste just as they always do, while containing insect larvae or micro- and macro-algae.

“Foods like sugar kelp, flies, mealworms and single-celled algae such as chlorella, have the potential to provide healthy, risk-resilient diets that can address malnutrition around the world,” said Dr Asaf Tzachor, first author of the report.

Millions at risk

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks − floods and frosts, droughts and dry spells, pathogens and parasites − which marginal improvements in productivity won’t change. To future-proof our food supply we need to integrate completely new ways of farming into the current system.”

The team says the recent shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with wildfires and droughts in North America, outbreaks of African swine fever affecting pigs in Asia and Europe, and swarms of desert locusts in East Africa, has shown how vulnerable the world’s harvests and distribution networks are to events beyond human control – and how increasing millions of people will suffer unless we adopt novel foods. The problem will only grow as climate heating intensifies.

These new foods can be grown in controlled environments in huge quantities almost anywhere, because they are not weather-dependent. This means they could be produced where malnutrition is already prevalent, improving the diet of children who suffer stunted growth.

Currently two billion people endure food insecurity, with 690 million more undernourished, among them 340 million children fed a poor diet.

Algae, seaweed and the larvae of soldier flies, mealworms and houseflies can be grown in closed environments in containers stacked one on another. Although each species has slightly different needs insect and algae farms, once established, could use multiple containers and automatic systems. They would also offer the added benefit of using organic waste as a food stock for both flies and algae.

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks”

They would avoid the problems of adverse weather suffered by other farming systems, and would eliminate food poisoning like salmonella. Proper management would let growers adjust production to meet changing demand.

One other advantage is that these systems could operate in any climate, so could be used in parts of the world where the food was to be consumed, cutting down the need for long supply chains. This would be particularly important in places like the Pacific islands where, the researchers say, “feeble agriculture and consumption of nutrient-poor foods contribute to stunting in children, and iron-deficiency anaemia in women of reproductive age.”

However, even though these new systems do not depend on weather or even light, they do need other stable conditions, particularly good electricity supplies. So it would be important to make sure that the novel food factories were set up in places where management was protected from sudden outside shocks and interruptions of supply. They would also have to be shielded from potential contamination.

The researchers urge “scientists, engineers, investors and policymakers to consider future foods as a malnutrition mitigation pathway.” Catherine Richards, a doctoral researcher at CSER, said: “Advances in technology open up many possibilities for alternative food supply systems that are more risk-resilient, and can efficiently supply sustainable nutrition to billions of people.

“The coronavirus pandemic is just one example of increasing threats to our globalised food system. Diversifying our diet with these future foods will be important in achieving food security for all.” − Climate News Network

Fancy maggot burgers for dinner? Eating animals and plants which revolt many of us could cut hunger caused by climate change.

LONDON, 14 June, 2021 − A diet of maggot burgers, green slime and seaweed may not appeal to most people, but scientists say it will be essential if the world is to avoid widespread malnutrition.

These “novel foods”, as the researchers beguilingly call them, may sound disgusting to some cultures, but the idea behind them is strictly serious. It does not recommend eating the ingredients raw, or even cooked, but processed into more familiar foods.

It has been developed by a team at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge, UK, who accept that knowing what a recipe contains is a potential barrier to novel foods, so “consideration must be given to (people’s) gastronomic preferences.” Their research is published in the journal Nature Food.

One way to sidestep the problem of repugnance could be to make pasta, burgers, energy bars and similar foods to look and taste just as they always do, while containing insect larvae or micro- and macro-algae.

“Foods like sugar kelp, flies, mealworms and single-celled algae such as chlorella, have the potential to provide healthy, risk-resilient diets that can address malnutrition around the world,” said Dr Asaf Tzachor, first author of the report.

Millions at risk

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks − floods and frosts, droughts and dry spells, pathogens and parasites − which marginal improvements in productivity won’t change. To future-proof our food supply we need to integrate completely new ways of farming into the current system.”

The team says the recent shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with wildfires and droughts in North America, outbreaks of African swine fever affecting pigs in Asia and Europe, and swarms of desert locusts in East Africa, has shown how vulnerable the world’s harvests and distribution networks are to events beyond human control – and how increasing millions of people will suffer unless we adopt novel foods. The problem will only grow as climate heating intensifies.

These new foods can be grown in controlled environments in huge quantities almost anywhere, because they are not weather-dependent. This means they could be produced where malnutrition is already prevalent, improving the diet of children who suffer stunted growth.

Currently two billion people endure food insecurity, with 690 million more undernourished, among them 340 million children fed a poor diet.

Algae, seaweed and the larvae of soldier flies, mealworms and houseflies can be grown in closed environments in containers stacked one on another. Although each species has slightly different needs insect and algae farms, once established, could use multiple containers and automatic systems. They would also offer the added benefit of using organic waste as a food stock for both flies and algae.

“Our current food system is vulnerable. It’s exposed to a litany of risks”

They would avoid the problems of adverse weather suffered by other farming systems, and would eliminate food poisoning like salmonella. Proper management would let growers adjust production to meet changing demand.

One other advantage is that these systems could operate in any climate, so could be used in parts of the world where the food was to be consumed, cutting down the need for long supply chains. This would be particularly important in places like the Pacific islands where, the researchers say, “feeble agriculture and consumption of nutrient-poor foods contribute to stunting in children, and iron-deficiency anaemia in women of reproductive age.”

However, even though these new systems do not depend on weather or even light, they do need other stable conditions, particularly good electricity supplies. So it would be important to make sure that the novel food factories were set up in places where management was protected from sudden outside shocks and interruptions of supply. They would also have to be shielded from potential contamination.

The researchers urge “scientists, engineers, investors and policymakers to consider future foods as a malnutrition mitigation pathway.” Catherine Richards, a doctoral researcher at CSER, said: “Advances in technology open up many possibilities for alternative food supply systems that are more risk-resilient, and can efficiently supply sustainable nutrition to billions of people.

“The coronavirus pandemic is just one example of increasing threats to our globalised food system. Diversifying our diet with these future foods will be important in achieving food security for all.” − Climate News Network

Fish supplies face rising threat from algal blooms

Fish farms, and the protein supply of over three billion people, are at increasing risk from algal blooms.

LONDON, 10 June, 2021 – Toxic algal blooms that can kill fish and sometimes humans cause severe economic losses and are an increasing danger to food supplies.

The threat has increased dramatically, not because the quantity of algae is necessarily increasing, but because humankind is relying more and more on aquaculture to provide fish. There has been a 16-fold increase in fish farming since 1985.

Around 3.3 billion people rely on seafood for a fifth of their animal protein, and it is an increasingly important source as land-based agriculture faces great strains because of climate change.

An international team of scientists who carried out a statistical analysis of three sources, notably HAEDAT, the Harmful Algal Event Database, covering the years from 1985 to 2018, report their findings in the journal Nature Communications: Earth & Environment.

Their analysis, the first of its kind, was undertaken because of a widespread belief that the problem is worsening. They say it may only appear to be more acute because wild fish, unlike those in fish farms, can swim safely away from algal blooms. So it is possible the blooms have simply not been reported as often because fish have managed to avoid them.

Climate heating implicated

They write: “Global trends in the occurrence, toxicity and risk posed by harmful algal blooms to natural systems, human health and coastal economies are poorly constrained, but are widely thought to be increasing due to climate change and nutrient pollution. . .

“We find no uniform global trend in the number of harmful algal events and their distribution over time, once data were adjusted for regional variations in monitoring effort.”

However, a new factor that may be increasing the danger of algae to aquaculture is climate change. This is because harmful blooms have occurred in temperature increase hotspots in the Asia Pacific region and off the coasts of Chile and south-east Australia. Other climatic factors such as ocean acidification, nutrient alterations and lower oxygen levels are also playing a role.

The researchers did though discover wide variations across the world in the incidence of harmful blooms, with some areas having reduced human poisoning and fish kills and others increasing occurrences. The reason is not known.

The use of coastal waters for aquaculture has been the key driver for the reporting of blooms, because the mass fish mortality has led occasionally to disastrous long-lasting economic impacts. This in turn has driven awareness of new harmful algal species and new toxin types.

“Global trends in the risk posed by harmful algal blooms are widely thought to be increasing”

There are about 5,000 species of marine phytoplankton, of which 200 can harm humans through the production of toxins that either make them ill or kill the fish or shellfish they would otherwise eat. Some toxins also kill marine mammals, particularly their calves.

By December 2019 a total of 9,503 events of harmful algae had been recorded from across the world. Nearly half were of toxins in seafood; 43% of blooms caused water discolouration or surface scum, producing other impacts, for example on tourism. Around 70 incidents caused mass animal or plant mortality.

The researchers say shellfish toxin outbreaks are now well-managed in developed countries and economies can recover swiftly, although  aquaculture industries can take many years to rebuild after mass mortality. The problem is becoming more acute because of the increasing reliance of an ever-larger human population on fish protein for survival.

Examples of severe economic losses from fish farms are a US$71 million loss in Japan in 1972, with $70m in Korea in 1995, $290m in China in 2012 and $100m in Norway in 2019. The worst was the 2016 Chilean salmon farm mortality that created a record $800m loss and caused major social unrest.

The scientists conclude that algal blooms are an increasing threat to the world’s food supply because of humans’ ever-growing reliance on aquaculture for protein. They recommend a worldwide sharing of knowledge and data in order to keep a check on the problem and how to control it. – Climate News Network

Fish farms, and the protein supply of over three billion people, are at increasing risk from algal blooms.

LONDON, 10 June, 2021 – Toxic algal blooms that can kill fish and sometimes humans cause severe economic losses and are an increasing danger to food supplies.

The threat has increased dramatically, not because the quantity of algae is necessarily increasing, but because humankind is relying more and more on aquaculture to provide fish. There has been a 16-fold increase in fish farming since 1985.

Around 3.3 billion people rely on seafood for a fifth of their animal protein, and it is an increasingly important source as land-based agriculture faces great strains because of climate change.

An international team of scientists who carried out a statistical analysis of three sources, notably HAEDAT, the Harmful Algal Event Database, covering the years from 1985 to 2018, report their findings in the journal Nature Communications: Earth & Environment.

Their analysis, the first of its kind, was undertaken because of a widespread belief that the problem is worsening. They say it may only appear to be more acute because wild fish, unlike those in fish farms, can swim safely away from algal blooms. So it is possible the blooms have simply not been reported as often because fish have managed to avoid them.

Climate heating implicated

They write: “Global trends in the occurrence, toxicity and risk posed by harmful algal blooms to natural systems, human health and coastal economies are poorly constrained, but are widely thought to be increasing due to climate change and nutrient pollution. . .

“We find no uniform global trend in the number of harmful algal events and their distribution over time, once data were adjusted for regional variations in monitoring effort.”

However, a new factor that may be increasing the danger of algae to aquaculture is climate change. This is because harmful blooms have occurred in temperature increase hotspots in the Asia Pacific region and off the coasts of Chile and south-east Australia. Other climatic factors such as ocean acidification, nutrient alterations and lower oxygen levels are also playing a role.

The researchers did though discover wide variations across the world in the incidence of harmful blooms, with some areas having reduced human poisoning and fish kills and others increasing occurrences. The reason is not known.

The use of coastal waters for aquaculture has been the key driver for the reporting of blooms, because the mass fish mortality has led occasionally to disastrous long-lasting economic impacts. This in turn has driven awareness of new harmful algal species and new toxin types.

“Global trends in the risk posed by harmful algal blooms are widely thought to be increasing”

There are about 5,000 species of marine phytoplankton, of which 200 can harm humans through the production of toxins that either make them ill or kill the fish or shellfish they would otherwise eat. Some toxins also kill marine mammals, particularly their calves.

By December 2019 a total of 9,503 events of harmful algae had been recorded from across the world. Nearly half were of toxins in seafood; 43% of blooms caused water discolouration or surface scum, producing other impacts, for example on tourism. Around 70 incidents caused mass animal or plant mortality.

The researchers say shellfish toxin outbreaks are now well-managed in developed countries and economies can recover swiftly, although  aquaculture industries can take many years to rebuild after mass mortality. The problem is becoming more acute because of the increasing reliance of an ever-larger human population on fish protein for survival.

Examples of severe economic losses from fish farms are a US$71 million loss in Japan in 1972, with $70m in Korea in 1995, $290m in China in 2012 and $100m in Norway in 2019. The worst was the 2016 Chilean salmon farm mortality that created a record $800m loss and caused major social unrest.

The scientists conclude that algal blooms are an increasing threat to the world’s food supply because of humans’ ever-growing reliance on aquaculture for protein. They recommend a worldwide sharing of knowledge and data in order to keep a check on the problem and how to control it. – Climate News Network

Nuclear industry’s propaganda war rages on

With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate change.

LONDON, 3 June, 2021 − To maintain the assertion that it is still a key part of the struggle to limit the climate crisis, the global nuclear industry’s propaganda war is unremitting in its attempt to avoid oblivion in the world’s democracies.

At stake are thousands of well-paid power station jobs, but also a potential rise in electricity prices if funds are diverted away from cheaper options for generating power. Central to the debate is how governments can best cut fossil fuel use in time to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

There is not much middle ground. On one side are trade unions with many members in the nuclear industry, large companies with political clout and a vested interest in building the infrastructure needed, and numerous politicians, many of them in nuclear weapons states.

On the other are most climate scientists, environmental campaigners, economists, and cutting edge industries that see wind, solar and tidal power, batteries and other emerging technologies as the path to far more jobs, a cleaner future, and a possible route out of potential disaster. There are also those who fear the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Lack of balance

Very little of this debate takes place where it should, in national parliaments. In some countries, like the UK and the US, nearly all politicians support the nuclear industry, so there is little discussion of its merits.

Many of the “news” clips and pro-nuclear articles that appear in the media are carefully crafted and come from “think tank” sources close to − and often indirectly funded by − the nuclear industry. They are designed to show nuclear science in a good light.

This lack of balance is not surprising. Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential. Its costs, construction timetables, and beliefs in its probable sales have hardly ever actually been met in the industry’s 70-year history. Yet it goes on making its rosy predictions.

There has been a series of announcements in the West in the last five years about SMRs, advanced and IV generation reactors. Lost already? That is the idea: bamboozle politicians and the public with jargon and false hopes of a technical miracle, and you are halfway to getting your hands on taxpayers’ money to fund further research and create a new generation of reactors, to be built some time soon – although that time never seems to arrive.

“Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential”

Just to demonstrate what often seems deliberate obscurity: an SMR can be a small modular reactor, or a small to medium reactor. It could also be an advanced reactor. All this is explained on a helpful World Nuclear Association website which takes you through the potential sizes of reactors and explains the 70 or so designs.

Take one example. Rolls-Royce offers SMRs on its UK website. They turn out not to be small, having grown to 470 megawatts, much larger than the 300 megawatt maximum official definition of a small reactor. The company would now describe them as advanced reactors, although they are based on a generic design as old as the industry.

Modular also has two meanings in this context. It could mean the reactor is made in sections in a factory and assembled on site, thus (it is claimed) dramatically reducing costs. But it can also mean that each reactor becomes a module in a much larger nuclear station.

Rolls-Royce reckons it needs an order book of 16 reactors to justify building a factory that could turn reactors out, like its cars, on a production line. It is both trying to persuade the UK government to place a large number of orders and is combing the world for other governments willing to do so.

Military link

Nuclear detractors point out that creating a factory able to provide production line economies of scale for nuclear reactors is a tall order. Also, neither the UK government nor Rolls-Royce has come up with sites where any reactors could be placed. Perhaps the most telling point is that there is no need for that much expensive electricity when renewables plus energy storage could provide it more cheaply and quickly.

Most nuclear weapons states acknowledge the link between their civil and weapons industries. Canada is one of the few non-nuclear weapons states that has bought into the nuclear industry’s hype and is still actively promoting SMRs.

There is a backlash from academics who fear nuclear proliferation, as well as from those who question the economics and viability of the “new” designs.

In one sense the nuclear enthusiasts are winning the propaganda war because many governments are actively encouraging work on the design of SMRs – and still shelling out billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to support research and development.

On the other hand everything is still in the prototype stage and has been for years. As yet no foundation stones for nuclear reactor factories have been laid. And while we wait for the long-promised nuclear breakthrough, cheaper wind and solar farms are being built rapidly across the planet. As each comes on stream it helps to erode the already flimsy case for nuclear power. − Climate News Network

With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate change.

LONDON, 3 June, 2021 − To maintain the assertion that it is still a key part of the struggle to limit the climate crisis, the global nuclear industry’s propaganda war is unremitting in its attempt to avoid oblivion in the world’s democracies.

At stake are thousands of well-paid power station jobs, but also a potential rise in electricity prices if funds are diverted away from cheaper options for generating power. Central to the debate is how governments can best cut fossil fuel use in time to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

There is not much middle ground. On one side are trade unions with many members in the nuclear industry, large companies with political clout and a vested interest in building the infrastructure needed, and numerous politicians, many of them in nuclear weapons states.

On the other are most climate scientists, environmental campaigners, economists, and cutting edge industries that see wind, solar and tidal power, batteries and other emerging technologies as the path to far more jobs, a cleaner future, and a possible route out of potential disaster. There are also those who fear the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Lack of balance

Very little of this debate takes place where it should, in national parliaments. In some countries, like the UK and the US, nearly all politicians support the nuclear industry, so there is little discussion of its merits.

Many of the “news” clips and pro-nuclear articles that appear in the media are carefully crafted and come from “think tank” sources close to − and often indirectly funded by − the nuclear industry. They are designed to show nuclear science in a good light.

This lack of balance is not surprising. Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential. Its costs, construction timetables, and beliefs in its probable sales have hardly ever actually been met in the industry’s 70-year history. Yet it goes on making its rosy predictions.

There has been a series of announcements in the West in the last five years about SMRs, advanced and IV generation reactors. Lost already? That is the idea: bamboozle politicians and the public with jargon and false hopes of a technical miracle, and you are halfway to getting your hands on taxpayers’ money to fund further research and create a new generation of reactors, to be built some time soon – although that time never seems to arrive.

“Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential”

Just to demonstrate what often seems deliberate obscurity: an SMR can be a small modular reactor, or a small to medium reactor. It could also be an advanced reactor. All this is explained on a helpful World Nuclear Association website which takes you through the potential sizes of reactors and explains the 70 or so designs.

Take one example. Rolls-Royce offers SMRs on its UK website. They turn out not to be small, having grown to 470 megawatts, much larger than the 300 megawatt maximum official definition of a small reactor. The company would now describe them as advanced reactors, although they are based on a generic design as old as the industry.

Modular also has two meanings in this context. It could mean the reactor is made in sections in a factory and assembled on site, thus (it is claimed) dramatically reducing costs. But it can also mean that each reactor becomes a module in a much larger nuclear station.

Rolls-Royce reckons it needs an order book of 16 reactors to justify building a factory that could turn reactors out, like its cars, on a production line. It is both trying to persuade the UK government to place a large number of orders and is combing the world for other governments willing to do so.

Military link

Nuclear detractors point out that creating a factory able to provide production line economies of scale for nuclear reactors is a tall order. Also, neither the UK government nor Rolls-Royce has come up with sites where any reactors could be placed. Perhaps the most telling point is that there is no need for that much expensive electricity when renewables plus energy storage could provide it more cheaply and quickly.

Most nuclear weapons states acknowledge the link between their civil and weapons industries. Canada is one of the few non-nuclear weapons states that has bought into the nuclear industry’s hype and is still actively promoting SMRs.

There is a backlash from academics who fear nuclear proliferation, as well as from those who question the economics and viability of the “new” designs.

In one sense the nuclear enthusiasts are winning the propaganda war because many governments are actively encouraging work on the design of SMRs – and still shelling out billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to support research and development.

On the other hand everything is still in the prototype stage and has been for years. As yet no foundation stones for nuclear reactor factories have been laid. And while we wait for the long-promised nuclear breakthrough, cheaper wind and solar farms are being built rapidly across the planet. As each comes on stream it helps to erode the already flimsy case for nuclear power. − Climate News Network

Old King Coal is forced at last to pull out of Asia

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Big Oil’s malign influence is waning at last

It has enriched us, even dictated our politics, but now we know Big Oil’s malign influence we want no more of this black gold.

LONDON, 12 May, 2021 − Despite the hold that oil has had on our lives for the last century through cars, chemicals, plastics, pesticides and almost every facet of daily life, including keeping millions of people in employment, it is something few of us ever think about. Big Oil’s malign influence has left us unaware.

But oil has a remarkable story to tell: its rise, its ascendancy in all our lives, and now, if civilisation is to survive, its fall. These phases are all described in a new book, Crude Britannia: How Oil Shaped a Nation.

Although the book is specifically about oil’s role in shaping the United Kingdom, it is also concerned with the way oil changes the politics and national economies of the rest of the world.

This is because, more than with any other industry, the scramble to own and distribute oil is a multi-national business controlled by some of the world’s biggest and most powerful companies, which have frequently influenced the destiny of nations.

The authors, James Marriott, a writer who has been studying the industry for 35 years and Terry Macalister, former energy editor of the Guardian, detail just how pervasive oil is in our lives. They visit towns that were once thriving hubs of industry, places of full employment which are now hollowed-out relics.

“ . . . they are hidden and largely closed to scrutiny, except by their own public presentations. They are privately owned, often by individuals tax-domiciled abroad . . . ”

More illuminating though is their series of interviews with former and current oil executives, speculators, politicians and civil servants. Some of them have been all of those things at different times in their lives.

They have managed this because, as the book demonstrates, there has always been a revolving door between governments and the oil industry that allows powerful individuals to shape policy and wield undue influence.

The history of the industry and its effect on our lives is fascinating. We are reminded that it is the reason for the existence of many products we use and benefit from daily. Then there is the downside: the wars fought over oil, the way that the industry has used its influence to protect its position and its profits, undermining democracy and ruining many thousands of lives.

Perhaps, for those involved in the battle over climate change who want to see the back of Big Oil, it is the last part of the book that is most illuminating. It describes how the multi-nationals BP and Shell have striven to brush up and green their image.

This is partly because of pressure from shareholders and environment groups, but also because the companies themselves realise that the game will soon be up for fossil fuels and they will need to invest elsewhere.

An era ends?

Although the book explains that it may be a case of too little, too late for both the planet and the companies, Shell and BP are currently reducing their exploration in sensitive and expensive areas and selling oil assets to hedge funds and shadowy offshore companies. At the same time, they are beginning to invest heavily in renewables.

This diversification may help some oil majors survive, but according to the authors the new oil barons who buy their assets face none of the pressures that steer the companies to go green. The barons’ sole aim is to squeeze every drop of oil and dollar they can from the industry as it gradually winds down.

This change signifies a new kind of institution in the industry. It has scant need of journalists, unlike the traditional corporations which used the media to build a positive profile as they lobbied ministers, largely behind the scenes.

“Instead they are hidden and largely closed to scrutiny, except by their own public presentations. They are privately owned, often by individuals tax-domiciled abroad,” the authors say.

In a final chapter, entitled rather hopefully Heading for Extinction, the book concludes that the era of oil is over, or at least rapidly fading. It charts the rise of Extinction Rebellion, the school strikes, and the growing awareness of the danger the human race is in. It is an optimistic end to a fascinating and detailed account of how we have all let oil dominate our lives. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Crude Britannia: How Oil Shaped a Nation. Pluto Press, hardback £20.00:  to be published on 20 May, 2021. By James Marriott & Terry Macalister

It has enriched us, even dictated our politics, but now we know Big Oil’s malign influence we want no more of this black gold.

LONDON, 12 May, 2021 − Despite the hold that oil has had on our lives for the last century through cars, chemicals, plastics, pesticides and almost every facet of daily life, including keeping millions of people in employment, it is something few of us ever think about. Big Oil’s malign influence has left us unaware.

But oil has a remarkable story to tell: its rise, its ascendancy in all our lives, and now, if civilisation is to survive, its fall. These phases are all described in a new book, Crude Britannia: How Oil Shaped a Nation.

Although the book is specifically about oil’s role in shaping the United Kingdom, it is also concerned with the way oil changes the politics and national economies of the rest of the world.

This is because, more than with any other industry, the scramble to own and distribute oil is a multi-national business controlled by some of the world’s biggest and most powerful companies, which have frequently influenced the destiny of nations.

The authors, James Marriott, a writer who has been studying the industry for 35 years and Terry Macalister, former energy editor of the Guardian, detail just how pervasive oil is in our lives. They visit towns that were once thriving hubs of industry, places of full employment which are now hollowed-out relics.

“ . . . they are hidden and largely closed to scrutiny, except by their own public presentations. They are privately owned, often by individuals tax-domiciled abroad . . . ”

More illuminating though is their series of interviews with former and current oil executives, speculators, politicians and civil servants. Some of them have been all of those things at different times in their lives.

They have managed this because, as the book demonstrates, there has always been a revolving door between governments and the oil industry that allows powerful individuals to shape policy and wield undue influence.

The history of the industry and its effect on our lives is fascinating. We are reminded that it is the reason for the existence of many products we use and benefit from daily. Then there is the downside: the wars fought over oil, the way that the industry has used its influence to protect its position and its profits, undermining democracy and ruining many thousands of lives.

Perhaps, for those involved in the battle over climate change who want to see the back of Big Oil, it is the last part of the book that is most illuminating. It describes how the multi-nationals BP and Shell have striven to brush up and green their image.

This is partly because of pressure from shareholders and environment groups, but also because the companies themselves realise that the game will soon be up for fossil fuels and they will need to invest elsewhere.

An era ends?

Although the book explains that it may be a case of too little, too late for both the planet and the companies, Shell and BP are currently reducing their exploration in sensitive and expensive areas and selling oil assets to hedge funds and shadowy offshore companies. At the same time, they are beginning to invest heavily in renewables.

This diversification may help some oil majors survive, but according to the authors the new oil barons who buy their assets face none of the pressures that steer the companies to go green. The barons’ sole aim is to squeeze every drop of oil and dollar they can from the industry as it gradually winds down.

This change signifies a new kind of institution in the industry. It has scant need of journalists, unlike the traditional corporations which used the media to build a positive profile as they lobbied ministers, largely behind the scenes.

“Instead they are hidden and largely closed to scrutiny, except by their own public presentations. They are privately owned, often by individuals tax-domiciled abroad,” the authors say.

In a final chapter, entitled rather hopefully Heading for Extinction, the book concludes that the era of oil is over, or at least rapidly fading. It charts the rise of Extinction Rebellion, the school strikes, and the growing awareness of the danger the human race is in. It is an optimistic end to a fascinating and detailed account of how we have all let oil dominate our lives. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Crude Britannia: How Oil Shaped a Nation. Pluto Press, hardback £20.00:  to be published on 20 May, 2021. By James Marriott & Terry Macalister

UK nuclear plants will exact heavy fish toll

Environmental groups are alarmed at the heavy fish toll which two new British nuclear plants will inflict on stocks.

LONDON, 4 May, 2021 − The high fatality rate which the cooling systems of two British nuclear power stations may impose on marine life is worrying environmentalists, who describe the heavy fish toll they expect as “staggering”.

The two stations, Hinkley Point C, under construction on England’s west coast, and Sizewell C, planned for the eastern side of the country, will, they say, kill more than 200 million fish a year and destroy millions more sea creatures. But the stations’ builders say their critics are exaggerating drastically.

Objectors to the fish kill had hoped that the UK government agency tasked with conserving fish stocks in the seas around Britain, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), would be on their side.

They have been disappointed to learn that Cefas is a paid adviser to the French nuclear company EDF, which is building the stations, and would raise no objections to the company’s method of cooling them with seawater.

“Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace”

In a detailed rebuttal of the objectors’ arguments, Cefas denies any conflict of interest between advising EDF about the damage the stations would do to the marine environment and its own duty to protect fish stocks – and it claims that the loss of millions of fish would not affect stocks overall.

The Hinkley Point C twin nuclear reactors being built in Somerset, in the West of England, which are due for completion by 2026, will kill about 182m fish a year by some estimates, although EDF says it is doing its best to reduce the problem with modified cooling water intakes and an acoustic method of deterring fish from approaching the intakes. The green groups fear the proposed Sizewell C plant in Suffolk on the east coast will kill another 28.5m fish annually.

Using figures taken directly from EDF’s own planning documents, the opponents of the Suffolk plant calculate that 560m fish will be slaughtered in a 20-year period through being sucked into its cooling systems. They say the fish will be unable to avoid the pipes, which take in 131 cubic metres of seawater every second.

Peter Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, said: “Even this staggering figure hides a grim truth. It represents only a percentage of the overall impact on the marine environment inflicted by nuclear power.

Corporate impunity

“Unknown millions of eggs, marine crustaceans, larvae and post-larval stages of fish fry, along with other marine biota, are entrained [dragged] through the nuclear plant cooling systems every year, adding to the toll of those impinged [caught] on the mesh of the cooling intakes and the decimation of fish stocks.”

Among the scores of species that will be killed are several protected fish, including bass, Blackwater herring, eels and river lampreys, as well as fish under special conservation measures to allow depleted stocks to recover.

The existing nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, Sizewell B, already kills 800,000 bass a year. The planned station is expected to kill 2m more. Someone fishing from the beach at Sizewell could be prosecuted for catching a single bass: EDF will be allowed to kill millions with impunity. A heavy fish toll appears to be inevitable.

Wilkinson added: “This carnage is wholesale, inhumane and unacceptable and flies in the face of the government’s so-called ‘green agenda’. We expect Cefas to condemn this level of impact.

Not many fatalities

“This marine life will be sacrificed for the purposes of cooling a plant which is not needed to keep the lights on, which will do nothing to reduce global carbon emissions, which will be paid for from the pockets of all UK taxpayers and bill-paying customers, leaving future generations with a lasting legacy of an impoverished environment. Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace.”

In a statement to the Climate News Network, Cefas denied any conflict of interest, saying it was paid by EDF to give objective and rigorous scientific advice to ensure that both new stations were environmentally sustainable. It advised where possible how to reduce the fish kill.

“Where impacts do occur, such as the mortality of fish on power station intake screens, we assess these against other sources of mortality … and the ability of the population to withstand such losses.  Compared to the natural population size, relatively few fish will be impacted . . . ”, the statement said.

Cefas would not say how much it was paid by EDF, saying its fees were less than 10% of its annual income and so it was not obliged to do so. It added: “There is no scientific evidence that the proposed new nuclear developments will cause large-scale destruction of marine life or impact protected species.” − Climate News Network

Environmental groups are alarmed at the heavy fish toll which two new British nuclear plants will inflict on stocks.

LONDON, 4 May, 2021 − The high fatality rate which the cooling systems of two British nuclear power stations may impose on marine life is worrying environmentalists, who describe the heavy fish toll they expect as “staggering”.

The two stations, Hinkley Point C, under construction on England’s west coast, and Sizewell C, planned for the eastern side of the country, will, they say, kill more than 200 million fish a year and destroy millions more sea creatures. But the stations’ builders say their critics are exaggerating drastically.

Objectors to the fish kill had hoped that the UK government agency tasked with conserving fish stocks in the seas around Britain, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), would be on their side.

They have been disappointed to learn that Cefas is a paid adviser to the French nuclear company EDF, which is building the stations, and would raise no objections to the company’s method of cooling them with seawater.

“Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace”

In a detailed rebuttal of the objectors’ arguments, Cefas denies any conflict of interest between advising EDF about the damage the stations would do to the marine environment and its own duty to protect fish stocks – and it claims that the loss of millions of fish would not affect stocks overall.

The Hinkley Point C twin nuclear reactors being built in Somerset, in the West of England, which are due for completion by 2026, will kill about 182m fish a year by some estimates, although EDF says it is doing its best to reduce the problem with modified cooling water intakes and an acoustic method of deterring fish from approaching the intakes. The green groups fear the proposed Sizewell C plant in Suffolk on the east coast will kill another 28.5m fish annually.

Using figures taken directly from EDF’s own planning documents, the opponents of the Suffolk plant calculate that 560m fish will be slaughtered in a 20-year period through being sucked into its cooling systems. They say the fish will be unable to avoid the pipes, which take in 131 cubic metres of seawater every second.

Peter Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, said: “Even this staggering figure hides a grim truth. It represents only a percentage of the overall impact on the marine environment inflicted by nuclear power.

Corporate impunity

“Unknown millions of eggs, marine crustaceans, larvae and post-larval stages of fish fry, along with other marine biota, are entrained [dragged] through the nuclear plant cooling systems every year, adding to the toll of those impinged [caught] on the mesh of the cooling intakes and the decimation of fish stocks.”

Among the scores of species that will be killed are several protected fish, including bass, Blackwater herring, eels and river lampreys, as well as fish under special conservation measures to allow depleted stocks to recover.

The existing nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, Sizewell B, already kills 800,000 bass a year. The planned station is expected to kill 2m more. Someone fishing from the beach at Sizewell could be prosecuted for catching a single bass: EDF will be allowed to kill millions with impunity. A heavy fish toll appears to be inevitable.

Wilkinson added: “This carnage is wholesale, inhumane and unacceptable and flies in the face of the government’s so-called ‘green agenda’. We expect Cefas to condemn this level of impact.

Not many fatalities

“This marine life will be sacrificed for the purposes of cooling a plant which is not needed to keep the lights on, which will do nothing to reduce global carbon emissions, which will be paid for from the pockets of all UK taxpayers and bill-paying customers, leaving future generations with a lasting legacy of an impoverished environment. Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace.”

In a statement to the Climate News Network, Cefas denied any conflict of interest, saying it was paid by EDF to give objective and rigorous scientific advice to ensure that both new stations were environmentally sustainable. It advised where possible how to reduce the fish kill.

“Where impacts do occur, such as the mortality of fish on power station intake screens, we assess these against other sources of mortality … and the ability of the population to withstand such losses.  Compared to the natural population size, relatively few fish will be impacted . . . ”, the statement said.

Cefas would not say how much it was paid by EDF, saying its fees were less than 10% of its annual income and so it was not obliged to do so. It added: “There is no scientific evidence that the proposed new nuclear developments will cause large-scale destruction of marine life or impact protected species.” − Climate News Network

Nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it survive

The nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it rely on “dark arts”, ignoring much better ways to cut carbon emissions.

LONDON, 28 April, 2021 – It is the global nuclear industry’s unfounded claims – not least that it is part of the solution to climate change because it is a low-carbon source of electricity – that allow it to survive, says a devastating demolition job by one of the world’s leading environmental experts, Jonathan Porritt.

In a report, Net Zero Without Nuclear, he says the industry is in fact hindering the fight against climate change. Its claim that new types of reactor are part of the solution is, he says, like its previous promises, over-hyped and illusionary.

Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth UK, who was appointed chairman of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission after years of campaigning on green issues, has written the report in a personal capacity, but it is endorsed by an impressive group of academics and environmental campaigners.

His analysis is timely, because the nuclear industry is currently sinking billions of dollars into supporting environmental think tanks and energy “experts” who bombard politicians and news outlets with pro-nuclear propaganda.

Porritt provides a figure of 46 front groups in 18 countries practising these “dark arts”, and says it is only this “army of lobbyists and PR specialists” that is keeping the industry alive.

First he discusses the so-called levelized cost of energy (LCOE), a measure of the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generating plant over its lifetime.

“The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before”

In 2020, the LCOE of producing one megawatt of electricity in the UK showed huge variations:

  • large scale solar came out cheapest at £27 (US$38)
  • onshore wind was £30
  • the cheapest gas: £44
  • offshore wind: £63
  • coal was £83
  • nuclear – a massive £121 ($168).

Porritt argues that even if you dispute some of the methods of reaching these figures, it is important to look at trends. Over time wind and solar are constantly getting cheaper, while nuclear costs on the other hand are rising – by 26% in ten years.

His second issue is the time it takes to build a nuclear station. He concludes that the pace of building them is so slow that if western countries started building new ones now, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in manufacturing the concrete and steel needed to complete them would far outweigh any contribution the stations might make by 2050 to low carbon electricity production. New build nuclear power stations would in fact make existing net zero targets harder to reach.

“It is very misleading to make out that renewables and nuclear are equivalently low-carbon – and even more misleading to describe nuclear as zero-carbon, as a regrettably significant number of politicians and industry representatives continue to do – many of them in the full knowledge that they are lying”, he writes.

He says that the British government and all the main opposition political parties in England and Wales are pro-nuclear, effectively stifling public debate, and that the government neglects the most important way of reducing carbon emissions: energy efficiency.

Also, with the UK particularly well-endowed with wind, solar and tidal resources, it would be far quicker and cheaper to reach 100% renewable energy without harbouring any new nuclear ambitions.

The report discusses as well issues the industry would rather not examine – the unresolved problem of nuclear waste, and the immense time it takes to decommission nuclear stations. This leads on to the issue of safety, not just the difficult question of potential terrorist and cyber attacks, but also the dangers of sea level rise and other effects of climate change.

Failed expectations

These include the possibility of sea water, particularly in the Middle East, becoming too warm to cool the reactors and so rendering them difficult to operate, and rivers running low during droughts, for example in France and the US, forcing the stations to close when power is most needed.

Porritt insists he has kept an open mind on nuclear power since the 1970s and still does so, but that they have never lived up to their promises. He makes the point that he does not want existing nuclear stations to close early if they are safe, since they are producing low carbon electricity. However, he is baffled by the continuing enthusiasm among politicians for nuclear power: “The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before.”

But it is not just the politicians and industry chiefs that come in for criticism. Trade unions which advocate new nuclear power because it is a heavily unionised industry when there are far more jobs in the renewable sector are “especially repugnant.”

He also rehearses the fact that without a healthy civil nuclear industry countries would struggle to afford nuclear weapons, as it is electricity consumers that provide support for the weapons programme.

The newest argument employed by nuclear enthusiasts, the idea that green hydrogen could be produced in large quantities, is one he also debunks. It would simply be too expensive and inefficient, he says, except perhaps for the steel and concrete industries.

Porritt’s report is principally directed at the UK’s nuclear programme, where he says the government very much stands alone in Europe in its “unbridled enthusiasm for new nuclear power stations.”

This is despite the fact that the nuclear case has continued to fade for 15 years. Instead, he argues, British governments should go for what the report concentrates on: Net Zero Without Nuclear. – Climate News Network

The nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it rely on “dark arts”, ignoring much better ways to cut carbon emissions.

LONDON, 28 April, 2021 – It is the global nuclear industry’s unfounded claims – not least that it is part of the solution to climate change because it is a low-carbon source of electricity – that allow it to survive, says a devastating demolition job by one of the world’s leading environmental experts, Jonathan Porritt.

In a report, Net Zero Without Nuclear, he says the industry is in fact hindering the fight against climate change. Its claim that new types of reactor are part of the solution is, he says, like its previous promises, over-hyped and illusionary.

Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth UK, who was appointed chairman of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission after years of campaigning on green issues, has written the report in a personal capacity, but it is endorsed by an impressive group of academics and environmental campaigners.

His analysis is timely, because the nuclear industry is currently sinking billions of dollars into supporting environmental think tanks and energy “experts” who bombard politicians and news outlets with pro-nuclear propaganda.

Porritt provides a figure of 46 front groups in 18 countries practising these “dark arts”, and says it is only this “army of lobbyists and PR specialists” that is keeping the industry alive.

First he discusses the so-called levelized cost of energy (LCOE), a measure of the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generating plant over its lifetime.

“The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before”

In 2020, the LCOE of producing one megawatt of electricity in the UK showed huge variations:

  • large scale solar came out cheapest at £27 (US$38)
  • onshore wind was £30
  • the cheapest gas: £44
  • offshore wind: £63
  • coal was £83
  • nuclear – a massive £121 ($168).

Porritt argues that even if you dispute some of the methods of reaching these figures, it is important to look at trends. Over time wind and solar are constantly getting cheaper, while nuclear costs on the other hand are rising – by 26% in ten years.

His second issue is the time it takes to build a nuclear station. He concludes that the pace of building them is so slow that if western countries started building new ones now, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in manufacturing the concrete and steel needed to complete them would far outweigh any contribution the stations might make by 2050 to low carbon electricity production. New build nuclear power stations would in fact make existing net zero targets harder to reach.

“It is very misleading to make out that renewables and nuclear are equivalently low-carbon – and even more misleading to describe nuclear as zero-carbon, as a regrettably significant number of politicians and industry representatives continue to do – many of them in the full knowledge that they are lying”, he writes.

He says that the British government and all the main opposition political parties in England and Wales are pro-nuclear, effectively stifling public debate, and that the government neglects the most important way of reducing carbon emissions: energy efficiency.

Also, with the UK particularly well-endowed with wind, solar and tidal resources, it would be far quicker and cheaper to reach 100% renewable energy without harbouring any new nuclear ambitions.

The report discusses as well issues the industry would rather not examine – the unresolved problem of nuclear waste, and the immense time it takes to decommission nuclear stations. This leads on to the issue of safety, not just the difficult question of potential terrorist and cyber attacks, but also the dangers of sea level rise and other effects of climate change.

Failed expectations

These include the possibility of sea water, particularly in the Middle East, becoming too warm to cool the reactors and so rendering them difficult to operate, and rivers running low during droughts, for example in France and the US, forcing the stations to close when power is most needed.

Porritt insists he has kept an open mind on nuclear power since the 1970s and still does so, but that they have never lived up to their promises. He makes the point that he does not want existing nuclear stations to close early if they are safe, since they are producing low carbon electricity. However, he is baffled by the continuing enthusiasm among politicians for nuclear power: “The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before.”

But it is not just the politicians and industry chiefs that come in for criticism. Trade unions which advocate new nuclear power because it is a heavily unionised industry when there are far more jobs in the renewable sector are “especially repugnant.”

He also rehearses the fact that without a healthy civil nuclear industry countries would struggle to afford nuclear weapons, as it is electricity consumers that provide support for the weapons programme.

The newest argument employed by nuclear enthusiasts, the idea that green hydrogen could be produced in large quantities, is one he also debunks. It would simply be too expensive and inefficient, he says, except perhaps for the steel and concrete industries.

Porritt’s report is principally directed at the UK’s nuclear programme, where he says the government very much stands alone in Europe in its “unbridled enthusiasm for new nuclear power stations.”

This is despite the fact that the nuclear case has continued to fade for 15 years. Instead, he argues, British governments should go for what the report concentrates on: Net Zero Without Nuclear. – Climate News Network