Green Energy 'steals' from the Biosphere

An Opinion Piece by

Viv Forbes, BScAppGeol, FAusIMM

Scientist, mineral economist and grass farmer.

Earth has only three significant sources of energy.

First is geothermal energy from Earth’s molten core and decaying radioactive minerals in Earth’s crust. This energy moves continents, powers volcanoes and its heat migrates towards the crust, warming the lithosphere and the deep oceans. It can be harvested successfully in favourable locations, and radioactive minerals can be extracted to provide large amounts of reliable heat for power generation.

Second is energy stored in combustible hydrocarbon minerals such as coal, oil, gas, tar sands and oil shale. These all store solar and geothermal energy collected eons ago and they are the primary energy sources supporting modern industrial societies and the vast populations dependent on them.

Third are radiation and gravitational energies from the Sun and Moon which are captured by the biosphere as heat, winds, tides, rain, rivers and in biomass such as forests, crops and animals. These are the natural “Green” energies that support all processes of life and still support a peasant existence for some peoples.

Green zealots believe that we can and should run modern societies exclusively on “Green” energies, and they have embarked on a war on hydrocarbons. They need to be told that their green energy favourites are just stealing from the biosphere – they are not as green as they claim.

The most obvious example is the ethanol industry which takes food crops like corn, sugar and palm oil and uses heaps of water and a lot of hydrocarbon energy to convert them to ethanol alcohol which will burn in internal combustion engines, but has less energy density than petrol.

See: The Water and Corn costs to produce Ethanol:


This process is replacing natural grasslands and forests with artificial monocultures.

The latest stupid ethanol suggestion is to power the “wanna-be-green” US Pacific Fleet using Queensland food crops. Feeding ethanol to the engines of the US Navy would consume far more food than was used feeding hay and grain to the thousands of horses used to move our artillery and Light Horse Brigades in the Great War. Sailors in the British Navy got much of their energy from Jamaican Rum, but the American navy will not run on Queensland ethanol.

More: World turning against Biofuels:

Biomass is a fancy name for plant material and vegetable trash which, if maintained in/on the soil, will provide the fertility for the next crop. Burning it reduces the humus that maintains fertile soil. The ultimate biomass stupidity is to harvest American forests, pelletise them, dry them and ship them across the Atlantic (all using hydrocarbon fuels) to burn in a UK power station. Burning biomass produces the same emission gases as coal.

Most plants will not grow without energy from the sun. Solar arrays steal energy directly from the biosphere. Some incoming solar energy is reflected to space by the panels, some is converted to waste heat on the panels, and some is converted to electricity – much of which ends up as waste heat. Solar radiation that could have given energy to growing plants is largely returned to the atmosphere as waste heat and much is then lost to space.

Some solar farms are built over land that is already desert – the rest create their own deserts in their shadow. Because solar energy is very dilute, very large areas of land must be shaded and sterilised by the panels in order to collect significant energy.

Solar radiation also evaporates water from the oceans and provides the energy for rain, winds and storms. Much of this moisture falls as useful rain when the winds penetrate land masses. Wind turbines create artificial obstacles to the wind, reducing its velocity and thus tending to create more rain near the coast and rain shadows behind the turbine walls. And they chop up many birds and bats. Again, green energy harms the biosphere.

More: The Windfarm Delusion:

Hydro power is one of the few green energy sources that is “grid ready” and can supply economical reliable energy. So, naturally, many greens are opposed to it. However, in most places there is competition for fresh water for domestic uses, irrigation, industry and environmental flow. Hydro power is just one more competitor for this valuable green resource.

So Green energy is not so green after all. It reduces the supply of food, water and energy available to all life on earth, and it often consumes large amounts of hydrocarbon energy for its manufacture, construction, maintenance and backup.

Green advocates are enemies of the poor. They want to burn their food, waste their water and deny them access to cheap reliable energy.

Hydrocarbon fuels are the true green energy sources. They disturb less land per unit of energy produced, do not murder wildlife and their combustion produces new supplies of water and carbon dioxide for the atmosphere. More carbon dioxide and water in the atmosphere enables plants to grow faster, bigger and more able to cope with heat or drought.

It was coal, and later oil, which created and still largely supports the populations, prosperity and industry of developed nations. With a backdrop of freedom under the law, they can do the same for the whole world.

Those professing concern for the poor need to realise that Green Energy steals from the biosphere and that hydrocarbons are the real friends of the poor.

Finally, those who have swallowed the carbon dioxide scare should be told that nuclear energy is the most reliable and least damaging “low carbon” option.

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June 24, 2015 9:51 pm

There is one way in which solar PV could be a win-win : If solar panels designed like shade cloths – ie with small holes – could be used over large areas of desert, they could by providing some shade encourage plant growth yet still produce good quantities of electricity.
And the article is pretty good but it does ignore the fact that fossil fuels are unsustainable at today’s usage rate for more than a century or two – and a lot less than that for oil.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 24, 2015 10:14 pm

“Peak Oil” is a myth and it always has been. Most oil is abiotic and not made from decaying plant life .

Reply to  Truthseeker
June 25, 2015 2:31 am

Even if you were correct that most oil is abiotic that would not necessarily prove that “peak oil” is a myth since our consumption rate could exceed the natural rate of replenishment. Nevertheless, if by abiotic you mean non-biologically sourced, you are incorrect about oil.
Ask a petroleum geologist. We can test the oil in formations and compare it to the regional deposits of Total Organic Carbon (TOC) and kerogen and chemically demonstrate they are the source. The kerogen was always deposited in large bodies of water and did not bubble up from the earth’s mantle. Given that no one argues for abiotic coal deposits, I always wonder why this wishful thinking keeps popping up for oil.
A pure methane deposit, being a far simpler molecule (CH4), could conceivably be the result of abiotic chemical reactions in the earth’s crust. But even there it is more likely to result from the breakdown of larger hydrocarbon molecules or be produced directly by bacteria consuming organic material.

Reply to  Truthseeker
June 25, 2015 6:22 am

consumption rate could exceed the natural rate of replenishment
our consumption rate of metals exceed the natural rate of replenishment. however, no one suggests that we stop mining iron as the solution to the problem. so why is the solution to sustainability of hydrocarbon fuel to stop using hydrocarbon fuel?
as for oil and gas, if they are formed from decayed plants and animals, then the deposits would mostly be near the surface. if however, they are formed by the reduction of CO2 by iron and water under heat and pressure within the mantle, then the deposits should be equally likely at depth as at the surface.
the sustainability argument for oil and gas rest largely on the belief that we will not find them as we drill deeper. however, as we are seeing with fracking, most certainly we are finding gas as we go deeper, yet there has been no increase in the the natural rate of replenishment.
what has changed is technology. the huge advances in drilling technology and underground sensing. the missing ingredient in the green energy arguments. innovation. that quality of human beings rarely found in government mandated solutions.

Nigel Harris
Reply to  Truthseeker
June 25, 2015 6:55 am

our consumption rate of metals exceed the natural rate of replenishment. however, no one suggests that we stop mining iron as the solution to the problem.

We don’t simply immediately burn and destroy most of the metals that we extract. We may not be brilliant at recycling (only 18 metals have end-of-life recycling rates of better than 50% – see but in principle we could improve. But for oil, gas and coal, no recycling is possible and once it’s gone it’s gone.

Reply to  Truthseeker
June 25, 2015 10:45 am

” Most oil is abiotic and not made from decaying plant life .” That wins the dumb comment of the day reward.

Jaakko Kateenkorva
Reply to  Truthseeker
June 25, 2015 11:16 am

Iron rusts, oxidizes or ‘burns’. But so what? It’s the sixth most common element in the universe (by mass fraction).
With regard to ‘fossil’ fuels, it cannot be excluded that causality and correlation have been mixed up: all known life on Earth is organic, but not all organic molecules resulted from life. That’s how Kraken Mare exists on Titan.

Evan Jones
Reply to  Truthseeker
June 26, 2015 4:21 am

Peak Oil: Peek and ye shall find.

Reply to  Truthseeker
June 26, 2015 6:57 am

Not to mention the fact that you can find pollen spores in oil.

Leo Smth
Reply to  Truthseeker
June 28, 2015 11:25 am

Sigh. Proof by assertion from a tinfoil hatter.
Actually most oil is produced from unicorn poo.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 24, 2015 10:25 pm

Shading solar panels, lmao. Don’t forget about fairy dust backed up by unicorn poop. .

Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 24, 2015 10:34 pm

Mike Jonas:
I see a daft comment got in first again. You make two points and they are both wrong.
You say

There is one way in which solar PV could be a win-win : If solar panels designed like shade cloths – ie with small holes – could be used over large areas of desert, they could by providing some shade encourage plant growth yet still produce good quantities of electricity.
And the article is pretty good but it does ignore the fact that fossil fuels are unsustainable at today’s usage rate for more than a century or two – and a lot less than that for oil.

The solar panels remove solar energy that would reach the ground and move it (as electricity) to elsewhere. This removal of solar en energy is an alteration to the climate beneath the panels. Reduce the coverage of the ground by the panels (e.g. by putting holes in the panels or – more sensibly – by increasing the distances between panels) and the electricity obtained is reduced and so is the alteration to climate. But there is still an alteration to climate.
And fossil fuels ARE sustainable – as you admit – at today’s usage rate for more than a century or two.
The claim that ‘peak oil’ will become a problem is merely an expression of ignorance of basic economics.

Alan McIntire
Reply to  richardscourtney
June 25, 2015 6:10 am

You’ve got a point there
” ‘Large-scale exploitation of wind energy will inevitably leave an imprint in the atmosphere,’ says Kleidon. “Because we use so much free energy, and more every year, we’ll deplete the reservoir of energy.” He says this would probably show up first in wind farms themselves, where the gains expected from massive facilities just won’t pan out as the energy of the Earth system is depleted.
Using a model of global circulation, Kleidon found that the amount of energy which we can expect to harness from the wind is reduced by a factor of 100 if you take into account the depletion of free energy by wind farms. It remains theoretically possible to extract up to 70 TW globally, but doing so would have serious consequences.
Although the winds will not die, sucking that much energy out of the atmosphere in Kleidon’s model changed precipitation, turbulence and the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. The magnitude of the changes was comparable to the changes to the climate caused by doubling atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (Earth System Dynamics, DOI: 10.5194/esd-2-1-2011).”

Melbourne Resident
Reply to  richardscourtney
June 25, 2015 3:54 pm

I agree, and there is no valid reason to decarbonise our economies – which would simply collapse without hydrocarbons.
However, I have always thought that, in the end – after the 200 or so years until we run out of coal and oil, (the source of all our organic chemicals, plastics etc) – or at least they become so expensive to extract that we have to find other viable sources of energy, future generations will be aghast at our civilisation (in the same way we look at the chopping down of trees on Easter island leading to the end of that civilisation) – “they took all the coal and just burned it!”

Scottish Sceptic
Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 25, 2015 1:46 am

I was a member of the Scottish solar group. We had a really interesting presentation on using the waste heat from coolers on PV panels that were being used to keep the PV panel at its optimum temperature.
However, it was a bit of a let down – because they eventually admitted that the minuscule amount of electricity was really quite insignificant compared to the benefit of the solar hot water and that they would have been far better just to install conventional hot-water solar panels (that needed no subsidy even 15 years ago).

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 25, 2015 3:12 pm

Solar panels, at least mine, are more efficient at colder temps. While they are rated @ 78 degrees or so panel temp not air temp, the colder they are the more efficient.
Also, the area underneath my panels is never in direct sunlight but it’s still very green under there as reflected sunlight is enough to keep it that way. Any solar panel farm could have grazing, etc. under it. cows, chickens, sheep might even prefer that environment over direct sunlight.

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 25, 2015 6:07 pm

Soylent Green is the answer. Not just for food pellets but also for bacteria digested fuel / lard.

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 25, 2015 7:12 pm

‘Oil of Dog’, per Ambrose Bierce, has some useful pointers.

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 26, 2015 1:51 am

@Expat, how large and how many solar panels do you have?
Enough reflected sunlight for plant growth under a panel array of a 50 or 100 square meters is much different than a commercial set up where you can easliy have 10,000 square meters. To get plant growth under a large array would require significant gaps between panels greatly increasing the land area needed for a given generating capacity.

Mike M.
Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 25, 2015 8:09 am

Mike Jonas,
There is another possibility. If both panels and storage can be made cheaply enough (two very big ifs), then putting panels on rooftops would not create any more disruption than already created by the buildings.

Say What?
Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 25, 2015 10:29 am

Plants have roots and then there are the climbing kind of vegetation that would destroy the panels in short order so I don’t believe they would be tolerated by the maintenance folks.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 25, 2015 1:10 pm

I think you miss the main point. Time is of the essence and fossil fuels will last until or before nuclear energy will be deployed long before those energy sources are unavailable.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 25, 2015 4:54 pm

The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones. The Fossil Fuel Age will not end because we run out of fossil fuels, it will be because private enterprises will work out ways to make money (ie, by providing a cheaper and better product to customers) from technologies like fusion power, fuel cells etc, without requiring massive ongoing public subsidies. In any case, oil/coal is not running out because the known reserves are just a fraction of the total amount of oil/coal out there.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
June 26, 2015 8:01 pm

Solar power satellites and thorium reactors are two of the best power sources for our future.

Reply to  L5Rick
June 26, 2015 8:13 pm

Almost all satellites today are already solar powered.

June 24, 2015 9:52 pm

Hear, Hear!

June 24, 2015 9:57 pm

“They need to be told that their green energy favourites are just stealing from the biosphere – they are not as green as they claim.”
They have been told. They are told this every day. They will not listen. The only fact they will listen to is that governments lust for power, and they agree that we should give it to them. No wonder that people the world over are less and less enthusiastic in their support for communism. The watermelons are losing the argument, which is why their rhetoric is becoming more and more strident. The side with the stronger argument is not the side that wishes to banish honest debate.

Scottish Sceptic
Reply to  Michael Gersh
June 25, 2015 1:48 am

It was clear from the Pope’s encyclical that the Pope really had very little interest in climate and it was just being used as a cover to push a political agenda.

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 25, 2015 3:13 pm

Exactly, The control of Carbon is a socialists wet dream.

June 24, 2015 9:59 pm

Well argued. I would just like to remind readers that deserts are not lifeless. Vast solar arrays damage deserts.

June 24, 2015 10:01 pm

Solar arrays only steal energy from the biosphere if they shade areas where plants would otherwise grow, or otherwise cast shadows on life forms that need the sunlight. As for waste heat from electricity from solar panels, that would not change from changing the source of the electricity.

Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
June 25, 2015 12:56 pm

Plainly you never spent time in the desert, or if you did, never encountered a Cholla, Beaver tail cactus, sage brush, coyote or rabbit brush, peyote, or any of hundreds of other plants that DO grow in deserts. Like wind farms that have special allowances to “take” protected species like eagles, so do desert solar farms. They affect the habitats of desert tortoise and kit fox to name two species on protected lists. The big energy cos. here in California bitterly spend big bucks on those critters. Like you, their customers seem to think deserts are dead places devoid of living things. Ask a sidewinder about that.

June 24, 2015 10:14 pm

The real irony is that by harnessing solar, wind and tide on a large scale you are still messing with Earths energy balance and so would be expected to affect regional climate. But that, and CO2 from human activity pales into significance compared to the regional climate changes wrought by deforestation and land use changes of all kinds. Unlike many environmentalists I would advocate least harm in our stewardship of resources rather than a culling of other humans or sentencing them to a life of povert. Education and wealth are the solution, not misguided zealotry based on poor science. We don’t understand climate and almost certainly can’t control it even if we did. So adapt and deal with real problems as they arise rather than tilt at windmills. Its not like we are so short of problems that we need to invent new ones.

Reply to  Dixon
June 24, 2015 11:34 pm

Hear, hear.

Ian Macdonald
June 24, 2015 10:24 pm

I’d qualify the nuclear part by saying that whilst climate change has (amazingly) led some erstwhile ban-the-bomb protesters to become nuclear promoters, the risk factor with PWR/BWR reactors is simply too high for any mass deployment of that kind of engineering. If nuclear is tto be the longer-tem solution, we need a safer approach to it, otherwise the world map will become dotted with more and more Pripyats with large red circles around them..
As Greenpeace have pointed out (and for once they are right) uranium PWRs cannot be classed as renewable energy because they recover less than 2% of the available energy in the fuel, leaving the rest as problematic waste, Thus widespread use would likely lead to depletion of the world’s uranium supply in a century or so.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
June 25, 2015 2:42 am

So maybe we should invest in developing the Thorium cycle and other molten salt reactors?

Wun Hung Lo
Reply to  Harrowsceptic
June 25, 2015 9:02 am

( “Peak Oil” = irrelevant = middle east irrelevant )
That’s right, and indeed several new designs are on the drawing board, with a working test plant expected to be ready by as early as 2020. Long long before any danger of fossil fuels running out. The technology promises to be able to “burn” all kinds of radioactive fuels, even including, the “nuclear waste” from conventional reactors.
Transatomic says it can split the difference, building a 500-megawatt power plant that achieves some of the cost savings associated with the smaller reactor designs. It estimates that it can build a plant based on such a reactor for $1.7 billion, roughly half the cost per megawatt of current plants. The company has raised $1 million in seed funding, including some from Ray Rothrock, a partner at the VC firm Venrock. Although its cofounders, Mark Massie and Leslie Dewan, are still PhD candidates at MIT, the design has attracted some top advisors, including Regis Matzie, the former CTO of the major nuclear power plant supplier Westinghouse Electric, and Richard Lester, the head of the nuclear engineering department at MIT.
The new reactor is expected to save money not only because it can be built in a factory rather than on site but also because it adds safety features—which could reduce the amount of steel and concrete needed to guard against accidents—and because it runs at atmospheric pressure rather than the high pressures required in conventional reactors.
“We’re challenging this strategy and have returned to the beginning to explore another path, and another design – the molten salt reactor. This simple reactor design, updated with modern technology and materials, has the potential to revolutionize the nuclear industry.”
another ….
“Oak Ridge publicly announced in January that it will advise Terrestrial Energy, a privately held Canadian start-up, on development of a molten-salt reactor that draws on Weinberg designs and on the reactor scheme that briefly hatched at Oak Ridge after Weinberg left.”
“Terrestrial Energy was founded in early 2013. Its business objective is to develop its patent-pending Integral Molten Salt Reactor (“IMSR”), and be ready for commercial deployment by early next decade. The IMSR offers a completely new paradigm for civilian nuclear energy.”
Most advanced are Chinese civil reactors, with a test set due to go critical this year !
An accelerated program given increased funding is a joint co-operative effort, between the US DOE, Russia, and Chinese Academy of Sciences. Advanced plans for higher power sets with integrated series of reactors able to react all kinds of fissionable products, right down to the final stable element in the decay chain. eg. stable lead or what have you.
“The China Academy of Sciences (CAS) in January 2011 launched a program of R&D on thorium-breeding molten salt reactors (Th-MSR or TMSR), otherwise known as liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs), claiming to have the world’s largest national effort on these and hoping to obtain full intellectual property rights on the technology. The unit they are building is said to be similar to the 7 MWt Oak Ridge test MSR which ran 1965-69 in the USA with U-235 then U-233 fuels. The timeline for full commercialisation of TMSR technology was originally 25 years, but is reported to have been dramatically shortened, which may be reflected in increased funding.
The TMSR Research Centre has a 5 MWe solid-fuel MSR prototype under construction at Shanghai Institute of Nuclear Applied Physics (SINAP, under the Academy) with 2015 target for operation. This is also known as the fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor (FHR) in Generation IV parlance, or Advanced HTR (AHTR). A 2 MWe accelerator-driven sub-critical prototype is also mentioned at SINAP.
SINAP is undertaking basic R&D including that on molten salt manufacture and loop technology, R&D of the front end and back end of the Th-U fuel cycle, R&D of high-temperature durable materials, and R&D of safety standards and licensing. It is also establishing specifications for nuclear-grade ThF4 and ThO2 for MSR.
It has two streams of MSR development – solid fuel (TRISO in pebbles or prisms/blocks) with once-through fuel cycle, and liquid fuel (dissolved in FLiBe coolant) with reprocessing and recycle.
The TMSR-SF stream has only partial utilization of thorium, relying on some breeding as with U-238, and needing fissile uranium input as well. SINAP aims at a 2 MW pilot plant (TMSR-SF1) by 2016, and a 100 MWt experimental pebble bed plant (TMSR-SF2) with open fuel cycle* by about 2025, then a 1 GW demonstration plant (TMSR-SF3) by 2030.
The TMSR-LF stream claims full closed Th-U fuel cycle with breeding of U-233 and much better sustainability but greater technical difficulty. SINAP aims for a 2 MWt pilot plant (TMSR-LF1) by 2018, a 10 MWt experimental reactor (TMSR-LF2) by 2025 and a 100 MWt demonstration plant (TMSR-LF3) with full electrometallurgical reprocessing by 2035, followed by 1 a GW demonstration plant.
A TMSFR-LF fast reactor optimized for burning minor actinides is to follow.
The United Kingdom has its own program ….
Rolls Royce is the manufacturer of compact nuclear reactor propulsion units for The Royal Navy, and has proven working designs for compact long life reactors, which are capable of a 25-100 year fuel cycle, and an output in excess of 500MW !
“Rolls-Royce is investing in a new Civil Nuclear Manufacturing Facility in the UK Capable to manufacture Pressure Vessels to 250 tonne capacity Typical examples being:- Pressurisers / Accumulators, RPV Internals, Heat Exchangers, Other high integrity components.”
PDF Brochure :
Peak oil, Peak coal ???? – what are these people talking about ?

Reply to  Harrowsceptic
June 25, 2015 12:49 pm

W-H-L says: “The technology promises to be able to “burn” all kinds of radioactive fuels, even including, the “nuclear waste” from conventional reactors.”
If by “burn” you mean destroy the waste and also produce energy, this won’t occur. Energy is produced by splitting (fission) of U or Th (sometimes Pu) into two parts. Most nuclear waste is those parts and cannot fission. A Th reactor may be safer from an engineering perspective, but it will still produce nuclear waste.
But, I support its development.

Wun Hung Lo
Reply to  Harrowsceptic
June 25, 2015 4:09 pm

donb says :
” Energy is produced by splitting (fission) of U or Th (sometimes Pu)
into two parts. Most nuclear waste is those parts and cannot fission.”
This is a facile view of nuclear fission in a power reactor.
In Nature :
Uranium, radium, and thorium occur in three natural decay series, headed by uranium-238, thorium-232,
and uranium-235, respectively. In nature, the radionuclides in these three series are approximately in a
state of secular equilibrium, in which the activities of all radionuclides within each series are nearly equal.
In Nature :
thorium-232 chain :comment image
uranium-238 chain :comment image
uranium-235 (Actinium) chain :comment image
each ends with its own specific lead isotope (Pb-208, Pb-206, and Pb-207 respectively)
In a reactor we can manipulate the reactions, by confining and manipulating
the neutrons, to alter these decay series, and create fissionable isotopes.
donb also said :
“The most dangerous nuclear waste from a U reactor is 239Pu”
Plutonium may be dangerous and poisonous, but it is not however waste. In fact in Russia, much of the dismantled massive yield nuclear weapons, were used as MOX fuel enrichment material in Russia’s nuclear power plants. PU 239, is part of the fuel cycle in the Actinium, U235 chain, though not shown in the diagram above.
The fissioning of an atom of uranium-235 in the reactor of a nuclear power plant produces two to three neutrons, and these neutrons can be absorbed by uranium-238 to produce plutonium-239 and other isotopes. Plutonium-239 can also absorb neutrons and fission along with the uranium-235 in a reactor.
Plutonium-239 present in reactor fuel can absorb neutrons and fission just as uranium-235 can. Since plutonium-239 is constantly being created in the reactor core during operation, the use of plutonium-239 as nuclear fuel in power plants can occur without reprocessing of spent fuel; the plutonium-239 is fissioned in the same fuel rods in which it is produced. Fissioning of plutonium-239 provides about one-third of the total energy produced in a typical commercial nuclear power plant. Reactor fuel would accumulate much more than 0.8% plutonium-239 during its service life if some plutonium-239 were not constantly being “burned off” by fissioning.
A small percentage of plutonium-239 can be deliberately added to fresh nuclear fuel. Such fuel is called MOX (mixed oxide) fuel, as it contains a mixture of uranium oxide (UO2) and plutonium oxide (PuO2). The addition of plutonium-239 reduces or eliminates the need to enrich the uranium in the fuel.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
June 25, 2015 3:38 am

Most of the ‘problematic waste’ isn’t waste at all but a usable resource. With reprocessing the problematic waste is greatly reduced and the <2% recovery of available energy is greatly multiplied.
Harrowsceptic is correct in that Thorium reactors solve many of the problems with Uranium fuelled reactors and the supply of thorium is much greater the supply of uranium. Although I would add that modern uranium reactor designs are much safer than the designs from the 70's and 80's and very much safer than the reactors operated at Chernobyl.
The Chernobyl accident was mostly due to an unsafe design not an inherent problem with uranium reactors. If the plant at Chernobyl had been a western design with a primary containment the damage outside the plant would have been negligable.

Reply to  ddpalmer
June 25, 2015 12:56 pm

In the Earth’s crust, Th is about three to four times more abundant than U. However, Th tends not to concentrate as much as U.
The most dangerous nuclear waste from a U reactor is 239Pu, which is produced from the non-fissioning component (isotope 238U). Pu is both radioactive and a serious chemical poison. Th reactors do not produce Pu, because they don’t contain U. But they do produce all kinds of radioactive fission products, which is the nature of fission.

Wun Hung Lo
Reply to  ddpalmer
June 25, 2015 4:52 pm

donb :
see explanation above, and also this :
We can manipulate these decay series,
by adding additional neutrons and create
the chain we want, until we get near full
burn-up of the material. Plutonium is not
waste, in the sense that you are portraying.
PU239 and indeed some PU240 are part of
the Actinium power reactor decay series,
In the Thorium Reactor, U233 is produced
in the decay series. In point of fact Thorium
is fertile rather than fissile, and can only be
used as a fuel in conjunction with a fissile
material such as recycled Plutonium.
Nuclear power technology is more complex
than you appear to be aware of, because
we are not talking about “natural decay”.
The decay is artificially accelerated by
mixing and concentrating, both fissile, and
in the case of Thorium, fertile materials.
Th232 is bombarded by slow neutrons,
undergoing neutron capture to become
Th233 which undergoes two consecutive
beta decays to become first Pa233 and
then the fissile U233. With 6 additional
neutron captures it is possible to create
Pu239 from Th232, although around 98%
of the fuel reacts as either U235 or U238,
thus Plutonium destruction is maximised,
However several isotopes of Uranium
and Plutonium do exist in the Thorium
reactor, as part of the fission process,
though not enough Pu239 to be useful
for military weapon production. Thorium
fuel must be mixed with Plutonium to
create the slow neutrons needed for
creation of the U233. Plutonium is to
be used, precisely because we want
rid of it, though U238 has a higher
neutron yield.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
June 25, 2015 7:21 am

So Greenpeace is shifting the goal posts again. There’s a surprise!
No-one is arguing that uranium PWRs are “renewable”; they are reliable and they are non-polluting. Their renewablity is irrelevant since there is enough uranium to last indefinitely (in any practical sense). At least 1,000 years if we include what is dissolved in sea water is reckoned to be a conservative estimate.
Greenpeace’s objection used to be that they were potentially dangerous. Then came the day when the activists discovered that they could demonise CO2 and since nuclear power is “clean” in that sense they desperately needed another excuse not to support it.
Greenpeace’s only interest is in making as certain as they can that there will be no such thing as cheap and reliable energy. The fact that the alternatives turn out to be just as polluting is neither here nor there as far as they are concerned.

Reply to  newminster
June 25, 2015 1:01 pm

Elements like metals, U and Th (and several other elements) occur in two basic ways in Earth’s crust — distributed in low concentrations in the rocks and oceans, or found in much higher concentrations called ores, mineral deposits, etc. We utilize the mineral deposits because the energy required to recover these elements in low concentrations (e.g. the U in ocean water above) make such a process prohibitive.

Reply to  newminster
June 25, 2015 2:45 pm

Sorry – the caps – again:
thanks newminster for saying what several folk on here have been saying.
It’s all about the control.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
June 25, 2015 8:26 am

I can list and give the name of every person who has died from a nuclear accident in the United States, that will show you how “dangerous” it is. There are over 100 nuclear power plants in the USA and the first went into operation in May, 1958, that is almost 60 years of operation. That is over 25 million hours of operation, Probably 75 Million do your own calculation as you would have to find the start date for each) nd the name of thse that have died because of an accident or rtelease of radiation from a commercial US nuclear power plant is,
No One. not a single person. Even the OSHA safety statistics for lost time accidents and injuries shows that it is safer to work at a Commercial US Nuclear power plant than at any of the top five accounting firms!
So where is the risk? look at any “green” energy process and please provide me with the numbers killed by these processes, workers or observers, or whatever. Ted Kennedy has killed more people in his car than Nuclear power (think Chappaquiddick).

Reply to  usurbrain
June 25, 2015 1:28 pm

“No One. not a single person”
What about the July 24, 1964 at Charlestown RI. United Nuclear Corp fuel facility death?
But then, you’re ignoring the electrocutions. One July 16, 1971 at Quad City number 1, Cordova Il
or the three workers that died in the explosion on January 1, 1961 in Idaho Falls, Idaho testing station, or when a generator fell on a worker recently (March 31, 2013) at Arkansas Nuclear One.
Industrial accidents happen all the time.

Reply to  usurbrain
June 25, 2015 2:17 pm

Be careful about what you read on Wikipedia – they are anti-nuke.
“What about the July 24, 1964 at Charlestown RI. United Nuclear Corp fuel facility death?” – That is not a Nuclear Plant.- It was a fuel recovery process and the spent fuel of Commercial power plants has not been recovered, only military. For the quantities involved, it had to be highly enriched.
“or the three workers that died in the explosion on January 1, 1961 in Idaho Falls, Idaho testing station,” – That was a Military test facility (Army) not a commercial Nuclear Power Plant
So all you are left with is industrial accidents and the record of industrial accidents ( see OSHA) is still better than for any of the five leading accounting firms! Definitely better than where you work or even if you are at home!

Billy Liar
Reply to  usurbrain
June 25, 2015 2:26 pm

name of th[o]se that have died because of an accident or release of radiation from a commercial US nuclear power plant is,
No One.

Joel D Jackson, usurbrain.
He/she did, you didn’t. You forgot the qualifier.

Reply to  usurbrain
June 25, 2015 2:42 pm

Thank you for admitting that there were “industrial accidents” at nuclear facilities. You said “no one” and you were wrong.

Reply to  usurbrain
June 25, 2015 3:01 pm

Billy Liar:
Name: Wade Walters
Died: March 31, 2013
Place: Arkansas Nuclear One

Billy Liar
Reply to  usurbrain
June 25, 2015 3:30 pm

You got me there! 🙂

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  usurbrain
June 25, 2015 7:47 pm

Perhaps you missed the word “commercial,” Joel. that’s a rather important adjective.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
June 25, 2015 11:30 pm

Read Archibald’s chapters on Neuclear power, especially molten Thorium salt.

June 24, 2015 10:40 pm

The French prove you to be 100% incorrect. Over four decades of safe use and over 4 decades of recycling their nuclear waste.

Nigel Harris
Reply to  Greg Winkens
June 25, 2015 6:59 am

You could have said the same about Japan right up to 2011.

Vic w
Reply to  Nigel Harris
June 25, 2015 8:33 am

Japan’s problems were tsunamis not nuclear meltdown and there have been nil radiation deaths

Reply to  Nigel Harris
June 25, 2015 10:57 am

As Vic W said “Japan’s problems were tsunamis not nuclear meltdown and there have been nil radiation deaths”

June 24, 2015 10:54 pm

Ian Macdonald:
You apply the ‘peak oil’ myth to uranium and assert of nuclear power that the “risk factor with PWR/BWR reactors is simply too high for any mass deployment of that kind of engineering”.
Good grief! How safe do you want it to be?
The most recent so-called nuclear disaster was at Fukushima in Japan. The power station was overwhelmed by an earthquake and tsunami which killed tens of thousands of people, moved the main island of Japan a meter, and was much greater than the safety margins built-in to the power station. But the damage to the power station killed nobody.
As the Fukushima No.1 reactor demonstrated, even old nuclear power stations are very safe.

richard verney
Reply to  richardscourtney
June 25, 2015 12:19 am

And only a modest redesign to the back up diesel generator would have prevented any major problem.
The experience at Fukushima (which as you note was extreme and an event that would not be experienced in many countries which lie well away from tectonic fault lines) has taught us a great deal, and should enable even safer plants to be designed.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 3:00 am

Even a modest relocations of the back-up diesel generators would have probably done the trick!

Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 2:47 pm

Yes, it has taught us that human engineering will always be susceptible to unexpected (i.e. extreme) events.

Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 2:48 pm

Alan – agree.
Put it ten/twenty metres up [how big is y o u r tsunami?].

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 7:48 pm

And yet no deaths in commercial power plants, Joel. Or are we just playing the Precautionary Principle game?

Reply to  richard verney
June 26, 2015 2:12 am

Flooding and grid disconnnection should not have come as a surprise.
What I have learned from Fukushima – is trust nothing and no one, ever.
Technically nuclear could be completely safe. But sadly, humans are involved.
All that we need to do is to keep nuclear out of the hands of humans.

Phillip Bratby
June 24, 2015 11:16 pm

There is a lot of hogwash propaganda about the safety of nuclear power. It has repeatedly been shown to be the safest and lowest risk generator of electricity in the world. There is enough U235 in the world to last centuries, and then breeder reactors could be used (if the world hadn’t by then turned to thorium, which is far more abundant).

Hari Seldon
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
June 25, 2015 12:11 am

Here here

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
June 25, 2015 3:12 am

I think it is because there is a huge psychological issue with “radiation”, left over from the CND days & all the antis, all the Hollywood movies about mutants, etc, tv shows where super heros were mutated by exposure, & yes excessive exposure can induce cancer depending on the duration of that exposure. Having said that, wildlife around Chenobyl seems to be thriving according to a recent post here I think lasst year. When publicly fundeed braodcasters like the BBC, seek to promote fear about nuclear energy, it only makes things worse. Interstingly they don’t yet to have made a programe about the pros & cons of nuclear energy, yet, but when they. do, they will have their pet “professors” & experts to knock it down.

Reply to  Alan the Brit
June 25, 2015 7:29 am

The wildlife around Chernobyl is benefitting from the lack of human beings in the vicinity!
Have you read Jim Steele’s article up above? Since he admits to being an eco-activist who is taking serious issue with Ceballos & Ehrlich 2015 and citing some very good reasons (as well as asking why CE2015 isn’t citing them!) his views are worth paying attention to.
If he is right (and other sources confirm it) that current worldwide birth rate already has a population decline built in it looks as if the enviro-NGOs are either barking up the wrong tree or shooting themselves in the foot.

Reply to  Alan the Brit
June 25, 2015 2:50 pm

No humans – wildlife up.

June 24, 2015 11:26 pm

@ Viv:..Not enough stars.

June 24, 2015 11:37 pm

Let’s be clear. Anything mankind comes up with that allows us to enjoy first world comforts like warm houses, swimming pools, air travel and tear arsing around in personal transportation devidec will present an issue for Big Green.
Whatever the energy source they’ll dream up a way in which it harms the sky and needs to be stopped.
If there’s one thing AGW alarmism has taught is it’s this

Richard T
Reply to  Andy
June 25, 2015 7:44 am

I usually ask for the date they went “off grid”. I am still waiting for someone to provide a date.

June 24, 2015 11:37 pm

There’s a fourth significant source of energy, best improved by Norman Borlaug. Sure, it may pale in magnitude to the others, but it’s convenient, even digestible.

Reply to  kim
June 25, 2015 1:59 am

No Kim, that’s a use or conversion of the 3 significant sources of energy, not a separate source !

Mike McMillan
June 24, 2015 11:41 pm

The latest stupid ethanol suggestion is to power the “wanna-be-green” US Pacific Fleet using Queensland food crops.
It wasn’t a suggestion. It was the directive of an affirmative-action commander-in-chief who figured the more money spent on $28 per gallon biodiesel, the less the Navy could spend on militarily useful items.

June 24, 2015 11:41 pm

Use of ethanol for “environmental reasons” is surely the sickest bad practical joke ever played on the gullible

June 24, 2015 11:53 pm

There can be little doubt that Chernobyl was the worst Civil nuclear disaster.
What you might expect from a poor design, indifferent construction plant with a bunch of people running it who decided to play games with it.
There is certainly a large area at Chernobyl & Pripyat with a “red circle” around it. Now an unofficial nature reserve with radiation levels that are already mostly pretty safe. The WHO’s best estimate of the total number killed by Chernobyl is around 40.
Contrast with the area that has now been sterilised globally with wind and solar (=subsidy) farms. One notable effect of which has been to make conventional energy production a lot more inefficient and expensive. And my guess is that, by now, many more than 40 will have been killed erecting and maintaining wind turbines.
The promoters of the mad greenie Big Wind and Big Solar scams should be charged with conspiracy to defraud tax payers and energy users.

Reply to  martinbrumby
June 25, 2015 3:42 am

This is a well-maintained list of wind turbine deaths worldwide. The number is more than 40.

Solomon Green
Reply to  Myview1872
June 25, 2015 4:24 am

Thanks, Myview1872, for the link.

Reply to  Myview1872
June 25, 2015 10:03 am

Very helpful

June 24, 2015 11:57 pm

I think Hansen was just a shill for the nuke power industry when people started to be concerned about it.He invented a new bogyman in order to protect that industry.Who knew it would create a brand new multy billion dollar industry. .

richard verney
June 24, 2015 11:59 pm

The ultimate biomass stupidity is to harvest American forests, pelletise them, dry them and ship them across the Atlantic (all using hydrocarbon fuels) to burn in a UK power station. Burning biomass produces the same emission gases as coal.
I agree that this is the ultimate stupidy, but you are under stating it.
Biomass has considerably less calorific value compared to coal, and hence per kW hour of energy obtained from the burning of biomass rather than the burning of coal, the more CO2 is emitted.
Gas has the highest caloric value and hence produces the least amount of CO2 when burnt per kWhour produced, then coal then biomass.
Biomass is a wide term and covers a vast array of material and the amount of CO2 emitted can be double that of coal.

Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 12:57 am

Spot on Richard. The stupidity continues. Don’t get me started. Much like Europe’s ban on 1,500 watt vacuum cleaners from August last year. You now need to spend twice as long cleaning the carpet with a 750 watt machine – saving absolutely nothing.

richard verney
Reply to  GeeJam
June 25, 2015 6:12 am

Yes but even more remarkable is the sale of low wattage kettles.
Rather than having a 3kW kettle, kettles now more commonly range from between 1.5 to 2.4kW. No one (the regulators/politicians/civil servants) seems to realise that the amount of power consumed to boil water depends upon the volume of the water, and that say an 1800 watt ketle does not save any power, it merely takes almost twice as long to boil (in fact with heat loss, it probably uses more energy than the old traditional 3kW kettles). If they want to save power make a smaller volume kettle, or simply fill it up with only the amount of water for your current needs.

Reply to  GeeJam
June 25, 2015 6:25 pm

Richard – don’t give the Governments any ideas! They will now introduce a law requiring kettles to be no more than 150ml in capacity.

Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 1:19 am

Any CO2 produced by burning wood is CO2 that has recently being extracted from the air by that wood. This is why biomass and wood burning is considered ‘carbon neutral’.
CO2 released by burning fossil fuels has been out of circulation for millions of years; it is put back into the atmosphere in the space of decades. It causes CO2 concentrations to increase. This is why burning fossil fuels is not considered carbon neutral.

Bubba Cow
Reply to  MikeB
June 25, 2015 6:03 am

carbon debt anyone?

richard verney
Reply to  MikeB
June 25, 2015 6:07 am

That argument with respect is cr@p and has hoodwinked the politicos.
The simple fact is that if the forest that is cut down for woodchips was not cut down, it would be absorbing CO2. There have been a number of papers showing that old forests continue to absorb as much CO2 as young forests. Hence there is nothing to be gained by cutting down a forest, replacing it, cutting it down again and replacing it.
But the real issue in the Biomass jig is that many virgin forests are being cut down and are not being replaced at all. The land is being left as scrub land, and this land absorbs less CO2 than did the virgin forest from which the wood chips came.
In practice, since business can make a quicker buck from simply cutting down virgin forest and not replacing it/replanting it, the biomass business is resulting in a reduction in the carbon sink.
The process is this:
We cut down a forest that is absorbing CO2, we then burn the wood that produces about 50% or more CO2 than coal, and more than twice the CO2 of gas, and only occassionally do we plant a replacement forest that absorbs CO2. This process creates no new sinks, and the additional CO2 released on burning and that released in speeding up the drying process and the carriage of woodchips from forest to power plant (the most efficient coal powered plants were built on the coal field so transportation was minimal) is never off-set.
if one wanted to reduce atmospheric levels of CO2, it would be better to burn coal and plant some trees, thereby creating an additional sink. But of course, even though man is de-foresting at alarming rates, the globe is greening faster than we can lay waste to the forests because of the additional CO2 in the atmosphere. This is doing the job for us.
Of course, it is the switch from coal to gas that has allowed the US (who did not sign up to Kyoto) to be the only major western democracy that has significantly reduced its CO2 emissions these past 10 to 15 years.

Reply to  MikeB
June 25, 2015 6:17 am

MikeB, it’s a difference that makes no direct difference. CO2 from fossil fuels is just as easily taken up by plants as any other CO2.
Bottom-line for the “carbon neutral” scam is simple — reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by raising the price/making scarce the carbon available to burn.

Reply to  MikeB
June 25, 2015 7:34 am

CO2 that is released by burning wood has taken up to 20 years (or more) to be sequestrated and will take another 20 years to be sequestrated again by the replacement tree.
Do the sums.

Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 10:51 am

Part of the advantage of natural gas is that it has a lower carbon/hydrogen ratio than other common fuels. Some of the heat from burning fossil fuels comes from burning hydrogen as well as carbon.

richard verney
June 25, 2015 12:15 am

Further to my comment above.
whilst I have not checked the accuracy of this information, and the source may have a bias,
states; “…It’s often claimed that biomass is a “low carbon” or “carbon neutral” fuel, meaning that carbon emitted by biomass burning won’t contribute to climate change. But in fact, biomass burning power plants emit 150% the CO2 of coal, and 300 – 400% the CO2 of natural gas, per unit energy produced.”
Details of the calorific values of various fuels can be found set out at,20041&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
This site may also be biased; it states that wood chips and logs air dried have about 1/2 the calorific value of house coal (3.5 to 4.1 compared to 7.5 to 8.6 kWh/kg), and a 1/3rd of that of natural gas (ie.,3.5 to 4.1 compared to 10.6 kWh/kg).
So if one looks at the calorific value for typical biomass material used in energy production it emits about 50% more CO2 than burning coal, and at least double that of burning gas.

Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 12:45 am

Some time ago BBC Radio interviewed a spokesman for the company that runs Drax and the other former coal power stations being converted to woodchips. When asked why woodchips he said it was entirely because of the Green subsidy . If any other fuel offered the same rewards they would use that. An entirely sensible commercial judgement on their part of course, but not quite the reasons (Green moral principle, saving the planet , etc) that is usually fed to us.
One presumes that only sufficient wood is being burnt annually that corresponds in terms of carbon content to the new growth that replaces it in a year and is basically brushwood . However various , admittedly unauthenticated, reports from the US South east forests suggest that a percentage of mature wood is being felled, with destruction of accompanying fauna , and that some measure of creative accountancy is being used to retain the plea of carbon neutrality.
I also have a personal dislike of this woodchip venture . I was brought up in a part of Oxfordshire whose landscape was totally changed in the ’60s by Dutch Elm disease , imported into this country on infected American timber . We now also face similar diseases to our Ash, Oak and Chestnut trees . How can we be sure that the imported woodchips are sterile. Is any Govt body checking this? I may be unfair to the owners of Drax but I suspect that they don’t care as long as they can make profits.

Reply to  mikewaite
June 25, 2015 6:44 am

I may be unfair to the owners of Drax
Drax Industries first appears in the 1979 film Moonraker, in which the villain, Hugo Drax, uses the company to further his scheme of wiping out the majority of humanity and replacing it with a new master race of ‘perfect’ human specimens. As an aerospace firm, the company is known for manufacturing the Moonraker space shuttles for NASA.

Mike M.
Reply to  richard verney
June 25, 2015 8:25 am

Richard Verney,
“It’s often claimed that biomass is a “low carbon” or “carbon neutral” fuel, meaning that carbon emitted by biomass burning won’t contribute to climate change.”
The claim is true if you set up a cycle: Plant fast growing trees, harvest and burn them, replant the trees. The CO2 released by burning is taken up by the trees, so no net CO2 emission. Problem is that if you do the sums to figure out how much area is needed for tree farms, you get a ridiculous number.

richard verney
Reply to  Mike M.
June 25, 2015 3:45 pm

Yes, it requires the cycle to set up, and the commencement of burning biomass deferred for a generation. Biomass is not presently a ‘cure’ for today’s ‘problems.’
The past is the past, and in 2015, it makes no difference whether a tree sequestered CO2 some 30 years ago, or coal some millions of years ago.
We are where we are today (about 400ppm of CO2), and if one wants to put a cap on CO2 levels by 2100, the only issue is what energy source used between 2015 and 2100 will result in the lowest atmospheric CO2 levels by the year 2100?
Obviously, that is nuclear. But leaving that aside, if we use Biomass the level of CO2 in the atmosphere will be higher than if we use coal which will be higher than if we use gas, because the burning of biomass emits more CO2 than coal, and coal emits more CO2 than gas.
Biomass would only be carbon neutral if we took a piece of scrub land or some unvegetated land, plant some fast growing trees and then wait 25 to 30 years for those new trees to reach maturity before cutting them down and burning them.
What one needs to do is to create new and larger CO2 sinks. If one ignores the nuclear option, it is best to use a mix of coal and gas, and create some new forest on what is presently existing scrub land or unvegetated land.
Promoting biomass is simply snakeoil salesman stuff.

June 25, 2015 12:33 am

Yet another moronic article wrt the bioethanol industry.
Soils the good name of WUWT
Author, please before you embarrass yourself in public again, read up on dry distiller’s grains (cattle food) and water recycling in a modern ethanol production facility, and research how this industry is in any way connected with the AGW scam in 2015.

Reply to  philincalifornia
June 25, 2015 4:01 am

Bioethanol is not an industry, it is government policy, if the policies change or dissappear, so will the “industry” Real businesses are based on demand, ethanol is based on government mandates.

Reply to  philincalifornia
June 25, 2015 10:14 pm

Philincalifornia, I take offence at your comment and your attitude towards Viv Forbes, addressing him rudely as “Author”. You could not even manage to research his name to put to paper so why would anyone think that your comment about bioethanol is well researched either? Viv Forbes is an extremely experienced scientist, whereas you are ??? I have read many articles by Viv and all of them are well researched, clearly written, succinct, and down to earth practical. As for ethanol, the only way it is used in petrol is by Government decree, no one else wants it who has ever tried it. The same thing applies to solar panels and wind farms. They are a waste of resources and cannot exist without subsidies by Governments wasting taxpayers monies.

Reply to  xyzlatin
June 26, 2015 4:22 am

I don’t need to “well research” the bioethanol industry. I’m not in it, but the work I do is so closely allied to it that I’m immersed in everything about it, which is why I know pretty much everything there is to know about it already on an ongoing basis. You may perhaps note that the article I linked to yesterday was from yesterday.
My own scientific credentials include a Ph.D. in Chemistry at age 23, 200 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, with 16 papers in PNAS and 10 or 12 papers in Nature and Science and another 50+ in other top journals, and 50+ issued US Patents.
It’s probably you that needs to try to keep up.

John in Oz
June 25, 2015 12:44 am

My 5KW system is not stealing too much from the biosphere at the moment (Adelaide Hills).
3.732KWh generated today which will do very little to offset the a/c running for most of the afternoon and feed zilch back to the grid.

June 25, 2015 1:22 am

Just to expand slightly on what you say, the “Green subsidy” which motivates Drax also (and crucially) includes the ability to operate the plant 24/7 rather than having to ramp up and down to allow for variability of demand and the unpredictability of wind and solar. This is (in terms of operating costs) far more economical. I think the projected profit (no doubt including the subsidies) that they were hoping for was £2 Billion per year. Not bad for the reputed (one off) cost of the project of £900 Million!
All paid for by energy users and taxpayers! What’s not to like?
But personally, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to operate such a scam.
Proudest man in the gutter, that’s me!

Larry in Texas
June 25, 2015 1:37 am

A well-written piece by Viv Forbes. I was wondering, I was watching a program produced in Japan (NHK World) that talked about a guy who was trying to develop Euglena, a flagellate protist microalgae, which appears to have potential as a source of nutrition in poor areas of Third World countries. The website for Euglena also claims to have potential as both a jet fuel alternative and as a way of extracting waste for sewage. Anybody with expertise in the area of energy or in biology care to comment on these claims or provide more information? Of course, all potential for this, like other algaes that have been developed, depends upon the economics of efficient mass production, and they are a long way from having that solution, it appears. Here is the website:

Scottish Sceptic
June 25, 2015 1:42 am

Thanks for the article.
Perhaps the only really appropriate description for these “green” energies is “gullible energy” or even “perpetual motion energy” [unreliables?], because those pushing them really have no idea about the energy that goes into them in terms of manufacture or where the energy comes from or what impact taking that energy has on the environment.
And to be frank it was impossible to discuss this issue sensibly because the academic pushers of “gullible energy” can’t even contemplate any harm and generally are clueless about the real energy costs in manufacture, transport etc. so I doubt they’d be any better on the true environmental impacts.

June 25, 2015 1:44 am

The French prove you to be 100% incorrect. Over four decades of safe use and over 4 decades of recycling their nuclear waste.
As far as I am aware, commercially, nuclear fuel reprocessing just extracts plutonium, concentrates the remaining highly active material and dumps the remainder. This is to reduce the waste storage problem.
None of it is currently turned into new fuel elements to go round the loop again.
It is not currently cost effective.

Billy Liar
Reply to  steverichards1984
June 25, 2015 3:05 pm

According to Wiki GOGEMA ‘extracts plutonium which is then recycled into MOX fuel at the Marcoule site.’

June 25, 2015 3:36 am

The article states that palm oil is used to make ethanol. This is wrong. Palm oil is used to make biodiesel.
After an obvious mistake like this, I tend to be skeptical about the rest of the article.

Reply to  Solomon Green
June 25, 2015 9:13 am

The article specifically said palm oil, which is a triglyceride, and is used to form fatty acid methyl esters (typically), which can be used as diesel fuel. It would be difficult to synthesize ethanol from a triglyceride.
I would have had no technical objection if the article specified use of cellulosic byproducts of palm oil for synthesis of ethanol.

Reply to  bsl
June 25, 2015 4:42 am

bsl That tiny mistake does take nothing away from the message. Palm oil is good for many things including health benefits in cooking. If you saw the wanton destruction of thousands of square miles of forest and jungle habitat being destroyed for this monoculture, you would be disgusted. The movers and shakers in the third world ,despots, you may say care nothing of the environment or of the people they displace. I refuse to buy fuel with ethanol added, and, if some one tried to sell me palm oil diesel I would tell them to stick it up their fundamental orifice. It is less green than peeing in your drinking water but more green than cutting down forests to burn as wood chips.

Reply to  wayne Job
June 25, 2015 9:23 am

I agree that palm oil may not be the best raw material to use for manufacture of fuels. My comment was directed to a technical mistake that the author, if honest, should not have made.
I also would prefer to fuel my car with gasoline that contains, at most, some ethanol to improve the octane rating, but that is very hard to find in the US.

Billy Liar
Reply to  wayne Job
June 25, 2015 3:17 pm

Most of the gasoline now sold in the United States contains some ethanol, but the exact amount varies by region. In general, the ethanol content of motor gasoline does not exceed 10% by volume.

Reply to  wayne Job
June 25, 2015 11:26 pm

If you were right – and as others have demonstrated, you are not – then your point would be trivial nit-picking. It is plain daft to suggest that such a triviality would discredit the entire article.

June 25, 2015 5:01 am

Thanks Viv, always bang on the nail of truth. Trust a Geologist to get it right.

Bill Yarber
June 25, 2015 5:54 am

There is a major difference between Earth & Mars. Mar’s iron core is solid with no molten iron to generate a magnetic field. Mars is dead. Excessive use of geothermal heat MIGHT hasen the day Earth’s iron core completely solidifies. Solar energy if free for the next 4+ billion years. Not sure how long Earth’s geothermal energy will last but my guess is less than 1billion years. Maybe someone out there can come up with a program to estimate how much time before Earth’s core freezes solid. Then we can promote that doom and destruction scenario. 😓

Reply to  Bill Yarber
June 26, 2015 4:23 am

Given the “wobble” created by the Sun, Jupiter and the Moon, I do no see the core will solidify at all before the Earth is consumed by the dying Sun.

June 25, 2015 6:44 am

A repost of calculation I did a year ago…for what it’s worth, bit rough but the idea and the numbers still make you wonder…
vol oceans 1.3 bil x cubic km (wiki)
claim 3 x oceans water exist deep in earth rock
all (?) H2O changed to H + HO with HO bound on rock. H free?
at h2o density = ~ 4 bil x cubic km H
1kg h2o = 1 x cubic m of h2o gas (?) assume.
H from 1kg H2O has same 1 x cubic m vol (when released)
1 x cubic km H2O = 1 000 000 000 000 kg
This = 1 000 000 000 000 x cubic m of H gas
x by 4 bil or 4 000 000 000
= 4 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 m cubed H gas
1m cubed = ~30 cubic ft
Estimated Natural Gas vol, as of January 1, 2013,
~ 6 846 000 000 000 cubic feet (Tcf)
= 6 846 trillion cubic feet
(that is of total world proved reserves of dry natural gas (ref eia))
Estimated H gas vol from water in deep rock…
~ 120 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 cubic ft
= 120 000 trillion trillion cubic feet.
This H probably involved in lots of Hydrocarbon production.
Subduction of plates is continual process
Hydrocarbon production is therefor a continual process
So gravity, pressure and plate movement plus rock as catalyst, converts water to H and on to hydrocarbon gas (and, in concentrated form, oil)
We burn gas – goes back to water, back to ocean one way or another, gets subducted, pressurised, split back to H and pressured back to hydrocarbon gas…
energy in the form of gas and oil, and lots of it, forever, from gravity and sea water.
So no need for organic matter in formation of oil – would be consistent with chemical composition of oil, – i.e oil made from geological and not biological process, or some combination

Reply to  Neillusion
June 25, 2015 1:28 pm

Living plants discriminate against carbon-13 in favor of carbon-12 (isotopes of C). A similar process occurs for hydrogen-1 and -2. Thus anything produced from plants carry this signature. It is not the signature of the Earth’s oceans, nor of massive carbonate deposits.
Fossil fuel is produced from plants, not from subducted H2O or carbonates. Heat and pressure within the Earth greatly alter the plant chemistry. Lighter chemicals (oil & gas) can migrate away, leaving the solid, more C-rich residue (coal). Our oil refineries produce a similar process when they “crack’ heavy oil.

June 25, 2015 6:51 am

And there are the “externalities” of wind/solar. More mining, fabrication, transport and installation and the associated environmental impacts are required for green power than traditional fossil fuel. $/kW and $/MWh are indications not just of basic economics, but of efficiency of the application of resources. If it cost more it probably did more damage, maybe not where everyone can see it. But appearances are all that matter to politicians and MSM.

Bruce Cobb
June 25, 2015 7:00 am

Go Green!
No, really; just go.

June 25, 2015 7:08 am

“Third are radiation and gravitational energies from the Sun and Moon which are captured by the biosphere as heat, winds, tides, rain, rivers . . .”

Bruce Cobb
June 25, 2015 7:30 am

CO2 is green, since plants love it. Therefore, anything that increases CO2 such as burning coal is green.

June 25, 2015 8:29 am

Somebody already mentioned that the greens and the sustainability morons always forget human ingenuity. Taking the ingenuity meme a little further; do people really think that the human race is Earthbound?
Most discussions ignore the massive resources in the Earth’s mantle but what about the Solar System, the galaxy and the universe?
The planets and asteroids in our system contain a virtually inexhaustible supply of resource within what will soon be easy reach.

Reply to  Dung
June 25, 2015 1:31 pm

And VERY expensive to mine and return to Earth.

Reply to  donb
June 25, 2015 11:32 pm

Mining asteroids would be very expensive using today’s technology. But it would probably cheap to do if and when it were ever needed.

Patrick C
June 25, 2015 8:43 am

Dixon, you make so much SENSE – how one would welcome it’s spread!!

Gary Martin
June 25, 2015 1:39 pm

“I usually ask for the date they went “off grid”. I am still waiting for someone to provide a date.”
They can’t! They are off grid!

June 25, 2015 1:47 pm

Check out for a system than uses gravity to generate electricity with a very small footprint. Also, the energy is entirely renewable. Using low temperature heat, it doesn’t “cook birds”; and if placed in a desert, a low temperature system could provide shade!

June 25, 2015 2:13 pm

@ Nigel Harris – “But for oil, gas and coal, no recycling is possible and once it’s gone it’s gone.”
Wrong. Industrial emissions from coal, oil or gas can be recycled into fuel oil – apparently without additional feedstock such as soy, sugarcane or maize – by Lanzatech’s biological process. Under trial with India and China heavy industry.
Keep watching developments with this company. Maybe, they can turn oil into a ‘renewable’. :-). Now that will upset the greenies.
– Chicago, Illinois (April 22, 2015) Taiwan’s largest integrated steel maker, China Steel Corporation (CSC), has announced formal Board approval of a 1400M TWD ($46M USD) capital investment in a LanzaTech commercial ethanol facility. This follows the successful demonstration of the revolutionary carbon recycling platform at the White Biotech (WBT) Demonstration Plant in Kaohsiung using steel mill off gases for ethanol production.
LanzaTech’s gas fermentation process uses proprietary microbes to capture and reuse carbon rich waste gases, reducing emissions and pollutants from industrial processes such as steel manufacturing, while making fuels and chemicals that displace those made from fossil resources.

Reply to  jimshu
June 25, 2015 7:16 pm

How ’bout a Boilermaker made from ‘steel mill off gases’. Prosit!

June 25, 2015 4:29 pm

This is all 100% correct, but unfortunately greenies and CAGW scaremongers do not want to help the world’s poor, they just want to continue their comfortable first-world lives in comfort at the expense of hard-working taxpayers, jetting around to conferences and using their power and money to entrench their lifestyles. It’s very simple.

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