An Ill Wind

We do microeconomics too! From the current Farmers Journal, and apologies for the length:

Small countries can do little unilaterally to combat climate change. The planet has just one atmosphere, and every tonne of carbon dioxide, or of the other greenhouse gases, released into the atmosphere has an identical impact. It does not matter where in the world each tonne is emitted. For every tonne emitted in Ireland, about 500 tonnes are emitted somewhere else. If Ireland somehow managed to cut emissions to zero, the fate of the earth’s climate would barely be affected. The problem is global of its very nature and requires global solutions. Every country needs to accept its international obligations and indeed to encourage international agreement on faster action. But solo-runs by individual small countries aiming for very rapid emission reductions make no sense, achieve nothing environmentally but could impose serious economic costs.

Ireland has been pursuing very ambitious targets for emission reduction going beyond our international obligations, despite a sharp reduction in the measured output of greenhouse gases in 2009 consequent on the economic downturn. The 2010 figures are not yet available but chances are that emissions fell again and could remain flat until the economy begins to recover. Under current policy Ireland has been aiming for a major switch to wind-powered electricity, more bio-fuel in transport, electric cars and a long list of other emission-reducing initiatives. All of them will cost money and the overall policy pre-dates the onset of the Irish economic collapse. It is not surprising that the new government is being advised from several quarters to re-visit our emission-reduction targets, specifically to take the downturn into account and to see if excessive costs can be avoided.

A report earlier this year from the Irish Academy of Engineering argued that electricity generating capacity is no longer under pressure: reduced demand is being met comfortably given the availability of several new gas-fired plants and there is less urgency about building extra generation, at least for the next five or ten years. The report also questioned the haste in expanding the transmission system. More recently, the Economic and Social Research Institute has argued against subsidies for offshore wind projects and for reduced wind subsidies onshore. Finally the review group on State assets, as well as proposing structural changes to the electricity industry and partial privatisation, also warned against too rapid a rush into wind generation.

Wind power offers the advantages of zero carbon emissions and low operating costs. But these must be set against some significant drawbacks. Wind generators can be relied on to produce power only about one hour in three over a year, and those productive hours are unpredictable. So conventional capacity has to be kept in reserve for the periods when the wind does not blow. These stations will be utilised less than optimally and this is a hidden cost of wind generation. The dispersed wind units also need extensive investments in grid connections and a strengthened transmission system, so wind is by no means free at the system level. Any country which over-builds wind generators runs the risk of ending up with expensive electricity. It is a tribute to the lobbying efforts of the wind industry over the years that these limits to the attractions of wind-power are only now receiving attention. The challenge to policy is to incentivise wind only up to the point where it makes economic sense, having made due allowance for wind’s contribution to the reduction of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.

The likely cost of natural gas is also a key factor. Carbon emissions from oil, peat and coal stations are much higher than emissions from gas, and it is unlikely that power stations using high-emission fuels will be constructed on any large scale in Europe.

Coal is a major fuel for power stations around the world and seems to be in plentiful supply. But emissions per unit of electricity can be almost double the emissions from gas, so gas is attractive provided its cost proves to be containable. Prospects for gas availability have improved in recent years with the exploitation of shale-gas reserves in North America, which has released Arabian Gulf supplies to the European market and has given rise to expectations that gas prices into the medium-term will not rise as rapidly as oil.

It is remarkable that the production of gas from the Corrib field off Mayo is now ten years behind the original schedule. Corrib is only the second worthwhile oil or gas discovery in Ireland’s disappointing exploration history. The first was the Kinsale Head field off Cork, which went into production over thirty years ago and is now depleted. There are legitimate grounds for optimism that further gas discoveries are possible offshore Ireland but the carry-on in Mayo hardly provides an incentive for the exploration companies.

133 replies on “An Ill Wind”

The Nimbies in West Mayo thirst for fossil fuels from far-off countries.

Meanwhile in Germany, the government has responded to public pressure and is phasing out nuclear power.

However, the Nimbies have slowed the building of wind transmission networks to a crawl and the ubiquitous Prof. Sinn warns that the German government’s climate change targets are now unattainable.

We’re not short ourselves of folk who wish to have their cake and eat it.

Recall the protest by mobile phone users when a mobile phone mast was put on a Radio na Gaelachta mast that had been emitting radio signals for decades?

Reports referred to by Colm (I think…)

ESRI report, published 27th April 2011:

Certainly, until these technologies can yield economic benefits for Ireland, it is inappropriate for consumers to have to pay through the PSO (Public Service Obligation) for this research.

and this IAE report, published 28th Feb. 2011:

Thank you, Colm, for this. I think we all know that ‘you’ do microeconomics, but the ‘we’ seems to be a vanishingly small and extremely reticent band. (And you have the misfortune of posting this – on a matter that has clear policy implications well within the control of government and the Oireachtas – when your UCD colleague, Morgan Kelly, has launched another of his broadsides that is churning up the airwaves and the blogosphere – even if you have done most of the spade-work in this area.)

I realise it is very difficult to do serious microeconomics leading to public policy recommendations in such a small economy with relatively few, often dominant, players. As a result, much of what is done features bloodless, generic entities such as government, regulators, generators, producers, suppliers, etc. Most of this work appears almost surreal and otherworldly, but huge effort is put in to generate and sustain this parallel universe.

Everyone knows who the key players are, but no one wants to name names. And this is generally prudent and self-preserving as any criticism of named actors – how ever well-founded and evidenced – could lead to the traducing of one’s professional integrity and damage to one’s livelihood – and could, possibly, attract the attention of m’learned friends.

In this post – as is many others – you seem to have a fine sense of how far it is possible to push to expose some blatant policy and regulatory abusrdities – and your ‘standing’ might lead to the ‘powers-that-be’ paying some attention. But I think we all know that there are more deep-seated policy and regulatory absurdities that remain to be revealed. And that remedying these would have significant beneficial impacts on consumers and the economy.

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how the game unfolds.

Great article.
Does anybody know where you can find answers to these question?
Can they use wind power to pump water for storage as potential energy? Does this means of storage make any sense?
Have we maximally expoited hydro-energy? Couldn’t we build a few more reservoirs? Or is this a waste of money from the output point of view?
What are the economics on tidal energy? Is it just too technically difficult?
is there scope too for households generating electricity? Solar panels/small wind turbines, garden waste etc?
What about biofuels and alcohol?

Yes they can use wind power to pump water for storage as potential energy. The capital cost of pumped storage is large, however, and the fact that no one has yet published a proper analysis showing that the return on investment is likely to exceed the cost of capital in an Irish context suggests that it is probably not viable.

Have we maximally exploited hydro-energy? Close enough. The remaining opportunities are nor good enough to make a big difference even if they are viable economically.

The economics on tidal energy are that the technology is so immature that serious investment in capacity is premature. It’s viability will always be very site-dependent anyway.

Scope for households to generate electricity? A lot of people think so, but it looks like more of a hobby activity to me. Ireland is a poor location for photovoltaic generation because of our latitude and cloud cover, and at household level it is most suitable for off-grid generation even in countries with favourable conditions because the economics are not great. Not much evidence that domestic wind is much better.

Biofuels? We seem to be able to import them cheaper than we can make them.

Shale gas is likely to transform the energy calculations for most countries, Ireland too.

The numbers/implications are working through the energy world and are still uncertain (as are the eco implications) but it looks like a pretty big shift in energy and carbon is possible and should be kept in mind.

“The economic benefits of reducing CO2 emissions may be about two orders of magnitude less than those estimated by most economists because the climate sensitivity factor (CSF) is much lower than assumed by the United Nations because feedback is negative rather than positive and the effects of CO2 emissions reductions on atmospheric CO2 appear to be short rather than long lasting”

Dr. Alan Carlin’s new study, A Multidisciplinary, Science-Based Approach to the Economics of Climate Change, is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It finds that fossil fuel use has little impact on atmospheric CO2 levels. Moreover, the claim that atmospheric CO2 has a strong positive feedback effect on temperature is contradicted on several grounds, ranging from low atmospheric sensitivity to volcanic eruptions, to the lack of ocean heating and the absence of a predicted tropical “hot spot.”

However, most economic analyses of greenhouse gas emission controls, such as those being imposed by EPA, have been conducted with no consideration of the questionable nature of the underlying science. For that reason, according to Dr. Carlin, the actual “economic benefits of reducing CO2 emissions may be about two orders of magnitude less” than what is claimed in those reports.

Now the US EPA did their best to block the publication of this devastating report. See the report here:

And a report on the (lying by omission) behaviour of the US EPA here:

Think of it as a somewhat distant (decade) retirement event. Your income (energy inputs) will be less. Hence you have to alter your ‘lifestyles’ to bring your outgoings (energy use) into line. Or are budgets a thing of history? Not if energy is concerned.

1. A programme to educate consumers to a life style of less energy use.

2. Follow this with an actual reduction programme (we have an involuntary one at the moment – its called the Great Economic Regression) – but lets pretend, as usual.

Then you see what your base and peak loads are. You have to hold the former and lower the latter. For starters. Later you have to reduce base.

Wind-power: we need 6,000 turbines – minimum. ‘less we reduce usage.
Wave, tide power. Very limited capacity. Actually, the sea can be a nasty place. Waves can wreak lots of damage in a short time.
Transport: we need to expand rail network, like real fast. Electric private vehicles are a complete energy obscenity.
Transmission system. Build out – if you intend to put up those windmills.
Gas. Ivan controls. Very iffy situation here.
Biofuels: Please tick option: food on table or gas in tank.
Stringent building insulation regs.
Plant every available square meter with broadleaves.

Prognosis for energy security. Terrible.

Just wait ’till NIMBYs have to go without their hot dinner! But by then it will be too late!


Heresy, Colm. Disgraceful.

This is a problem of science communication as much as anything else. Everyone, the general public, politicians, the media etc understand very well Ireland’s “special” wind resource. It is much harder to grasp intermittency and the costs and inefficiencies it imposes. Graphics are better than words. I made some here

using Eirgrid and meteo data.

Until now the premise has been that wind is a resource that must be exploited regardless of the cost. We will need a Nyberg report in a few years to explain to us how we all became so deluded.

Thanks for the link. I hadn’t seen that one, and he’s a nice authoritative source too!

There are still some eco concerns (e.g. from all the fraccing) but I suspect they’ll be manageable. The industry’s ability to drill multi-laterals, long horizontals, and to do more controlled exploitation has come on in leaps and bounds.

Interestingly, at the recent seminar on hydrocarbon licencing in TCD I asked whether offshore Ireland is more likely to be an oil or a gas province. Gas is the expectation, which might be a good thing in the longer term.

Mind you, with the Corrib experience in mind it’d be a brave company that’d take on offshore Ireland’s technical challenges, our beachbound welcome parties and the potential impact of shale on gas prices. That’s a heavy package of risks for any investment.

Looks like we should be conentrating our efforts on reducing our importation of fossil fuels as this also damages the economy. An interesting point in the article Jake put up is that electricity is going to be the main source of energy even for cars so it is a matter of ramping up the generation of electricity, if this is the case could nuclear power become feasible for Ireland?

Thanks for the response.
Looks like Colm is on the money again then

EROEI—energy return over energy invested—-is the only way to see whether or not an alternative energy source can replace the energy that we now get from fossil fuel, and give us a Net energy increase.
The Oil Drum has had many articles on EROEI, [also known as EROI], over the past few years, but from what I can see, the advisors to the Gov, at least the ones that they listen to, have never heard of this concept, and are blundering on with an energy policy that has little or no chance of providing us with a secure source of electricity when the fossil fuel finally runs out.
Basically, the EROEI analysis of so called renewable sources of energy, would tend to indicate, [a great deal of work is being done and much more needs to be done on the calculation of EROEI for alternative energy technologies], that the energy return is very poor, and the only viable sources of energy in the future will be either coal or nuclear power.

I obviously have no space to discuss any of this more fully here, but would urge anyone who may be interested to look at this article, and read as much as you can from the Oil Drum archives on EROEI.

A word in defence of the people of Rossport.

While they are a mixed group and I don’t wish to defend the actions of every single one of them: nevertheless, they in turn have been rankly abused by the State, Shell, the Gardaí and the planning process.

The handling of this entire episode, from initial planning to the present day was primarily bungled by State actors and Shell -rather than by the local “Nimbies”.

The safety concerns are genuine, if somewhat exaggerated, and Shell has fixed upon a uniquely dangerous design for the extraction of the gas -this type of process has never been used anywhere in the world before, precisely because of its inherent danger.

Shell has been repeatedly allowed to break the law with not so much as a murmur from the Gardaí, while peaceful protestors (I’m not saying they all are peaceful, but many are) are routinely arrested, charged -some have been imprisoned, their livelihoods interfered with and harassed by hired thugs; presumably hired by Shell (certainly I hope the thugs were not hired by the State).

While there is a militant fringe who give the whole community a bad name, the bulk of the protestors are willing to look at reasonable alternatives, including the placing of the most dangerous parts of the project in an uninhabited area away from homes.

I understand that this project is important for the State, but solidarity is important too, and I am not willing to endanger the lives of fellow citizens simply to get a cheaper gas bill. Call me naive, but I cannot go along with this dismissive talk in recent months that they are all Nimbies. Maybe they are nimbies, and maybe I would be too if my land was appropriated so that dangerous industrial equipment could be installed beside my home. This is a Republic first and an economy second.

If the road to riches involved ignoring individual rights and concerns, then Burma and Zimbabwe would be economic powerhouses. All the evidence is to the contrary.

Looks like Colm McCarthy is taking up the RTol banner (who has gone missing in action after the ridicule FUND has been getting in recent months). I will note that this denialist/do-nothing argument that ‘we’re only one country’ has also been deployed by Free Marketeer ideologists in the US and Canada(!).

@ Paul Hunt

Fracking (the process of extracting shale gas) seems horrifically damaging, and even the Bushies implicitly reaalised this by specifically exempting this from oversight. I do realise, however, that capitalist-types couldn’t give a proverbial monkey’s for the adverse effects of their ‘wealth-creation’ on local communities and the wider environment. ‘NIMBYism’ with much more damaging effects.

@ the individual claiming that the US EPA is lying, I know who I believe, given the choice between reputable science and the legions of cranks and shills who have moved on to this topic from UFOs and Tobacco (respectively).

With the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen Summit and the effects of the global economic downturn on the priority which the public assign to environmental concerns – fallen off a cliff in the US, UK and most of the EU, including Ireland – there is a growing recognition amongst international commentators that any global agreement on carbon emissions mitigation in the medium term is increasingly unlikely. Further, that it may not even be the right way to deal with the problem. The ‘Kyoto’ approach to tackling climate change is deemed to have effectively run its course, according to this school of thought and there is an urgent requirement for a reappraisal of strategy to combat climate change.

Recent research points to a need to radically ‘reframe’ the issue away from the current preoccupation with emissions’ ‘targets’ as the sole objective of climate policy. Various authors suggest there must be a broader recognition of climate change as an ongoing problem, on a par with poverty, or world hunger or even terrorism, that needs to be managed on an ongoing basis. Thus discussion is shifting towards identifying a range of strategies; such as how to improve access to energy for the 1.5bn of the world’s population that don’t have it, the requirement to decouple ‘climate change’ objectives from energy policy issues per se, what regional adaptation strategies may be appropriate to deal with severe climate events plus an overall recognition by environmentalists, scientists, and policy makers that climate change model projections are not ‘predictions’ and should not, therefore, be used as prescriptions for political action.

The recent ESRI report makes clear that EU climate policy does no favours to Ireland’s strategic energy policy interests, or our economic interests, on a number of levels. There seems to be a case for Ireland building alliances with other EU member states to have current EU climate policy reviewed, particularly the conflation of climate policy with energy policy. Unfortunately , there is a lot of political capital invested in the current EU stance and thus it is difficult to envisage changes in direction, however warranted they may be – the current disastrous biofuels policy is a good example – in the short term at least.

It’s obvious there needs to be a national conversation about Ireland’s climate policy and about energy policy as well. The ‘climate change’ framework in which we devise policy in these areas, must be re-examined , even if our European colleagues insist on remaining stuck in a mitigation/emissions’ targets frame and all that follows from that. I believe there needs to be a significant measure of public engagement in such a debate. Otherwise, the public will rightly turn their backs on policies like carbon taxes and hostility will emerge towards subsidisation of renewables development, especially if such subsidies are perceived as just another stealth tax imposed on the ordinary citizen’s energy bills or as posing a threat to sectoral interests, like farming, as happened with, and defeated, the previous government’s Climate Bill.

The recent ESRI report deserved more attention than it has received to date and there need to be more articles like Colm’s piece – and not just from an economist’s perspective – to stimulate public discussion.

On the Corrib Gas issue, it’s not primarily a ‘regulatory’ failure that has delayed delivery of this project. It’s more a substantial political failure. All the documentation on the project from the official side is publicly accessible. By any fair reading of it, mistakes were made on all sides but a key factor in the delay of this project has been the long running protest against the development, which by now is more concentrated in strategic political considerations than local concerns. Not that it makes that much difference to the developers. As I understand it, they are entitled to write off additional project costs arising from the delay against tax liabilities. The last figure I saw about the cost of this in lost revenue to the Irish state is of the order of several hundred million euro.

@ Veronica

Well done. Glad to see that you’re keeping an oar in – perhaps a current client?

It’s simply amazing the abuse one gets here from commenters hiding behind pseudonyms. I never even mentioned ‘fracking’ or ‘shale gas’.


You’re right about the more rational environemental debate that is beginning to emerge, but it’s going to take a long time to turn the big EU tanker around. The really worrying part is that public anger at the burden these plethora of costly and inefficient instruments and targets will impose could be communicated by, and much to the political advantage of, people and parties like Marine le Pen and the Franch NF, Geert Wilders, and the various populist, nationalistic, xenophobic parties gaining traction throughout the EU.

@ Paul Hunt

and the various populist, nationalistic, xenophobic parties gaining traction throughout the EU.

Glad to see FG and the Tories get a mention in this thread.

@ Joe Wheatley

Very nice piece of research and analysis Joe. But I agree with one of those who commented on your conclusions regarding the implications of intermittency. This seems to be a bit one-sided, given the need to also consider how power demand is evolving. All systems become more adaptive and dynamic as they evolve, technological and socio-economic ones too. Improved adaptivity and dynamisation concerning energy use and decreasing need for human involvement in decision making are evident in vehicle design, work habits, building regulation and enforcement and in most aspects of society in fact. So intermittency need not be a fatal flaw in a power generation strategy.
Then there is the issue of available alternatives for power provisioning for an island state like Ireland. In a world of continuing resource wars and declining supplies of fossil fuel and fresh water it would seem wise to provision well….

I’m completely unsure what I wrote to cause such name calling, especially from someone whose name is kept a secret.

There are concerns about fraccing, sure. Should I point out that I mentioned the problem first? Would that help calm you down and make you consider whether you’re pointing your anger in a useful direction?

There are some who post comments on this board who use pseudonyms for, what in their view, are good reasons – and a few have taken the trouble to explain why. Though it should be a matter for serious concern that there is such constraint on freedom of expression that they feel compelled to do so. So far as I can see most of the others who use pseudonyms do so to allow them to fling abuse at anyone who might dare to reveal his or her identity and advance propositions and arguments that might offend their sensibilities or challenge their ideological prejudices or instinctive defence of vested interests.


You also mentioned the need for more papers and contributions such as Colm’s – and a desire for more discussion of the ESRI’s review of energy policy. I have been advised that it is up to John FitzGerald to initiate any discussion of the review here; it woudn’t be ‘collegiate’ for anyone else to kick it off. I also understand that John may post here in the near future on the review – and on other energy research papers that are close currently close to publication.

I’m not sure how useful all this will be, given the constraints under which the ESRI’s energy policy research operates.

@ Hugh Sheehy

There are concerns about fraccing, sure. Should I point out that I mentioned the problem first? Would that help calm you down and make you consider whether you’re pointing your anger in a useful direction?

I see where the problem is – I wasn’t referring to you, but rather ‘they’ – the frackers (an appropriate name). My apologies for the ambiguity.

So far as I can see most of the others who use pseudonyms do so to allow them to fling abuse at anyone who might dare to reveal his or her identity

This is, to put it mildly, bull. There is no difference in how people get abuse (or praise) around here depending on whether they’re pseudonymous or not. I know that I personally don’t give a toss either way.

@ All

In response to one of the sources brought forward for support by Mr. McCarthy above, it should be noted that the IEI (now EI) has a clear vested interest in preferring ‘adaptation’ rather than prevention – Dublin Bay barrier, here we come! The other (the review group) is, of course, essentially himself.


The US EPA have no basis to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Shall we declare Water Vapour a pollutant because it is 95% of all Greenhouses Gases? This is just a power grab by the EPA to become a new police force.

Read CO2 as just a proxy for (human) economic activity.

A $45 Trillion Carbon Trading market must sound attractive and then getting countries to sign away their economic sovereignty on top of it via unconstitutional agreements like Kyoto.

As for Copenhagen and Cancun to hell with those. The sooner people see through the fake EU/UN Environmentalism the better.

Also, to use your terminology, those socialist types have a pretty grim history when it comes to environmental protection too. The oil industry practices in the Soviet Union were – to put it mildly – pretty horrific. I doubt that Romania then or Venezuela now could be used as best practice examples.

Meantime, on topic, the strategic energy calculations for Ireland are – and will remain – tricky. We’re out on a limb from all the main hydrocarbon sources. Gas may become strategically more available, which would be bloody great. If we wish to see a reduction in CO2 we should be looking hard at gas and nuclear. To my regret, I remain hugely doubtful that Ireland will be able to make any cost effective use of alternative energy at any truly useful scale anytime soon. There’ll be enough to allow some pious site openings, but not enough to change the strategic balances.

@ Ultan

The US EPA have no basis to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Shall we declare Water Vapour a pollutant because it is 95% of all Greenhouses Gases? This is just a power grab by the EPA to become a new police force.

This is amusing. Can you tell me where the Bilderbergers and Prince Philip fit in, as well?

Also, to use your terminology, those socialist types have a pretty grim history when it comes to environmental protection too. The oil industry practices in the Soviet Union were – to put it mildly – pretty horrific. I doubt that Romania then or Venezuela now could be used as best practice examples.

I would very much agree on Soviet Communism, and I have no idea what windmill you’re tilting at here. I have no knowledge of what may or may not be being practiced in Venezuela under Chavez as opposed to what occurred under his predecessors – perhaps you can illuminate the issue?

The only sane government that a reasonable person should look for is (actual, real) social democracy. It would be nice if we could have some in this country for once, too. But unfortunately it seems that popular demand for a better society id only answered in the aftermath of the public sacrifices in modern total war.

@Hugh Sheehy
“I remain hugely doubtful that Ireland will be able to make any cost effective use of alternative energy at any truly useful scale anytime soon. ”
I think that’s because the useful frame thus far has been wrong for Ireland. Biogas (composted) or wood gas would seem to suit both the climate and the dispersed and generally small populations. No?

@ denisk: ERoEI???

Now why would that be a matter of some interest? Ah, yes. You need to spend some, to get some. I don’t suppose Entropy or 2nd of Thermodynamics has any relevence either. Yeah, I thought not. Silly, boring science stuff.

Notice how most commentators talk about units of money cost when they chat about alternate energy sources? The concept of using units of energy as the correct way to approach this vexed problem of the transition from fossil to alternate has not yet become main-stream. When it does, some folk are in for a very sad shock.

Also: the concept of primary energy sources v secondary ones gets an equal amount of inattention. Some day , some day ….

Global Warming? Might be a problem – a completely intractable one. But sure no matter – inundated cities will have no need of power. Climate change induced by anthroprogenic forcing is NOT a linear system response. Once it passes its irreversible physico-chemical ‘tipping point’ – we’re done!


I’m not tilting at any windmill. You’re the one who said “capitalist-types couldn’t give a proverbial monkey’s for the adverse effects of their ‘wealth-creation’ on local communities and the wider environment.” I merely point out that socialist types have no claim to a better environmental record. Personally I’d trust the Exxons, Shells and BPs to protect the environment a heck of a lot more than I’d trust a PDVSA. Doesn’t mean I trust them much, just more.

We’re importing tens of thousands of tonnes of oil a day (say 20k tonnes/day*, as a conservative number), plus gas and electricity. Can we substitute that with composted biogas? Really? I’d love to see the production figures, and how much acreage it’ll use. We produce about 2 million tonnes a year of wheat, barley and oats, all together, plus another 3-400k of potatoes, rape, beans, etc.. Can we produce the energy equivalent of 750k to a million tonnes of oil? I haven’t run the math, but it doesn’t sound promising. I’d be happy to be wrong.

* – 20k tonnes per day comes from this….CIA says we’re on 160k bbl/day oil imports…oil gas, no electricity. I’ve seen numbers up to 200k bbl/day oil only. Convert at 7bbl/tonne. take rough number.

@Hugh Sheehy
“We’re importing tens of thousands of tonnes of oil a day (say 20k tonnes/day*, as a conservative number), plus gas and electricity. Can we substitute that with composted biogas? Really?”
Ah Hugh, now you’re building straw men… still, they compost quite well…

The point is not to build a huge number of biogas plants, the point is to facilitate the building of them where they make sense. Most cattle in Ireland, for example, are kept in sheds for the winter. That’s a lotta jobbie. All human waste is supposed to be treated at this stage, unlikely as it seems as you wade through the brown trout at some of our resorts. Brown bin collection is now also mandated. Guess what food waste does when you dump it?

There are opportunities.

None of them involve anything other than waste products that compost naturally releasing methane as they do so. Nothing, absolutely nothing has to be grown purely for biogas.

“Ireland has been pursuing very ambitious targets for emission reduction going beyond our international obligations”

I wonder if this is correct. Published but not enacted legislation mentioned targets probably in excess of international obligations. Had we gotten around to pursuing them yet?

Secondly, again no mention of our EU obligation on renewables. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of policies possibly being at cross purposes, we cant pretend EU legislation doesnt exist on this topic.

Thirdly your para on sources mentions the IAE report and that of the review group you chaired as if there was no link between them. My reading of the review group recommendations were that they were entirely based on the IAE report and no other.

Other than those minutiae a very interesting article. Thanks


Seems to me that poor EWI has a difficulty in that he cannot engage with the substance of any argument. Instead he acts the troll; directing ad hominem abuse at all and sundry. First Colm McCarthy, who’s apprarently some class of neo-con revisionist; then me, then Hughie or anyone else whose view offends his chosen ideological bias

It’s a mistake to engage with him, as sadly, he seems more to want to direct attention to himself rahter than the validity of any argument that is being made. Better to ignore. Whatever else poor EWI learned at his mother’s knee it was not the virtue of courtesy, or that of not attacking motivation rather than judgement, which is, of course, always open to disputation and on which genuine debate is based.

As my comment makes clear, I disagree with a lot of what Colm says in his Farmer’s Journal article and yet agee with some of the points that he makes in the piece. I respect his view, but genuinely feel that it’s important we move the discussion on further. I think a lot of what passes for environmental debate in Ireland is really falling behind the curve of international trends and it’s time, in our own interests, that we started to break out of that mould, especially the EU paradigm on climate change.

I’m not building strawmen, honestly. I just haven’t seen anything that makes the numbers add up. At about 40kg of natural gas per tonne of manure that spends time in a digester, that’s a lot of manure to run a power station.

Should a nation of barely 4 million with nearly 20% out of work be bothered by emissions’ nonsense? Titanic and deck chairs come to mind. Ireland;s capacity to influence global climate must be minute. Isn’t this preoccupation among the chattering classes just a sign of how stagnant and ‘desk bound’ thinking has become about industry? Ireland, at least the Ireland and of the SME and unemployed, needs more heavy ‘dirty’ industry, not less. Grow more trees to deal with CO2.

@ Alchemist: “Grow more trees to deal with CO2.”

Don’t be silly – that’s straightforward, practical, effective and sensible. Now! Now!. 😉

I have formed the opinion that much of the commentary about ‘renewables’ ‘alternatuves’, ‘green algae’ etc. etc., whilst interesting, is not aimed at the target. We humankind (us in western developed states) and very particularly us on this island (island, not RoI) are approaching an event horizon with respect to energy. We use too much and we think (nay believe) that we have some sort of ‘right’ to energy. Well, folks we will shortly (in human generation terms) experience a very nasty wake-up call.

Now you have to make a decision. Feck the future – we’ll be dead in the long-run. Someone else’s problem. Lets plough on. Fair enough, but some other folk may have a somewhat different point of view.

I have rights, so do you. In an unfettered democracy each of us respects the others rights as if they were our own. This does not diminish the right of the majority (not powerful minorities who pose, push and ponce about) to make decisions for everyone. That’s why we elect people to parliament. And this is exactly where the problem has emerged. The majorities in parliament now demand that their view (however unrepresentative it be) is the one and only. The opposition are rightless.

Our politicians have to sort out the predicament of energy security. But the won’t. They are scared. They would have to take very unpopular decisions. So they will not. It need a crisis. Even then they act badly.

Its a probabilistic matter that a given event (inadequate energy availability) will occur. Hence you plan, and plan real good. Since we can predict the various very unpleasant outcomes of such an event. Now remember, our legislators (in the round) are neither willing nor able to undertake the planning needed. They will flounder around with the latest piece of impressionistic, alternative energy voodoo that will be proffered by the latest batch of snake-oil salespersons.

“If you meet the Buddah on the road -Kill him!”

Alchemist above, made a simple, practical and effective proposal. Plant trees, lot of trees. Not costless, but completely doable. But its simplicity is its downfall. Simple bad, complex good!

Simple first, then move cautiously toward the more complex. Why is it we want to do it arseways? Identify ‘who’ will benefit (like a subsidy) and …. Ah! Yes!


“I just haven’t seen anything that makes the numbers add up. At about 40kg of natural gas per tonne of manure that spends time in a digester, that’s a lot of manure to run a power station.”
Well looking at just cattle, they produce about 50 kg’s of manure a day and there are 5.5 million of them (about). Add on about 20% for straw (or other bedding) soaked in urine.

So that’s about 350,000 tonnes a day.

Which will give about 8772 kg of natural gas.

Which is about 12,500 m3.

With 9kw per m3, that’s 110,000 kw.

Of course my figures are almost certainly wildly wrong somewhere. One of those decimal thingies in the wrong place. And capturing every bit of dung and getting 100% efficiency out of it is unlikely (impossibly might be more accurate). But there is a lot of it about. And that is just cattle. Add in pigs, chickens, horses, people, food waste.

PS It’s a strawman to suggest that anyone, never mind me, is suggesting that biogas is a substitute for imported oil. It is part of the mix, but, like everything else, there is no silver bullet for either higher oil prices or for future energy security.

A number of points are emerging in these exchanges. Firstly, thank you, Veronica re trolls, but among the more substantive is the need to recognise that changing patterns of consumer takes place over long periods of time – and even generations. It needs clear and consistently applied public policy. For example, would anyone 20 years ago believe that we would be recycling the current proportion of household waste?

What we don’t need is a costly and inefficient plethora of targets and instruments (which is precisely what the EU is advancing – with each member-state layering their own complexities) that may be gamed, evaded, or, even worse, lack the commitment and credibility that they will be sustained over the long term to drive the necessary changes in production, investment and consumption behaviour.

There is much talk about ‘market failure’ in the environmental area and the need for government intervention, but, Dieter Helm, whom Colm cites, is particularly good on the perils of ‘government failure’.

We also need to place this climate change agenda in a sensible context. Of course, it makes sense to begin the decarbonising of economies, since we will have to do it eventually. And it makes sense to reduce the rate we are injecting CO2 into the atmospheric system – about which we may not know as much as some scientists suggest, though it would be wise not to interfere too much with what is probably a finely-tuned and complex mechanism. And again, and of course, it makes sense to reduce energy intensity and to increase energy efficiency.

But it makes no sense to decarbonise using the silly, extremely costly instruments and targets currently in vogue – in particular in the EU. A fraction of this wasteful expenditure, properly applied in developing economies (which are most vulnerable to any malign impacts of climate change), would greatly enhance their well-being and prosperity and their ability and resilience to cope with climate change. And i sometimes worry about the ‘peak oilers’. On the basis that there is nothing new under the sun I’m pretty sure that there were folks duing the Stone Age going around saying we’re all doomed because we’re going to run out of the particular types of stone we use.

Ireland has limited scope immediately, but probably considerable scope over the longer time, to alter efficiently the pattern of energy use and dinvestment, but the perverse national application of the EU’s energy liberalisation process and the desire to exceed the EU’s silly climate change targets is adding upto €500 million of unnecessary cost to consumers and the economy in the case of energy liberalisation and, if the current madness is pursued, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in relation to unnecessary climate change costs.

Colm: “Small countries can do little unilaterally to combat climate change. The planet has just one atmosphere, and every tonne of carbon dioxide, or of the other greenhouse gases, released into the atmosphere has an identical impact. It does not matter where in the world each tonne is emitted. For every tonne emitted in Ireland, about 500 tonnes are emitted somewhere else. If Ireland somehow managed to cut emissions to zero, the fate of the earth’s climate would barely be affected. The problem is global of its very nature and requires global solutions. Every country needs to accept its international obligations and indeed to encourage international agreement on faster action. But solo-runs by individual small countries aiming for very rapid emission reductions make no sense, achieve nothing environmentally but could impose serious economic costs.”

Of course there is no international agreement on faster action. However thanks to IPCC we do know that what is required of every country, especially developed countries, is urgently to switch to low and zero-carbon energy systems. Anthropogenic climate change is a major ethical question to do with our responsibilities to future generations and the biosphere as a whole. So the question for highly-polluting rich countries such as Ireland is not the short-term costs of transition but whether it is ethical to refuse on cost grounds to work on that transition simply because other countries aren’t. How do you respond to that ethical question?

“Ireland has been pursuing very ambitious targets for emission reduction going beyond our international obligations”
Have you a source for this claim? The Climate Bill wasn’t enacted but even its targets merely reflected our existing obligations.

“Under current policy Ireland has been aiming for a major switch to wind-powered electricity, more bio-fuel in transport, electric cars and a long list of other emission-reducing initiatives. All of them will cost money and the overall policy pre-dates the onset of the Irish economic collapse.”

Do you have the rest of your ‘long list’ somewhere? It’s certainly not the case that all of them will cost money. Quite the opposite. Improvement of building standards, insulation of existing buildings, low-energy lightbulbs, industrial energy efficiency measures, for example, come up as strongly cost-negative in marginal abatement cost analysis. Of course many of the emissions-reducing measures including those you mention have other policy goals as well including energy security, industrial development, public health, etc.

“It is not surprising that the new government is being advised from several quarters to re-visit our emission-reduction targets, specifically to take the downturn into account and to see if excessive costs can be avoided.”
Given what those quarters are it is not surprising at all. What is also not surprising is that those quarters have not mentioned the fact that the downturn means the cost of emissions reductions has dropped massively.

RE; Pseudonyms.

Unfortunately, the convention of public life in this country is such that most people in a position to say something interesting are prevented from doing so under their terms of employment.

For anyone working in a university, or research body, pseudonyms are unnecessary and give too much scope to trolls. But for anyone with a job anywhere else, they will most likely be prevented from participating in any kind of public debate such as this, unless their identity can remain concealed.

Hate the system, not those who work within it.

@ All

I know that I am going off topic, for which apologies in advance, but I feel obliged to link to Colm McCarthy’s article in today’s Sindo.

It is a tour de force.

It is a pity that it seems almost impossible to get the body politic to address the real issues as outlined by him.

The Sindo, at least, gave me a good laugh in the following extract from an article by Willie O’Dea.

“Years of debates and votes on the Lisbon, Nice, Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties have made the Irish electorate better informed than most when it comes to how the EU institutions work”.

As neither the Yes nor the No sides had any idea of what they were debating – with the odd honourable exception – the Irish people are more confused than they ever were with regard to the functioning of the EU. One lesson that will be laerned by all concerned from the present crisis is that every issue has both a technical and a political dimension and the latter is best left to those elected to deal with it. Sir Humphrey never got the two confused.


You are not by any means going off-topic. Colm McCarthy’s summing up:
“There is only one credible job-creation strategy and it has just three components. Fix the deficit, fix the banks and fix the cost base. All else is waffle, special pleading or, in the case of the triumvirate, both at once”,
in particular in relation to the cost base, is entirely relevant here.

Energy and environmental policy and regulation is a miasma of absurdities, inefficiencies and costly fantasies that is adding, and, if unchecked, will add, greatly to Ireland’s cost base.

In fact, in any engagement with Europe to ease the extent and burden of the EU/IMF support package, the Government should seek a derogation from some of the more absurd and costly elements of the EU’s energy market liberalisation process and climate change policy to allow it to tackle more effectively the cumulative absurdities that national policy and regulation have bolted on to these over the last decade.

Again, I’m not building any strawmen, but my concern with all the alternative energy schemes is perhaps summed up by lengthily paraphrasing the Hayek character in the recent Keynes Hayek rap video.

“If we implemented all the alternative energy schemes and build manure collection, offshore and on land windmills, wave energy, solar etc., we’d have full employment and perhaps even be able to create enough energy to run the economy we didn’t have any more. ”

Again, I’m not trying to be picky, but your calculations (and i accept that yours are as off the cuff as my own) indicate that if we could gather all the cow manure in the country, store it in digesters until we get methane out, we’d have about the capacity of one tenth of the Ringsend station. (Wikipedia tells me it’s got 1020 MW of capacity) Now that’s a meaningful amount of energy, but a huge logistical exercise, and probably a huge cost for the energy produced. Might it be useful for local substitution of energy at farm level? Sure. Helpful? Sure. Enough? Ehm..

Again, I’d be delighted to come across a way to substitute coal, most hydrocarbons and (perhaps most of all) nuclear. In the end I’m sure we will and it’ll likely be a mix of energy efficiency, some new technology and probably still some gas. Meantime, we have to plan realistically for the next few decades. If energy demand falls in Ireland it gives us a chance to meet – or nearly meet – our commitments on CO2, to look for secure supplies in an uncertain world, and to take sensible policy decisions to improve our country’s energy efficiency without killing what’s left of the economy. Could biogas be a part of it? Heck yes. Should we pay any price for biogas? Heck no. Is there a danger that govt policy will do stupid things? OH YEAH!

P.S. I’m paraphrasing “If every worker was staffed in the army or fleet, we’d have full employment…and nothing to eat”. approx 3:40 into the 2nd round keynes/hayek video.

@Paul Hunt

The IMF are already on the case regarding renewable energy supports/subsidies in Portugal -

See section 5.7 onwards … “Support schemes for production of energy under the special regime (cogeneration and renewables)” …

@Paul Hunt,

This is a very practical solution to Ireland’s problem of excessive costs relating to global warming policy. Simply put, we can’t afford it. I note that carbon taxes on my energy bills add several percent in 2011 to my annual costs, on top of those from the increase in the price of oil. I am surprised how little debate these costs attract in the media. Is the carbon tax ring-fenced from debate? These extra few euro per month must be a burden for the poor and the growing numbers of unemployed.

I see some of the usuall oildrum “prophets” are in the thread selling their impending Armgaddeon (funny how it has become so Biblical with use of same imagery)

Anyways @eureka you asked earlier in thread about studies into costs of renewables, there was one done by Eirgrid few months back, makes for an interesting reading especially the costs parts…

@ Ger

But for anyone with a job anywhere else, they will most likely be prevented from participating in any kind of public debate such as this, unless their identity can remain concealed.

+1. There is form already for this from that nest of rats in the Sindo.

@ Veronica

I will note that anyone interested(!) here in who is the greater “ad-hominem” troll can read your extensive commentary here and over on Irish Election for your comments on various Labour Party and Green figures, and form their own opinions.

Your own status (often unmentioned in your appearances in the media, especially in your BNFL days) as a PR spinner isn’t ad hominem in any sense of the word that I can see here: you have presented various unsubstantiated opinions based (so far as I can see) purely on the strength of your standing as commenter, and I have merely noted that spin doctor’s ‘opinions’ are what they sell.

@ Veronica

Having looked in vain for some sign that I have called Colm McCarthy a “neo-con revisionist”, I have come up empty-handed. I have to draw the reluctant conclusion that you displayed a somewhat elastic relationship to the truth here, old girl.

@ Paul Hunt

about which we may not know as much as some scientists suggest, though it would be wise not to interfere too much with what is probably a finely-tuned and complex mechanism.

Some credible references for this rather blasé statement would be nice – you, I suspect, not being qualified to offer such a scientific opinion.

@ Hugh Sheehy

I merely point out that socialist types have no claim to a better environmental record. Personally I’d trust the Exxons, Shells and BPs to protect the environment a heck of a lot more than I’d trust a PDVSA. Doesn’t mean I trust them much, just more.

Firstly, I’m curious at your continued use of the word “socialist” here. Do you mean the likes of John Hume, or Mr. Gilmore? If not, I presume that you’re referring to those individuals more usually referred to as ‘communists’.

Secondly – trust Exxon and Shell, who have a direct financial interest in minimising their attentions to externalities which might eat into their profits? Not likely – and you’re going to have a bloody hard time convincing anyone else, either (the Gulf of Mexico spill and the fracking thing are just the latest indication that those leopards don’t change their spots, unless forced to by governments).

As I say, I never claimed it would be ‘enough’. All I claimed is that it should be ‘part’.

@Pongo: YooHoo! That link gives error 404!

Now, I would NOT be one of them OilDrum prophet types, would I? Being a scientist and all I take as much care as I can about stuff I read off the Inter. Try to corroborate with other non-Inter sources. Triangulate the date sort of thing. Locate the locus.

Armageddon we are not facing. Just a slow, steady decline from a hydrocarbon economy to a carbohydrate one. Trouble is there are a tad more folk on the planet since we emerged from our previous carbohydrate energy era (late mid-ages or thereabouts). Big problemo.

I cannot access your link, so I cannot comment on the report. However, if the report does NOT deal with renewable, or more correctly alternate energy, generation in terms of the energy unit costs required and the amount of energy units embedded in any infrastructure, and energy units needed for maintenance, repair and replacement – its useless. Money costs are completely irrelevant. Neodymium (lanthanide series) ring a bell?

There are several key constructs about the generation of secondary energy, from any primary energy source, that need to be kept in mind. There are significant energy losses. Solar is a very diffuse (low density) source. Shales and tars require significant, energy intensive benefication before they yield a commercial product. The external ‘costs’ associated with shale and tar use are colossal. A minimal amount of liquid hydrocarbon (fossil) is mandatory for keeping any alternate source on track. So, taking the matter as a whole – there are very real chemical and engineering problems that have to be identified, and solved – most particularly if the alternate energy generating sources are to be scaled up to industrial level production.

Global power generation gobbles up approx 60% of our fossil sources (coal, oil, gas). Coal use is increasing madly. These are finite primary sources – there are no chemical substitutes for these substances on this planet – none!. Secondary energy generation mandates a minimal level of primary. Get the pic?

See you around.


@ Paul Hunt

“I’m pretty sure that there were folks duing the Stone Age going around saying we’re all doomed because we’re going to run out of the particular types of stone we use.”

Yes, they lived on Easter Island. Only they ran out of trees.


I’m now also convinced you’re a troll.

Must find time to read that report. It downloaded for me fine from the shortlink. Ta.

@ Hugh Sheehy

I’m now also convinced you’re a troll.

Whatever. It’s late, and I don’t feel like playing. You don’t want to tell me what you mean here by “socialist”? Fine.

You can look up the report recommended by Ultan Murphy above, but it is mainly a rehearsal of standard climate denialist talking points. A glance at the end confirms it has the imprint of Fred Singer, notorious as a denier of acid rain and second hand smoking risks, as well as climate change. Singer is still funded by tobacco companies, as well as oil and coal companies.

We should also thank Ultan for bringing The Paranoid Style to this thread.

And we can thank you for relying on ad hominem as a debating tactic on this thread.

@ Colm

“Small countries can do little unilaterally to combat climate change. The planet has just one atmosphere, and every tonne of carbon dioxide, or of the other greenhouse gases, released into the atmosphere has an identical impact. It does not matter where in the world each tonne is emitted. For every tonne emitted in Ireland, about 500 tonnes are emitted somewhere else. If Ireland somehow managed to cut emissions to zero, the fate of the earth’s climate would barely be affected”.

Are you really trying to say here “don’t worry, we can do whatever we want and it won’t make a difference”. If not why no begin with “Ireland should do its bit to contribute to a global solution on climate change, but no more than its fair share” (as this seems to be what you believe which is surely fair enough).

“Ireland has been pursuing very ambitious targets”

Can one “pursue” a target. You can agree a target, or implement an “ambitious target”. “Ireland” agreed a non-binding 3% annual reduction target over the life time of the previous government, which therefore no longer applies.

Our international obligations under the EU burden sharing and revised emissions trading directive are all therefore the only targets which now apply. They are unlikely to be met at least cost because people continue to whip relevant stakeholders up into paroxysms of fear about the potentially cataclysmic impact of implementing these targets, and because of climate policy making is so dis-functional and acrimonious.

“despite a sharp reduction in the measured output of greenhouse gases in 2009 consequent on the economic downturn”.

Perhaps you mean “because” we have a sharp emissions reduction due to the policy failures of previous governments we are now in a position where our targets can be met without undue costs being imposed on any sectors of the economy.

“It is not surprising that the new government is being advised from several quarters to re-visit our emission-reduction targets, specifically to take the downturn into account and to see if excessive costs can be avoided”.

Revisit our legally binding international obligations? Rewrite the already agreed 2008 energy and climate change package which has been transposed into law in 27 member states? That it is tantamount to advising the government to leave the EU.

Is the paragraph which follows intended to provide evidence for this statement? It discusses wind power and renewables, all of which are covered by the EU ETS, and therefore would have no impact or implications for our legally binding domestic sector target. I’m very confused here.

“Finally the review group on State assets, as well as proposing structural changes to the electricity industry and partial privatisation, also warned against too rapid a rush into wind generation”.

The John Fitz report found that the 40% target is probably about right. Of course none of this substantiates you claim that the Government is being advised to revisit our emissions reduction target as it has nothing to do with our domestic emissions reduction target (-20% on 2005 by 2020 at the moment).

“The challenge to policy is to incentivise wind only up to the point where it makes economic sense, having made due allowance for wind’s contribution to the reduction of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions”.

Wind provides other advantage which are well understood. It provides a hedge against fossil fuel price increases and instability, it enhances security of supply, particularity in the case of emergencies (I’ve never heard of a wind embargo from the middle east, or a disruption in wind supply arising from instability in Eastern Europe), and in the literature strong environmental regulation spurs technological transformation, meaning that ex post cost of compliance are generally a lot lower than ex ante economic models predict.

It May be a bit more complicated that your article would suggest.



Fred Singer’s malignant influence extends back for 20 years. Anything he has touched is tainted. I recommend Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt” about the denialist industry and its wealthy backers.

You may read the report referred to, and discount my health warning, of course. It is a tendentious recital of stanrard denialist talking points, but I already said that.

Ultan usually pushes the poisoned wells theory of “EPA Big Government conspiracy”. Clearly to attack the hard-working scientists of the US EPA as dishonest and self-serving is not ad-hominem in your view. I hope you realise there is another side.


The denialists will only ever be defeated by reason, evidence and the collective action of citizens pursuing their interests. But there is a genuine worry that the US EPA may be moving a tad ‘ultra vires’ – albeit with good intentions.

The problem is that the US Houses of Congress – and most state legislatures – are becoming more and more like the faction riven parliaments (that the Founding Fathers sought to prevent) rather than the legislatures (that they sought to secure). Much is related to the factional determination of ‘redistricting’ (defining constituencies and their boundaries in our argot). Slowly redistricting is being handed to independent commissions, but it remain extremely difficult to secure cross-party support for sensible legislation in the environmental and climate change area. As a result the EPA is being forced into the breach – with the usual calumny this attracts.

@Paul Hunt,

The right of the US EPA to regulate emissions was backed by a decision of the Supreme Court. That you seem unaware of this suggests that the propaganda campaign run by faux-Institutes and political allies of fossil fuel interests is working.

I agree that the EPA is not the best instrument and becoming a political football will not be good in the long run. It was set up by Richard Nixon, for heavens sake!! But with the determination of the GOP, not only to reject climate science, but to bias the playing pitch against clean energy, there is no other way.


I am aware of various cases brought to the US Supreme Court and some hearings till continue. My key point is that these matters should be settled by legislation so as to minimise recourse to the judiciary and the risk of judge-made law and of judicial activism. I cannot accept that ‘there is no other way’. Relying on the judiciary to enforce adequate empowerment of a part of the executive in the absence of appropriate legislation brings all three branches of government into disrepute.

This suffers from the same defects that arise when climate change activists rely on EU Directives to ram through the implementation of inefficient and costly policies in national jurisdictions in the absence of an appropriate economic impact assessment, any assessment of cumulative policy and regulatory dysfucntion or consideration of the effect of significant changes in national economic circumstances.

At Toby:

“The author would like to acknowledge the many helpful comments of the anonymous peer reviewers and the original encouragement of Fred Singer to undertake an article on this topic. The views expressed in the article represent the views of the author alone, however. The permissions to use various figures received from their authors is also much appreciated.”

Encouragement from Singer to you is enough to rubbish the report. Don’t you like peer review? Or would you rather the IPCC Hockey Stick Phil Jones method of “redefining what peer review is” ? Ie you review my work I review yours and we both share the same belief system anyway. Any Journal who publishes work we disagree with will be persecuted.

I don’t deny the whole of the staff of the US EPA. But any institution that regulates CO2 as a pollutant must be challenged for selling fraud. Obama couldn’t get his Climate Cap and Tax Bill through Congress so he’s tried to railroad it through the backdoor via the EPA.

Now we know the EPA will tell blatant lies based on what the White House instructs them to say.

US District Court Judge Deborah Batts called the Head of the EPA Christine Whitman’s statements about the air being safe to breath after the 9/11 attacks were “misleading,” and “conscience-shocking.”

Whitman escaped manslaughter charges however. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) was concerned by the ruling that even if Whitman knew she was giving false information, she would have immunity unless she intended to harm the victims.

“This interpretation means that government officials in the future can deceive the public and harm thousands of people with impunity,” said Nadler, who grilled Whitman at a congressional hearing in 2007.

The science behind the EPAs opinion are about as vaild as the published accounts for Anglo year end Sept 2008. There is no alarming Sea Level Rise. There are no 50 million climate refugees by 2010. The Earth is still 1 deg cooler than it was 1000 years ago.

Carbon Taxes and Climate Change is the greatest waste of money and human resources in history.

Ireland has been pursuing very ambitious targets for emission reduction going beyond our international obligations

if this is true then why did last month’s EPA report tell us that with current policies Ireland would only manage to reduce emissions by 1% in 2020 when we have a legally binding reduction target of 20%?

EPA emissions projections, April 2011

The EPA predicts that if we stick with current policies, that we will start to fall short of on our intermediate EU emissions obligations in 2015. The commission reminds us that the emission levels are enforceable by infringement procedures.

Sorry off topic

@DOCM May 8th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Thanks for the link to CMcC – great stuff. A bit more Confucian logic and wisdom is no bad thing.

and thanks to Colm of course.

@ UMt180: “Carbon Taxes and Climate Change is the greatest waste of money and human resources in history.”

Really? We know who the ‘losers’ are – us. But who are the ‘gainers’? But then again as they say, “The country, as a whole, benefits!” 😉

“Pull the other leg, its got a bell on it.”

The whole idea of climate change is being used as a political battering ram by the vested sector to ensure they gain at the expense of of the unvested. Same old scamology. Divert attention away from the substantive issue with an appropriate sentimental smokescreen.

There is no dispute that anthoprogenic forcing is occuring – the raging controversy is about the extent and consequences of this forcing. And in the context of past human history its irrelevant. Human societies will do as they have always done. Thrash their environment until it cannot support them. The principle difference is that this time the palette is global, not regional. Its hardwired into our genes. So best to chill out about it.

The substantive issue is however, the level of fossil energy reserves that are producible at a reasonable cost and with reasonable access. The relative demands (in different countries + regions) are very lop-sided. Given the relative dependencies on energy to sustain specific lifestyles, we can predict the outcomes of having less energy. Dieback. Join your own dots on the matter.

Our over-riding need (on this island) is not to save the ‘green algae’ – but ourselves. So, first things first. Get our dependency on imported energy DOWN; its over 90%. Say, a target of a 10% reduction. Do this – it is doable. Actually we may have already arrived! Then take stock and see if we can make any further reduction. It starts to get real iffy after -15%. Diminishing marginal return and all that. Practice should improve performance.

Should we forget climate change targets – absolutely. Should we be concerned about humankind, absolutely. But as Einstein said, “Its all relative” – and in the long run we go over that event horizon into a Black Hole. 😮


@ Ultan,

As I leaf through the report, I see the references to Spencer, Soon, Baliunas Lindzen and some more, all from the minority of 2% of climate scientists who are holdouts on climate change. It is basically a compendium of denialist “science”, refuted multiple times but here that clapped-out old nag is given another canter around the track.

I do note that Carlin accepts the reality of the greenhouse effect of IR-active gases, a scientific fact which I have seen you deny elsewhere. He also advocates a “geoengineering” solution to climate change, which allows us to consume all the fossil fuels we can. Qui bono?, I wonder.

9/11 is highly relevant, of course, I await a knight in shining armour to criticise you for ad-hominem attacks.

A heavy dose of salt is advisable with your climate assertions. As an antidote to the sour taste, here is a link to Professor Richard Alley’s excellent documentary aired on PBS, April 11th 2011 “Earth: an Operator’s Manual”.


Is that you “Owedtojoy” from

“Denialist Science” you call it. Perhaps we should coin Morgan Kelly or David McWilliams views on the bailout “denialist economics”.

Science is Science. Consensus in Science is an Oxymoron.

I haven’t commented much here. I have a Climate Realist site where a group of us Deniers reside.

Did you know that total atmospheric CO2 represents just 3.75% of all Greenhouse Gases or 0.039% overall?

The EU Commission have their eyes fixed on Methane emmissions from Ireland’s Beef Sector. Did you know that the total Methane in the atmosphere is 0.00017%?

@Ultan Murphy

What matters for purposes of climate change policy is not the composition of the totals of greenhouse gases, but the composition of the alteration in greenhouse gas levels. I am not a climate scientist, but it seems highly implausible to me that there has been a significant increase in levels of atmospheric water vapour. That there have been significant increases in levels of CFCs (since partially reversed), methane, and CO2 is not in dispute.

@UMt180: Hey, easy on the pseudoscience. Makes good copy but lousy reading.

If the pre-industrial base level was 278 ppm and we are now at 395 ppm – or thereabouts, that’s an increase of what? 117 on 278. Kinda big increase. Rate of increase appears to be exponential. That’s not a problem in a closed system which can exhibit non-linear responses? We’ll see.

The Climate Warming lobby and their Anti-Climate Warming buddies are redundant. It matters not anymore. Politics is now in charge and ye will all do what ye are instructed to do – like it or no. Hyperbolic Discounting. Ding! Ding!

The political reality is that – ‘the more a factor (Big Oil – or big anything) is specialized in the production of a product (fuels and petrochemicals) whose relative price is rising, the more the factor stands to gain from an increase in the price of the product’.

There is nothing subtle about Big Oil’s stake in government policies that keep it swishing along! Some folk have other ideas, but we have them on CCTV – just in case.


Ossian Smyth,

I tried to make clear, unsuccessfully perhaps, that Ireland should:

(i) meet its international obligations

(ii) urge quicker international agreement on a succussor to Kyoto,


(iii) do all of this at least cost.

What do you disagree with? Not the ‘least cost’ bit, I hope.

I agree with all three of your suggestions, particularly the least cost bit!

I disagree that “Ireland has been pursuing very ambitious targets for emission reduction going beyond our international obligations” and should therefore scale back on emissions reduction measures. I disagree because the body officially charged with recording and projecting our emissions (the EPA) predicts that we fail to meet our legal obligations and the Commission says that we will face infringement procedures should we miss even intermediate targets by more than 5%.

Your article says that we should revisit our targets. However our targets are legally binding obligations.


I think 98% of climate scientists agreeing on the greehouse effect (for over 100 years) and that levels of greenhouse gases are approaching or past dangerous levels constitutes a consensus. What part of that do you not understand?

@colm mccarthy,

I am a stong believer in climate chage as caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases. I also happen to agree with your position 100%. Thanks for the short, sharp summary.

Why are some economists such notorious climate change deniers?

Easy on the Pseudo science? Where is the canned laughter?

Remember how Ernst & Young had a little trouble with their counting re Anglo? Remember how Ernst & Young were able to classify repo loans as sales which caused the collapse of Lehmans?

Well back in the 19th century the pioneers of modern science were measuring the CO2 content of the atmospheric to an accuracy of 3%. In fact we can track back in scientific literature to 1812 through 200,000 chemical measurements of the atmosphere where CO2 are at levels far higher than the so called settled science of 278ppm pre industrial. Figures for example averaging 417 ppm from samples taken every 20mins over 2 years) were recorded in Germany between 1939 – 1941. To say we could split the atom and not measure CO2 accurately in the atmosphere in 1939 is an insult to the intelligence of any thinking person. It is just total farce to ignore the measurements which showed CO2 as high as 500ppm at times during the 1800’s.

Antarctic Ice cores are a totally inaccurate way of measuring CO2 in the air. CO2 is 70 times more soluble in Water than Nitrogen and there are 20 different physical, chemical, biological, processes which affects the CO2 content of ice. The idea of trapping an accurate representation of CO2 in ice is a farce. No validation of such exists.

Did you know that there is liquid water in ice 1 metre below the surface of Antarctics surface even at temps of -70C? There is an 8000 sq km lake beneath the surface of the Antarctic with channels of water flowing through the ice into it. The pre industrial figure of 278ppm does not stand up to scrutiny and there are 200,000 measurements in history to prove it.

There are massive vested interests to make the science suit a political agenda. CO2 is now “a weapon of mass destruction” and mankind is the target.

If humans produce more molecules of Water Vapour than CO2 when we burn Hydrocarbons, and that Water Vapour absorbs severals times the amount of IR energy than CO2, shouldn’t the UN/EU/EPA be considering reulating Water Vapour as a pollutant? After all what happens to the 200 billion tonnes of Water we’ve produced in the past 10 years? It falls as rain causing floods, causing the seas to rise etc etc…

Alas, contrary to the propaganda construed as news, there is no alarming rise in sea level. Many publications show that in fact, the rate of sea level rise has decreased. Even if the all the ice were to melt in the Arctic, seas still wouldn’t rise for the same reason that a full glass of iced water doesn’t spill onto the table when the ice melts.

As Prof Lindzen said, “a consensus was reached before the research began”.

For example back in 1992 when the world was signing up to the Global Warming hype, it was thought there were 10,000 under sea volcanoes on the planet. Now we know there are 3,000,000. Try heating a bath with a hairdrier.


The figure is 97% consensus. Where does it come from? From a total of 10,215 people questioned, they setted on a subgroup of 75/77 = 97.4%.

Questions went as follows:
1 When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
2 Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

“The questions posed to the Earth scientists were actually non-questions. From my discussions with literally hundreds of skeptical scientists over the past few years, I know of none who claims the planet hasn’t warmed since the 1700s, and almost none who think humans haven’t contributed in some way to the recent warming — quite apart from carbon dioxide emissions, few would doubt that the creation of cities and the clearing of forests for agricultural lands have affected the climate. When pressed for a figure, global warming skeptics might say humans are responsible for 10% or 15% of the warming; some skeptics place the upper bound of man’s contribution at 35%. The skeptics only deny that humans played a dominant role in Earth’s warming.”

@ Colm:

As for saying we have to meet our international obligations? How about meeting our obligations to defending this country?

How about saying that economic expansion of the country and cutting CO2 emmissions is incompatible?

We are internationally obliged to cut our CO2 emmissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. What a farce. Whoever signed up to that hadn’t a clue about science or economics.

How can Ireland possibly expand it’s national herd? How can we possibly double the population by 2050. People should stop dreaming about fantasy wind turbines and stock up on coal for energy security. It’s cheap, there’s plenty of it, it’s easily shipped, it doesn’t need special storage like Gas or Oil. Nor are modern Power plants the dirty processes they once were.

I worry about anyone saying we have to meet obligations based on unproven nonsensical theories. It’s worse than saying that we have to meet our obligations to the bondholders of broken banks. At least there is a time limit on the bondholders. The is no end in sight for CO2 reductions. One child policy anyone? It’s already being floated as a Carbon Credit!

@colm mccarthy
we have international obligations in the area of renewables too, so any policy needs to take this into account (at least cost of course)


Consult this paper on the extent of the scientific consensus, not the one you keep pushing, which is a useful supplement.

Your screed on CO2 in the atmosphere does not make a lot of sense. Wonder what denialist website you ripped it from? Could you go back and find the links so that the information can be evaluated and rebutted, please? It is a well know that the last time atmospheric CO2 approached 390ppm was 3 million years ago.

What “massive vested interests” are you on about? Sounds like more of the sinister poisoned wells conspiracy theory to me.

As you should know, water vapour is regarded as a positive feedback mechanism in temperature rise, not an independent forcing.

Go to this link for more on sea level rise:

Your efforts to rebut anthropogenic has all the technique of throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some will stick.

It’s very simple, the Irish renewable energy programme is illegal, as was the whole development of the Climate Change Response Bill, which by-passed proper assessment and public participation in decision-making procedures.

Yes, and Obama wasn’t born in the US. etc.

Geologically, there has to be great gas on the continental shelf. Just need to find it ourselves, mine it, pump it, use it, sell some of it, etc …………

Germany has much less wind than Ireland and 3.6 times the population density. In 2009 they produced 37,809 MWh of their electricity by wind – 1.5 times the total annual Irish demand.

Denmark has gained prosperity and has reduced its carbon footprint in developing wind energy. They are now a major international player by exporting this technique.

Spirit of Ireland ( is suggesting to build several seawater PHES stations to combat the intermittence of wind power. Pumped Hydro Electrical Storage has been used since the late 1800s to ballance the grid. My only concern would be the impact of seawater on groundwaters. Ireland has the potential like no other country in Europe to become fuel independent with such technologies for its electricity production.

China could meet all of their electricity demands from wind power by 2030. If a country like China could make it by 2030, Ireland could easily do it by 2020 (

Many German farmers use their sewage and some crops to produce methane. They’re heating their farms with it and produce their own electricity. Ireland is a world player in cattle farming. Why can our farmers not produce a decent amount of our gas? That would not only decimate the release of the tens of times more potent greenhouse gas, methane. It would also create a new business, decentralised and competitive, and independent from any imports.

Sometimes I think this country is just 30 years behind our European counterparts.

@ Ultan and anybody who believes a single word from him:

Here a dissertation from Naomi Oreskes, who has won the Climate Science Communicator of the Year award from George Mason University, about “The American Denial of Global Warming” which Ultan is seemingly trying to copy. Anthropogenic (man-made) global warming has been established since the 1950s and became commonly accepted in the scientific world in the 70s.


@ Pat Swords…

AFAIK is the only country which has not yet ratified the Aarhus Convention.

@ CW:

U no whu be a Uber Troll!

Why have we lagged? Very good question. Not for want of imagination or engineering expertise and all the info is available. What is IFA position? Are we waiting for ‘incentives’ which will not come? Or perhaps its just lack of individual (and collective) motivation and a low population density. Lost of space to ‘spread it around’!


Almost all scientists acknowledge that CO2 in the atmosphere is responsible for raising the temperature of the atmosphere on its own, and that a doubling of CO2 concentration from 280ppm could raise the temperature by 1 degree Celsius. The IPCC also agrees.

What has not been demonstrated is the ‘runaway’ increase in temperature produced by climate models, proposing increases from 2 to 7 degrees. It is this step that remains to be proven. However a consensus emerged that these models were sufficient to motivate politicians to try and curtail CO2 emissions in case it leads to ‘unstoppable’ global warming.

This political decision to single out CO2 as the ONLY anthropogenic climate forcing to be dealt with was made and we now pay a ‘carbon tax’. I am willing to pay this if it can be shown that we are achieving anything at all by paying out this money. Where is the cost-benefit analysis, either produced by Europe or by Ireland? Are we getting good value for Ireland? What is the money being used for? We deserve an answer. Instead all queries are the subject of abuse from ad hominem attacks, suggesting an inability or unwillingness to answer straight questions.

If the case against CO2 is so strong, why is it impossible to find the ‘irrefutable’ evidence? If there is no doubt, why can the evidence not be stated clearly? Why are we told that ‘the debate is over’, a religious statement rather than a scientific one?

@ Christian “If the case against CO2 is so strong, why is it impossible to find the ‘irrefutable’ evidence? If there is no doubt, why can the evidence not be stated clearly? Why are we told that ‘the debate is over’, a religious statement rather than a scientific one?”

Science ‘moves’ in most mysterious ways. 😉

There are things called Null Hypothii – and of course our greatest bugbear: Uncertainty. It is herein lies the problem.

You begin at 100% uncertainty (bottom of hill – without any knowledge of the terrain above). You start up, and hope to God you do not fall into a gully or such like. Now the hill be surrounded be fog and all! The really lucky few reach summit, and ‘see the light’. The residuals spend their time floundering about.

Non-science folk, and unfortunately a goodly chunk of the scientific types as well, think that Certainty is the Holy Grail! That is religious territory indeed. No, its being a little less uncertain each day. That’s science.

The most dumped upon statistician was Malthus. I wonder why?

I am now of the contrarian opinion that it matters not a whit about anthropromorphic climate forcing. Us humans are hardwired to trash our environment anyway, and we have been and continue to be, most successful in this endeavour . That was fine (in a purely relative sense) when we were few and far between. But with 6 bill? I think we have a problem.

Back to Malthus I’m afraid. Blame Malthus, its all his fault. 🙂


@ Christian

There is enough evidence for AGW. I recommend to watch these two videos:

The average global temperature has already risen by 1 degree Celsius over the last 100 years.


The reason for that rapid change in temperature is manmade.


It’s time to take the ear from the rail before the train is running over your head.

But you miss the point. There MUST be a cost-benefit analysis for such a huge change in modern society implicit in the goal of a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions. These changes are not just economic, they are social. The fact that you can’t find any quantification of what our society will look like demonstrates that the goal is fantasy land which no present day politician need take responsibility for.

As a scientist, I know that debate is never over. You would think that people would welcome any falsification of the AGW model if it meant we could save money. Instead we get paranoia and rage that anyone dare question the paradigm, which many believe is not achievable. Show me the evidence please.

@ Christian

What kind of scientist are you?

Did you watch the two video clips I posted?

The costs of the inevitable climate change are much higher than to prevent it. The long term benefit of changing to a carbon free energy society is also a financial one. Wind, solar, geothermal… they all don’t consume fuels to run. Oil and gas is getting scarcer and more expensive. Despite the downturn we’re paying already more than 1.5 times the money for petrol and diesel than just 3 years ago. Heating oil has more than doubled in that time.

If that’s no cost benefit analysis already, there are some in the internet about the costs of climate change and the costs to avoid the worst case…

If you are a real scientist you would discuss some of these cost benefit analyses with us, wouldn’t you?

@ Christian again

Yeah, keep the doubts about AGW alive. Old tactic. Destract, make noise, demand 100% evidence etc.

Nobody doubts anymore that CFCs destroy the ozone layer. Nobody doubts anymore that smoking tobacco (actively or passively) enhances the risk of cancer…

The same will happen with AGW. Nobody will doubt it anymore. Only: the petroleum industry has got way more money to finance denial. Keep on destracting, denying, falsifying, “Wattsupwiththat” & Co. The evidence is too strong, the science too developed. The only thing is the later we understand climate change (it’s happening here and now!) and change our attitude (towards our limited fossil fuels), the bigger the damage will be caused by AGW.

We’re sacrificing the only planet we have for short term profits. Same as the behaviour which has brought us into this downturn.

CO2 is absolutely linked to global temperature. You cannot ignore that anymore. It’s overdue to act!

@CW: “The costs of the inevitable climate change are much higher than to prevent it.”

I grant you this is true. But the majority of folk could hardly care a damn. Its a dreadful situation, but there it is.

But you do raise a salient issue. Increasing energy costs. This WILL get their attention. Want to take a bet on which sector will be first up Kildare Street to the Dail gate with their Subsidy Begging Bowls and wailing tones?

Sentimental claptrap and ideological voodoo will always trump scientific fact. Rem Albert Bartlett: “The greatest failure of the human race is our inability to understand the implications of exponential growth”.

A very nasty energy shock might concentrate minds, but given the nature of global, regional and local political behaviour, its the lack of action that will be most visible. Talk is cheap: corrective action would be very costly – and not just in money terms. Expect a large dollop of Spinola anytime soon.


The Guardian, 9 May 2011 (two articles):

Renewable energy can power the world, says landmark IPCC study


“Renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades – but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power, according to a landmark report published on Monday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of the world’s leading climate scientists convened by the United Nations, said that if the full range of renewable technologies were deployed, the world could keep greenhouse gas concentrations to less than 450 parts per million, the level scientists have predicted will be the limit of safety beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible.”


How Angela Merkel became Germany’s unlikely green energy champion


“Yale Environment 360 ( Fukushima has seen German chancellor Angela Merkel embark on the world’s most ambitious plan to power an industrial economy on renewable sources of energy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is anything but a left-wing greenie. The party she leads, the Christian Democratic Union, is the political equivalent of the Republicans in the US. Her coalition government is decidedly pro-business. Often described as Europe’s most powerful politician, Merkel’s top priority is job creation and economic growth.

Yet if the chancellor succeeds with her new energy policy, she will become the first leader to transform an industrialized nation from nuclear and fossil fuel energy to renewable power.”

And we Irish? Again 30+ years behind schedule?

Question to the mods:

Can one use html tags here?

Like etc.




Germans are landlocked (well nearly) central European. Lots of folk live there. The relative amounts of ‘green algae’ huggers is small compared to total. Lots of other folk in adjoining parts as well. Hope the Gaz* keeps flowing! Tad chilly in winter.

Now, us on the other hand ….

And we Irish? Again 30+ years behind schedule? And counting ….

* We are on the tit end of that pipeline!


@ Pat Swords…

Who or what is the EU? The EU isn’t a state. So the EU cannot ratify (make to Irish law) any treaty for us. E.g. the Lisbon Treaty was also decided by the EU, but had to be ratified by the single member states (in Ireland even by referendum).

Why are you shouting that? Did they not ask you in person whether you want to work together with the people of the world and combat climate change?

Aarhus links environmental rights and human rights, government accountability and environmental protection. It recognises the primary role of citizens in helping achieve sustainable development and was created as an important step towards building societies where citizens can play and are encouraged to play a constructive role in protecting the environment and public health.

“The serious environmental, social and economic challenges faced by societies worldwide cannot be addressed by public authorities alone without the involvement and support of a wide range of stakeholders including individual citizens and civil society organisations”

The Aarhus Convention is a new kind of environmental agreement. The Convention:

Links environmental rights and human rights
Acknowledges that we owe an obligation to future generations
Establishes that sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders
Links government accountability and environmental protection
Focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities in a democratic context.


Aarhus was signed 10 years ago. Ireland however has not yet ratified it. The Green Party who entered a coalition Government in Ireland in June 2007 have committed to have Aarhus ratified as part of the programme for Government.

The contribution of windfarms the world over, measured in the reduction of fuel burning and C02 emissions is no greater than 2%. i.e. Two studies carried out by E on Nertz, a huge german power supplier with lots of wind mills reported that for every 48,000 mw or wind power admitted to the grid, only 2,000 mw of conventional power can be shut down. This figure must be multiplied by the % wind forms in the system to arrive at the total reduction. ie 48/2 = 4% x 20% (% wind in system) = .8 % Eirgrids figures for the windy 4th April this year and the calm 19th show only a small reduction in CO 2 emissions but the cost far exceeds the cost of buying carbon credits on the market by about 20 fold. In fact wind farms may be be net consumers of electricity. The grid power they use is not metered, only the output of a wind farm is metered. The cost in tourism losses and in the amenity destruction where wind farms are installed has yet to be quantified. A quarter of tourists surveyed after visiting Scotland said they would not return to a turbanised.

According to John Etherington’s book, “The Wind Farm Scam” The digest of UK energy Supply gave the contribution of Britian’s wind farms in 2008 as a mere 1% of total. Interestingly the Load Factor for on- shore wind was greater than off-shore. The CEO of Powergen said that if wind was to be the main form of power used in the uk to achieve carbon abatment targets, thermal capacity would have to be increased from 76 giga watts to 120 gigga watts. We frequently hear captains of the wind industry on the media stating that “once you instal a wind farm, the power it provides is clean and completely free”. The truth is, that it is not clean at all and its only free to the wind company.” Conventional producers are compelled to buy all the wind farms output, they can direct the wind farm to curtail its output when demand is too low to accommodate it. The conventional generator must still pay the wind farm and can claim that cost back from the Public Service Levy on ESB bills. So the consumer must pay for wind power that is never even produced. CER decision paper 08/236 20th November, 2008.

@ Val Martin

You seemingly pull your numbers out of thin air. Give us some source please. Your assumptions already gfot debunked at

@ Pat Swords…

I don’t know what your questions were you posted to Eirgrid, and I also cannot speak on their behalf. I personally find the Eirgrid website quite open and transparent. E.g. everybody can track the current wind power production.

@ Paddy Fay

John Etherington is a retired reader. So he is neither an engineer nor a scientist. “The Wind Farm Scam” seems to be the only book he wrote. I mean everyone can write a book and allege something. I personally prefer to get my knowledge about a subject from different sources.

If somebody claims that a system (which already works) needs additional thermal power plants because of installed wind capacities I would put that to the cathegory phantasy. It doesn’t make any sense.

The Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) states that

“Each new MW of wind installed displaced the emission of 1,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide.”

“In 2008 Bord Fáilte carried out a survey of visitor attitudes to wind energy and they found that the vast majority of visitors saw it as a positive development for Ireland. The majority of tourists surveyed did not feel a wind farm was a negative addition to the landscape.”

I can confirm that. The Inishowen peninsula produces as much electricity by wind as it needs itself over the year. The windmills are well placed and tourists have more a positive view about them. I don’t know any local here who would be annoyed about our wind turbines.

Donegal produces roughly 2/3 of its electricity by wind. The national average lies at 14%.

The problem with higher input than 20% wind is storage (resp. interconnection). Spirit of Ireland has an interesting plan to solve that.

There will always be deniers (same as AGW) who are trying to confuse and mislead the people. But fact is that wind energy makes electricity cheaper – not only in the long run – and reduces the carbon footprint of our society.

(To be clear. I’m not working in this industry or being paid for my opinion.)


Demanding “irrefutable evidence” is setting the bar too high because irrefutable evidence is either unobtainable, or will be available too late to be of use.

When did a Titanic passenger become convinced the unsinkable ship was sinking? If he or she demanding “irrefutable evidence”, his or her survival chances were gravely reduced. We need reasonable evidence only, we can proceed cautiously, and we need not commit the irrevocable.

CO2 is important because it is the main forcer of temperature rise in the atmosphere. CH4 is also important, but is a lesser risk for the moment. H20 is a feedback mechanism adding to the rise, not a forcer. The temperature rise since the mid-20th century predicted by the models, even crude ones, has indeed come to pass. We cannot take the risk of complacency. We will have to gather evidence as we take sensible and rational actions to stave off a possibly catastrophic temeprature rise.

Climate scientists are accused of “alarmist”, but panic-mongers proclaiming that any move away from a carbon economy will bring economic disaster are the real guilty ones.

When will people realise that all this stuff about whether climate change is man made or not is inconsequential.
1 everybody agrees the world is getting warmer
2 this will bring about very significant changes in the world’s climate
3 We are running out of cheap oil/gas

It does not matter if it is man made or not it is going to happen. Going back to using renewable energies should not be done to mitigate climate change it should be done because soon we will have to do it with no choice. If we do it now we can use our “cheap” oil to subsidise our research into renewables so that when the time comes we are ready.
I believe that humans are not capable of making the necessary decisions to stop climate change. We should move all the money that is being used to tackle climate change and put it all into research and into developments to mitigate the EFFECTS of climate change.

Good post Colm,

The IPPC, Lord Stern et al have told us that 80% reduction in emissions is needed to level off damage already done to our beleaguered planet. Copenhagen showed the seriousness of intent of world leaders to tackle this.

Reduction in demand rather than expansion of power supply has to be the main target. But the system of global finance can only be resuscitated with global growth. Growth in production, consumption and emissions.

What a paradox.

We must embrace the financial collapse. It delivered a halving of US car production and the leaving of the world’s container fleet idly at anchor – it was a message from the gods.

We must unilaterally default (on all 850 billion+ of our foreign debt), reissue the Punt, phase out all internal debt, particularly first home mortages (how can we evict people when there are already 300,000 empty homes in the state?) and run our business without borrowing. The state will provide services on the basis of taxes levied. Business will expand (if expand it must) on the back of profits made. And individuals may borrow affordable amounts from co-operative high street banks that are not allowed to play roulette with our cash.

Why are gambling and debt accepted as the twin pillars of our financial system and our society when they are the motor of the planet’s destruction?

We must lead the world to a new and sustainable future. It is our only hope. Many will follow – certainly here in the Rebel County we are on the move.


Rob Heyland

I often read that our electricity bill would rise because of wind energy. People are panicking that they would get ripped off by “green billionaires”.

But the opposite is actually happening. Why do our electricity suppliers announce a price drop by more than 5% this year? It’s definitely not because fuels are getting cheaper.

The myth of “billions of wasted euros” therefore is still unproven. Where are the billions of tax money our broke state would give to the wind industry?

What we are mostly getting to read here are false calculations from real amateurs built on fiction and fearmongering far away from what is actually happening.

I cite again the SEAI/Eirgrid study, Impact of Wind Generation on Wholesale Electricity Costs in 2011

“Key Messages

• The wind generation expected in 2011 will reduce Ireland’s wholesale market cost of electricity by around €74 million.

• This reduction in the wholesale market cost of electricity is approximately equivalent to the sum of Public Service Obligation (PSO) costs, estimated as €50 million, and the increased constraint costs incurred, due to wind in 2011.

• The total cost of generation is the sum of the wholesale cost of electricity, the PSO cost of wind and the dispatch constraint costs. The total cost does not increase with the inclusion of the 2011 wind capacity.”

Now we know why consumer prices were announced to decrease.

@ shane byrne

yes we will be forced to use renewables whether we like it or not. the problem is that renewables cant function without conventional back-up. so when the oil/gas runs out we will only be able to use intermittant and completely unreliable renewable energy. certainly, wind energy will be all but useless except for making one cup of tea a day. we will have no choice but to use risky nuclear power. nothing is free.

“confirmation bias” yeah. When citing highly reliable sources such as the SEAI/Eirgrid study. Want another “biased” paper? Pöyry, the reputable consultancy, hired by Eirgrid, the government and many other companies and organisations.

Europe: Consumers electricity prices reduced with wind energy

“The report finds that in the studies reviewed by Pöyry, electricity prices were reduced by between €3 and €23/MWh (Megawatt hour) depending on the amount of wind power used,” the organisation said in a statement.

“It has already been well-established that wind reduces CO2 emissions”, EWEA chief executive Christian Kjaer commented. “But now we have stronger evidence than ever before that wind power also reduces electricity prices for consumers.

“The message is clear – if you want affordable CO2-free electricity, increase the amount of wind power in your electricity mix.”

Pöyry’s work is a comprehensive assessment of studies of the impact of wind energy on electricity prices, which according to EWEA, brings together the findings of case-studies in Germany, Denmark and Belgium for the first time.

The report concludes that the studies essentially draw similar conclusions that an increased penetration of wind power reduces wholesale spot prices, EWEA stated.

“Wind power replaces CO2-intensive production technologies, the report finds. The technology that sets the price on the wholesale market is usually hard coal. Wind replaces hard coal power plants during hours of low demand and gas fired power plants during hours of high demand in all the countries the report analysed.”

According to Pöyry, wind power’s impact comes about because its low marginal costs push more expensive technologies, such as gas and thermal plants, out of the market.

Wonder who is biased here, Pat Swords BE CEng FIChemE CEnv MIEMA. The pro wind side or the people who are fabricating and falsifying to fight against windmills.

@: shaun byrne Paddy Fay, Rob Heyland.

Keep it up lads. Its our declining primary energy sources that are the predicament. We should reduce voluntarily – else nature will force reduction upon us. Latter event has a probability of 1.01. Urbanized humans are good trashers of their environment.


@ Pat Swords BE CEng FIChemE CEnv MIEMA

Please check the source in the article I posted. Should be doable for someone with an academic title.

Wind energy is backed by gas (OCGTs and CCGTs). Wind is predictable for at least 24 hours. Therefore the gas plants don’t need to run beside all time. They can be driven up and down quite easily.

I have read tons of studies which prove that wind is more than competetive to fossil fuels or even nuclear. One of them is the Pöyry report I recently posted. The other one is the SEAI/Eirgrid report which I also posted. You seemingly do ignore these and discredit them as one-sided and therefore not independent. Funnily enough no credible study has been posted from yourself. Can I assume that you build your opinion on thin air just?

There are tons of cost benefit analyses of onshore and offshore wind energy in the web. Most of them come to the same result:

Wind energy lowers the carbon footprint

Wind energy decreases consumer prices

Do your research.

Good point, laks.

Embedded energy.

That’s hardly being included in analyses about carbon emissions per produced kilowatt-hour electricity.

Nuclear lies at ~ 120 g-CO2/kWh

Onshore wind ~ 10-15 g-CO2/kWh


don’t always get time to respond to comments, but you are right of course that full-cycle emissions from gas will depend on emissions in the extraction phase as well and these will be higher for shale. A universal carbon tax deals with this aspect though and is technology-neutral.

@Charlie, @Toby,

Your explanations to my questions are confused, it’s hard to know where to start. There is a need for the science, the economics and the moral purpose expressed in your discussions to be separated. And of course Charlie can’t resist accusing me of trying to deflect arguments from the CERTAINTY of AGW. CERTAINTY means ‘irrefutable’, doesn’t it Toby? Why the indignation that prompts the reaction in debates on climate, “Oh he questions it so we’ll call him an eejit and ignore him”? So my use of the word certainty is different from yours? Come on guys, give us the facts not the marketing blurb.

Science is not found on Wikipedia, it is in the climate studies, including those referenced by the IPCC. If you go to the trouble of actually auditing what the science says, it is not as simple as Youtube video summaries.

The only evidence I have seen for man-made ‘runaway’ global warming is based on models. The models produced twenty years ago have failed. The evidence from the last twenty years has not matched what was predicted. It worries me, in view of the vast expenditure we are embarked on for the next 50 years. Furthermore, those who insist this route is the best one won’t be here to apologise if they’re wrong.

On economics, my question is simple. Ireland should make up it’s own mind on what the real cost to us could be of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050. So what’s it going to cost and what will society look like? I’m still looking for this – I think it’s a minimum requirement. I also don’t see why a now much poorer society must pay more per capita than some of our richer neighbours, never mind China and India. As they take our jobs they are laughing at our naivity.

@Charlie, you are confusing having a good energy policy, including reducing our dependence on oil, to paying a tax on carbon dioxide. The latter doesn’t solve the first problem because much of the money is leaving Ireland (Is this really true?) and not into energy policy. As for wind power, is it not the case that this is only viable with grants and price supports, in other words more taxes?

In case you didn’t see any technical reviews of the Cornell work on shale gas, as opposed to referencing the BBC’s quote of their press release:

@ Christian

“Why the indignation that prompts the reaction in debates on climate, “Oh he questions it so we’ll call him an eejit and ignore him”?”

Read the title of this article. Then you should realise the link.

“The only evidence I have seen for man-made ‘runaway’ global warming is based on models. The models produced twenty years ago have failed. The evidence from the last twenty years has not matched what was predicted.”

Wrong. The IPCC has been predicting with increasing accuracy what actually is happening. Last year’s record droughts, last year’s floodings, melting icecaps, melting glaciers… All that has been predicted by the IPCC. Global warming is real. The mechanisms are well understood. And it is manmade.

“@Charlie, you are confusing having a good energy policy, including reducing our dependence on oil, to paying a tax on carbon dioxide. The latter doesn’t solve the first problem because much of the money is leaving Ireland (Is this really true?) and not into energy policy. As for wind power, is it not the case that this is only viable with grants and price supports, in other words more taxes?”

Yet another myth. Carbon tax money is only leaving the country because we have to pay debts. It is no other than the Irish Exchequer collecting the carbon tax.

The wind generation expected in 2011 will actually reduce Ireland’s wholesale price for electricity (=> Impact of Wind Generation on Wholesale Electricity Costs in 2011). The savings in fuel exceed the PSO levy.

ESB has already announced to cut consumer prices.

The Farmers Journal published a reply by me to Colm’s article.


Colm McCarthy advises us in his column that we should “revisit our emission reduction targets”. While he is of course right that we should find the cheapest way to meet our emission reduction targets, we cannot unilaterally revisit them because they have been set in stone by the renewables directive that we signed up to in 2009. Last month, the EPA reported that Ireland would start to miss its targets in 2015 unless existing policies were changed. The targets are legally enforceable with financial
consequences for non-compliance.

The targets oblige us to generate 16% of our primary energy requirement from renewables (in practice this will be wind) and 10% of energy in transport from renewables (in practice this will be biofuels with some small amount of electric power).

Irish farmers are at a competitive advantage to others in Europe because our temperate climate means that we need less energy for farming. There are opportunities for wind farms particularly for those with land in the West and opportunities to create carbon sinks through forestry. There are opportunities to grow biofuels and to produce power from slurry biogas.

The EU is currently assessing whether to count forestry towards our emissions target. We should be fighting for the inclusion of forestry, for further REPS-type schemes, for supports for biofuels and biogas and also ensuring that Irish agricultural outputs are not substituted by more environmentally damaging imports.

Here are the details supplied to me by the Irish department of Energy etc.

Conventional capacity = 6,727 mw, Wind capacity 1425 mw.=21%

EU Directive 2009/28/EC requires that 16% of Irelands comes from renewable sourses by 2020.
Irelands Renewable Action Plan set out how to achieve 40% to come from renewable sourses by 2020. The directive states that the calculation of energy must be make by reference to all energy consumed.

The effect of the above is the we are already 5% over EU targets.

The Regulations for fuel mix disclosure are to hand. I dont know if they are on line.

They show that conventional generators must accept all power coming from wind farms in preference to other generation. This means that slow start up plant is not allowed in if wind is available.

The regulations state the the marketing arrangements provide that curtailed renewable energy must still be paid for. (wind energy never produced must still be paid for by consummers)

The EU regualtions which I will be taking issue state that the calculation of generation type is based on the final power consummed. (At the very best less than 2 % of wind power exported is actually used by consummers and it is technically false to say the the total power exported from wind farms is consummed. my comment)

The Minister states as follows:

1)REFIT is payable for electricity that flows from the windfarm to the grid. i.e. export only.
2) The electricity used on site by windfarms is not exported to the grid, but used on site, there fore REFIT is not payable for what is used on site.
3) The meter on a wind farm measures how much electricity is exported by the wind farm and does not measure what is used on site.

Now folks : Thats is what the man said.

You decide for yourself. Power is consummed by a wind farm by admission of the minister but it is not metered or charged for. All power exported to the grid is metered and paid for.

The next thing you know they ‘ ll by putting mobile phone masts on wind farms to avail of the free electricity. Why not build a town and power it free?

OH while here: why not look up the web site for the European Platform Agasint Wind Farming.

My critique on the folly of trying to use wind mill to provide power has been updated to cater for recent revelations on how it is paid for.

The updated version is available by e mailing

You can hear my interview on blogtalkradio/youngdan interview with Val Martin its 40 minutes.

I am getting very favourable responses, the object is to alert the public to what is being don in their name. Information now to hand suggests that the killing of rare birds is much worst than originally thought. Raptor species are getting a hammering in the US and Spain and we had a sea eagle gilled in Kerry recently. Its now looking like all birds of prey will be gone within a decade.

The present “Green” revolution came with a label attached stating the benefits that would acrue to society in return for the effort involved.

1) It would help reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, some from potentially hostile countries. The current high fuel prices show that we are still as dependent as ever on this fuel, dispite the fact that we have moved to “green”. But we now have another one. Most “Green” gadgets contains “Rare Earths”. The Toyoto Pryus’s battery contains 2.2 kg of it. China holds a monololy of the stuff and is steadily tightening its grip. Should a trade war develope, China can cut off supplies, there by strangling all sorts of energy we need in the west. So this claim has not been delivered.

2) “Green will create jobs”. The countries leading the Electronic car revolution are Portugal, Holland, Ireland and Denmark. Portugal and Ireland are bankrupt having been unable to manage their economies and having invested in wind or e – cars. Not much sign of the employment round here.

One large “solar farm ” in the South West USA is in the process of installing 32 arcres of them for electric power. All the solar panels are being make in China. In fact no other country can compete with China as they can undercut any start up, putting it out of business.
So not much sign of jobs there.

When you start to count all about carbon trading, you must include the fact that when its done and dusted, there will be a major industry employing thousands of workers, clerks and CEO s. They will produce nothing, their income will come from those creating employment and using fuel to do so. They will all drive cars, live in centrally heated homes, their offices will be heated by CO 2 emittion fuel. Vast banks of computers will burn up nuclear and fossil produced power. By some slight of hand all this waste will be exempted from the measure or carbon fines, just as the power burning by wind farms is exempted. Worse still the weight of industries feeding off the teat of the state will grow heavier at a time when it should be lightened. We will not be able to break contracts, these leaches will remain as a burden on the rest for ever.

The internation energy says that the use of fossil fuel and nuclear power will grow, they tell us that in 2006, 19,000 Terra watts of electrical generation was used world wide, but in 2030 that will rise to 33,000 TW.
Other generation (I presume that includes renewables was 2% in 2006 and will be 9% in 2030) . So how is the world going to square the circle of fining users for burning fuel? That is why there was no agreemant at the last climate change conference and there will never be a lasting agreement. Source : International Energy Agency, key world energy statistics, 2008 and world energy outlook 2008, 507

In your post you compare Ireland’s target for Total Primary Energy Production from renewables with the installed capacity of wind on the Irish electricity grid. These are radically different measures of different things and in no way comparable.

Also you confuse electrical power (measured in watts) and electrical energy measured in watt hours). This is like the difference between speed and distance.

I could go on.

Donagh Collins. I do not confuse a watt with a watt hour. When applied to electricity, a watt is the voltage (power pressure) multiplied by amperage (power quantity). A watt is the measure of a current at a given instant. Like a weight lifter boasting and proving he can lift 150 KG over his head. A watt hour is a measure of work done. 2 amps x 5 volts flowing for 1 hour is 10 watt hours (wh). Like the same lifter actually carrying 150kg for 1 hour. Work done can be measured in horsepower. (150 kg is a randon figure not to scale).

When measuring the output of a wind farm, either 1) load factor (a measure of volts x amps flowing at an instant taken each half hour) or 2 ) capacity ( volts x amps x hours) can be used. As both are compared to the ideal nameplate output in a given period in the same value. The only difference is peaks and troughs between the half hour measure. Capacity factor is probably the better measure.

RTE Drive time: 30st May, 2011. Mary Wilson.

Figures just published show that there is no improvement in the emissions of CO2. Mary Kelly of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency was interviewed. She made listeners feel very guilty about our emissions and stressed something must be done. She gave no indication as to what she thought should be sone, and the presented never asked the obvious question. Why are all the existing wind farms in Europe not resulting in a reduction in CO2 Emissions?

Anyway the only bit of learned advice she gave was the we “need more renewable energy.”


31st May 2011 and the same programme and presenter Mary Wilson, the rising cost of world food came up for debate. Jim Clarksen of Oxfam Ireland came on air. He rightly pointed out the hardship the current high food prices are causing the poor world wide and that something must be done. He was a bit short on specifics but he offered one opinion. Bio Fuels are taking more land to run the car for a day than would feed a family for a your!. We must stop using land to grow bio fuel.

Now can any explain to me. Is Bio Fuel a form of renewable energy? I believe it is. Which of these two opinions do we heed. Do we strive to go along with Mary Kelly and produce more renewable energy or do we go along with Mr Clarksen and produce less?

World electricity generation capacity is only about 5TW, so I don’t know what the 19,000TW refers to. World electricity production per year is around 20,000TWh which may be hat you’re thinking of.

about 40sqm of land will yield 4 litres of biodiesel, enough to run a car for an average day’s mileage (50km)

You couldn’t feed a family for a year with 40sqm but you might keep them in vegetables for a month!


I got as far as paragraph 3 when you built a coarse straw man, asserting that climate sciences are climaeing there will be “runaway” global warming.

A “runaway” effect is not required to cause extreme conditions of disconfort to the human race – only >2C average gobal temperature rise.

No climate scientist is making such a claim of a “runaway” effect. Kindly run along and do some study before pontificating when you are only embarrassing yourself.

Everyone is gone very quiet! What is up? My next job is to persue the EU Commission. They are allowing carbon credits of (so called) renewables) by their gross output. No account is taken of fossil fuel imputs. I could burn 1,000 litres of diesel planting renewable crops which yield only 500 litles of (diesel equivelent) of power and trade the “saving ” for to off set against carbon fines.

This is ridiculous and will surely be struck down in a court. It seems the Aarhus convention will help lift the lid on this deciept.

Can any one out there please tell me I am wrong, because we are about to invest 20 billion euros of borrowed money in more renewables. A significant part of our present bail out went to grant aid wind mills and Eirgird cannot tell me how much fuel has been saved.

Professor Deter Helm of Oxford said in my company recently that putting more priority dispatch ( suppliers most take all wind power offered even if its cannot be used and they most pay for it in full) on the Irish power system will make the purchase of the asset less attractive to buyers. In other words not alone does wind power, devalue local properties, consume net conventional electricity, but it also devalues the conventional power generation and distributing system.
I asked him what he tought of my contention that the correct way to measure wind power is by the capacity credit, the amount of conventional generation saved. Does he think it is the correct way? He replied, something like that! He qualified the reply by saving that it might be possible to design a convention system around wind. This could impove the contribution of wind. However he said that no country had succeeded in doing this to date.
I took this as an endorsement of my contention.

Comments are closed.