Saturday, April 29, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: World’s First Commercial Fusion Reactor Takes First Steps Towards Generating Energy








Switch flipped on UK’s newest tokamak fusion reactor

In this newsletter:

1) World’s First Commercial Fusion Reactor Takes First Steps Towards Generating Energy
Energy Voice, 28 April 2017
 
2) We’re All Victims Of The Great Green Swindle
The Times, 26 April 2017
 
3) Reality Check: U.S. Drought Falls To Record Low
USA Today, 27 April 2017
 
4) Another Climate Scare Debunked
Daily Mail, 20 April 2017
 
5) How Team Trump Plans To Kill Obama’s Paris Climate Deal By Declaring It A Treaty
Washington Times, 27 April 2017
 
6) The Price Of Europe’s Green Folly: Gazprom Gloats Over Its European Dominance
The American Interest, 27 April 2017

Full details:

1) World’s First Commercial Fusion Reactor Takes First Steps Towards Generating Energy
Energy Voice, 28 April 2017

Britain’s newest fusion reactor has been fired up and taken the UK one step further towards generating electricity from the power of the stars.

 
Image result for Tokamak ST40 reactor
Tokamak ST40 fusion reactor

The heart of the Tokamak ST40 reactor – a super-hot cloud of electrically charged gas, or plasma – is expected to reach a temperature of 100 million centigrade in 2018.

That is how hot it needs to be to trigger fusion, the joining together of atomic nuclei accompanied by an enormous release of energy.

The same process enables stars to shine and in a less controlled way provides the destructive force of H-bombs.

The new reactor was built at Milton Park, Oxfordshire, by Tokamak Energy, a private company pioneering fusion power in the UK.

It is Tokamak Energy’s third upgraded reactor and represents the latest step in a five-stage plan to bring fusion power to the national grid by 2030.

Fusion power holds out the promise of almost unlimited supplies of clean energy. It uses special forms of hydrogen as fuel, produces no greenhouse gases, and the only waste product is helium.

But harnessing and reining in the mighty forces involved is a daunting challenge.

The plasma, which at 100m C is seven times hotter than the centre of the sun, has to be contained in a doughnut-shaped “magnetic bottle”.

Some way has also got to be found to turn the energy of fast-moving elementary particles into electricity.

Speaking after the ST40 reactor was officially turned on and achieved “first plasma”, Tokamak Energy chief executive Dr David Kingham said: “Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world.

“We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors.

“This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.”

Full post

2) We’re All Victims Of The Great Green Swindle
The Times, 26 April 2017
Alice Thomson

A generation who thought they were doing the right thing by buying diesel and clean energy have been taken for a ride.

 

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 When I was three my parents moved next to one of the busiest roundabouts in Europe. Hogarth roundabout in west London leads to the M3 and M4 and the smell of car fumes was only overpowered by the aroma of hops from the brewery on the corner. It was the perfect place to grow up. We had a huge green in front where we could stand on the railings and count the number of cars whizzing past. No one in the 1970s worried about the lead pollution, only about being run over. Nor did we care about where our electricity came from unless the lights went out. Green issues were not high on our agenda nor was our health. Our neighbours happily smoked away and we ate tinned spaghetti hoops and Angel Delight without a care for the sugar content.

Now my family is as green and healthy as possible. We recycle our apple cores, the children play sport every day under the Westway flyover, we bought a second-hand diesel car and then a hybrid and take the train to Devon for holidays. But the children are probably less healthy than I was 40 years ago. When the youngest started to wheeze I took him to the doctor who said he had doubled the number of inhalers he hands out in the past three years, so many children are becoming asthmatic.

“It’s the diesel, all that nitrogen dioxide and those toxic pollutants,” he explained. “He’ll inhale the particles in the car even with the windows shut, when he’s playing football by a busy road and even from the trains at the station.”

Our obsession with cutting carbon emissions has had terrible consequences. Air pollution contributes to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in Britain, mainly among the young, the frail and the elderly, according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health. It can also hinder brain development, raise the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer, and contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Our attempts to be altruistic have harmed rather than helped the most vulnerable. Almost as bad, those 11 million people who now own a diesel car are about to be penalised for following government advice a decade ago that the vehicles would help the country cut CO2 emissions. [...]

Gordon Brown’s budget of 1998 may have said in the small print that the government “recognises the adverse effect that the use of diesel has on local air quality” but first as chancellor and then as prime minister he shifted incentives towards diesel, until more than 35 per cent of cars were running on it, while manufacturers fiddled their engine management systems to cheat the testers. Japan, meanwhile, steered consumers away from polluting diesel, America stuck to petrol and India began switching buses to compressed natural gas (CNG).

The same mistake is now being made subsidising power stations to burn American wood pellets that are doing more harm to the climate than the coal they replaced, according to a recent Chatham House report. Drax in Yorkshire, once the largest, cleanest, most efficient coal-fired power station in Europe, has been converted to burn wood pellets with an annual £500 million public subsidy but it now pumps out more CO2. Wind farms are little better because we’ve had to build diesel power plants across the country to help on days when the wind doesn’t blow at the right speed.

One Scottish stately home owner boasted to me that he keeps his heating on in the summer as well as the winter because he is paid more in subsidies to use “green” wood chips for fuel than he pays out in heating costs. All this while the rest of us worry about our escalating energy bills.

Anaerobic digesters, which were sold to the public as a means to convert food waste into power, are now turning huge quantities of crops into small quantities of methane for the national gas grid thanks to yet more subsidies costing £200 million a year.

But it is car manufacturers who are still making the most money out of this great green swindle — consumers certainly aren’t. Diesel owners now face having to buy another car at vast expense. Scrappage payments of between £1,000 and £2,000 for the oldest diesel cars would help those hardest hit. However, if we subsidise new electric cars we will have to accept that much of the electricity used to charge their batteries comes from power stations using fossil fuels — or wood chips.

This week Andrea Leadsom, the environment secretary, shelved a new plan for air quality. But Downing Street policy advisers hint that Theresa May is on the side of the consumer, and sceptical of the latest money-spinning environmental fad. Last year, the prime minister’s joint chief of staff Nick Timothy described the Climate Change Act, which has been at the root of many of these misguided policies, as “a monstrous act of national self-harm”. He was right. As soon as the election is over Britain needs a coordinated energy strategy and a new Clean Air Act, to protect the environment and restore faith in government policy.

Full post

3) Reality Check: U.S. Drought Falls To Record Low
USA Today, 27 April 2017
Doyle Rice, USA Today

Drought in the U.S. fell to a record low this week, with just 6.1% of the lower 48 states currently experiencing such dry conditions, federal officials announced Thursday.

drought-monitor

That’s the lowest percentage in the 17-year history of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report. The previous record low occurred in July 2010, when 7.7% of the contiguous U.S. was in a drought.

“Drought has certainly been disappearing at a rapid rate this spring,” said meteorologist Brad Rippey of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The five-year drought in California is practically over, with only about 8% of the state currently in drought.

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drought-guardian

The strong El Niño of 2015-16 may have caused the initial decrease last year, he said. “El Niño is historically a ‘drought-breaker,’ while La Niña is a ‘drought-maker.’”

A persistent low-pressure area sitting along the west coast of North America this year helped fuel the ongoing wet weather, USDA meteorologist Eric Luebehusen said. Low pressure causes air to rise, which allows clouds and precipitation to form. Those storms and wet weather then typically meander east-northeast across the central U.S., he said.

The current record low is in sharp contrast to September 2012, when drought reached a record high — 65.5% — in the U.S.

Full story
 
4) Another Climate Scare Debunked
Daily Mail, 20 April 2017
Harry Pettit

One of the many damaging effects of climate change put forward by scientists is that shrinking habitats are causing polar and grizzly bears to mate more. This hybridisation could dilute polar bears’ DNA which will further drive down the animals’ already dwindling numbers, experts suggest. But a new study reveals that this inter-breeding is natural and is in fact not a consequence of global warming.

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‘Such hybrids among bears are not as rare as we have hitherto assumed,’ said study lead author Professor Dr Axel Janke of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Frankfurt.

It had previously been assumed climate change causes grizzlies or ‘brown bears’ to invade northern regions while polar bears are pushed onto the sea ice later than usual.

The new results show however that an abundant flow of genes among different bear species occurred plenty of times in the past.

This means hybrids are not necessarily linked to climate change, they say.

Full story

5) How Team Trump Plans To Kill Obama’s Paris Climate Deal By Declaring It A Treaty
Washington Times, 27 April 2017
Stephen Dinan

As President Trump’s top advisers prepare to hash out a final policy on the Paris climate agreement dumped onto their laps by President Obama, another option has hit the table: Declare the deal a treaty and send it to the Senate to be killed.

The treaty option could emerge as the middle ground in the increasingly tense battle between “remainers” on the one hand, who say the president should abide by Mr. Obama’s global warming deal, and the Paris agreement’s detractors, who say Mr. Trump would be breaking a key campaign promise if he doesn’t withdraw from the pact.

Mr. Trump’s principal advisers are slated to meet Thursday to hash out a final set of recommendations for the president, with several deadlines looming next month.

At an initial meeting of top staffers Tuesday, several memos and letters that were circulated laid out the options, including the treaty proposal put forth by Christopher C. Horner and Marlo Lewis Jr., senior fellows at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Under their vision, Mr. Trump could toss out Mr. Obama’s decision that the Paris accord was an executive agreement, declare it a treaty and send it to the Senate, where it would need a two-thirds vote for ratification.

Given Republican control of the chamber, the agreement’s opponents say senators would either shelve the deal or outright defeat it. Either option would derail the deal, the memo suggested.

“That option affirms that we are a nation of laws, not men and, importantly, discourages both our negotiating partners and future U.S. officials against attempting to circumvent our system,” the memo says.

A briefing paper circulated among Republican senators this week said the deal should have been sent to Capitol Hill by Mr. Obama, but he “knew that Congress would never approve such a flawed deal, so he refused to seek the Senate’s advice and consent.”

Supporters of the Paris accord have their own memo drafted by lawyers in the State Department. That memo says that by sending the agreement to the Senate, the president would be giving up important powers and leave Mr. Trump and his successors open to congressional meddling.

“Because the large majority of international agreements concluded by the United States are concluded as executive agreements, this could have far-reaching implications for our conduct of foreign affairs,” the State Department document says.

The Paris agreement is the main international vehicle for trying to combat climate change. Mr. Obama committed the U.S. to the deal in 2015 but never submitted it for ratification, saying it was an extension of a U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which the Senate ratified in 1992.

The State Department memo says there are few risks to remaining part of the Paris deal. It says the “legal obligations are relatively few and are generally process-oriented [and] discretionary in their application or repeat existing obligations already contained in the Framework Convention.”

Michael McKenna, a Republican energy strategist, said anything short of withdrawal would leave the U.S. open to legal challenges, with judges potentially attempting to enforce strict climate limits based on the commitments.

“The president is being asked to travel a path that leads him — ultimately — to continue the Obama administration policies on climate change,” said Mr. McKenna, who has authored his own memo calling for withdrawal.

He blamed Obama administration “holdovers” at the State Department for trying to preserve their former boss’ plans.

Mr. Obama committed the U.S. to cutting greenhouse gas emissions at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The former president tried to enforce the commitment through a series of executive and administration actions, imposing tight limits on power plants and auto emissions.

Federal courts have halted some of those plans, and Mr. Trump and Congress have nixed others, easing the pressure on American industry. During the campaign, Mr. Trump also pledged to cancel the Paris deal.

As a decision nears, the sides among Mr. Trump’s top advisers have become clear.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Tuesday appeared to join the remainers, though he said the deal should be renegotiated.

“I’m not going to tell the president of the United States to walk away from the Paris accord,” Mr. Perry said at a conference sponsored by Bloomberg. “I will say that we need to renegotiate it.”

Mr. Perry said other countries are breaking their self-imposed commitments, giving the U.S. an opportunity to insist on changes.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson is a remainer, as are perhaps Mr. Trump’s closest advisers, son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. The White House general counsel’s office also appears to be leaning toward remain, sources familiar with the negotiations said.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is pushing for withdrawal, and he is joined by U.N. Ambassador Nikki R. Haley, analysts said. Top presidential strategist Stephen K. Bannon is also a withdrawal advocate.

Full story

6) The Price Of Europe’s Green Folly: Gazprom Gloats Over Its European Dominance
The American Interest, 27 April 2017

Fresh off the news this week that Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline secured 50 percent of its funding through loans from five European companies, the CEO of the Russian state-owned natural gas firm was positively glowing. “Today, in 2017, we are beating our 2016 record highs by around 10 percent. So we can expect new records this year and Gazprom’s European market share is poised to rise,” Alexei Miller said in an interview with Reuters. “A decrease in the North Sea gas production, as well as in other EU countries, is becoming a very important factor… Given that, Russia’s market share will be rising,” he added.

Miller has a point here. However much Europe has agitated for diversifying away from Russian natural gas supplies, the continent has in fact increased its reliance on Gazprom since the annexation of Crimea. That shift has come about because of economics more than geopolitics — Gazprom’s natural gas contracts are linked to the price of oil, and the collapse in crude prices has suddenly made Russian supplies very attractive to buyers.

As Reuters reports, Miller tried to spin the over-dependence angle as a mutual thing:

“I don’t think it is fair to talk about dependence,” said Miller. “Our dependence is mutual: when we invest in developing fields and building pipelines, Gazprom relies on future demand and de facto depends on the European market as much as Europe depends on Russian gas.”

This is true: just as Europe needs Russia as a supplier, so too does Russia rely on Europe as a buyer. But Gazprom holds the trump card in this relationship, as it has shown both the capability and the willingness to shut off supplies mid-winter in order to express its displeasure with its customers. Europe’s best recourse has been to build out liquified natural gas import infrastructure so that it too might snub this relationship by looking elsewhere for natural gas, but those LNG supplies remain relatively expensive and are as yet having a hard time supplanting Gazprom.

“Pipeline gas is winning against LNG and is set to continue doing so in the future,” Miller boasted. It’s hard to argue with this for now, but times they are a-changing. As we’ve noted elsewhere, the U.S. fracking boom is driving global gas prices down at a remarkable rate, making pricy pipeline bets less of a sure thing. We’ll see how this one look in a few years’ time.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

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