Monday, September 7, 2015

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so - Governments can rely on expert advisers

Things you know that ain't so - Governments can rely on their expert advisers.” (To be honest, not many people now believe this but it seems that governments frequently do.)

In the last few days I have come across two serious derelictions of duty by people relied upon by the government to give sound advice based on the evidence.

The first is Associate Prof Ralph Chapman of Victoria University who was interviewed on a Sunday programme by Wallace Chapman on the subject of climate change. He made a number of statements claiming that the situation was extremely serious and we were close to a tipping point. If we did not do something drastic very soon, the world was going to be in serious trouble. He went on to claim that Greenland was losing ice rapidly and if it all melted we would soon see a sea level rise of something like 7 m. And so on.

I wrote to the programme with a copy to Ralph and challenged his statements on Greenland ice loss, Arctic and Antarctic ice extension, and the credibility of many of the predictions of climate doom and disaster that he quoted.

Ralph said he was “too busy” to respond to all my comments but he gave a reference for a paper that, he said, confirmed that Greenland was suffering a dramatic ice loss. So I looked up the reference and discovered that it had a chart showing an ice loss of about 3000 gigatons (an impressively large number!)  over a period of about 12 years and also happened to show that it had stopped since late 2012.

I did a little more homework and discovered that the total Greenland ice mass was enormous and that Ralph's “dramatic rate” amounted to 0.0088% per year and at that rate the whole ice mass would disappear in a mere 11,000 years! Ralph Chapman responded to the Sunday program saying that he still thought that a loss of 3000 gigatons was dramatic! Truly, the mind boggles!

One can only assume that he chose to respond on the Greenland ice alone because that was his best shot – one that went right through his foot! One can further assume that he did not respond on the other points I made because he could not refute them.

So here we have someone who has been employed by the government to take a leading part in the negotiations on Kyoto since 1988 and, from his current university position, puts himself forward as an expert on (currently non-existent) dangerous man-made global warming. Yet he cannot – or will not – support the claims he makes on climatic doom and disaster. 

And all this time, we have been paying his salary. Why?

The second concerns the “Smart Grid Forum” set up by the government to investigate and, it seems, to promote, the concept of a “smart grid”. The whole idea started up overseas supported by government money and largely concerned with finding out how to manage the problems that expensive and heavily subsidised wind and solar power impose on the operation of the grid. (If we did not have wind and solar power, we would not need a grid any smarter than it always has been.)

In their first report to the government report they made much of a presentation by Tony Seba, an entrepreneur and now, academic, who has been a leading supporter of subsidised wind and solar power and has even written a book on it. So he can hardly be called an objective adviser.

Figure 1 in the report is a graph from Seba that predicted that, by 2030, the costs of storage batteries will be in the region of $50/kWh stored. (The current price is $350) It then goes on to say that this prediction is supported by Figure 2 that predicts a price of about $200/kWh in 2030. In my world, predictions that vary by a factor of four do NOT support each other!

But it gets worse. Figure 3 is a graph from Seba that predicts a cost of 25 cents/W ($250/kW) for solar cells in 2020. 

I decided to check this out and discovered that you needed about 5 m² of solar cell for 1 kW. So, according to SEBA, the cost is $50/square metre. I then discovered that a solar cell consists of a sheet of glass on top with the cells underneath, a backing plate and an aluminium frame. So I looked up the cost of glass sheet ($50/m2) and plywood for the backing frame (about $22.5/m2). If we assume that the cells themselves cost $50 per square metre – a wildly optimistic figure I suspect. Add in a bit for the aluminium frame and we come up with a figure of $150 per square metre or $750/kW. And that is before the cost of the inverter and the cost of installation and connecting to the power system!

The report then went on to quote Seba’s prediction that electric cars would cost of about $5000 by 2030! Never mind that the smallest US conventional cars have cost about $20,000 for years!

So here we have a government funded organisation paying good money to bring someone over from the USA to give advice. They ignore the fact that he is a committed lobbyist for heavily subsidised wind and solar power and makes money from the book that he has written on it. He provides them with information that, quite obviously, is seriously misleading. On the basis of this they are likely to make recommendations to the government regarding the expenditure of millions of dollars on a smart grid.

How many more “experts” like these two are being funded by taxpayers to provide advice that ignores the evidence and seriously damages our economy!


Unknown said...

Well done Bryan. You are going to have a lot of trouble with presenting common sense in this retarded country. Common sense was once a badge of national pride but that was over 50 years ago.You may have noticed I am sure that we have a majority of voters in this country who pride themselves on their ignorance of facts, are politically naive, gutless and only interested in themselves, screw the rest of the country . Try and point that out and these head in the sand cowards will run from you.

mike said...

Local govt. is not immune from this either.

Unknown said...

Excellent article and raises very similar issues we face here in the UK with the "focus" around climate change and the enthusiasm the government and media have with alternative power generation.

The acceptance as fact of many assertions made here sound are very much the same with little or no challenge as to whether the "facts" are true or not. One feels the government's position is their "facts" should just be accepted and it's not for us mortals to worry ourselves.

Suresh Bangara said...

Bryan, for almost a decade now I have been following your battle with those that support a rather large industry of money making. Common sense being the most uncommon commodity, you appear to be fighting a losing battle. Perhaps you could focus on the youth and engage them at
appropriate focal points. Even if a small percentage of young people take up the cause we can hope that good sense will prevail. More grease to your elbow.

Anonymous said...

I came across this web site Uncommon Knowledge - and an interview with Dr Thomas Sowell. The interview was entitled -The vulgar pride of intellectuals.
It is compelling viewing. Brian's article reminded me to revisit . Please do people