Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tribute To Gaia

So let's get this straight. On the very day our buckling economy delivers the biggest ever recorded fall in employment, the government imposes its latest tribute to Gaia.

It will work like this: all over our green and pleasant, and right across our silver seas, we will build 7000 giant religious statues known as "wind turbines". They will be a visible sign to Gaia that we miserable sinners repenteth our sins, and bow down before the one true god.

Yea, and the cost shall be without measure. A tythe of £150bn shall be levied on the rich men at the energy companies. And all the people shall contribute each according to his means whatever the sacrifice. And the pharisees shall treat with the envoys of Russianoligarchicus Caesar so that the people may have light. And darkness shall fall across the land.

As religious tributes go, wind turbines take some beating: they are huge and dominate the landscape; they are expensive; and they have no serious purpose other than worship.

As generators of reliable energy, they are next to useless. We blogged the facts here, but in summary:
  • Supply is highly variable - because of wind variability, they operate at a small fraction of theoretical maximum capacity (Denmark's operate at an average 20%)
  • You cannot store electricity (well you can to a very small extent, but it's massively expensive) - so you can't smooth out windpower peaks and troughs
  • You therefore need back-up generation for virtually the entire peak load - either nuclear, Russian gas, or coal

Of course, if you rely on the BBC and C4 News for your facts, you won't know any of this. Last night's reports identified the main problem with the government's tribute as being that it doesn't go far enough. Gaia is seriously pissed, and we need to speed ourselves into the darkness even faster.

So how is this all going to play out?

Here on BOM, we are great believers in the ultimate wisdom of crowds. As the costs of these massive tributes become more visible, cash-strapped voters will make it perfectly clear they don't want it. Even Millipede Jnr can see "there's a job of political persuasion to be done".

There sure is Ed. The problem for him - and the BBC (see here for the outrageous BBC position) - is that although they keep talking about "the science", they've never actually convinced us of its validity.

More and more of us are coming to understand that this so-called "science" comprises little more than a set of flimsy computer models cranked up to produce 50 year weather forecasts - ie the forecasting error of the Met Office's five-day forecast multiplied by 3,650 (and I have a funny feeling stats theory says it's humongously more than that).

Religions depends on faith. Fair enough.

But when it comes to keeping our homes heated and our economy on the road, I'd prefer to rely on what we actually know. Most of us have no wish to render our futures unto Gaia.

PS Talking of BBC scare-mongering, on Tuesday night Newsnight told us that by next month 50 people a day will be dying from swine flu. They calculated that by multiplying Andy Burnham's "100,000 new cases a day by August" by Imperial College's estimate that 1-in-200 infected people will die. Wha!? we thought - that's a pretty worrying thought on which to head off to bed. So yesterday I took a quick look at the stats. So far, there have been some 90,000 reported cases worldwide, and just over 400 deaths - so about a 0.5% death rate. But of course, that's only among reported cases, and many people apparently don't report - indeed, many don't even realise they've got it. So given a vast range of reporting standards worldwide, how do we know the worldwide stats are any guide to our own death rate? Answer - we don't. So far in the UK (up to 8 July), there have been 9,718 reported cases in the UK; to date there have been 17 deaths - a death rate of 0.17%. Unless I missed it, Newsnight's Susan Watts didn't mention that.

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