turbines “enough to power all UK homes.” Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy campaigner, Nick Rau, said the
group welcomed the government’s announcement. “The potential power that could be generated by this industry is
enormous,” he said. [ ]. From the Guardian [ ]: John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said
that the plans amounted to a “wind energy revolution.” “And Labour needs to drop its obsession with nuclear power,
which could only ever reduce emissions by about 4% at some time in the distant future.” Nick Rau said: “We are
delighted the government is getting serious about the potential for offshore wind, which could generate 25% of the
UK’s electricity by 2020.” A few weeks later, the government announced that it would permit new nuclear stations
to be built. “Today’s decision to give the go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear power stations ... will do little to
tackle climate change,” Friends of the Earth warned [ ].
In fact, the two proposed expansions – of offshore wind and of nuclear – would both deliver just the same amount
of electricity per year. The total permitted offshore wind power of 33 GW would on average deliver 10 GW, which is
4 kWh per day per person; and the replacement of all the retiring nuclear power stations would deliver 10 GW, which
is 4 kWh per day per person. Yet in the same breath, anti-nuclear campaigners say that the nuclear option would “do
little,” while the wind option would “power all UK homes.” The fact is, “powering all UK homes” and “only reducing
emissions by about 4%” are the same thing.
4“water-powered car” New Scientist, 29th July 2006, p.35. This article, headlined “Water-powered car might be available
by 2009,” opened thus:
“Forget cars fuelled by alcohol and vegetable oil. Before long, you might be able to run your car with nothing more
than water in its fuel tank. It would be the ultimate zero-emissions vehicle.
“While water is not at ﬁrst sight an obvious power source, it has a key virtue: it is an abundant source of hydrogen,
the element widely touted as the green fuel of the future.”
The work New Scientist was describing was not ridiculous – it was actually about a car using boron as a fuel, with a
boron/water reaction as one of the ﬁrst chemical steps. Why did New Scientist feel the urge to turn this into a story
suggesting that water was the fuel? Water is not a fuel. It never has been, and it never will be. It is already burned!
The ﬁrst law of thermodynamics says you can’t get energy for nothing; you can only convert energy from one form
to another. The energy in any engine must come from somewhere. Fox News peddled an even more absurd story
–Climate change is a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism. Sir David King, Chief Scientiﬁc Advisor
to the UK government, January, 2004. [ ]
–the gloriﬁcation of travel – an allusion to the offence of “gloriﬁcation” deﬁned in the UK’s Terrorism Act which came
into force on 13 April, 2006. [ ]
5Figure 1.2. This ﬁgure shows production of crude oil including lease condensate, natural gas plant liquids, and other
liquids, and reﬁnery processing gain. Sources: EIA, and BP statistical review of world energy.
6The ﬁrst practical steam engine was invented in 1698. In fact, Hero of Alexandria described a steam engine, but given
that Hero’s engine didn’t catch on in the following 1600 years, I deem Savery’s 1698 invention the ﬁrst practical steam
–Figures 1.4 and 1.7: Graph of carbon dioxide concentration. The data are collated from Keeling and Whorf (2005)
(measurements spanning 1958–2004); Neftel et al. (1994) (1734–1983); Etheridge et al. (1998) (1000–1978); Siegenthaler
et al. (2005) (950–1888 AD); and Indermuhle et al. (1999) (from 11000 to 450 years before present). This graph, by the
way, should not be confused with the “hockey stick graph”, which shows the history of global temperatures . Attentive
readers will have noticed that the climate-change argument I presented makes no mention of historical temperatures.
Figures 1.5–1.7: Coal production numbers are from Jevons (1866), Malanima (2006), Netherlands Environmental As-
sessment Agency (2006), National Bureau of Economic Research (2001), Hatcher (1993), Flinn and Stoker (1984), Church
et al. (1986), Supple (1987), Ashworth and Pegg (1986). Jevons was the ﬁrst “Peak Oil” author. In 1865, he estimated
Britain’s easily-accessible coal reserves, looked at the history of exponential growth in consumption, and predicted the
end of the exponential growth and the end of the British dominance of world industry. “We cannot long maintain our