Mark Lynas really gets me in The Guardian

Booker\’s misunderstandings, like his commentary in general, are not original – in this case they come second-hand from the former Ukip press officer-turned-blogger Tim Worstall, whose complaint on the Adam Smith Institute blog is entitled \”Perhaps Decc would like to do their sums again\”.

Worstall\’s problem is that he \”can\’t find the price assumptions they make\” about the future costs of fossil fuels. He laments: \”I\’m afraid I can\’t find it, just can\’t find it at all.\” He therefore conspiracy theorises that \”the calculation isn\’t presented to us\” because \”we might find that renewables aren\’t really an option that anyone would go for.\”

Whoops. Worstall\’s conspiracy evaporates when one discovers that he has simply not clicked on the correct link on the Decc website.

So, we go through the links that Mark proides us with and we get to here:

Source data

Forecasts of fossil fuel prices:

  1. Oil Price cost data
  2. Coal Price cost data
  3. Gas Price cost data

Explanation of our working assumption:

  1. 2050 working assumption oil price 2010-2050
  2. 2050 working assumption Coal Price 2010-2050
  3. 2050 working assumption Gas Price 2010-2050

You will note that that last is not in fact a link. They do not explain their assumptions about the future price of gas. The thing we\’re intrested in, of course, as we want to know what they think of shale gas.

I think I win that one, no|?

19 comments on “Mark Lynas really gets me in The Guardian

  1. The real biggy was that their comparisons were not equivalent. The renewables scenario only generated a fraction of the energy that the conventional one did (a half I think). The FT also picked up on this.

  2. So the first link is to /547, the second is to /548 so a quick guess of, well, 549? Gets you to the equivalent for gas here. Which links onward via this page to this. No user is given for the origin or the edit, so I assume it is one of the wiki admins.

    And they have blithely assumed a steady (looks pretty linear) rise in gas prices in 2010GBP from now through to 78p per therm in 2030 and flat thereafter (they seem to assume all fuel prices are flat 2030 – 2050). So, back to the original point, no, they haven’t allowed for shale gas.

  3. And right at the top of the pages SE links to is this – “This is a wiki for the 2050 pathways calculator. Anyone can contribute, therefore DECC does not vouch for its accuracy. “

  4. Agree with SE: the first set of links seems to take you to the same pages as the second lot, so missing last link doesn’t seem to be an issue.

    However, Lynas is still missing the point that the scenarios are massively, ludicrously not comparable: fossils as is, renewables with 50% energy efficiency.

    Unless he deals with this point explicitly he is also lying as that is the main complaint and it has massive force.

  5. Thanks P-G, that exactly hits the nail on the head. Why is it that so many of the climatariate seem to think that honesty is optional.

  6. The 2050 gas price used in 45p/therm (in 2010 money). http://2050-calculator-tool-wiki.decc.gov.uk/cost_categories/36 . (You can get there just by clinking obvious links).

    Mark Lynas is right about this and our host is wrong. The tool is excellent: not because all its assumptions are necessarily the best available, but because it allows you to see just what the assumptions are, and lets you experiment with the effects of changing them. All government data should be presented like this.

  7. The 2050 gas price used in 45p/therm (in 2010 money)

    The lowest point in the 2050 range of values is 45p per therm. The highest is £1. The “central point” is 78p, as I previously stated, for 2030 and they do not state an equivalent for 2050.

  8. @paulB

    “Mark Lynas is right about this and our host is wrong.”

    In one limited and not tremendously exciting regard.

    Lynas does NOT address that the main trumpetted conclusion (renewables cost comparable with fossil fuels) is a complete fabrication due to the changed assumption of consumption levels.

  9. The problem you’ve got is that whilst your main point is 100% correct – there is no consideration of Shale – the minor point that there is no link to assumptions is not:

    Now, I’ve looked around the DECC spreadsheet trying to find the price assumptions they make about natural gas and other fossil fuels. And I’m afraid I just can’t find it

    As you’ve acknowledged, there are links to assumption to Fossil fuels in general and a few minutes detective work (see SE) gets you the Gas link.

    The point here is that Lynas is the establishment figure. He gets the national coverage in TV and print. The average punter will follow his links and see that there are fossil fuel assumptions and bang, you’ve lost the attention. Or to put it simply: you need to dot your I’s and cross your T’s – he doesn’t.

  10. You don’t even need the detective work:

    1) Go to the web calculator: http://2050-calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk/pathways/1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111/primary_energy_chart

    2) Select something from the “example pathways” menu choose one you like: I’ve gone for the first one “doesn’t tackle climate change”.

    3) On the “see implications” menu select “cost sensitivity”

    4) On the “Gas” row you can see that it’s using 45p/therm (in bold). If you want, you can choose 70p/therm or 100p/therm instead

    5) Click on “see assumptions” on the “Gas” row. Then on “Gas Price cost data”. There are two rows for “2050 working assumption”, one says 45-45 and the other 45-100. (I guess there are two because one of them has been added by a user.)

    Tim, like anyone else, can post his own preferred assumptions if he wants to.

  11. PAULB – just interested in how you think the potential availability of lots of shale gas might change things?

  12. PaulB,

    Yes, you can add different ranges, but the problem is that the calculator only appears to use the 45-100 pence per therm range in its calculations, and that range was for 2050 only, whereas it is using it for the entire forty year period.

    Given that gas in the US is 20 pence per therm right now, assuming that the price will be 45p or higher for the next 40 years seems odd.

  13. So DECC have created a computer model in which to predict the future? Is this computer model based on emperical data or assumptions. Which would lead to a more accurate model?

    And since when has it been possible for a government to be able to plane the future?

  14. Mr Potarto: you’ll see that the price data include a “valid in” field. If I understand this correctly, you are mistaken in thinking that it’s using that range for the whole 40 years from now.

    I’m not arguing here about what the best guess might be for future natural gas prices: rather I’m disagreeing with the contention that the tool doesn’t show you what numbers it’s using, nor allow you to specify alternative projections. (And if you can’t get the web tool to do what you want, it’s certainly possible in the spreadsheet.)

  15. I had a look at the spreadsheet, but I couldn’t see the equivalent section. I wasn’t sure if that’s because the cost sensitivity part is still under development, or because the spreadsheet is huge and I didn’t look in the right place.

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