These people are idiots, aren’t they?

The Global Apollo Programme aims to make the cost of clean electricity lower than that from coal-fired power stations across the world within 10 years. It calls for £15bn a year of spending on research, development and demonstration of green energy and energy storage, the same funding in today’s money that the US Apollo programme spent in putting astronauts on the moon.

Sigh.

Everyone and their grandmother knows that if you cn design, invent or kludge together something that either:

Generates electricity cheaper than coal

or

Can store intermittently produced electricity cost effectively

…then you’re likely to become the world’s first dollar trillionaire. It’s, how to put this, uncertain, that any more incentive is needed.

39 comments on “These people are idiots, aren’t they?

  1. The presumption is The Answer is just sitting there, waiting for someone to find it.

    The presumption requires gross ignorance of physics.

    The presumption requires gross ignorance of history.

    Or, yeah, they are just idiots.

  2. It would be smarter to spend £15 billion on nuclear power. Given that pretty much all the problems are solved.

    But it is pathetic. We could have put men on Mars. We as a species, but actually even Britain as a country. Instead we choose to p!ss our money away each and every year – on people who want to be sick but aren’t, on people who should be working, on useless degrees, and naturally the odd lesbian bereavement centre.

    Even building the world’s largest concrete pyramid would have been a better use of our money.

  3. “The presumption requires gross ignorance of physics.

    The presumption requires gross ignorance of history.”

    And an ignorance of economics.

    And of incentives.

    And what, £15bn per year will buy you how many modern nukes per year?

    But no, best spend £15bn from the magic money tree chasing unicorn farts rather than on something we know works, and works now.

  4. “These people are idiots, aren’t they?”

    Er, no. £150bn is enough to skim plenty off for themselves, enough to persuade those who might get it to invest in your campaign, etc.

  5. We at the Global Apollo Perpetual Energy Machine Project would happily make do with 1000th of that amount.

  6. Doc Bud: I can top that –I will take 1 ten thousandth share. No energy –“clean” or otherwise will be produced nor shall I pretend that it will. Which is exactly what you will get for your £15 billion –but my way–ie just give me the £1.5 mil– you are saving £14,998,500,000. I really deserve extra for saving the taxpayer all that cash.

  7. Strange that they’re not pointing out that the very admission of their goal drives a coach and horses through the other Green claim that renewables have reached cost ‘parity’ with fossil fuels.

    Funny that.

  8. If they’re going to piss money away they might as well do it building a full-size Polywell fusion reactor or something. I mean, it might not work at all, but at least it would settle the issue.

  9. Comparing their own advocacy for government pork with the Apollo project seems especially unhinged.

    Unless, of course, one realizes that humans have looked at seams of coal since before the beginning of history and dreamed of the day when cheap energy would not require mining that coal.

  10. There is another requirement, though, and that is that the method not be something that the greens will simply get banned. I mean, look at hydro-electric power. That’s (relatively) cheap in the long run, and it’s clean, with no pollution produced. Yet greens everywhere do their utmost to stop it (eg. Tasmania).

  11. “..…then you’re likely to become the world’s first dollar trillionaire.”

    I’m not so sure. If you invented something that useful, I rather doubt most of the world would respect your patent.

  12. @Cal
    ” That’s (relatively) cheap in the long run, and it’s clean, with no pollution produced.”
    Sadly not always true
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7046-hydroelectric-powers-dirty-secret-revealed.html#.VW2taEYvGho

    In a study to be published in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Fearnside estimates that in 1990 the greenhouse effect of emissions from the Curuá-Una dam in Pará, Brazil, was more than three-and-a-half times what would have been produced by generating the same amount of electricity from oil.

    This is because large amounts of carbon tied up in trees and other plants are released when the reservoir is initially flooded and the plants rot. Then after this first pulse of decay, plant matter settling on the reservoir’s bottom decomposes without oxygen, resulting in a build-up of dissolved methane. This is released into the atmosphere when water passes through the dam’s turbines.”

  13. “I’m not so sure. If you invented something that useful, I rather doubt most of the world would respect your patent.”

    Most of the world won’t have to respect it, cos you won’t be able to afford to patent it everywhere, and then there are always kleptocratic governments who’ll have at it – no point spending any money in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba etc.

    You’d be OK in Western countries though, but the problem would be getting sufficient backing within 30 months of filing your first application (which had better be good, not amateur hour) to do a PCT regionalisation everywhere of interest (Europe, US, China, Japan, Canada, Brasil, Korea at least).

    What sometimes pans out in situations like this is that a bloke in a garage invents it, thinks £3-5k is too much to get the first filing done properly, drafts himself, discloses it within 12 months, and has utterly stuffed himself, since working with amateur hour patents is very much like polishing turds.

  14. This is because large amounts of carbon tied up in trees and other plants are released when the reservoir is initially flooded and the plants rot.
    Which is why recommended practice is to log the soon-to-be-reservoir valley before filling. Not always followed, granted, but it is considered best-practice.

  15. abacab

    “You’d be OK in Western countries though”

    Yeah, no way a Californian jury would decide that the widget invented by a Californian six months after you filed was materially different to your one. Inconceivable.

    No, I’m afraid this would be just too useful an invention not to be nicked. Remember, governments can change patent rules – tempting if the changes only damage some foreign inventor.

  16. Bloke in italy
    June 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Whatever happened to Thorium reactors?

    Was it all a load of bollocks?

    =====================

    In a word, yes.

    Thorium can be bred to fissile uranium, but it is a very expensive way to get uranium. It might become useful in a few hundred years, as sourcing uranium becomes more difficult.

    “Thorium reactor” is marketing bullshit. Thorium isn’t reactive; thorium reactor is ignorant.

  17. “Whatever happened to Thorium reactors?

    Was it all a load of bollocks?”

    No, the technology works. It’s just at present there isn’t really a compelling reason to prefer them over conventional light water reactors. What is certainly the case is that there is enough thorium to last a very long time. Thorium isn’t actually a nuclear fuel. Instead of being fissile, it’s fertile, meaning it is used as the feedstock to breed the actual fission fuel, ²³³U.

  18. Why not spend 1/1000th of that on bringing clean water to the third world?

    I believe a certain Mr Gates has already done that,

  19. I recently did the calculations on having economy 7 electric put in so I could charge batteries on cheap rate electric at night and then use the power during the day. Couldn’t make it break even, even though we use in the order or 11,000 kWh of electricity every year.
    If it could be done whatever it is it would already be being done.

  20. Off topic, but Charles Kennedy has died. Looks like he drank himself to death. I am not so libertarian that I would approve of that.

    He is a bit of a loss to British politics. I may be remembering wrong, but of all the c*nts who opposed the Gulf War, he was the least c*ntish. A career politician who was not a total waste of protein.

  21. >In a study to be published in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Fearnside estimates that in 1990 the greenhouse effect of emissions from the Curuá-Una dam in Pará, Brazil, was more than three-and-a-half times what would have been produced by generating the same amount of electricity from oil.

    I was talking about actual, real pollution, not carbon dioxide and methane.

  22. Methane has a fairly short half-life, so is not much of a GHG issue – degrades to much less potent CO2.

  23. Do they really want cheaper energy? Cheaper energy means more consumption. How can you be anti-consumerist and want cheaper energy?

    I am assuming they are the standard lefty climate activists.

  24. People like to invoke the Apollo programme, but can you imagine such an undertaking being carried out in 2015? Rather than giving the engineers and scientists a clear objective – “Get a man on the moon by 1970” – and then letting them get on with it, nowadays we’d have armies of politicians, bureaucrats, “managers”, consultants, and rent-seekers hoovering up the budget while chasing diversity targets, meddling in the scope, feathering their own nests, and using the whole thing as an exercise to further their own careers.

    A government-driven project couldn’t put a man on the roof of the tool shed these days, let alone the moon.

  25. Tim,

    It would certainly be unacceptable to have a programme dominated by white, male heterosexuals.

    The justification for the missions would be to learn more about global warming. They could sit up there counting the incoming and outgoing radiation.

  26. Tim Newman – “A government-driven project couldn’t put a man on the roof of the tool shed these days, let alone the moon.”

    Indeed. As I have said before, a pretty much all White and male NASA put a man on the moon. The new more diverse NASA proclaims its mission is to make Muslims feel better about themselves. And God help a scientist if he wears the wrong shirt. Meanwhile the Guardian is obsessing over rape on Mars so at least we have that going for us.

    But apparently noticing this Hate Fact is a Hate Crime. It neatly avoids discussing why this might be.

  27. Now it is time to take slightly longer strides – time for a bit of a new American enterprise – time for this nation to take some sort of role in climbing achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth.

    I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of placing a man on the roof of the toolshed and returning him safely to the ground. Not many climbing projects in this period will be more impressive to some people, or more important in the short-range exploration of roofs; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

  28. Rob
    June 3, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Do they really want cheaper energy? Cheaper energy means more consumption.

    ======================

    No necessarily. Energy consumption might not be price limited.

  29. As far as I can tell ‘thorium reactor’ tends to be used as a synonym for ‘molten salt breeder reactor’; whilst those are glorious pieces of nuclear engineering, allowing brave designers the chance to face simultaneously all the challenges of very high temperatures, pumping corrosive materials, radioactive fission products in solid, liquid and gaseous form, on-line reprocessing to get the bred poisons out, and the security issues from having built a bulk protactinium factory, it’s not entirely clear that you gain enough from running a reactor in already-melted-down form to be worth the design effort.

    High-valency transition metal fluorides are nasty enough to work with even when not radioactive!

  30. Good post, Snodgrass.

    In my previous life, we had a couple of plant shutdowns because we lost pressure/flow in process pipelines, which carried high pressure solvent and polymer. The piping system had to be disassembled (big pipes: cranes were used) and sent out to vendors who burned the frozen polymer out the pipes. Who knew such vendors existed.

    FF . . . if you loose pressure/flow in your MSR, who the heck you going to get to clean out your lines? I expect you’d have to build a containment and abandon the area.

  31. NASA wasn’t white, male and heterosexual because it was racist, patriarchal and homophobic. It was white, male and heterosexual because that was where most of the good engineers were. If you weren’t W/M/H but you were every good, NASA had no problem. Take a look at Margaret Hamilton. She pretty much invented software engineering as a discipline and in the process made the flight control computer on the Lunar Module able to shed low-priority tasks during descent, which otherwise would have overwhelmed the system and required an abort.

  32. Bloke in Costa Rica – “NASA wasn’t white, male and heterosexual because it was racist, patriarchal and homophobic. It was white, male and heterosexual because that was where most of the good engineers were.”

    That is what you think. But when you step back and look at the generally racist, patriarchal and homophobic nature of society as a whole, that disparate impact is proof of the racist, patriarchal and homophobic nature of NASA – as they were not taking steps to remedy society’s racism, sexism and homophobia by hiring people who were not as qualified on paper, they were guilty of perpetuating an unjust social structure.

    “If you weren’t W/M/H but you were every good, NASA had no problem. Take a look at Margaret Hamilton. She pretty much invented software engineering as a discipline”

    Did she now? How interesting. So there was no software engineering before she took her first programming job? In 1960.

    “and in the process made the flight control computer on the Lunar Module able to shed low-priority tasks during descent, which otherwise would have overwhelmed the system and required an abort.”

    Yes. Well. That is up there with inventing the windscreen wiper isn’t it? Is there any other way to run a computer but to prioritise the high value jobs? Did anyone think of doing it any other way?

    Notice she did not invent this. She was the Director of the MIT lab that invented this. But in general I am sure that people interested in science tend to be interested in other people interested in science. And if she has breasts, so much the better. I don’t think there is any discrimination in the hard sciences except in favour of women. So we need another explanation for why women fail to shine.

  33. OK, so in addition to your pontificating (among other things) on all matters military to people who are in the military, you now know how to design real-time operating systems and are more familiar with the state of the art in 1960’s computer programming than people like me who have been software engineers for decades. Good show.

  34. Bloke in Costa Rica
    June 4, 2015 at 4:14 am

    I asked five questions. I can see why you would be annoyed at that. But displaying superior knowledge it is not.

    The one correction was to point out her Lab did that work, not her alone. The rest is agreeing with you.

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