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It may have escaped your notice but 2015 is the UN “Year of the Soil”, a crucial resource we largely take for granted. It is a miracle that we can capture energy from a distant star via plants and convert it into usable forms upon which all Life depends. There are mountains of research and columns on climate change, but little written about greater threats to us in the interlinking areas of food, water and energy security. These present a more compelling narrative of need and crisis for us as a...
The UK and the Scottish Governments are taking action to seek to reduce CO2 emissions and to reduce dependency on fossil fuel.  The main strategy to achieve these goals is to substitute energy from fossil fuel by energy from renewable sources. The problem with the way that this strategy is being implemented is that the technical difficulties, the potential economic outcomes and the degree to which the goals can be achieved are not being reliably addressed.    For example, wind is being used as...
There has been much discussion recently about the unintended consequences of certain decisions, actions, or lack of action, regarding UK energy policy. Last autumn extensive media attention was devoted to the possibility of power cuts over the winter. That prompted me to look at the sequence of events leading to a once great engineering nation not having a reliable electricity generation and distribution system. I found a number of unexpected and perhaps unpredictable consequences, but I also...
Renewables use sun, water, wind; energy sources that won’t run out. Non-renewables come from things like gas, coal and uranium that one day will. But unless electricity and motorised transport is abandoned altogether, all ‘renewables’ need huge areas of land or sea and require raw materials that are drilled, transported, mined, bulldozed and these will run out. Wind turbine towers are constructed from steel manufactured in a blast furnace from mined iron ore and modified coal (coke). Turbine...
The Holyrood parliament does not have formal responsibility for energy policy in Scotland. However it does have control of general planning. Further, the owners of Scotland’s conventional electricity generation capacity have currently no incentive to expand it. These factors have enabled Holyrood effectively to take control of all new energy developments. This has already resulted in the construction or consent of renewable capacity to meet the more than 96% of the SNP's 2020 target of the “...
The Sunday Herald recently published a letter claiming that Scotland needs more control over its energy policies to escape from those advocated by the "English" government. Its writers appear to share a number of commonly held misunderstandings which require refuting. The Holyrood parliament does not have formal responsibility for energy policy in Scotland. However it does have control of general planning. Further, the owners of Scotland’s conventional electricity generation capacity have...
The Land Reform Review Group’s proposals for radical change in the ownership of land in Scotland published at the end of May this year are of no small consequence. Two years in the gestation and fraught with much politicking, their report included a proposal for the absolute right to buy for some agricultural tenants, those few thousand individuals holding secure ‘91 Act tenancies. The upshot of this proposal will be an argument about the capital value of agricultural land when capital values...
Use of thorium instead of uranium in reactors can allay virtually all public concern over weapons proliferation, radioactive pollution, toxic waste and fuel that is costly and complicated to process. Thorium is the most abundant, most readily available, cleanest and safest energy source on earth; yet it remains unknown by both the public and politicians.  Novel reactor design, the liquid fuel thorium reactor (LFTR), uses thorium fluoride as both coolant and fuel. It has enormous advantages over...
The Scottish government has ambitious plans for spending vast sums of money on huge numbers of wind turbines and experimental wave and tidal energy projects in its bid to make Scotland “the Saudi Arabia of renewables”. But there is a growing realisation among the public that this simply pushes up electricity bills while reducing energy security and making it increasingly likely that the lights will go out.  This might be feasible when it is English consumers who are bearing the brunt, but an...
Jack Ponton - The Scotsman November 2013 It is an article of faith amongst the environmental lobby that wind energy is good, benign and undisruptive, and that obtaining shale gas by hydraulic fracturing or  ‘fracking’ is damaging and disruptive. The claims that ‘fracking’ causes earthquakes, wholesale pollution of watercourses and inflammable tap water are easily dismissed by impartial examination of actual experience. The technique has been in use for decades in the US and to a lesser extent...

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