Saturday 24 December 2022

Some Christmas Reading

Pat Swords has written a new book, available to download from the link here :

Feedback from: Pat Swords ( 

Having lived and worked in many places that have been in the headlines in recent times such as Ukraine, Sweden and Libya, Pat is in a unique position to explain events that have unfolded in recent times.  

"Colonel John Boyd of the United States Air Force (USAF), who as a jet fighter pilot in Korean and Vietnam eras, had also a standing bet as an instructor pilot, that beginning from a position of disadvantage in air combat manoeuvring, in less than 40 seconds, he could defeat any opposing pilot. He also invented the OODA loop, which is not as one would expect, about twisting a fighter aircraft into some contortionist position, but rather stands for a strategy of ‘Observe – Orient – Decide – Act’. Namely, prior to making a decision (the decide phase), the person will first have to get information (observe) and determine what it means to him and what he can do about it (orient). Which in turn leads to the good summary of, fail to ‘observe’ (get the information), prepare to fail. Jim Glennon, who served seven years in the Oireachtas as a TD (Member of the Irish Parliament) and Senator before retiring in 2007, wrote in the Irish Times on the 1 April 2010: 

“Most voters are, somewhat naively, of the view that government policy is developed through a process of careful analysis, comprehensive consultation, and the selection and prioritisation of initiatives based on impact and thorough cost-benefit analysis. In reality, most government policy-making is based on an ad-hoc reaction to events / media-pressure, and driven by the responsible Minister’s particular requirement to be seen to announce something which seems at least semi-sensible.  Regrettably, policy-making which is focused solely on addressing tactical issues inevitably leads to strategic mistakes. Many of the problems now being faced by the Government are the result of ad-hoc fixes of problems during the boom – got a problem, create an agency, buy-off the unions, get it off the front page”. 

You would think that they would learn from this and put in a more effective strategy, such as a few OODA loops.

As hindsight is not foresight, there are always decisions with results, which don’t match the prior hypothesis. However, does that mean we should hand over our decision-making to those designated for us as ‘experts’, particular so when it is us, who rightly or wrongly, bear the consequences? This is a very fundamental question. For example, there was quite a mess left behind the Iron Curtain by the planned economy, even though its superiority was taught and eulogised by the local economic professors, before they themselves saw the light and re-educated themselves, when the wall fell down. Making people clean up the mess they leave behind is always difficult, because it seems nobody is responsible, as all are responsible, even though it was only nobody and his buddies, who got to make the decisions, Hence, the conclusion of the ‘five whys’ analysis, was that pretty strong checks and balances must be put in place, to control nobody and his buddies, by all the rest. Which in legal terms led to the adoption of the UNECE Aarhus Convention on the premise that the environment is important and does not belong to the State, but to the people, and as political ideologies come and go, the people must be provided with robust procedural rights in relation to environmental decision-making".

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Energy Crisis - Part Two Electricity Bills

Three ways Electricity bills could be made more affordable:

1)   Most wind farms in Ireland are (hypocritically) profiting from the current higher gas prices (Weren't renewables supposed to do away with expensive dirty fossil fuels?). When gas prices were low in 2014 and 2015, wind farms were getting the gas price plus a top up to a fixed price. Now when gas prices are far exceeding this fixed price, they are receiving the massive surplus. So it is a lose - lose situation for the consumer. It is an arrangement that is indicative of the parasitic nature of wind energy which can only be accommodated in a grid dominated by fossil fuel or hydro generation. 

This win-win arrangement for wind energy could be reversed so that wind farms only receive the fixed price originally intended or if that is not legally possible, the excess profits taxed at a special rate and handed back to the consumer in the form of reduced electricity bills.

2)  Time to pass on those savings - when gas prices were low in 2014/15, hardly any of the fall in prices was passed on to consumers. See the following newspaper articles :

2015 - "most firms are dragging their heels in passing on recent falls in wholesale gas and electricity prices to consumers".

Make some electric savings by changing energy supplier -

2015 -  "Irish consumers pay the fourth-highest energy bills in Europe, according to EU statistics. Little of the large recent falls in wholesale gas and oil prices have been passed on to consumers".

Airtricity was paid €32m to run power station for just 50 hours -

Not for the first time in Ireland, a Regulator failed to do their job. Pressure could be put on the energy companies to pass on that saving now, in particular, ESB which is semi state. Failing that, a special tax could be introduced which would be based on the pro rata decrease in gas prices over that period seven years ago.  So if gas prices fell by 20% over one year back then, then corporate taxes on energy companies could be increased from 12.5% to 15% with the additional taxes passed on to consumers of course. This would provide some justification for the tax, rather than simply hitting the energy industry with an arbitrary tax. 

 3) And of course, cancelling all carbon taxes would reduce the cost of all types of energy.

Thursday 27 October 2022

Inflation : Irish Energy Blog proven correct, Major Economists Wrong

Last October, I wrote an article predicting that inflation would not be temporary :

Almost every other major economist at the time was predicting that inflation would be temporary or "transitory" :

Jan 22 :

It appears that the people who's job it is to understand inflation do not understand it. In very simple terms, this is how it works :

Inflation is too much money chasing too few goods. 

It does not matter the cause of supply shortages. 

You must not increase the money supply during supply or production shortages.  

If a country has four production facilities and three close down, then printing money will cause a surge in inflation because the money supply has increased when production supply has decreased in this case by 75%. The monetary policy was the opposite of what needed to happen. 

It does not matter the reason for the three plant closures - bad weather, pandemic, war, fuel shortage, aliens etc - the effect is the same, viz, a reduction in production. 

Yet, this is exactly what economies all across the world did during the Covid lockdowns - they printed massive quantities of money during a period of very low output (and low interest rates). While the lockdowns were destructive in themselves, printing money simultaneously was like throwing petrol on the fire and for that reason I don't see an end to the inflation crisis for quite a few years. 

Thursday 6 October 2022

Energy Crisis - Part One Lessons from the Past

    During the 1970s, when the last serious energy crisis occurred, the Irish government and ESB, free from almost any ideological constraints, drew up plans for the single largest construction undertaking in the history of Ireland - Moneypoint coal power station.  It was a huge success and the power station is still managing to keep the lights on during the current energy crisis despite being a target for destruction by the ideologues that swarm Leinster House today. 

Ideologue - various definitions given :

 - an adherent of an ideology, especially one who is uncompromising and dogmatic.

 - an often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology

 - an impractical idealist

 - An ideologue is someone who has very strong beliefs or opinions and stubbornly sticks to them no matter what. An ideologue will insist they're right even when evidence suggests they might be wrong.

The roots of the modern ideological movement began back then in the anti- nuclear movement. It could be argued that man has a natural aversion to nuclear power arising from fear of the unknown. It is of course still a relatively modern technology. But man has no natural aversion to coal. Indeed, the inhabitants of Ireland have been burning coal for thousands of years. In the 1770s, an ancient coal mine was discovered in Antrim. The antique mining tools found there disintegrated as soon as they were touched.  It is only very recently in human history and after years of relentless propaganda that man has decided he wants to turn his back on coal even though it is proving more difficult than he first thought. 

It is not so much misinformation that is causing an unnatural fear of coal, but lack of balance and maturity in the judgement of those at the driving seat of the new ideology. For example, eating your lunch carries with it the risk of choking, but we all accept that risk for the benefits associated with satisfying your hunger. However, if we were to just focus on the negatives and ignore any positives, then the risk of choking is no longer acceptable and therefore eating must be outlawed as an antiquated pastime no longer acceptable in a modern progressive society. Afterall, choking is one of the leading causes of unintentional deaths every year.  

So this is the big difference between the 1970s and the 2020s - for ideological reasons we can't build another Moneypoint power station. Nuclear was ruled out then and is still ruled out now. Let's add coal to the black list.  What can go wrong ?

This leaves us with gas power. But surely it would be foolish to build more gas power stations when high gas prices and the uncertainty of gas supply are the root causes of the current energy crisis ?   For the ideologues who become increasingly divorced from reality, this is not a problem. Gas is good, at least for now (except of course if it's LNG / Liquified Gas that can be shipped in in an emergency situation where the UK can't supply piped gas), coal is bad goes the diktat and the economists and media pundits, one after the other, fall in line. But for the gas generators contracted to build the new power stations, reality is not something they can ignore, and they are pulling out of the Irish market, one after the other

Since energy production is a long term enterprise (Moneypoint wasnt up and running until the mid-1980s) and involves engineering expertise, Governments can't magic power plants out of thin air after a crisis emerges. The sensible reaction to the 1970s crisis paved the way for a stable energy sector which enabled the economic growth of the 1990s and 2000s. But did this cheap reliable electricity that we all took for granted back then create a false sense of security? You flick the switch and the lights automatically come on. The switch from one form of power generation with chimneys and stacks and emissions could seamlessly be made to another with turning blades and no emissions. You flick the switch and the lights automatically come on or will they ? 


Sunday 20 February 2022

Save the peace & tranquility of Gougane Barra for future generations

 One of Ireland's most unique scenic areas, Gougane Barra in Cork, is at risk from environmental degradation if plans for a massive wind farm go ahead.  

Even though Ireland's experiment with wind energy has failed, as we are forced to build more gas power stations to keep the lights on and electricity prices have skyrocketed, the wind hysteria is not yet over. Future generations will wonder how could one of the most sacred places in Ireland be industrialised by wind developers. 

Please sign the Petition to stop it and be on the right side of history :

Sunday 23 January 2022

Ireland Ranks near bottom of Renewable Targets Table

 Wind Energy Oriented Renewable Plans Fared Badly

Ireland just about reached it's 2020 renewable target of 16% equalling Poland, a country not exactly renowned for its love of the "green religion". Ireland ranked 20th out of the 27th member states. Only Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta, Holland and Hungary ranked lower.

So the question must be asked - where did Ireland go wrong after spending billions on renewable energy and building 5,000MW of wind farms ? 

Surely if wind speeds are so high in Ireland as we are often told, then Ireland should be in the top 10 of Europe ? 

Sweden, Croatia, Finland, Bulgaria, Latvia and Austria topped the list of renewable energy performers in the EU.

Here are the main sources of renewable energy for each country :

Sweden - hydro, biomass. Exports a lot of electricity to Finland.

Croatia - hydro with some wind and solar. Imports a lot of electricity.

Bulgaria - hydro and solar. 

Finland - biomass and hydro. Imports a lot of electricity from Sweden and Russia.

Latvia - biomass and hydro.

Austria - biomass and hydro.

And for countries outside the EU - - 

Iceland - geothermal.

Norway - hydro. Norway has 65 times as much hydro as wind.

This clearly shows that the most successful renewables are Hydro and bioenergy/biomass. There are also significant benefits to interconnection especially if the neighbouring country has a lot of hydro. For instance, Denmark has a similar amount of wind energy to Ireland, but relies heavily on imports from hydro based electricity in Norway and Sweden which means wind has to do a lot less heavy lifting than in Ireland (because imported electricity is emission free). Denmark ranks in the top 10 of the EU renewable energy targets table for this reason.

It looks like Ireland backed the wrong horse with wind energy.  However, based on past performance, it is unlikely that Ireland will put the brakes on and assess the situation.

Tuesday 18 January 2022

The Forgotten Science on Peat Bog Formation

 I recently received a gift of a new book by Francis Pryor called "Scenes from Prehistoric life". I have not read it completely and most of the book seems to relate to Britain. I came across an interesting bit about how bogs were formed which didn't seem right to me. Pryor writes that prehistoric sites occur relatively high in bogs because when the bogs formed in Britain and Ireland around 12,000 years ago, Britain still had not been re-inhabited following the end of the last Ice Age. It was only when farming began in the 5th millenium BC that the evidence for settlement increases rapidly.

"These later remains tend to be found in the higher layers of peat which were the first to be removed during the process of extraction."

I thought this section of the book a bit strange because in Ireland there have been many artifacts found very deep in bogs e.g. - -

A todh or breastplate found 12 feet down in a bog in Limerick :

 - A celt stone implement found at  a depth of 15 feet in a bog in Derry

 -  Pottery found at a great depth in a sligo bog  

 - An ancient wooden candlestick found at a depth of 16 feet deep in a Kerry bog

 A leather shoe found 20 feet deep in a bog in Tipperary  

Then there is this remarkable bog find of an ancient house in the early part of the 18th century -  from William Wilde's 1857 book on ancient artifacts (yes, that is Oscar's father). It was reckoned that the house was found 26 feet deep in the bog :

Which is corroborated here :

This agrees with the statement of Killpatrick, who asserts that he has taken twelve turf deep above the top of the house, and as every turf is about one foot long, it would give sixteen feet for the thickness on the top of the roof of the house.

More recently, H.H. Lamb in his book "Climate, History and the Modern World (1995), gives a completely different account to Pryor. In England and Wales, evidence of man's activities was found in the earliest layers of peat formation :

So one has to wonder, did now deceased archaeologists find most of the deeper bog artifacts decades and centuries ago and have modern archaeologists simply forgotten about them ? 

I raise this point here because it shows that science today sometimes forges it's own path without having regard to the knowledge gained before. While Pryor may be writing from experience, it should be pointed out that his conclusions differ from those experts gone before him and if they are correct then it proves that man has been altering the environment around him for many thousands of years. And most remarkably, even before the formation of peat bogs.