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Don’t Forget The Biomass, Saiful!

December 29, 2016

By Paul Homewood


h/t Dave Ward




Every year, the BBC run the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

Each series is themed around a scientific topic, and is aimed at youngsters. (Not that I have not found them very watchable at times!)

This year, the subject is batteries, and it has been presented by a Professor of Chemistry, Saiful Islam.

In yesterday’s final programme, he highlighted just how much our society relies on energy storage.

However, he could not resist getting onto the topic of renewable energy, with the consequent need for energy storage when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.

At about 40 mins in, he states, (my bold):


One important area is the huge growth in renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

Last year, the UK generated a quarter of electricity from renewables, solar, wind and wave power.


Doubtlessly he was fed this figure and did not bother to check it.

But the reality is that you only get to a quarter by including 9% for biomass and 2% for hydro.




The youngsters watching the lecture might have been somewhat less impressed if they had been told that more than a third of his “renewable electricity” actually came from burning trees!

  1. December 29, 2016 12:39 pm

    Technically, burning trees is renewable but that does not necessarily mean it is sustainable.
    If the trees are not grown specifically for burning and are from old woodland, the “renew” period is unacceptably long and is not sustainable.
    The effect of cutting down ancient woodland for burning on ecosystems must also be taken into account.

    • wert permalink
      December 29, 2016 4:13 pm

      Burning trees is eventually what you should do if you don’t want them to rot in the forest and release CO2 there.

      Oh you can make paper and timber before you burn them.

      Ancient woodlands? Where in Europe you have any ancient forest to talk about?

  2. euanmearns permalink
    December 29, 2016 1:12 pm

    Thanks for posting this Paul. I watched a small part of one of the earlier lectures. I’m sure in that one he claimed that the UK got 1/4 of all energy from renewables. I had to change channel since my family is getting fed up with me raging at the screen.

    IMO felling mature forests to generate electricity at industrial scale is criminal, all those engaged in the practice should be banged up.

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      December 29, 2016 3:20 pm

      Totally agree that their comeuppance is long overdue. I am not even allowed to watch energy programmes on TV (for the same reason)!

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 29, 2016 4:01 pm

      “Raging at the screen”

      There was plenty of that from me, Euan – see my post further down!

      • Derek Buxton permalink
        December 29, 2016 4:32 pm

        Join the club. Although I used to enjoy the lectures, they have deteriorated recently, I suppose we should have expected it really, BBC and the “Royal Society”. I watched the first one and like others I was not impressed so forgot about the others. It was pure brain washing for impressionable youngsters. I noticed that when he mentioned Drax, there was no mention of the cut trees or the major pollution caused by burning wood.

  3. December 29, 2016 1:18 pm

    There is a widespread lack of Scientific Integrity in information designed for public consumption, many scientists seem to think that they can impart politically correct messages outside their specialties, Brian Cox, the BBC snail expert, and this guy being recent examples. The BBC now deploys “scientists” for propaganda purposes, astronomy and particle physics being the only subjects that can be taken at face value. Any applied science, i.e. with applications in “Society”, can no longer be trusted without an analysis of agendas.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 30, 2016 7:40 pm

      I’m no longer sure that particle physics can be entirely trusted: look at the treatment of Jasper Kirby’s work on CLOUD at CERN.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    December 29, 2016 1:22 pm

    Let’s not forget that burning firewood slightly reduces ocean alkalinity.

    • Broadlands permalink
      December 29, 2016 1:33 pm

      So does making biodegradable materials…and confusing them with recycling.

    • December 29, 2016 2:36 pm

      Let’s also not forget that burning firewood also puts more carcinogens into the atmosphere than does coal, oil, natural gas, i.e. fossil fuels.

      • December 29, 2016 4:13 pm

        And radioactivity
        .. Far exceeds leakage of nuclear plants

  5. December 29, 2016 3:20 pm

    The whole series was about energy and power. It started off quite well, but as a chemist his knowledge of energy was very limited and at times wrong. He no doubt confused his audience with poor presentation and a lack of clarity about energy and power. But the overall theme was pure propaganda for renewable (green) energy. This was not surprising given that his career is dependent on research into solar power. The RI is one of the many organisations that has been corrupted by the need to toe the line on “climate change”.

    It will take years to drain the RI/BBC combined swamps.

  6. Dave Ward permalink
    December 29, 2016 3:59 pm

    The real H/T should be to my elderly mother – she was the one who spotted the “25%” claim. I only saw a couple of minutes early on, and decided it was not for me! Unfortunately, I then had to sit through most of it later (on iPlayer) to find the relevant part… The whole thing was amateurish, and poorly setup. I can remember watching these lectures a couple of decades or more back when they were genuinely interesting, and presented by “real” professors – the name Porter seems to ring a bell?

  7. December 29, 2016 4:16 pm

    Someone check how it played live.on Twitter.
    I don’t have the time.
    Check under his name and prog hashtag
    – Was he called out ?
    – Did he admit and correct ?
    Its no good that an incorrect version sits on Iplayer

  8. Curious George permalink
    December 29, 2016 4:48 pm

    Look at the bright side. With a doubling of sunshine hours, and a doubling of windy days, renewables will generate 50% of energy! How to do that, I’m not sure, but that’s what the Royal Society is for.

  9. Stonyground permalink
    December 29, 2016 6:36 pm

    I still haven’t given up hope on the AGW bubble bursting, despite the fact that I thought that climategate would have been certain to do the trick. It must happen eventually since their hypothesis has been falsified in spades. Our best hope now seems to lie with the current solar minimum. If it gets seriously cold, the warmists will most likely continue to tell us it is still getting hotter and that should finish their credibility for good. What then will be left of the reputations of the BBC and the RS? Not only have they promoted this nonsense completely uncritically, they have insulted and derided those that have pointed out that it just isn’t true. I’m still looking forward to their humiliation.

  10. Michael Oxenham permalink
    December 29, 2016 10:11 pm

    I’m glad that these lectures have been noticed as an unapologetic brainwashing of the schoolkids from the high altar of CAGW. The messages I got were:- carbon bad, CO2 bad, fossil fuels bad, greenhouse gases bad, cows bad and wind turbines, solar panels, wave power all good. Please send another huge grant for solar panel research so that I can save the world. The guest script writer was probably Roger Horobin (sic). The whole 3 lectures were another example of the BBC’s partiality on the climate and energy debate.

  11. December 30, 2016 12:00 am

    Apart from the green brainwashing, I was amazed at how dumbed-down it was – just a parade of unconnected demos: colourful giant balls, things exploding or lighting up – with only the most tenuous link and absolutely no technical substance. ( Perish the thought of showing a simplified chemical equation to explain the reaction inside a battery! ). The simplest facts were explained very slowly several times. If I was a child in the audience I would find it patronising in the extreme. God help the country if that pre-duplo-telly-tubbies ‘lecture’ is representative of science teaching in schools these days.

  12. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    December 30, 2016 8:19 am

    Why drag out cows, a goat and a sheep for a about 30 secs or so? Have the youth never seen/heard of them. Eating insects…the new future food?

    I think I missed the beginning but some bloke started on about so many watts for body functions which with battery quantity comparison earlier was a bit weird?

    I thought Blue Peter was a bit gushy naive,,,but this stuff? It was once well worth watching but the BBC and its mates have flattened it to very dull.

  13. mike fowle permalink
    December 30, 2016 2:02 pm

    I used to love the Lectures. They usually had a scientist who would give an indication of the latest research in their particular field, which made for sometimes demanding viewing but very worthwhile. But like all science on the BBC it’s been corrupted. I remember a few years back one was about the atmosphere and when he asked the audience what gases constituted the Earth’s atmosphere one little girl was insistent that carbon dioxide made up a major part.

  14. mikewaite permalink
    December 30, 2016 7:53 pm

    Who decides what the subject of the lectures will be? BBC or Royal Institution? If the former then expect similar posturing around CAGW for the foreseeable future .
    In the meantime the Chinese will have thoroughly explored the Moon and will be putting the final plans in place for their Mars expedition – if the reports in the media are accurate.

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