Greenpeace should be red-faced over science gaffe

09 November 2006

Greenpeace demonstrated a lack of scientific literacy today by reportedly condemning a carbon capture and storage scheme, says the head of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Richard Pike, chief executive of the RSC, said the attack by Greenpeace in The Times was ill-informed, showing a poor understanding of science.

He added that the educational system, media and the community as a whole in this country must work still more effectively to promote good science and challenge misconceptions.

Centrica has announced plans to recover carbon dioxide from gasified coal, and use the resulting hydrogen to fuel a 1 billion power station. 

The carbon dioxide is to be piped into the North Sea and buried deep underground below the seabed. Greenpeace have condemned the project, claiming that two thirds of the energy will be wasted, like 'all our outdated, crumbling power stations'.

However, Dr Pike points out that even the most modern power stations, whether based on biofuel, nuclear, gas, coal, hydrogen, or solar generation of steam, can convert only 45-50% of the available energy into electricity. 

He said: "This is not because of old, inefficient design, but rather the laws of thermodynamics that require that energy must be lost in the generation of power, for there to be any power at all! 

"This is fundamental to understanding energy supply and demand, which is so important for the future. In the best-run communities, much of the 50-55% of the energy 'lost' is channelled through pipes as steam and water into local heating schemes for homes. 

"Scandinavia sets a world standard in this approach, but such projects have been adopted in only a very limited way in the UK because here power stations tend to be quite isolated from towns."

He added: "Greenpeace should be focusing on maximising the total use of the energy associated with power stations, and getting its science right, rather than erroneously challenging an innovative approach that will tackle carbon emissions and reduce climate change."

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