The spontaneous grass-roots occupation of central London last week, in order to force the government to implement drastic climate-change measures by democratic … civil disobedience, immediately reminded me of the equally spontaneous demonstrations of my youth that turned out, in due course, to be orchestrated by highly motivated societal manipulators, with highly ideological agendas.
So I was at all not surprised to find, with a bit of online research, how the organizers have previously been engaged in initiating, or muscling in on, a whole range of similar popular movements, from “Occupy” to fracking protests.
I was probably no more surprised, though a little more concerned, to find how the poster-child of the “rebellion,” Greta Thunberg, has been quite brazenly, from the very start, manufactured as a brand by a PR company involved in promoting her mother’s book. It raises the serious question of why not only the media, but the politicians, have bought into the brand, which is all to do with the old emotional trope of “see how wise the children are,” whilst it is decidedly light on either science or political wisdom. It was amusing to see Jeremy Corbyn posing like the Beatles beside the Maharishi (and even more amusing to hear the scorn Jeremy’s older brother, Piers, equally socialist but a meteorologist by profession).
What alarmed me more, though, was the “coincidence” that a high profile BBC David Attenborough documentary on the “facts” of climate change just happened to be scheduled at the culmination-point of this spontaneous protest. When one sees such a combination of coordination, finance, media programming and political and police acquiescence, as compared to other recent public demonstrations, then it’s worthwhile asking whose agenda is being pursued, and why. As Piers Corbyn rightly says, “Follow the Money.”
Various people on the web suggest various answers, with various evidences, that tempt one into conspiracy theories, even though one of the media’s main occupations just now is dismissing “far right conspiracy theories.” But just as with the “long march though the institutions,” the conspiracy that Rudi Deutschke advocated in the sixties and seventies, which correlates (if no more) with an observable subversion of our institutions by progressive radicalism now, the existence of conspiracy theories does not, in itself, preclude real conspiracies.
That aside, though, my delvings showed some interesting facts that cast doubt on some of the more common narratives about the science and politics of climate change. For example, it is commonly said that anthropogenic global warming skepticism is the result of oil company funding of dissident researchers. If that’s the case, it is pretty damned incompetent, because global corporations already have great influence over governments, as the occasional corruption scandals prove. Why fund despised mavericks when global institutions depend on you? Do even “progressive” companies such as Facebook and Google work on behalf of dissident minorities, or do they not aim to keep the CIA or the Chinese Communist Party sweet for the sake of profits? But the oil companies have been experienced in geopolitics for over a century.
Even Al Gore complained that virtually every TV documentary and news outlet is financed by the oil companies, so how did they lose their grip enough to let Attenborough’s well-financed polemics loose amidst such universal media acclaim? Or perhaps they didn’t.
It turns out that some of the greatest beneficiaries of strict climate change measures are the oil companies, even before they diversify into renewables. For example, in this country, despite government claims, renewable wind and solar power are simply not cutting it in terms of maintaining the National Grid. The same, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post I think, is true in Germany. We can’t get the next generation of nuclear reactors organised, the last coal stations are closing, and although gas-powered stations have to be kept running on standby for times of low wind and sun, this is costly and inefficient.
So, with very little public awareness, but no actual secrecy, the slack has been taken up by a large network of new, local, “backup” power stations fuelled by… diesel. This at a time when diesel vehicles are being priced off the road because of their toxic particulates.
And so the place where the real energy money is – electricity production – is being increasingly powered by the wicked oil companies. And, if they’ve done their sums right, this will only increase as coal is removed altogether, natural gas supplies diminish, nuclear power remains log-jammed, and renewable energy remains expensive and insufficient.
Profit from the National Grid and its equivalents elsewhere, and you are, in actuality, on an accelerating gravy train if Extinction Rebellion’s demands are agreed by governments, and even more so if the oh-so-virtuous United Nations endorses the programme too. It takes a lot of electricity to manufacture a wind farm. To make the battery pack for a Tesla electric car, a recent German paper showed, generates between 11 and 15 tonnes of “carbon,” most of which is from using electricity from the grid: Piers Corbyn points out that that is about the same as a petrol car produces in 8 years of use, and that’s approximately the life-time of the battery anyway. In the meantime, your Tesla will be recharged every couple of hundred miles, and someone has calculated that that gives the equivalent carbon-footprint of a petrol car doing 28mpg (double that of my diesel car), in addition to the up-front electricity used in manufacture.
Then we need to factor in the carbon-costs of recycling batteries, to which, at present, virtually no thought has been given. As one article says:
An estimated 11 million tons of spent lithium-ion batteries will flood our markets by 2025, without systems in place to handle them.
This matters if we are to address climate change. We must use existing battery resources as best as possible, to avoid pollution from toxic waste and secure a strong supply of raw materials at low environmental cost.
To recycle a battery, it currently costs €1 per kg. But the value of raw material reclaimed is only a third of that. Recycling lithium costs five times as much as extracting virgin material. Hence, only 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled in Europe.
Now, this article speaks about the need to improve recycling down the road, without offering a clear policy for now. But we can be sure that one of the major costs of any recycling programme will be the energy used – which will be electricity drawn from the national grid, benefitting largely the oil companies, as we have seen.
All this is going to put increased, not decreased, demands on power suppliers – especially if Extinction Rebellion persuades us to speed everything up – and that can only lead to relative fuel scarcity and – guess what – sharp increases in the price, and profits, of oil. And so, if I were a hatchet-faced exec from Exxon or Shell, my efforts would be directed to pushing the Green Agenda for all it’s worth, and I might very well invest some bucks in setting up popular movements of uninformed middle-class people, directing their programmes through Delphi-trained “facilitators” such as those running Extinction Rebellion, so as to get the turkeys to vote for Christmas, and to feel they were being delightfully subversive of capitalism even as they paid for it.
I might even hedge my bets on the failure of that plan, if I suspected (or knew from my scientists) that the promised Armageddon in 12 years was not going to happen. Either way, my company would do well: but not necessarily the world’s population as a whole. But of course, I’m not sophisticated enough to be in global business. I don’t get any funding whatsoever for this blog, though I confess I’ve made a couple of hundred quid so far from local sales of my book, which has just one sentence, near-neutral but weakly positive, on climate change from greenhouse gases.
I’m not even insinuating here that the oil companies are as evil as the liberals suggest – after all, the liberals all drive cars, run computers, travel by air, use plastics and heat their homes without boycotting the power companies. They ought not to bite the hand that feeds their chosen lifestyles.
I’m just suggesting that the “climate change denial is an oil company scam” is an absurdly, even culpably, naive notion to hold, even though recent experience on my “Walrusgate” thread at Peaceful Science shows that it’s a reflex response for smart skeptical science types. And even the limited amount of research and critical thinking I’ve done for this post is a very good reason to make anyone with any experience of life totally underwhelmed by the phenomenon of school-children telling governments how to run the world.
Thank the Lord, most of the children are still innocent enough to take what they hear at face value.