I’ve been making bets with people that if the warnings about catastrophic global warming and sea level rise come true in the next twelve years, I’ll buy them a holiday in the Maldives. But in fact, though I fully expect the Maldives will still be a tropical paradise destination then, the aim of the UK government to make us unilaterally “carbon neutral” by 2050 will probably put such holidays beyond the reach of all but renewable energy billionaires in their private jets.
The government spokeman on the radio today said that it will cost only 1-2% of GDP annually (which is still £10-20 billion of £2 trillion, meaning £350-£700 annually extra for every fuel-bill payer in the country), and it’s just another way of saying the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s estimate of £1 trillion in total. It will inevitably come at the expense of other things, like health, defence, education – everything we pay the government for, in fact.
There are huge problems with this, given the results of ten plus years of our unilateral energy policy so far, courtesy of the Blair government, which you can read about in detail here and, if you are abroad, compare to your own green energy policies.
The first problem is in the assumption that our example will shame the rest of the world into following suit, thus making worthwhile the huge cost of cutting our mere 1% contribution to world CO2 emissions (we’ve already, on paper at least, achieved more than most other countries apart from the USA). But the fact that nobody whatosever has followed us in the last ten years proves that this is a foolish hope, and the reasons are not hard to find: our extra costs make other countries more economically competitive, and they’re not about to lose that advantage.
Another, related, problem is that carbon trading was written into EU law before Mr Blair’s policy (as the paper I linked to explains), and so had to be enshrined in our law. The net result is that, so far, vitually all the emissions we have saved have been taken up by other EU countries: we are in effect producing expensive energy to subsidise cheap, fossil fuel, energy for countries like Poland. It is such countries that, alone in the EU, are able to manufacture the solar panels we buy, at a competitive cost.
That leads on to the unvalidated assumptions in the plan. It is assumed that green technology will make many more jobs. And the experience so far is that it has – but mainly in China, which is busy pumping coal-combustion products and CFCs into the atmosphere at an increasing rate – and largely because they can do the dirty manufacture of clean energy sources cheaper than the west can.
Germany’s promised wealth of new jobs failed to materialise for just such reasons, but our government chooses to ignore that and, I suppose, pictures an army of people being employed fitting solar panels and wind-turbines and then dismantling and transporting them to the ports where they will be exported to Indonesia (in electric ships?) to contaminate their rivers whilst we celebrate the re-introduction of beavers into ours as a triumph of our enlightened environmentalism.
The plan also assumes the future development of actually non-existent technology – such as carbon capture from the atmosphere, economic small-scale fuel cells, and some kind of effective storage for intermittent solar and wind energy (as one Canadian expert said, using the kind of batteries proposed for that by Elon Musk would require land equivalent to all our cities).
When one listens to those who understand electricity grids, the problems with restricting energy to intermittent sources like wind and sun are insurmountable even in theory. Without baseline generators like coal, and controllable peak sources like gas (both of them rendered uneconomic by current policies even if they weren’t regarded as evil), power becomes both hugely expensive and unreliable. Sometimes it is not there, sometimes it causes huge power surges, and it’s at its most available when it’s not needed.
There will be, as there already have been in every country moving in this direction, shutdowns and grid-failures as the norm. The new network of diesel generators in the UK is helping prevent this here, but it doesn’t get much publicity, perhaps because Joe Public is already being ficiancially penalized for the diesel car he bought because that was the green thing to do a few years ago, and he might inconveneiently ask why the national grid is becoming diesel-dependent at the same time.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts how the old Drax coal plant is now run on biofuels – in the form of wood chips from unsustainable American hardwoods shipped across the world by trucks, trains and ships powered by diesel. Apart from shipping and loss of forestry, the wood is less efficient than coal, and no less polluting in CO2 terms. Its theoretical “renewability” in terms of replacing trees (a strong pillar of the new policy) benefits the atmosphere only long after the supposed “tipping point” for irreversible catastrophe. We could, I suppose, change to palm oil from the Philippines or Borneo, but David Attenborough would not be pleased at the biodiversity cost.
Nuclear power is an excellent answer to the problem of intermittency, but of course it is opposed by most environmentalists (and it is that lobby the government appears to heed most). Our stalled nuclear programme was, last week, given a suggested boost by our French suppliers, in the form of a proposed £6 annual levy on every electricity bill – in addition, of course to what is already planned. Nobody from the government seemed to respond, so probably the nuclear can has been kicked down the road again.
The net result of all this (based on the collective experience of ourselves, Germany, Canada, Australia and so on), is that there is little or no net saving in carbon emissions across the world from any of this, and certainly not even a blip in the atmospheric CO2 measurements. But its cost, as in all those countries, and in green US states like California, is that the already serious 11% fuel poverty in this country – acknowledged by the government but somehow never associated with the massive increases in prices that our green energy policy has caused – will become even more acute.
And this will be augmented by the indirect increases in basic commodities because of extra energy costs. Does nobody even suspect a link between the increasing dependance on food banks by the poor in this country, and the costly energy policies we’ve had for the last ten years because of prophecies of doom in the future?
In other words, our ordinary people will become poorer (and many more than the present 9,000 annually will die in cold weather), and the country as a whole will fare that much worse in economic competitiveness, all because of the government’s desire to do virtue signalling to the rest of the world over the climate change problem… to say nothing of how real that problem is compared to the unvalidated models that have predicted, and keep predicting, ever more drastic, but unfulfilled, disasters every decade for the last fifty years.
As the Yellow Vest protesters in France say (and remember, that unrest started over a green fuel surcharge), “The élite is worried about the end of the world: we are worried about the end of the month.”
The bloke from the Government this morning – from the Minstry of Power, I believe – said, “My subject is Tudor History, but I don’t want to take us back to that time.” His policies may well do just that, but one also has to ask what qualifies a Tudor Historian to understand the economics of power generation and fuels for transport, or to understand the science of climate change. Voting pressures from below, EU directives from above and Greenpeace and the WWF shooting from the sidelines are not likely to hone his critical expertise. To me the policy seems a mixture of wishful thinking, lack of critical reflection and green flag-waving. At a cost of a trillion pounds, locked (it would seem) into our legal framework to prevent future governments backing out, it could be an error that ruins the nation. The only comfort is that most of the rest of the western world will be following behind.
The upside may be that the same kind of voices that make such optimistic predictions about the assured success of our unilateral human sacrifice on the altar of Green also, with equal assurance, speak about the economic disaster that would ensue from Britain’s exiting the EU on WTO terms. You get to the stage of concluding that, if our government says something, the opposite is almost certainly true.