SWAFFHAM PRIOR, England, Dec 6 (Reuters) – In a quiet field in eastern England a vast heat pump generates enough warmth to supply houses throughout a historic village, a pilot project testing ways to spur renewable energy use in a country that is falling behind its net zero targets.
Resembling a large agricultural site, with gleaming silver water vats, the heat pump produces water hot enough to feed existing domestic systems, removing the need for costly home retrofits. A 60-year funding scheme removed upfront costs.
Supporters say the network, the first of its kind in rural Britain, not only shows one way for the UK to catch up with Europe on heat pump adoption, but addresses how it can fund the wider net zero transition when household finances are tight.
“The truth is getting to net zero is going to cost money,” said Miles Messenger from Bouygues Energies & Services, which helped design and build the heat network in Swaffham Prior, near the university city of Cambridge.
“What this project brings in particular is a demonstration of how to do everything in one go for a village community.”
The government’s official climate advisers have said Britain is not doing enough to meet its net zero target.
If it is to hit the goal by 2050 it will need to decarbonise 28 million homes – a major challenge when 85% rely on piped natural gas for heating and hot water, and when that gas is significantly cheaper than the electricity used by heat pumps.
In Swaffham Prior, where a majority of homes were heated by oil, the team tested multiple scenarios to drive uptake. They found one large network would be more efficient than individual heat pumps, while the community approach and lack of upfront payment meant residents were more willing to sign up.
The 12 million pound ($15 million) cost was covered by a 3 million pound government grant and a loan secured by the local council which will be repaid via household bills over 60 years. To help the switch, bills are index-linked to be in line or less than the cost of heating oil and will in time be indexed to the price of electricity.
So far in a village of two churches, two windmills and around 300 houses, more than 60 are connected to the heat pump which uses both air and ground heat sources. More than 35 are ready to be added, and others are weighing whether to join.
I may not know much about Parisian culture, but I know a good documentary when I see one. In the gripping 2007 culinary adventure Ratatouille, a guy inherits a small restaurant and becomes a sensation cooking with a rat on his head when it turns out the rat is a way better chef than he is.
Oh it’s not real? Pardon me. Because I follow the energy scene closely, my ability to sort fact from fiction is severely diminished. One can only say to oneself “This can’t be happening” so many times before permanent damage occurs.
Regardless, the show is more than your typical rat-coming-of-age story. It is about looking past preconceived notions, although rat-as-chef is looking past pretty much everything. But it is still a fine piece with worthwhile messaging. Near the beginning, the rat becomes inspired while watching a famous chef’s cooking show when the chef tells the audience: “You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.”
That phrase leapt to mind the other day when watching a TV segment about one of the coolest initiatives I’ve ever heard of. The parallel isn’t exact because the main characters aren’t rats but ex-convicts, and the workplace is not a restaurant but a garage.
First off, to be clear, I’m not comparing ex-convicts with rats, except to the extent that there is a pretty significant stigma attached to both. For ex-convicts, one of the reasons for the low standing is that it is fiendishly hard to reintegrate successfully into society, and key to that challenge is the difficulty in finding employment. The difficulty in earning a living wage is the number one reason for a dismal 70 percent recidivism rate in the US.
So here’s the brilliant program I saw featured in a car show. An organization called Vehicles for Change has come up with, beyond the extremely clever name, a circular-economy type setup with a magnificently multiplicative series of interrelated benefits to multiple groups.
VFC is a “car donation and reentry internship program” whereby people can donate cars that presumably aren’t working very well. VFC then fixes them up with a target to re-introduce autos onto the market that will be good for at least two years and 24,000 miles of reliable service.
There are multiple independent yet advantageous aspects that are very compelling. First, VFC attracts donor cars because the IRS allows a full market value tax write off for cars that will be repaired and returned to use. That helps with step one, securing a supply of autos.
Next, VFC has a training program open to those who have left prison and wish to be trained as automotive technicians, of which the US is frightfully short.
Lastly, VFC then sells these autos back into the marketplace on favourable terms for individuals and families that cannot afford them otherwise.
Isn’t that fascinating? A single program that has potential to help multiple groups of people in multiple ways, and not through handouts. The program provides opportunities for those trying to rehabilitate, and it is in not just their but society’s interest to see that they succeed. And succeed it does: at the completion of the four month internship, 100 percent of graduates are employed in the auto service sector. Interns have rejuvenated nearly 7,000 autos, probably more by now.
The program is also a huge benefit to the automotive industry, which seems to be perpetually short of talent. One estimate has the US requiring 100,000 new auto technicians a year for the next 3 years, and no way to provide that number.
Of equal or more significance, VFC is also an incredible boon to a demographic that needs it more than most – the strata of society on the ragged edge, those fighting for survival, those that are looking to lift themselves up by the bootstraps but may be hindered or prevented without access to an affordable vehicle (for anyone suggesting public transit is just as good, I suggest you try it, so long as you take yourself to distant industrial parks not well served, plus where you drop off the kids for the day on the way to work, plus where you pick up groceries and essentials on the way home.)
The statistics for recipients of the program’s autos are pretty amazing: a study of VFC car purchasers showed that 75 percent found better jobs and/or boosted their earnings an average of $7,000 within the first year. Keep in mind that $7,000 for a low income person can be like a 25% wage increase.
The lessons here for an ‘energy transition’ are bountiful. (I insist on using quotations around ‘energy transition’ because there is scant evidence that it is a real thing yet, with hydrocarbon usage at all time highs, global emissions at all time highs, and renewable energy output at all time highs, against a backdrop of forced energy-change policy floundering on the rocks at an accelerating pace. A transition will happen either when hydrocarbon prices get very high and stay there, or when new technology commercializes something it has not yet. But do go on, ruling class, pretend otherwise.)
There is boundless potential in a worldview of ‘and’. Look at the power of stitching together these ideas into a singular program.
Telling ex-inmates to simply get a job and re-integrate is a road to nowhere. If it were that simple there wouldn’t be a conversation. Simply giving cars at below market rates to lower income people is likewise a road to nowhere. There is no sustainability in it.
But combine these ideas into a single strategy, and meet a desperate market need (lack of automotive workers) and there is a plan that is beautifully humanitarian, absolutely market friendly, and with the ability to move the needle in a positive way on many fronts.
What if we thought about energy that way? Take what works and add to it what we can. EVs work extremely well in certain functions and particularly in urban areas. Focus on building those networks and maintaining the system that works so well in other parts of the country where EVs don’t. Try forcing a singular solution – which is a meagre post-2035 buy-electric or buy-nothing – is insanity, and it won’t work. It just won’t.
Same as the forced lunacy of telling an arctic nation to switch en masse to heat pumps. In some regions of the country, in some places where the grid can handle the load, heat pumps will be at minimum a significant piece of the answer. We should then work on that as a partial strategy, for those reasons. But not an entire country.
That is what can cause one to lose their mind by following energy too closely; the possibility for fantastically productive ‘and’ solutions is not encouraged, it is discouraged. We need to find a way to stop that. Voters, it’s up to you. Don’t fall for baubles or handouts or unreal fantasies.
And remember the glorious rat from the beginning: You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Great ideas can come from anywhere, and if we can sidestep the worst horrors that politicians try to inflict, I am sure we will see many ‘and’ moments, such as companies that choose to utilize the natural gas system to reduce emissions rather than destroy it, as is the case with natural gas pyrolysis creating hydrogen and carbon black. In that instance alone, CO2 emissions from natural gas combustion are eliminated, a new product stream (carbon black) is formed with all sorts of ancillary benefits, and the world’s efficiency is enhanced by fully utilizing capital that has already been sunk into the ground.
There are good stories out there, just have to find and nurture them.
If we think about what humanity really needs at this point is more humanity. Inflation and the cost of living are making tough lives very much tougher. Rent and food costs are through the roof, and energy isn’t cheap either. All the basics of live are moving out of reach of those that can least afford them.
Let’s remember that, and try to think in terms of ‘and’ instead of ‘or else’.29dk2902lhttps://boereport.com/29dk2902l.html
Energy conversations should be positive and, most of all, grounded in reality. Life depends on it. Find out more in “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com. Thanks!
Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here, or email Terry here.
“Working in global energy and development, I often hear people say, ‘Because of climate, we just can’t aﬀord for everyone to live our lifestyles.’ That viewpoint is worse than patronizing. It’s a form of racism, and it’s creating a two-tier global energy system, with energy abundance for the rich and tiny solar lamps for Africans.” – Kenyan activist and materials scientist Rose Mutiso
“To deny the developing world access to the very infrastructure that has propelled us forward, all in the name of an uncertain future, is not environmentalism, but neocolonialism masquerading as virtue.” – Earth Scientist Matthew Wielicki
100 years ago, the global population was 2 billion. Over the past century, the population has increased to 8 billion, life expectancy has more than doubled, a much smaller percent of the global population is living in poverty, global wealth has increased by a factor of 20, agricultural productivity and yields have increased substantially, and a far smaller fraction of the population die from extreme weather and climate events. Hannah Ritchie’s ourworldindata.org provides fascinating data on global progress.
And all this has occurred during a period where the global temperatures have increased by about 1oC. The UN has dropped the extreme emissions scenarios (RCP8.5 and SSP5-8.5) from use in policy making, and the UNFCCC COP27 worked from an estimated 2100 warming of 2.5ºC. The 2023 IEA Roadmap to NetZero Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) projects a rise in average global temperature of 2.4ºC by 2100. When plausible scenarios of natural climate variability and values of climate sensitivity on the lower end of the IPCC range are accounted for, the expected warming could be significantly lower.
So our current best estimates of global warming by 2100 indicate that we will likely be close to, or within, the 2ºC target by 2100, based on our current understanding. So we are looking at an additional 0.8 to 1.2oC warming over the remainder of the 21st century, according to our current understanding. Natural climate variability is of course a wild card that can cut both ways, but the portion of the 21st century warming that the UN is hoping to control is order of 1oC.
The world has already shown that it can thrive under a warming rate of 1oC/century. To support continued human development and progress in the 21st century, there is widespread international agreement on the UNSDG Sustainable Development Goals, which provides a ranked list of 17 goals. The goals related to climate and energy policy include (with numerical ranking):
Affordable and clean energy
Industry, innovation and infrastructure
There is growing recognition that climate change is as much a development problem as it is an environmental one. Development deals with the alleviation (or eradication) of poverty. More recent notions of development include sustainable development and climate resilient development, which emphasize economic development without depletion of natural resources.
Tensions arise when the “sustainable” part—which includes no new fossil fuel-based energy systems—conflicts with poverty eradication and other sustainable development goals.
Inconsistency of Net Zero by 2050 with UN Sustainable Development Goals
A recent UN Report on Progress Towards Sustainable Development Goals states:
“Under current trends, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030, and only about one third of countries will meet the target to halve national poverty levels.”
“Shockingly, the world is back at hunger levels not seen since 2005, and food prices remain higher in more countries than in the period 2015–2019.”
“At the current rate of progress, renewable energy sources will continue to account for a mere fraction of our energy supplies in 2030, some 660 million people will remain without electricity, and close to 2 billion people will continue to rely on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking.”
Neglecting these sustainability objectives in favor of rapidly reducing CO2 emissions is slowing down or even countering progress on the most important Sustainable Development Goals.
Efforts to rapidly restrict the use of fossil fuels is hampering the #1 goal of poverty reduction in Africa and is restricting Africa’s efforts to develop and utilize its own oil and gas resources (goal #7), as funds previously used for development are being redirected to CO2 mitigation (goal #13).
The #2 goal of no hunger is being hampered by food prices and availability are being worsened by climate mitigation efforts (goal #13), such as disincentives for fossil fuel development causing less supply and higher prices of fuels necessary for agriculture, biofuels (e.g. corn and seed oils), restrictions on livestock, and restrictions on fertilizer.
Industry and infrastructure (goal #8) require steel and cement, which are currently produced by fossil fuels. Until such a time when steel and cement can be produced economically without fossil fuels, restricting fossil fuel access particularly in developing countries to support CO2 mitigation targets (goal #13) is hampering the development of industry and infrastructure, including clean energy projects.
Should one element of Goal 13, related to net-zero emissions, trump the higher priority goals of poverty and hunger and the availability of energy? Not if human well-being, flourishing and thriving are the objectives. Climate policy driven by the perceived urgency of eliminating fossil fuels and without regard to other needs and trade-offs is itself dangerous.
Conflict between NETZERO, Development and Adaptation
There’s no such thing as a low energy, rich country.
Economic development and resilience in underdeveloped countries are being slowed down by a growing emphasis on linking international development funds to reducing emissions. This emphasis comes at the expense of development funds that have historically been targeted for poverty reduction.
Resilience to weather and climate extremes requires adaptive capacity. The UN Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 focuses on the adoption of measures that address all dimensions of disaster risk—hazard, exposure, vulnerability and coping capacity. The Sendai Framework includes seven targets intended to define and measure progress towards its overall goal to increase resilience by reducing risk. The first four targets are to substantially reduce disaster impacts: mortality, number of people affected, economic loss, and damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services. The other three targets are to substantially increase the adoption of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies, international cooperation to developing countries and access to multi-hazard early warning systems.
Now, more than halfway through the period for the Sendai Framework (2015–30), none of the Sendai Framework’s “substantially reduce” targets are on track to be achieved by 2030. Instead, direct economic loss and damage to critical infrastructure having increased substantially over the past decade. Adoption of multi-hazard early warning systems have been the most successful element of the Framework, although these efforts need to be scaled up and made more effective. While disaster-related financing has increased since 2010, most of the resources have supported activities to respond to and recover from disasters.
Simply put, people are considerably less exposed to weather and climate shocks if they aren’t poor. Creating more resiliency in poor countries will require energy-intensive investments in housing, transportation infrastructure, and agricultural technology. Economic development requires the availability of cheap, reliable, and abundant energy.
The World Bank and other development banks provide loans and grants for development projects, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) helps poor countries overcome currency crises and keep their ﬁnances stable. However, these institutions are under pressure from their donor governments to focus on climate change—specifically, to reduce emissions. The IMF recently proposed the creation of a US$50 billion Resilience and Sustainability Trust to help countries tackle climate change, where support would be contingent on recipient countries’ plans to reduce emissions. Similarly, the World Bank has unveiled a climate action plan promising to align all future projects with the Paris Agreement to slash emissions.
As a result, international funds for development are being redirected away from reducing poverty and increasing resilience, and towards reducing carbon emissions. By limiting development of electric power, this redirection is exacerbating the harms from weather hazards and climate change for the world’s poor. Development and poverty reduction require abundant and cheap energy, and natural gas is regarded as the best near-term solution for most countries. Working against this need in developing countries, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on countries to end all new fossil fuel exploration and production. The United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union are aggressively limiting fossil fuel investments; the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other development banks are being pressured to do the same. The African Development Bank is increasingly unable to support large natural gas projects in the face of European shareholder pressure.
Limiting the development of fossil fuel projects is profoundly hampering development in Africa. Africa is starved for energy; sub-Saharan Africa’s one billion people have the power generation capacity that is less than the United Kingdom with 67 million people. Natural gas is needed not only for power, but also for industry and fertilizer and for cleaner cooking to avoid loss of life from indoor air pollution. One cannot overemphasize the significance of natural gas as a transition fuel in developing countries, especially in Africa. The irony is that even tripling energy use and emissions in sub-Saharan Africa driven by natural gas would add a meager 0.6 % to overall global emissions. The IEA projects that Africa won’t exceed 4 percent of global CO2 emissions by 2050 regardless of energy scenario.
Leaders from developing countries have been outspoken in criticizing these changes in international funding practices. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni warns that by pushing climate mitigation on African countries, the West will “forestall Africa’s attempts to rise out of poverty.” A widely viewed Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Talk by Kenyan energy expert Rose Mutiso characterized forcing emissions mitigation on the world’s poor that is widening economic inequality as equivalent to “energy apartheid.”
Africa’s fragile progress in recent decades could be undone by international efforts to curb investments in all fossil fuels. However, these same countries that are working to restrict fossil fuel investments in Africa include natural gas in their own multidecade plans to transition to clean energy. The greatest hypocrisy is that some of the largest private European and US firms are developing natural gas in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Senegal to export to Asia and Europe, since it can’t be used in the countries of origin for lack of infrastructure.
Prioritizing SDGs over Net-Zero
Every dollar spent on reducing carbon emissions can have a significantly greater impact if directed into education, medical services, food security, and critical infrastructure. To promote human well-being and thrivability, climate action in the poorest countries should concentrate on reducing poverty, increasing energy access, and building resilience via investments in housing, transportation, infrastructure, and agricultural technology.
Wise climate policy needs to recognize that there are no climate “cliff-edges” in the climate system, that there is a plurality of values at play, and that a plurality of goals should be accommodated in policy-making. In this spirit, climate scientist Mike Hulme has called for “climate pragmatism,” which would prioritize SDGs over Net-Zero. This approach “would not necessarily deliver the objective of the Paris Agreement: stabilizing global temperature at between 1.5C and 2C.” Recognizing that trade-offs between different SDGs and between SDGs and stabilizing global temperature are unavoidable, Hulme posits that “[i]t is quite easy to imagine future worlds in which global temperature exceeds 2C of warming which are ‘better’ for human well-being, political stability and ecological integrity, for example, than other worlds in which – by all means and at all costs – global temperature was stabilized at 1.5C.” In relation to the tension between zero-carbon and the need for affordable energy, Hulme states:
“Several of the SDGs – for example, eradicating poverty (SDG#1), securing quality education (SDG#4), ensuring decent work and economic growth (SDG#8) – will require the expansion of affordable and reliable energy services for billions of people, not least in Africa and South Asia. Only some of these services can be delivered by zero-carbon energy.”
How to respond to so-called the climate “crisis” in the midst of genuine crises associated with food and energy shortages and the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is best reflected by the response of the New Zealand government. In defending its decision to issue fossil fuel prospecting permits in spite of declaring a climate emergency, the New Zealand government stated that the climate crisis was “insufficient” to halt oil and gas exploration. Climate change is indeed a crisis of insufficient weight that will be increasingly ignored by many countries as they grapple with the basic human needs for energy and food.
There is no human right to a safe or stable climate
The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has stated that:
“… environmental degradation, climate change and unsustainable development constitute some of the most pressing and serious threats to the ability of present and future generations to enjoy the right to life.”
Reference is further given to a 2019 Report written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, which concluded the following:
“There is now global agreement that human rights norms apply to the full spectrum of environmental issues, including climate change.”
No attempt has been made by the UN to create international support for a new human right to be protected from climate change. Such a right is neither implicit or explicit in the UNFCCC Paris Agreement.
Even if Net Zero objectives were achieved globally by 2050, the climate would continue to change from natural weather and climate variability: volcanic eruptions, solar effects, large-scale oscillations of ocean circulations, and other geologic processes. Further, given the inertia in the climate system (particularly oceans and ice sheets), it would be many decades before there was any noticeable change in extreme weather/climate events and sea level rise after Net Zero was achieved.
Exaggeration of the risks from human-caused climate change leads to serious contradictions in context of beliefs that human rights offer protection against the impacts of dangerous climate change. Specifically with regards to the right to life, global mortality (per 100,000 people) from extreme weather and climate events have declined by 99% since 1920. Between the period 1980 and 2016, global mortality (per 100,000 people) from extreme weather and climate events has dropped by 6.5 times. For the mortality statistics since 1980, there is a clear negative relation between vulnerability and wealth. Thus, an increase in wealth provides much greater and much more certain protection against climate-related risks than emissions reduction.
The trend in mortality statistics does not mean that weather and climate disasters have become less frequent or less intense. The trend implies that the world is now much better at preventing deaths from extreme weather and climate events than in the past. This has been accomplished through increasing wealth, which provides better infrastructure, greater reserves, advance warnings, and greater recovery capacity.
Towards an Energy Transition that Supports Sustainable Development Goals
Yes, we can seek to lower emissions as low as reasonably practical, ideally while minimizing our regrets and maximizing our opportunities through the energy transition. But we should not pretend that we are controlling the climate. And people are less inclined to act on the energy transition if they can’t imagine the endpoint, and can’t see themselves better off in the future.
The IEA Net Zero Roadmap makes a fundamentally important statement about the transition to Net Zero. Clean energy investment and demand reductions will drive the energy transition, not a premature removal of fossil fuel resources:
“A large and sustained surge in clean energy investment is what removes the need for new fossil fuel projects in the NZE Scenario: reducing fossil fuel supply investment in advance of, or instead of, policy action and investment to reduce demand would not lead to the same outcomes. Prolonged high prices would result if the decline in fossil fuel investment in this scenario were to precede the expansion of clean energy and the action to cut overall energy demand that are also set out in this scenario. This would reduce the chances of an orderly transition to net zero emissions by 2050 and underlines the importance of action to secure the kind of surge in investment in clean energy and the demand reductions that are seen in the NZE Scenario.”
As the IEA emphasizes, clean energy development reduces the demand for fossil fuels; forced reduced supply of fossil fuels, on the other hand, causes adverse and counter-productive effects. In other words, clean energy supply precedes fossil fuels phase-out, not the other way around. The IEA prioritizes an orderly transition that aims to safeguard energy security through strong and coordinated policies and incentives that enable all actors to anticipate the rapid changes required, and to minimize energy market volatility and stranded assets. The IEA recognizes that coal-to-gas switching is reducing emissions, particularly in the U.S.
The rapid transition of electric power systems away from fossil fuels to meet net-zero emissions targets is introducing substantial new risks to electric power systems. A transition of the electric power system that produces reduced amounts of electricity, less reliable electricity and/or more expensive electricity to achieve net-zero goals would be a tourniquet that restricts the lifeblood of modern society and hampers development and will thwart sustainability efforts.
The debate is then between imposition of certain, intolerable risks from the rapid transition away from fossil fuels, versus the highly uncertain future impacts from climate change. This conflict can be resolved by relaxing the time horizon for reducing CO2 emissions while maintaining energy abundance, reliability and security through the energy transition.
The energy transition can be facilitated with minimal regrets by:
Accepting that the world will continue to need and desire much more energy – energy austerity such as during the 1970s is off the table.
Accepting that we will need more fossil fuels in the near term to maintain energy security and reliability and to facilitate the transition in terms of developing and implementing new, cleaner technologies.
Continuing to develop and test a range of options for energy production, transmission and other technologies that address goals of lessening the environmental impact of energy production, CO2 emissions and other societal values
Using the next several decades as a learning period with new technologies, experimentation and intelligent trial and error, without the restrictions of near-term targets for CO2 emissions.
In the near term, laying the foundation for zero-carbon electricity is substantially more important than trying to immediately stamp out fossil fuel use. Africa can develop its own natural gas resources. The transition should focus on developing and deploying new sources of clean energy. The transition should not focus on eliminating electricity from fossil fuels, since we will need much more energy to support the materials required for renewable energy and battery storage and building nuclear power plants, as well as to support growing numbers of electric vehicles and heat pumps. And adequate electricity and fuels for transportation, agriculture and industrialization will provide the framework for supporting rapid progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
 Bjorn Lomborg, “Welfare in the 21st Century: Increasing Development, Reducing Inequality, the Impact of Climate Change, and the Cost of Climate Policies,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 156 (July 2020): 119981, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2020.119981.
Over in the Spectator, Fraser Nelson is inviting us to welcome a change in Rishi Sunak’s tone on Net Zero. His interest has been piqued by the PM’s speech at COP28, which he says shows that Sunak has “started the difficulty work of moving the UK climate agenda from fantasy to policy”. There will be no more precautionary-principle daftness, we are told, and attention is drawn to the Prime Minister’s claim that from now on decarbonisation will be pursued “in a more pragmatic way, which doesn’t burden working people”.
Nelson is quite correct that the whole drive for Net Zero drive a fantasy. It is the triumph of political posturing and bureaucratic trickery over rational decisionmaking. Even when the Climate Change Act was passed, the costs were double the benefits. Recent figures from the Climate Change Committee suggest that the ratio has risen to over 4 to 1, but even that result relies on the Net Zero cost estimate, a dodgy dossier of considerable disrepute [1,2]. A more realistic figure is likely to be 10 to 1 or more .
Yes, facing the threat of being one percent worse off, the whole political establishment (and Starmer is just as bad as Sunak) is agreed that we should adopt policies that will make us ten percent worse off instead. It is hard to express just how mad this is.
The result, namely wholesale deindustrialisation, has been predictable. What Nelson proclaims as a triumphant reduction carbon dioxide emissions is in fact just the result of the wanton destruction of manufacturing industry in this country. In the last two months, we have lost our last blast furnace and one of our six oil refineries. Our last aluminum smelter and last fertiliser factory are long since gone. Make no mistake, this is a civilisational threat. And there haven’t even been any reductions in emissions – we have simply exported them to China, while adding some new ones as goods are shipped from Shanghai rather than manufactured here.
Nelson’s idea that Sunak is changing direction is also hard to take seriously. There is a pronounced sense of déjà vu here of course, because we were told exactly the same thing in September, in the Prime Minister’s much-vaunted Net Zero speech. Heralded as a major change of direction, it has amounted in practice to nothing at all. The only concrete effect has been minor delays to a couple of bans and cancellation of a lot of other policies that didn’t exist in the first place.
Meanwhile, there has been a palpable intensification of the Net Zero madness. Offshore windfarms were awarded an extraordinary price increase of 66% plus inflation. In Parliament today, they are voting on the ZEV mandate, which will add up to £15,000 to the cost of a petrol or diesel car. A similar scheme to force people to get heat pumps will follow. For the Prime Minister to say, on the same day, that he is going do Net Zero without “burdening working people” seems utterly shameless to me.
So, if Fraser will forgive me, if I am to be convinced that a change of direction is taking place, I will need more than just another deluge of empty words from the Prime Minister. His speech looks to me like more distraction.
Watkiss et al. for the CCC put the costs at 2 degrees of warming at around £12bn. The CCC itself puts the cost of delivering Net Zero at £50 bn per year. See P Watkiss et al. Monetary Valuation of Risks and Opportunities in CCRA3. Technical report for the CCC, Paul Watkiss Associates, 2021.
As well as the problems outlined in Note 2, the recent decision to give a 66% price increase to offshore windfarms, to around £100/MWh in current prices, around double the price assumed in the Net Zero costing, means that the bill to be paid may well be 50% higher.
As with the previous competent analyses of energy storage requirements needed to back up intermittent renewable generation that have been featured on this blog and in my energy storage Report, there is nothing complicated about the Fekete, et al., analysis. The authors call it “a modified surplus/deficit calculation [as] taught to water engineers to size reservoirs for meeting water demand when the water resources vary.”When there is surplus production you add it to storage, and when there is a deficit you subtract; and then you sum over a year (or two, or ten) to calculate how much storage you need. It’s all basic arithmetic. What could be simpler?
You will not be surprised that the conclusion is “CO2 obsession driven dead-end.”
This subject would seem almost too obvious and trivial to cover on this blog. There is nothing complicated here. Everybody who is involved in any way in the energy transition game, and who has even the lowest level of professional competence, simply must be aware of this subject and of these calculations. And yet I just attended the big New York “Climate Summit,” (aka the Krazy Klimate Konference), featuring all of the powerful politicians and bureaucrats and industry leaders who are in charge of our state’s energy transition, and to a person they have no idea about any of this. And by no idea, I mean none, zero, zilch. One guy even came up to me and accused me of being “rude” for laughing out loud at his astounding ignorance. (The only other possibility was that it was intentional comedy.)
Unsurprisingly, the authors of Fekete, et al., make no claim to being “climate scientists.” Climate scientists as a class are way too smart to stoop to doing basic arithmetic. In the intro to the paper, Fekete identifies himself as a professor at the City University of New York — of Civil Engineering. Second author Mihály Bacskó is a former executive of the Hungarian Power Company. The other two co-authors are meteorologists working at the University of Oklahoma. In other words, the focus here is not on scaring the public with frightening scenarios from the occult voodoo of climate “science,” but rather only on whether the proposed solutions will or will not work.
The particular calculations in Fekete, et al., look at data from twelve states of the northeastern U.S. — New England, plus New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia. Rather than using production data from existing wind and solar facilities, the authors obtained daily wind speed and solar irradiation data for the region. For consumption data, the blog post states that the authors applied an assumption of “constant energy consumption,” after determining that “seasonal variations of energy consumption are relatively small (deviate by only 10-15% of the annual average).” (Perhaps this decision could be criticized, but I doubt that it makes any material difference to the conclusion.)
And the bottom line is:
The storage capacity needed to align power generation from solar or wind is around 25% of the annual energy consumption.
In other words, you need three months worth of storage to try to make this work. Previous studies that I highlighted in my energy storage Report — for example, those of Roger Andrews and Ken Gregory — had calculated storage needs in the range of one to two months. However, those studies only used one year’s worth of data for each calculation, and allowed running the storage balance right down to zero. If you think that it’s too risky to run the storage right down to zero before the balance starts to refill, then three months of storage is a much more reasonable figure. Indeed, it’s still rather conservative.
Fekete, et al., don’t get into the specifics of cost of any possible storage solution. But then, they don’t need to. The potential costs are so enormous as to completely rule out any attempt even to start down this road. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, total U.S. electricity consumption in 2022 was just over 4 trillion kWh. So one-quarter of that would be just over 1 trillion kWh. Just to get an idea of the cost of that much energy storage, this site (Tesla fans) gives a (highly optimistic) cost for Tesla batteries of just over $100 per kWh. So a trillion of those will run you about $100 trillion. That’s four times the entire U.S. economy. Meanwhile, a Tesla-style battery is not remotely up to the job of the energy storage needed to back up wind/solar electricity generation, which would necessarily include the ability to save up power over a year or more and discharge over a year. But then, the economics are so wildly out of line that it’s hardly worth worrying about such technicalities.
Fekete, et al., in a very understated manner, put it this way:
In the absence of energy storage technology that can store several months worth of energy, one has to conclude that all studies suggesting that solar or wind are price competitive with other forms of energy should be retracted.
The Fekete blog post at Climate, Etc. contains two other subjects of interest. One relates to the peer review process. It appears that one of the peer reviewers made a run at getting the paper blocked, without stating the nature of any substantive criticisms:
One of the reviewers stated that “The manuscript contains fundamental errors that cannot be rectified through author revisions” without venturing into any details.
Fekete calls this effort “unscientific, unjust, and unethical,” which is again quite an understatement. Sadly, such conduct is the norm in what goes by the name “climate science” today. Fortunately, in this case, another reviewer was supportive, as was the staff of the journal.
The second subject of further interest in the blog post is that another reviewer criticized the draft paper for alleged “lack of references to the “plethora of work” related to integrating renewables to the current energy systems and transitioning to a sustainable energy future.”The criticism caused the authors to “roll up their sleeves” and go out and review some 360 papers recommended by the critic. Here is a list of what they found:
The inter-annual and seasonal variations were rarely studied.
The vast majority of the studies were limited to diurnal and minute-by-minute variations.
The publications only investigated the use of few hourly storage capacities.
The primary sustainability metric was reducing CO2 emissions.
Most of the publications were limited to low renewable penetration.
No publication attempted to address complete decarbonization.
Even the most ambitious “deep decarbonization” scenarios stopped at 25-50% renewable contributions that was considered “high renewable penetration”.
And in summary:
Most of the reviewed papers assumed that solar and wind will be always supplemented by some form of “firm generation capacity”, which is the obfuscated name of using fossil fuels complemented with “carbon capture and sequestration”.
In other words, the orthodox “peer reviewed” scientific literature is almost completely lacking in consideration of the most important, fundamental problem of transitioning to an energy system based on electricity generated by the wind and sun. Well, now there is one competent paper in the mix. They will do their best to ignore it, at least until the whole wind/solar thing has conclusively shown that it can’t work.
The mainstream media are gearing up to bombard people with terms like “climate emergency,” “climate justice” and “climate equity” in anticipation of this week’s start of the 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties in Dubai.
They might even introduce catchphrases and announce historic breakthroughs in emission-reduction diplomacy. The public relations messaging of climate politics, however, has little connection with the economic realities of countries such as India that require heavy use of fossil fuels.
As politicians in fuel-guzzling jets prepare to descend on Dubai and lecture poor countries on energy morality, India is sending a subtle yet clear message that it is not giving up coal, oil and natural gas.
In India, elephants reign supreme, capturing the hearts of those who encounter them. With a staggering 32,000 elephants, the sprawling tropical forests of India are home to the sixth-largest population of these majestic creatures. In my formative years, I had the privilege of visiting these gentle giants in their native domain.
In recent years, I’ve witnessed my native country rise as a metaphorical elephant that refuses to go away.
India — along with China and African and Southeast Asian nations — has become the “elephant in the room” at the yearly U.N, climate gatherings. Leaders of the subcontinent have steadfastly asserted the country’s right to use fossil fuels, unwilling to comply with restrictive U.N. recommendations for energy policy.
The U.N. climate conference in 2015 was hailed as a pivotal moment as it sparked the creation of the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. But even at that time, India’s resistance was unmistakable.
During the formulation of the agreement, India vehemently opposed the imposition of stringent emission-reduction mandates on its economy. It played an integral role in devising of the term “climate justice” while arguing that economic progress should not be sacrificed by restrictions on the use of fossil fuels.
In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution — a document where individual countries outlined their level of commitment to the Paris accord — India made clear that it would not compromise domestic energy security at the altar of climate religion.
At the 2022 gathering in Egypt, climate luminaries put forth a pioneering proposition to phase out all fossil fuels. Again, India persistently opposed such a course of action, opting instead to pursue a “phase down” rather than a “phaseout” of fossil fuels. With no intention to decrease its consumption of fossil fuels, the country has boldly put off net zero, the holy grail of the climate-obsessed, until 2070.
Unbeknownst to many, Indian Power Minister R.K. Singh conceded in August that meeting the burgeoning energy needs of a developing country like India would be unattainable without a noticeable escalation in the utilization of fossil fuels.
“If you have an economy that is growing at 7%, electricity from coal will also grow,” he said. “We will meet the energy requirement for our growth because we have a right to grow.”
CNBC reports unanimous agreement among analysts that India’s solar, wind and hydro energy capabilities are deemed unreliable to support growing power needs. Sooraj Narayan, Wood Mackenzie’s senior research analyst, says that India’s “heightened power demand necessitates a reliable, cost-effective, and consistent power generation source, which coal currently fulfills.”
India is the world’s second-highest user of coal and third-largest consumer of oil. India has had a dramatic surge in coal imports from Indonesia and is seeking new markets from which to buy coal. Many new mines are being opened annually.
At the G20 summit earlier this year, India proposed a new strategy called “multiple pathways” that seeks unabated, continued use of fossil fuels — a direct contradiction of the West’s decarbonization schemes. This conflict may reemerge at the upcoming U.N. climate gathering.
Major developing economies seem unfazed by the yearly U.N. climate conference as they continue to meet energy needs with hydrocarbons. With the world relying on fossil fuels for 80% of its primary energy, this dependence is expected to grow with an increasing number of people trading poverty for prosperity in the coming decades.
Announcements about emission-reduction breakthroughs at these events are little more than flimsy shields trying to hide an elephant the climate elite refuses to acknowledge. The reality of economic imperatives, however, will eventually expose the folly of decarbonization plans.
The jet-setters gathered in Dubai have been hit with blow after blow of bad election news.
It is clear that “global warming” (now “climate change”) has, from the beginning, been a smokescreen for replacing free market capitalism and, with it, human freedom and prosperity — even the freedom of nations and individuals to choose their own destinies.
Nobel laureate Milton Friedman summed it up in chapter 1 of his seminal book Capitalism and Freedom:
Economic arrangements play a dual role in the promotion of a free society. On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself. In the second place, economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.
At the 1992 Rio Summit, Sen. Tim Wirth echoed the need to “offer up scary scenarios” (as climate propagandist Stephen Schneider infamously said) in admitting, “We have got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”
Al Gore, in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, crowed that, “We must make the rescue of the environment [updated in 2021 to “decarbonization”] the ‘central organizing principle’ for civilization.” And the much-celebrated Mikhail Gorbachev in 1996 spilled the beans, stating, “The threat of environmental crisis will be the international disaster key to unlock the New World Order.”
This vision of a “new world order” is definitely not what President George H. W. Bush envisioned, one in which “the principles of justice and fair play … protect the weak against the strong … a world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations.”
Nor is it what IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer warbled in 2010: “One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth.”
Well, technically, Edenhofer was right. The institution of global governance will surely “redistribute” the world’s wealth – from the poor and middle class to the rich.
Want evidence? The great majority, using subsidies or rebates to buy electric vehicles, earn over $100,000 a year. The reason is obvious: poor and middle-income people cannot afford (or have a garage for) personal EV charging stations; EV insurance rates are through the roof in many countries; and most people cannot afford long waits for repairs.
Socialist Hugo Chavez once claimed that socialism was “the way to save the planet; capitalism is the road to hell.” Venezuela’s GDP per capita rose during Chavez’s reign, but under his successor Nicolas Maduro, GDP per capita dropped from $12,688 in 2013 to just $2,624 in 2019. The BBC reported in 2021 that three-fourths of the nation’s people were living in “extreme poverty.”
Contrary to the massive weight of historical evidence, they tell us that socialism is more benevolent and more equitable than free-market capitalism.
The late Charles Krauthammer, in October 2009, in a speech entitled, “Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the End of American Ascendancy,” warned that President Obama and the ultraliberal leadership of Congress were pursuing policies that, as Peter Ferrara put it, “will by design produce major declines in the standard of living of the American people.”
Many say the Biden Administration is more of the same – in spades. And in Dubai, the billionaires and their hired (or brainwashed?) disciples clamor for greater reductions in energy production, cutbacks on meat production (in favor of billionaire-owned fake meat and crickets), and other “sacrifices” by the hoi polloi that they will never make themselves. George Soros even boasted that “I fancied myself as some kind of god.”
But, as in the movies, a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.
Here and there, nations and people began throwing out socialist leaders in favor of Giorgia Meloni in Italy (whose election opened up a crack in the Net Zero unity), Christopher Luxon in New Zealand, and Javier Milei in Argentina. Even Geert Wilders was the highest vote-getter in the Dutch elections. Even Justin Trudeau’s reign in Canada is under serious threat.
The would-be dictators and their minions in the media and “public service” are not happy, and their dismay (and panic?) is being reflected in Dubai and in the media.
Christiana Figueres, the architect of the Paris Climate Agreement said, “We have to keep the outrage really high because we are so darn late.” In an interview with Al Jazeera, Figueres added, “I thought fossil fuel firms could change. I was wrong.”
True. She was wrong – to think companies don’t respond to demand. Or to think that people would voluntarily give up the freedom that gasoline has long afforded them. She was wrong to think major sacrifices by Westerners would prod China, India, and African nations into eschewing fossil fuels their people know “fueled” the West’s rise to prosperity.
The natives are restless – and freedom is worth fighting for.
Fusion energy powers our sun, all the stars in the universe, and sustains life on Earth. Fusion is the Holy Grail of energy – safe, sustainable, and carbon-free. Fusion fuel the size of a raisin, contains enough energy to power a typical home for several years displacing the burning of 12 tons of coal which would create 25 tons of carbon dioxide.
For more than 75 years, it has been a dream to recreate the sun’s fusion energy here on Earth. Even though tens of billions of dollars have been expended by teams of scientists and engineers working around the world on a variety of fusion approaches, there has been no experimental proof that the fusion energy dream could be realized.
That is, until a year ago when everything changed.
On December 5, 2022, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world’s largest and most energetic laser, 192 laser beams were pointed at a peppercorn-sized target and a tiny sun was created on Earth. More fusion energy was produced than the laser energy needed to ignite the fusion fuel.
The significance of this breakthrough cannot be overstated. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm referred to it as “One of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century.” Some have likened it to the historic “Kitty Hawk moment” when the Wright Brothers were the first to successfully fly a manned aircraft. The Wright Brothers flight represented the first step towards commercial air travel and a vast aerospace industry.
Like Kitty Hawk, fusion energy gain at the NIF will be one of those historical “before and after” moments. The challenge now is to convert fusion physics to baseload commercial power, providing unprecedented megawatts of sustainable zero-emission electricity. Fusion energy can also be used for powering the hydrogen economy, creating low-carbon commodities including fertilizers, syn-fuels, cement, and steel, and de-carbonize the desalination of water. The fusion industry and its applications can be a multi-trillion-dollar business for decades to come.
As the former Director of the NIF, I am frequently asked what is the plan to accelerate the commercialization of this technological achievement and bring it to the marketplace?
During my time at the NIF, a laser fusion power plant design effort was initiated. Scientists and engineers, in collaboration with major U.S. utilities, leading technology vendors, NGOs, and regulatory experts, developed a fully integrated commercial laser fusion energy power plant concept and the plan for deploying it. It was founded on two basic assumptions — that fusion with energy gain would be proven — it has been, and that new laser and other technologies not available when the NIF was being built would be — they are. These include 30 years of parallel development of groundbreaking laser and associated technologies apropos to power plant construction and operation.
Of course, there is still more to do in all aspects of these technologies. The path ahead will require the same dedication and innovation that has been the hallmark of this field which, having been there, gives me great confidence. This will be instrumental in solving the most consequential challenges facing humankind — providing clean, renewable and sustainable energy, mitigating climate change, and providing for energy security.
The enormous potential for growth and opportunity in the emergent fusion industry requires that the U.S. maintains its clear leadership position and be aware of fusion energy efforts in China and around the world. Being ahead now reduces risk from foreign competitors later.
The Federal government, led by the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration, has provided decades of funding and policy support for many fusion research approaches. Today’s breakthrough in laser fusion energy, and important advances in other fusion approaches, makes it essential that government and private capital work together to assure successful and accelerated fusion energy commercialization for our nation. The impact can be monumental.
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of America’s fusion energy breakthrough, we are proud that the nation is still capable of doing big and important things.
Let us embrace a future underpinned by clean and sustainable fusion energy.
Dr. Edward Moses is the Chief Executive Officer of Longview Fusion Energy Systems. He was the Director of Livermore’s National Ignition Facility from 2000 to 2013 and was responsible for leading the design, technology development, construction and operation of the NIF.
Global warming, climate change, all these things are just a dream come true for politicians. I deal with evidence and not with frightening computer models because the seeker after truth does not put his faith in any consensus. The road to the truth is long and hard, but this is the road we must follow. People who describe the unprecedented comfort and ease of modern life as a climate disaster, in my opinion have no idea what a real problem is.