Andrew McKillop: Climate Change Business Fights On

Posted: August 23, 2012 by tallbloke in Analysis, Energy, government, Incompetence, Politics

Andrew McKillop August 23 2012

The downturn in public tolerance of being lectured and harassed about global warming and climate change “crisis” has accelerated fast. Calls by the starry-eyed for crash programs of adaptation to climate change no longer incite more than a yawn among most grown up persons, today. Conversely, the process of racking up energy prices “to fight climate change” is now perceived by the general public as a threat and a political challenge to hit back against profiteers and price gougers, who spout climate change slogans to disguise the real nature of their activity.

In previous articles I have covered the heroic struggle by the tiny band of bankers, brokers and traders who operate Europe’s forced trading of emissions credits (ETS) to avoid an almost inevitable collapse of their racket and keep it alive. Among the rationales, excuses and one-liners used by the band of bankers, brokers and traders who feed from the ETS trough we find the supposed urgent need to accelerate the development of renewable energy supply in Europe – but renewable energy, these days, can go it alone on basic energy-economic grounds  without the tawdry props of inherently corrupt casino finance, or junk science.

The rationale of “financing energy transition” is however still heard from defenders of the climate change gravy train, who continue to claim that “everybody agrees” that – by about 2050 – Europe should obtain as much as 85% of its energy supply from renewable sources, but with no agreement on how to get there. Translated, the financial sector is asking for the right to invent new subsidies and not remove existing subsidies: when or if ETS falls by the wayside, or simply falls apart, new “energy finance” gimmicks can be cobbled up.

The key symbol of government subsidy and support to climate change business in Europe – as opposed to renewable energy business – is the emissions trading scheme (ETS). At this moment, the financial sector is pushing to extend ETS to the “next generation” of energy sector opportunities, for hopeful easy pickings. These include Europe-wide development and operation of electrical smart grids and super grids, the extension of gas grids, possibly costing much more than 500 billion Euros, enabling 24-hour 7-day trading of electricity, and gas, and possibly heat where that is technically possible.

To this mega-project for so-called “new energy infrastructures”, most of which are in no way necessary, and all are for profit (and many are only-for-profit), the climate change For-Profit business team adds European-wide CO2 transmission grids and CO2 burial and storage installations (CCS). The cost of building these massive installations, the utility of which is possibly zero, is suggested by analysts as probably well over 1 trillion (1000 billion) Euros, if it was in fact physically and technically feasible to build tens of thousands of kilometres of CO2 pipeline systems across Europe “by about 2040”. For the band of profiteers, the cherry on the cake would be 24/7 trading of CO2 cargoes and destinations.

In brief, ETS has been a big disappointment for the banker and broker “community”. Even the most optimistic estimates of trading turnover on a nominal “paper value” basis are only 60 – 75 billion Euros a year, with low profits for the financial players, and a minuscule “pass through” to real world and real life energy projects on the ground. The possibility of a crash landing for ETS is now strong, making it urgently necessary for the “carbon finance community” to work up new gimmicks


For the moment the “carbon finance community” almost exclusively focuses the electric power production and transmission sector. Institutions inside the “community” like the European Climate Foundation, Point Carbon (now a Thomson Reuters subsidiary), Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance division for Europe, and other promoters of huge government spending to fight the small (or non existent) menace of global warming remain fixated about “tremendous opportunities for the power sector”. Translated, this means the profiteers know their opportunities are policy-driven and depend on Big Government. The need to cozy up to government is permanent, to keep it onboard and supportive at all times. The result is the “business community” maintains a wall of unreal propaganda.

The goal of the talk-talk is what it always was, for any charlatan enterprise, anywhere. Behind the smokescreen, or talkscreen, the need is to create shortages and volatile supplies of energy  – because these are literally the base for “massive opportunities” for trading. No modern trader-type market can be operated successfully, for its owners (not its victims) without scarcity and volatility of supplies. In the energy sector both European gas and European electricity supplies are targeted, but the menace (for finance sector charlatans) that ETS may collapse or be abandoned by politicians, makes it necessary for them to build up, or at least maintain the political and corporate elites’ “commitment” to climate change crisis, to strike while the climate is still warm and the going is still relatively easy, so to speak.

The European Climate Foundation is a good example of how climate change business operates in Europe. Founded with cash contributions from finance sector icons including George Soros, its supposed function is as a “bridge-builder”. After itself siphoning a part of subscription fees and donations, it passes on money it gets from big funders such as major international private foundations, banks and in its case, the Dutch National Postcode Lottery, to other and smaller NGO’s operating the “climate change advocacy business”. Like all other climate change business players, it obligatorily publishes “low-carbon roadmaps”, each one a landmark issue of course. Also like the others, it intensely and permanently lobbies the European Commission and related institutions, to lever more funding for itself, and the generality of climate change business.


The climate change business lobby is nothing if not moralizing. Among its “do as I say – not what I do” examples of hypocrisy it claims to support a stable and honest society of the sustainable future, while it eagerly promotes emissions trading which is at least as corrupt as any other facet of the dysfunctional and parasitic global finance system. Also, because it is now threatened by an implosion of public, and then political support, European climate business needs to go further and faster. The EU’s official “decarbonisation policy” and 2050 Energy Roadmap have been launched, but public interest is now about zero, as the corporate and banking sector adopt a watchful attitude on where they place their own cash. In policy newspeak there is a clear need for “strong policy signals” to save the climate party.

Governmental confusion and hesitation is starkly shown by many EU governments, such as the UK with its already long-running “new build nuclear” controversy. At the same time as the UK government seeks to build the world’s biggest offshore windfarms by 2020, at a cost presently estimated at about 200 billion pounds (about $300 billion), it also wants new nuclear power plants – defined as “low carbon” – and even more expensive than offshore wind. Current forecasts, by the UK government itself on electricity tariffs needed to entice the only remaining French-Russian consortium to build new nuclear plants are around 165 pounds (about $250) per 1000 kWh.

Climate and sustainability are losing their interchangeable, synonymous green light status for corporate spending intentions but because this is above all an “internationalist or globalist” quest, the potential for climate and sustainability being teamed with European Federalism was always high. Until the late 1980s we can note, what is now the European Union of 27 states had a much smaller appetite for continent-wide political power. Electric power was in particular a national domain of competence, with “symbolic activities”, like the 1957 Euratom Community, for Europe-wide atomic energy development, remaining a tiny underfunded “nice idea’ taken care of by a few dozen bureaucrats in Brussels. There was no cooperation, except symbolic energy research and absolutely no Europe-wide energy trading and energy-derived trading.

The first “ethical adaptation” of the climate business lobby was to ramrod the trader mentality into place: one key need was therefore scarcity, which for the ETS has itself created its own problems. European institutions and member governments continually print and issue too many emissions credits, so their unit value declines. The ETS, of 2005, has been followed by the 2008 climate-energy package, but today this second “pillar” for creating higher more volatile priced, and increasingly traded energy supplies in Europe has already begun to seriously fade. Member state interpretations of this 2008 policy package are now widely different, and will go on diverging. The very predictable response from the banker, broker, trader and corporate “community”, and the NGOs who feed off climate change business, is the present, increasingly shrill call for further and more intensive “carbon caps” by the central institutions of Europe, the Union, the Commission, and its related and dependent agencies.

Creating fantasy visions of the past is critical to the success of the climate business “community”: the most critical and basic is the absurd notion that “until the 1990s” there was an almost total absence of value in the electric power sector: the value of power was “unknown in the old days”. From about 1995, inside the European Commission, the go-go neoliberals (after a 15 year incubation period) had taken power over policy in most domains, including energy. Their message was of course The Market. As any European energy consumer will tell you, “the energy market” resulted in plenty of rhetoric, of course, but it only delivered higher priced energy.

The next ethical adaptation was to destroy all “vertical integration” in the power sector, called “unbundling”, creating the parasitic market trading layer in the electricity production and distribution layer cake – with an absolutely obligatory increase of average power prices. The old monopoly system, and its profit and financing system, was replaced by a new and out-of-control, ever growing web of “power sector players”. Unbundling, to be sure, created a powerful notion of price – if not value – but due to the critical and basic need to destroy transparency and enable rich pickings from price gouging, the overall size of Europe’s power system has swollen massively since the 1990s. Today’s sure and certain risk is that this asset bubble is now so “mature” it will collapse.


In parallel, deregulation became the elite policy call for European energy. For the defenders of this policy or strategy – privatizing public assets and then price gouging – the key “market-based instrument” is the ETS, but its parlous and shaky state, today, is an open threat to the whole card castle of climate change business and the “ethical adaptation” that climate change supposedly demands. The new trick of the lobby is therefore as explained above: to seek political support for new and much bigger programs, like super grids and CO2 grids for CCS, while further intensifying ETS.

Related rationales are being put in place by the business lobby: put simply, their definition of  “sustainable society” will need a lot more electricity. The 2050 European Commission energy roadmap sets an easy-to-memorize and repeat doubling, from 20% to 40% of all energy used in Europe being electricity by 2050 – in other word’s full scale electrification. To be sure, the present 20% (in fact 21.1% for 2011) share of electricity in Europe’s final energy use is one of the highest rates in the world, meaning that doubling it would be policy driven to a huge extent. Without rock solid political support on a long term basis there is zero chance this electrification process could be achieved – and no corporate players will be risking their own cashflow on this quest, without it.

This sets the climate change business lobby back to “saving ETS”. The corporate players in the lobby (such as the Big 4 electric power producers of Germany, France’s EDF, and Spain’s heavily troubled renewable power producers like Iberdrola and Acciona), and their climate business NGO acolytes are therefore now pushing for “clear, trustworthy prices” of new-issue ETS paper. The most massive and splendid irony is that only in the period since 2005, and almost unrelated to the symbolic but parasitic presence of ETS, the amount of CO2 emissions by Europe’s 12 000 controlled emitters (mainly power producers and heavy industries) has declined by at least 12% – 15%. CO2 emissions have fallen – and so have the prices or “value” of emissions credits printed by European governments and institutions.

The classic response is highly predictable: less tradable paper must be printed, and previous oversupply must be destroyed. In other words scarcity must be created, even with emissions credits, proving the “market based” nature of this parasitic paper chase layered on top of the electric power cake. To be sure, the corporate and NGO explanation of “why it all went wrong” bemoan the post-2008 economic and financial meltdown, explaining this was such a surprise their computer programs ran amok – but for a policy seeking less CO2 emissions this is a success. What are they whining about?

More sinister for all Europeans who do not operate at corporate level nor trade ETS paper (about 99.99% of Europeans) the pat response of the energy-intensive industries is that ETS is working as it should, reducing emissions at the lowest possible cost to them, as they delocalize and as emissions credits get ever-cheaper, because they are fundamentally worthless. Above all, the idea of energy taxation is resisted by all corporate players, notably because it is transparent and easily understood by ordinary persons. However, the corporate and NGO defenders of climate change business, in the past 6 months, have “opened up to taxation”. They want very high taxes, to fund the CO2 CCS pipedream, of putting CO2 in pipes and sending it around Europe, north to south and east to west.

The new corporate-NGO stance is therefore what we can call the best of all worlds – for them. They want more expensive ETS tradable emissions credits, and they want higher energy taxes. Unsurprisingly, this ultimate in regulation for a “deregulated market”, calls on the European Commission to take the lead role on “coordinating and harmonizing” the new support schemes – based on higher energy prices – that would build on what started in the 1990s.


It is even betting that Europe’s political and corporate elites had no inkling of the technological and industrial success that would happen to renewable energy in Europe in at most 10 years.  Ten years ago the power companies did not have special renewables divisions and inside the European Commission’s energy directorate renewable energy was still a pigeonhole in the nuclear power and energy conservation bureau. Activity has exploded since then and the industry has moved on.

The supposed role of renewable energy forcing “integration” in Europe, needing a Federal European system, is based on the notion that increasing volumes of energy produced from renewable sources mean member states will obligatorily be more dependent on each other. The whole decarbonisation process will supposedly make member states more and more dependent on each other. To use these widely distributed and different energy resources you have to cooperate and to do this you need a Federal Europe – in theory.

Arguing the exact opposite of this is easy: the German stadtwerke and their “renaissance” is a good example of decentralized energy favouring decentralized energy asset ownership and operation with high levels of public participation.

Avoiding this much more efficient and democratic alternative is now a key goal of Europe’s climate business lobby and its corporate friends. Their first concrete target is to force political deciders and energy policymakers to move forward on a European Super Grid. The corporate and NGO newspeak is that more grid capacity and stronger grid “cooperation” are part and parcel of the deregulation issue – but today they are forced to admit there is almost no progress at all. Knowing that the costs of a 42 000 kilometre Super Grid (as projected by the EU-related power transport agency the ENTSO-E), would be extreme, the first argument of the lobby is that – relative to “full decarbonization of electric power” – transmission will take less than 10% of the total spending need

In approximate terms this would place “fully decarbonized” power production as costing around 3.5 to 4 trillion Euros, and a full-blown EU Super Grid costing a mere 375 billion Euros. The time horizon, which is constantly dragged nearer the present “due to the urgency of the global warming crisis” would be about 2030 – 2035. Talking around these numbers is the meat of the climate business NGOs, who regularly produce “landmark” studies showing that “everything will be more expensive” when and if it concerns energy. Continuing to use fossil fuels can only drive costs even higher.

Due to this getting harder and harder to say with a straight face – notably because renewables are getting cheaper and massive new supplies of shale and stranded gas are in the offing – the fallback is to exaggerate the “imputed costs” for climate change effects. In turn this explains why, even today, old time video clips of ice cliffs crashing into the Arctic sea are still to be found (at least on late night TV viewing channels) – because the threat to not only society, but also the planet obviously comes with a giant size price ticket. Showing the extreme coordination of European corporate and climate business NGOs, all recent studies produced by the well populated climate lobby, that I have seen, show extremely small cost difference between their different scenarios, often no more than a few percent.


The simplest question is how far do current policy initiatives, such as the European energy infrastructure package go towards solving the problems they fThe simplest answer is that no present problem created by “climate crisis” and deregulation can be solved without finding a lot of money, very fast. The proposed Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a very small-sized cousin of the Financial Stability Fund – but similar in not having any real cash – and faces the same “residual national jurisdiction” problems as the unfunded and low credibility sovereign debt and bank bailout fund. Making resources available needs a stronger European dimension because power grid operators are mostly national and their international role is very unclear.

Just like the FSF will finally have to get its cash from the pockets of consumers and taxpayers, through new consumption and revenue taxes, and reduced government services, the CEF’s money will have to come out of power consumers’ pockets through government-dictated regulated tariffs, further racked up and very occasionally down, by traders hunched over their playstation trading consoles. Relative to the actual physical cost of power transmission, which is low, the “overheads”, including the corporate and trading rake-offs, are extreme high making it sure and certain that power prices must grow.

The CEF infrastructure package is seen as a good start by the climate business lobby. Hectic horse trading is now under way, in corporate energy Europe, on cross-border cost-benefits. Unlike the bad old days of what the neolibs call “almost Stalinian” nationally owner power generating and transmission monopolies, where financing an interconnector was done through a trade contract between two monopolies, today’s broken down “unbundled” jumble of players makes things an awful lot more complicated when it doesn’t simply make it impossible. In turn, this throws up yet another unwanted and sinister shadow on the wall, for the climate business lobby: micro grids, which are of course highly adapted to decentralize energy production by locally-owned and controlled assets. The pat answer of the lobby is that this solution is bad – because it needs a lot of small new grids.

Strictly limited in its role in climate lobby scenarios, like the potential role for stadtwerke-type ownership of power assets and the development of micro grids, the place of energy efficiency and “de-electrification” of the economy is avoided. The basic reason is simple: the return on investment with these alternatives is so much higher than the “corporate and NGO friendly” big spending solution. Minimising investments in new transmission infrastructure, reducing electricity demand and using a rational strategy for renewable/fossil energy mixes will always be more economic.

To be sure, any less expensive and more rational solution is avoided like the plague, by the climate business lobby. Its ace card for nearly unlimited spending is carbon capture and storage (CCS). Showing the strange mixture of outright arrogance an naivety we find in these “ethical adapters” to future fuel poverty for millions of persons – but not them – the argument is that CCS is most urgent and vital in China and India, but for Europe it will only be obligatory to have continent-wide system of CO2 transport and burial by “about 2030”.  Costs for continent-wide CCS are so extreme it is not necessary to give them – due to public acceptance of CCS being close to zero.


The international context in determining where Europe goes on climate and energy policy is impossible to ignore – despite the brave attempts of the lobby to ignore each European defeat in every major international climate conference since the ill-fated Dec 2009 Copenhagen conference. The lobby puts a breezy spin on these serial defeats, arguing that there is “considerable progress on climate issues” in China, India, and “even the USA”, but that coordination is bad, and this explains the delay in fixing up a global ETS with a high carbon price.

We are therefore almost 100% certain to see a return of naked climate global warming crisis material in government-friendly mainstream media, in coming weeks and months from Summer 2012. The loss of public support, and lack of public support for “building a more sustainable climate future” is now very actively perceived by the climate change business lobby as a major handicap. The mentality of the corporate and NGO lobby – elitist, arrogant, greedy – makes it certain their new propaganda blitz will be yet more laughable than previous, because they refuse to understand that people in Europe, today, do not want their version of a “more sustainable future”, meaning lining the pockets of a tiny minority at a time of economic stress and challenge.

The future of so-called “adaptation to climate change” will very surely include a sharp political reaction to the sewer-level “ethics” of the lobby in its mindless quest for easy pickings. The tricks used to force public acceptance of “climate crisis” are wearing mighty thin – by adding the blunt instrument of price gouging and energy tax gouging, the loss of public support may soon be total.

  1. sergeiMK says:

    Show me where the effect of renewables on electricity price is visible in this graph please. It seems that electricity has risen less than its prime source!

    data from:

  2. tallbloke says:

    Maybe the doubling in price of most items in your graph over the last six years contains it.

  3. sergeiMK says:

    So you’re saying that the cost of renewables is insignificant compared to cost of free market forces?
    try this url for UK/Germany/Sweden

    Utilities as a % of Cost of living for :
    Germany 7.36%
    Sweden 5.16%
    UK 7.79%
    (not just electricity – cannot find other data!)

    The more wind power the less the spend on utilities

    [Reply] A bit of a stretched conclusion to draw from a sample of three IMO. – TB

  4. J Martin says:

    To sergeiMK.

    The cost of Natural Gas and other fuels within Europe are largely determined by politics and not by the free market unlike in the USA where the cost of Natural Gas has dropped by some 75%.

    The UK has extensive reserves available which are readily available via fracking and would result in a similar drop in prices.

    Your graph is a graph of political pricing and not of free market pricing which currently does not exist within much of Europe.

    You also say “The more wind power the less the spend on utilities”, however Denmark has the most wind power and the highest utilities prices.

  5. Barry Woods says:

    Just in case you are not aware, the European Climate Foundation wholey funds the Carbon Brief (go to place media quotes and working with the Guardian) editor ex greenpeace, other staffter actvists (ie Robin FOE)

    they claim independent resource for the media, etc.. fact checking science stories

    Richard Black cited them the other day.. their twitter followers include the great and the good of the media.

    the ECF fund many many grants, however the Carbon Brief has the ECF’s director of its media strategy group, as the director of the Carbon Brief..

  6. adolfogiurfa says:

    The fact itself that they keep fighting on, shows how big would be its profits, way beyond their former inventions: the bill of exchange and the credit card. “Climate Change” business promises infinitely higher profits, it really “Pours the empty into the void”. That will be a real act of magic, of incredible alchemy: turning lead into gold without even having lead to begin with.
    I think this movement of bankers have exaggerated their ambitions and what they fear most it is around the corner: To lose everything they got from the time of the French Revolution.
    It´s over…..and they know it, but what better way to achieve forgetfulness than a great war. They will resort to it as they did several times in the past. However if this is the Apocalypse,
    An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apocálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω meaning ‘un-covering’) is a revelation of something hidden. In religious contexts it is usually a revelation of hidden meaning – hidden from mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception
    Then everyone will become conscious (and the present post helps in that direction) about who are to blame….

  7. tempestnut says:

    Andrew McKillop has described perfectly some of the workings of Crony Capitalism. It is intensely political and has nothing to do with scientific facts or economic realities. Hence the reason public support is approaching zero.

    For an economic system to work, and our chosen system was capitalism, you need to protect the individual, you need to ensure competition, and you need to ensure your regulations for achieving this are open and transparent. Once you have these principals in place people and companies will innovate and it is this that moves our society forward.

    It is not until we have KO’d this un-holy alliance of government, corporate and bankers that we are going to fix our world. Its going to be a long road as we have a lot of people that truly believe that government can just conger the money to support them from out of thin air.

  8. adolfogiurfa says:

    @tempestnut: And most important: Sell & Buy real goods or services , anything else is counterfeiting money.
    Why is it so?, very simple: It is a well known fact that banks and other credit companies offer us, daily, through mail or phone, big lines of credit we do not take because it is our responsibility to get only the credit/s or obligations we can pay back. However when the person who is in charge of accepting or rejecting such loans or papers or whatever will not pay it personally, as a government official for example, signs it immediately as he or she receives a “commission” for the operation…and, after all, who cares!

  9. Andrew MCKILLOP says:

    One comment I can add (as well as say thanks for the generally positive comments, above) is that really basic fundamentals show why electricity is the main target for New Energy Finance: because electricity is the most expensive form and type of energy, nearly everywhere, with a dense well metered final consumption system in developed countries, and a highly developed Crony Capitalist government-corporate control system.
    Present UK HMG attempts to keep nuclear power alive and persuade the French to “new build” reactors in the UK have already been bid up to around GBP 165 per 1000 kWh as a long term guaranteed minimum tariff for “moder risk taking capitalists”.

    In oil equivalent terms on a thermal energy basis, GBP 165/MWh at today’s GBP/USD exchange rate is:

    1512 dollars per barrel equivalent.

    That should make Russia’s Mafia and Saudi Salfists jealous, dont you think ?
    Andrew McKillop

  10. Brian H says:

    Could you finish this sentence? “The simplest question is how far do current policy initiatives, such as the European energy infrastructure package go towards solving the problems they f …” face? or was there more to it?

  11. Brian H says:

    tempestnut says:
    August 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    a lot of people that truly believe that government can just conger the money

    It can; the problem is that it buys less, in exact proportion to the dilution effect.

    It’s “conjure”, btw. Nothing to do with conger eels. 😉

  12. The fact is Electricity prices in the UK have gone up about 100% since 2000, but Gas prices have gone up by over 150%. If renewables were the main cause of electricity prices increases then you would expect it to be the other way round.

    US natural gas is largely a landlocked supply and gas is expensive to transport without pipelines, so US gas is no cheaper than other gas producing countries like Russia or Qatar. UK use to have the lowest Gas prices in the EU, because most of it came out of the southern North Sea and most of the pipelines were only about 200 miles or so long. Basically if you sit on top of the its cheap, now the UK imports most of its gas, its expensive, like everywhere else that is a long way from production.

    Even in the past UK natural gas prices were higher than US price, because US gas and oil exports are restricted unlike UK exports. So the US does not really have a free market in gas, as producers are unable to export their production unlike the UK. The US does have cross border gas pipelines but they flow from Canada and Mexico to US not the other way round.

    The other advantage North America has is it has large onshore Oil and Gas drilling sector, whereas the UK has almost nothing, it could take 10 years to establish. By way of comparison a Canadian oil executive told me a few years ago only 33 wells were drilled in the UK the previous year, whereas 16,000 were drilled in Alberta province alone.

    Most of the Shale gas production has come from sparsely populated areas, yet even here the lack regulation, has done the fracking industry’s reputation a lot of unnecessary damage. The problem is many of the Shale Gas producers are not generating cash, they rely on investors speculating on future production and some argue the longer gas prices will have rise to $6 MBTU. Investors have made most of their money from selling the facking companies not from producing the Gas. Despite all the hype no commercial quantities of shale gas have been produced yet in the UK, so we have no real idea of what the average long term cost of the shale gas is going to be. Its almost certainly going be a lot higher than the US experience and probably not as cheap as southern North Sea production.

  13. tallbloke says:

    Hi William and thanks for your well informed comment. I think you are right that UK shale gas will be more expensive than US. Still worth developing though, for energy security reasons as well as economic ones. I also note the US has just announced the lowest co2 emissions since 1994. So with all three of Sir Mark Walport’s concerns covered, what’s not to like?

    Could I ask you a question on another topic while you are here?
    As Chair of ALTER, how do you justify exempting big landowners from the land tax you propose?