Christopher Booker: It’s Payback Time for Britain’s Insane Energy Policy

Posted: March 23, 2013 by tallbloke in alarmism, atmosphere, Carbon cycle, Energy, flames, government, Incompetence, Politics, propaganda, Robber Barons

Another stinging column from Christopher Booker in the Telegraph, summarising several of the stories published recently at the Talkshop around taxation, energy policy, and the failure of a generation of politicians to get real about the needs of the British people who pay their comfortable salaries.

Christopher Booker: It’s Payback Time For Britain’s Insane Energy Policy
23/03/13 Christopher Booker, The Daily Telegraph

Drax powerstation, generating 7% of Britains needs, is being forced to convert to imported woodchips.

Drax powerstation, generating 7% of Britains needs, is being forced to convert to imported woodchips.

An obsession with CO2 has left us dangerously short of power as coal-powered stations are forced to close

As the snow of the coldest March since 1963 continues to fall, we learn that we have barely 48 hours’ worth of stored gas left to keep us warm, and that the head of our second-largest electricity company, SSE, has warned that our generating capacity has fallen so low that we can expect power cuts to begin at any time. It seems the perfect storm is upon us.

The grotesque mishandling of Britain’s energy policy by the politicians of all parties, as they chase their childish chimeras of CO2-induced global warming and windmills, has been arguably the greatest act of political irresponsibility in our history.

Three more events last week brought home again just what a mad bubble of make-believe these people are living in. Under the EU’s Large Combustion Plants Directive, we lost two more major coal-fired power stations, Didcot A and Cockenzie, capable of contributing no less than a tenth to our average electricity demands. We saw a French state-owned company, EDF, being given planning permission to spend £14 billion on two new nuclear reactors in Somerset, but which it says it will only build, for completion in 10 years’ time, if it is guaranteed a subsidy that will double the price of its electricity. Then, hidden in the small print of the Budget, were new figures for the fast-escalating tax the Government introduces next week on every ton of CO2 emitted by fossil-fuel-powered stations, which will soon be adding billions of pounds more to our electricity bills every year.

Within seven years this new tax will rise to £30 a ton, and by 2030 to £70 a ton, making it wholly uneconomical to generate any more electricity from the coal and gas-fired power stations that last week were still supplying two thirds of our electricity. Put all this together and we see more starkly than ever the game the Government is playing. It knows that no company would build wind farms unless it is given subsidies that, in effect, nearly double or treble the price of its electricity.

The Government will only get CO2-free nuclear power if it promises it an equal subsidy. And now the Coalition is also hell-bent on driving our much cheaper and more reliable coal and gas-fired plants out of business, by imposing a carbon tax that will not only eventually double the cost of their electricity, but also make it impossible for them to survive. So mad is this policy of “double-up all round” that it is driving even the largest and most efficient power station in the country, Drax, capable of supplying seven per cent of all the power we use, to switch from burning coal to wood chips, imported 3,000 miles across the Atlantic from the US. And how has the Government forced Drax to do this? By giving it a subsidy on wood chips that doubles the value of its electricity, while putting an increasingly prohibitive tax on coal.

This is all insane in so many ways that one scarcely knows where to begin, except to point out that, even if our rulers somehow managed to subsidise firms into spending £100 billion on all those wind farms they dream of, they will still need enough new gas-fired power stations to provide back-up for all the times when the wind isn’t blowing, at the very time when the carbon tax will soon make it uneconomical for anyone to build them.

So we are doomed to see Britain’s lights going out, all because the feather-headed lunatics in charge of our energy policy still believe that they’ve got to do something to save the planet from that CO2-induced global warming which this weekend has been covering much of the country up to a foot deep in snow. Meanwhile, the Indians are planning to build 455 new coal-fired power stations which will add more CO2 to the atmosphere of the planet every week than Britain emits in a year.

Read the rest here.

Comments
  1. tallbloke says:

    We have to get engineers into government – fast.

  2. tgmccoy says:

    As you British say; HEAR,HEAR!!
    I am worried that we are heading the same way, in the USA..
    10F below normal today… local station broke record (Meacham Oregon.)
    by 7F this am..
    But it is climate change.
    “Happiness is a warm fast Breeder.’
    Hanford area T-shirt…

  3. Clive Best says:

    TB – surely you and Christopher Booker have got this all wrong !
    Dave, George, Nick, landed gentry and old Etonians, surely do have a clear vision for the future : Britain can and must (play: “land of hope and glory”) lead the world through a new “de-industrial” revolution to a carbon free future. After all Brunel, Telford and Faraday were mere upstarts – certainly not gentlemen – who helped destroy a once stable feudal system. Finally thanks to green policies we can return to a properly run society based on wind, privilege and horse shit,

    God hep us !

  4. manicbeancounter says:

    It is not engineers you need in government, but proper economists who can weigh up the costs and benefits. Or even someone who has swallowed the Stern review whole and rigorously limits the policy cost to £80 per tonne of CO2 “saved”.

  5. Bruckner8 says:

    Engineers are too intelligent to get into politics. Besides, the communists think they themselves are Social Engineers. That’s as bad an oxymoron as Political Science.

  6. tallbloke says:

    This is a comment I left on Think Progress’ latest arctic ice worry thread. Still unapproved. I’ll leave a copy here.

    tallbloke says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    March 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    A recent paleo modelling paper concluded the temperature of the upper arctic ocean was about 2C warmer than present near the last glacial maximum. Presumably this would be because the ice cap prevented the heat being lost to space.

    So less summer ice will mean more heat loss to space from the Arctic ocean. This seems like a natural negative feedback to me. The increased ocean heat content of the last 80 years has to find a way out of the system. It does that by melting Arctic ice and gaining direct access to radiate into the troposphere. Once the ocean has cooled down, the Arctic ice will increase again.

    The world ocean started cooling around 2007, and given the momentum of the circulation systems, I would expect the Arctic ocean to lag by a decade or so. I predict signs of Arctic ice recovery starting around 2015, and becoming stronger around 2017-2019.

    Plenty of time for hollering and hooting meanwhile.

  7. Green Sand says:

    “We have to get engineers into government – fast.”

    Yes! Demolition engineers, those with strong voices, who know how to wind high intensity det cord around steel tubes and shout “TIMBER”!

  8. tallbloke says:

    From coalblog.org

    TheHill.com reported yesterday that a bipartisan group in the Senate rejected the move to impose taxes on industrial carbon emissions.

    The Senate went on record against imposing taxes on industrial carbon emissions in a pair of symbolic votes Friday, providing clear evidence that major climate change legislation lacks political traction.

    Lawmakers voted 41-58 to reject Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) proposal to ensure that revenue from any carbon tax be returned to the U.S. public through deficit reduction, reducing other rates and other “direct” benefits. …

    The votes on the nonbinding budget resolutions were largely symbolic, and didn’t quite tackle the idea of taxing carbon emissions head-on or address specific proposals on emissions fees.

    But they nonetheless illustrated that Republicans and centrist Democrats appear to form a clear majority against fees on emissions from oil and coal producers, power plants and other sources.

    Interestingly, the author of the proposal, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) tried to claim the (indirect) support of the new Pope for his proposal.

    “We have a new Pope, Pope Francis, who said last week that our relation with God’s creation is not very good right now,” Whitehouse said.

    “God’s creation runs by laws — the laws of nature, the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry, and God gave us the power of reason to understand those laws,” added Whitehouse, who speaks often on the floor about the dangers of climate change.

    “But they are not negotiable, they are not subject to amendment or appeal, and the arrogance of our thinking that they are is an offence to his creation,” he said.

    Sen. Roy Blunt, (R-MO) suggested that Whitehouse may have misunderstood the Pope’s actual motivations.

    “I know the Pope also mentioned — more times that he mentioned carbon tax — helping the poor,” said Blunt.

    He said carbon taxes would hurt the economy and struggling families, noting, “the most vulnerable among us are the most impacted by this.”

    Blunt also said a carbon tax would hurt manufacturing. “Energy intensive jobs are the first to go when utility prices get uncompetitive,” he said later in the debate.

  9. Jim S says:

    Who is it that funds the CRU again?

  10. Roger Andrews says:

    “yesterday … a bipartisan group in the Senate rejected the move to impose taxes on industrial carbon emissions.”

    The vote was 58 to 41 against. Not unanimous, like the the Senate’s 93-0 preemptive rejection of the Kyoto Protocol in July 1997, but a substantial majority nonetheless.

    Yet the 2008 UK Climate Change Bill passed in the Commons by 463 votes to three.

    Now the US Congress and the UK Parliament aren’t identical and Brits and Yanks aren’t identical either, but there are enough commonalities to make one wonder why the reaction of US and UK politicians to climate change legislation should be so different.

    Anyone have any insights?

  11. michael hart says:

    Roger Andrews, my tuppence-ha’penny worth, look at this graph:

    Like house price booms, “global-warming” is a predominantly Anglo-Saxon disease.
    2008 was the peak of another UK “we-can-make-ourselves-rich-just-with-banking-helping-us-to-sell-each-other-the-same-houses-at-ever-increasing-prices” housing boom. Economic hubris and stupidity blossoms at such times, and the UK needs little encouragement anyway.
    The UK has had an anti-industrial anti-science mind-set for all of my life. C.P Snow wrote about it before I was born: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Two_Cultures

    A London-centric economy and government also exacerbates the anti-technology anti-industry bias that runs through politicians and a substantial portion (not all!) of the electorate. Many people really don’t think all that stuff is either necessary or desirable, so it is not surprising we get a government that almost to a man/woman was completely taken in by Greenpeace and the rest. We already knew the UK has not had an energy policy worthy of the description for decades, possibly longer.

    America’s affliction appears less severe in both cases, and the housing bubble peaked earlier.
    (The result of the EPA’s machinations is still up for debate, though it appears to be primarily going full-on after coal at the moment). The local economy of the Capital city is also not over-represented in the national economy and the legislators minds in the same damaging way it is in the UK.

    Churchill was once reputed to have said “Americans will always do the right thing in the end-having first exhausted all the alternatives.” I would say they are quicker when it comes to dropping a manifestly losing, nay, unwinnable, strategy. The rationale given for doing so may be contrived or hypocritical, but will be done swiftly without apparent embarrassment.

    By contrast, Britain is more likely to carry on doing the wrong thing, for longer, causing potentially more self-harm; all the while portentously describing it as part of the “Bulldog spirit. Battle of Britain, drone drone drone…” The British are generally more masochistic than Americans
    [I hold dual US/UK nationality 🙂 ]

    I’ll leave the Australian predicament for others to describe.

  12. J Martin says:

    The Drax wood chips are to be imported from the USA. So what I want to know is how much co2 is liberated by the process of planting, harvesting, chipping, train / lorry transporting to the port, shipping across the Atlantic, train transporting, lorry transporting, and storing the wood chips.

    And I guess in the interest of balance, what the equivalent co2 liberation is from coal produced locally in the UK and transported to Drax.

    Then there is the issue of fuel (wood chip) security. What if a green lobby in the USA decides that all that tree harvesting is not good for biodiversity and campaigns and succeeds in getting the USA wood chip industry brought to a grinding halt. Then Drax gets shut down or converted back to coal.

    If the green loonies in UK government had any sense they would have converted Drax to gas and got fracking. My guess is that using gas would have produced the biggest savings in co2 not shipping wood chips half way across the planet.

    I’m struggling to think of anything more stupid… Oh yes, windmills, which are now well documented as increasing co2 liberation not reducing it. My guess is when someone with the know how to do the co2 accounting for the idiotic Drax wood chip scheme adds up the figures we will find that they will have succeeded in increasing co2 liberation not reducing it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the cost of adding co2 scrubbers to the existing coal fired Drax is cheaper than converting to wood chips, and would result in less co2 liberation than converting to wood chips.

    Despite keen competition from the USA, Germany and Australia, UK politicians are truly the most stupid people in the World.

  13. J Martin says:

    And I forgot to include the hidden costs to the UK of exporting UK coal mining jobs to US wood business jobs. The increase in unemployment, and all the associated ills that brings with it.

    Did the idiot politicians who approved the ridiculous Drax wood chip scheme take these factors into account in their cost benefit analysis ?

  14. Zeke says:

    “Under the EU’s Large Combustion Plants Directive, we lost two more major coal-fired power stations…”

    Why don’t you send a little Directive back to Brussels to show your appreciation? (:

  15. tallbloke says:

    Last time I visited Brussels was in the company of 35,000 bikers. We successfully lobbied the Eurocracy to drop it’s stupid proposed anti motorcycle laws.

  16. tallbloke says:

    Roger A: I would say the difference lies in the degree to which the thick-as-a-brickies-butty establishment politicians swallow the nonscience fed to them by the thoroughly compromised Royal Society.

  17. Kon Dealer says:

    I blame Met Office “scientists”, like Richard Betts, who are constantly feeding the gullible no-brains in Government with alarmist rubbish, cooked up by their useless (but expensive) models.
    (http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/people/richard-betts)

    “ I stand by my comments of 4C or more global warming being possible by the end of this century, with local warming higher in some places, up to 15C in the Arctic an extreme but plausible case.”

  18. Phillip Bratby says:

    J Martin: A cost benefit analysis! You’ve got to be joking, When you’re the greenest government ever, you don’t need to do a cost benefit analysis to save the planet.

  19. Roger Andrews says:

    TB: “I would say the difference lies in the degree to which the thick-as-a-brickies-butty establishment politicians swallow the nonscience fed to them by the thoroughly compromised Royal Society.”

    Don’t think so. For the last four years US politicians have been hearing all about the perils of AGW from Obama’s troika of high-placed government greenies (Holdren, Chu, Jackson) backed up by portentous pronouncements from thoroughly compromised US scientific bodies, but the US still has no emissions reduction legislation.

    Why not? Basically because of the US system of government:

    * A number of US states are still major primary resource producers – oil gas, coal, minerals etc.

    * These states are heavily overrepresented in the Senate (Wyoming, with a population of 500,000, has two Senators, and so does California, with a population of 38 million)

    * Emissions reductions are bad for primary resource producers (although this may now be changing with shale gas and fracking).

    So when a climate change bill comes down the pike the Senate buries it. This is what the Senate did to the US cap-and trade bill of 2009 after it had passed 219-212 in the House. The bill never even came to a vote.

    Michael Hart: “Like house price booms, global-warming is a predominantly Anglo-Saxon disease.”

    Not entirely. Last year Mexico passed by 280 votes to 10 a Climate Change Law that calls for a 30% CO2 emissions reduction by 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2050 (sounds familiar). Why would Mexico, a developing country exempt from CO2 cuts under Kyoto, commit itself to such totally unachievable targets? Partly because it has no intention of achieving them (there’s no word for “enforcement” in Spanish), but mostly to obtain international acclaim as a world leader in the fight against climate change, which it has done. I seem to remember that the European Union has expressed a similar motivation at various times in the past, and wonder how much of the UK’s attitude has been conditioned by the desire to be seen as a “team player” rather than a rogue state like the US.

  20. tallbloke says:

    Roger A: This is the country where doublethink was invented. Here, the politicians actually believe their own bullshit.

    Some of our commentators are more astute:

  21. Zeke says:

    “These states are heavily overrepresented in the Senate (Wyoming, with a population of 500,000, has two Senators, and so does California, with a population of 38 million)”

    That is not the best choice of words. Wyoming is not “overrepresented” in the Senate; it is equally represented with the other states. This is the genius of the Constitution: it balances the representation of the rural states with the highly populous states and cities. This takes into full account the various economic and political interests which can be at loggerheads and does not allow a hegemony of city dwellers (and the electoral college does likewise).

    In the House of Representatives the number of Reps from each state is apportioned by population; in that case, you can see that Wyoming only has 1 Rep and California has an appalling 53.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/2000_census_reapportionment.svg

    This hostility between the three branches, and between the Feds and the States, and sometimes even between the sheriffs and the Feds, is our example to the world. (You’re most welcome!)

  22. Roger Andrews says:

    Zeke:

    I probably should have said “overrepresented relative to population” but figured it would come through in context.

    But there’s no doubt the US owes a debt to the Senate for saving it from the lunacy of a carbon cap-and-trade scheme. Otherwise we Yanks might be heading towards lights-out too, just like the Brits.

    And I agree that California’s 53 Representatives are for the most part appalling.

  23. Berényi Péter says:

    “we are doomed to see Britain’s lights going out, all because the feather-headed lunatics in charge of our energy policy still believe that they’ve got to do something to save the planet”

    Heh, the planet! save their own asses from the wrath of free people perfectly capable to self governance, that’s it.

    They are busy to push general populace of Western Europe & North America back to half serfdom, where the great majority of peoples all over the world are still held firmly, a state they are convinced unwashed masses have always belonged to.

    It was just an unexpected quirk of history those masses were needed to fight the Great 20th Century War to its bitter end, started in Sarajevo, Bosnia, 28 June 1914 & ended with the Dayton-Paris Agreement, reached at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio in November 1995, and formally signed in Paris on 14 December 1995 (the original copy of which is lost), concerning the very same god forsaken piece of otherwise wonderful land (and everything else related to power over the entire world). In between there were two World Wars, a Cold War and numerous regional & local revolutions & conflicts, taking lives by scores of millions.

    This chain of conflicts was initiated & orchestrated by the same elite groups, was in fact, contrary to appearances, fought among them & ended in sweet compromise, retaining unthinkable power for a now next to unified international ruling class.

    However, there was a price to be payed and a high one at that. At various phases of the conflict standing armies by the millions were required along with a huge & dedicated work force (made of women, mostly), supplied by the same Western populace they were determined to keep under the thumb along with everyone else. In the course of history promising only blood, sweat & tears to those doing the fight valiantly never worked out well, something positive also had to be given away. This time it was some freedom & plenty for the masses, called consumer society (universal suffrage was not introduced in Britain until 2 July 1928, The Representation of the People Act).

    Conscription gives enormous power to those in charge, but it also trains the masses thoroughly in the use of contemporary weapons, what makes them a bit difficult to handle. Fortunately technical progress made it possible to give away outward appearances of wealth to many while keeping them under control with generating desire for more. It was the ten thousandfold increase in productivity experienced during the past two centuries that made it possible. Still, the populace got educated & able and had ever more free time to kill.

    The dilemma it has created is described perfectly in a book that never was.

    The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism
    by Emmanuel Goldstein (a.k.a. George Orwell, a.k.a. Eric Arthur Blair)

    “But the principal, underlying cause was that, as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, human equality had become technically possible. It was still true that men were not equal in their native talents and that functions had to be specialized in ways that favoured some individuals against others; but there was no longer any real need for class distinctions or for large differences of wealth. In earlier ages, class distinctions had been not only inevitable but desirable. Inequality was the price of civilization. With the development of machine production, however, the case was altered. Even if it was still necessary for human beings to do different kinds of work, it was no longer necessary for them to live at different social or economic levels. Therefore, from the point of view of the new groups who were on the point of seizing power, human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted.”

    Human equality is no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted. At all costs.

    The story is not about wealth any more (never really was), it is about power. We are quite lucky history has not taken the exact course envisioned (and dreaded) by Orwell, but the puzzle to be solved is the same for the ruling class. In a sense it is getting more urgent, because productivity has increased by another order of magnitude since Orwell’s time and it is just about to take another huge leap with informatics and the advent of molecular nanotechnology.

    Distributed power structures are becoming ever more affordable & sustainable, but that would deny any central role & importance to the ruling class, they would sink into oblivion as victims to general boredom, with no fanfare & bloody revolution whatsoever.

    That course of action is utterly unacceptable to those critters.

    This is why they are trying to deny the use of Fire to the masses now, eternal gift of demigod Prometheus to mankind, suffered for mightily. That’s what is at the very heart of being human, to be able to control & use fire. It is even inscribed into our anatomy. A huge skull (supporting an able brain) above small jaws & teeth could never come about without it.

    By declaring carbon dioxide, the inevitable byproduct of fire as a pollutant they are taking Zeus’ side, chaining Prometheus to a rock once more, to let the eagle feed on his liver.

    It also promises decreasing productivity to a convenient level, where human inequality becomes a necessity again, perpetuating their position indefinitely. No, these people are neither blind nor feather-headed. Just evil.

  24. Roger Andrews says:

    Above I wondered how much of the UK’s attitude has been conditioned by the desire to be seen as a “team player”. Well, I don’t have to wonder any more. The 4th Carbon Budget Policy Statement of 2011 says that the UK should be more than just a team player: “The UK has a vital role to play as a leader in the global initiative to tackle climate change.”

    Given that the UK emits only 1.5% of the world’s CO2 someone might raise the question of why it needs to be a “leader” and why its role is “vital”.

  25. Zeke says:

    Roger Andrews says: “I probably should have said “overrepresented relative to population” but figured it would come through in context.”

    You are fine. I live in a state in which almost all the counties are outnumbered in population by one or two cities (roughly speaking), and so whatever King County does the rest of us pay for. And plus they count the votes in King County last of all, so we “find” boxes of ballots at the last second in King County which decide the outcome.

    So that’s why I got my ox all gored by what you said. (:

  26. oldbrew says:

    ‘This is all insane in so many ways that one scarcely knows where to begin’

    It’s taken over the mantle of the Common Agricultural Policy. Welcome to Britain in the EU.

    NB Centrica’s US shale gas won’t be used to generate any electricity at all, it’s just an alternative gas supply.

  27. Roger Andrews says:

    J Martin:

    “The Drax wood chips are to be imported from the USA. So what I want to know is how much co2 is liberated by the process of planting, harvesting, chipping, train / lorry transporting to the port, shipping across the Atlantic, train transporting, lorry transporting, and storing the wood chips. And I guess in the interest of balance, what the equivalent co2 liberation is from coal produced locally in the UK and transported to Drax.”

    I don’t know how much CO2 is liberated by these processes, but I do know that wood emits about 15% more CO2 per kwh than coal when you burn it.

    http://www.volker-quaschning.de/datserv/CO2-spez/index_e.php

    So converting 2,000 MW at Selby from coal to wood will actually increase CO2 emissions.

    Except that it won’t. You see, with coal you’re burning a fossil resource that releases “new carbon” into the atmosphere, and that’s a no-no. But when you burn wood you’re just recycling the carbon that’s already in the biosphere, and this is OK because the trees you chopped down to obtain the wood can be replaced by reforestation – all you need is 1.2 million hectares of regenerating forest to keep the plant supplied – and the new trees will eventually suck up all the carbon released when you burned the old trees, and if you didn’t burn the old trees they would eventually die and rot and release all their carbon back to the atmosphere anyway. That’s why the EU considers biomass to be a carbon-neutral generation source.

    I hope I’m making myself clear. 😉

    [Reply] A short discussion I had on the suggestions thread ten days(?) ago about Drax and woodchips could add to this discussion if someone wants to find and repost the comments here.

  28. Roger Andrews says:

    Can’t find anything on the suggestions thread, but here’s another contribution:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/02/eu-renewable-energy-target-biomass

    “We’re paying people to cut their forests down in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and yet we are actually increasing them. No-one is apparently bothering to do any analysis about this,” one Brussels insider told EurActiv.

    “They’re just sleepwalking into this insanity,” he added.

  29. […] but a cross-party appeal to common sense. People are dying by the thousand as a direct result of botched energy policy and we must act to save lives. Now. […]