Monday, October 18, 2021

Net Zero Watch: China snubs COP26


In this newsletter:

1) Chinese president to snub UN climate summit
The Times, 15 October 2021

2) Hopes of an ambitious climate deal hit after China and Saudi Arabia fail to make written commitments
iNews, 15 October 2021

3) China goes rogue on energy - threatens to humiliate UK at COP26
Daily Express, 14 October 2021
4) Vietnam's coal-fired power may double by 2030 under draft energy plan
Reuters, 15 October 2021

5) Norway's new socialist government will "develop, not dismantle" oil and gas industry
Reuters, 13 October 2021 

6) Editorial: The Net Zero crusade is futile without China
The Daily Telegraph, 14 October 2021

7) Ben Marlow: China's coal addiction is stronger than Western eco warriors
The Daily Telegraph, 14 October 2021

8) The truth about Net Zero: London alone faces £100billion bill to decarbonise housing
London Evening Standard, 15 October 2021

9) UK climate chief warns Tories of cost of delaying net zero
Politico, 13 October 2021

10) Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson’s eco-Micawberism will not pay the bills of net zero
The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2021

11) Tilak Doshi: ‘Tis The Silly Season With A Looming Winter Of (Energy) Discontent
Forbes, 11 October 2021

12) And finally: Welcome to eco-hell: Scottish rail and refuse workers vote to strike during COP26
Financial Times, 14 October 2021

Full details:

1) Chinese president to snub UN climate summit
The Times, 15 October 2021

Boris Johnson has been told that President Xi of China will not attend next month’s critical climate change conference in Glasgow amid international pessimism that the event will be successful.

In a setback to the ambitions of the Cop26 summit, the prime minister has been advised by diplomats that Xi is not expected to join more than a hundred other world leaders, including President Biden.

Meanwhile, Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, confirmed today that he will attend the summit after pressure from the royal family.

The Queen expressed concern yesterday that it was unclear who would be attending. In comments caught on microphone at the opening of the Welsh parliament, she said: “I’ve been hearing all about Cop [the climate change conference in Glasgow] . . . still don’t know who is coming . . . no idea.” She added: “We only know about people who are not coming . . . it is very irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.”

British organisers fear that Xi’s decision to stay away could be a prelude to China refusing to set new climate change goals amid an energy crunch. All countries are expected to publish new climate change targets, known as nationally defined contributions (NDC), beforehand. Yet with the conference two weeks away, only half the G20 countries, including the world’s largest emitters, have put forward their plans.

If China fails to publish its NDC, or sets one that fails to further reduce reliance on fossil fuels, it could scupper attempts to get an agreement showing that the world is on track to maintain the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C. China is responsible for 27 per cent of global carbon emissions.

Full story
2) Hopes of an ambitious climate deal hit after China and Saudi Arabia fail to make written commitments
iNews, 15 October 2021

China and Saudi Arabia have failed to make written UN climate commitments ahead of COP26, i can reveal, punching a major hole in the UK’s ambitions to reduce global carbon emissions.

Both countries, which are among the world’s biggest polluters, declined to submit updated pledges in time for the UN’s deadline this week to further reduce emissions ahead of the climate summit in Glasgow next month.

The move means COP26 will begin without fresh pledges from some of the biggest emitters on the steps they will take to slash their carbon output.

Full story
3) China goes rogue on energy - threatens to humiliate UK at COP26
Daily Express, 14 October 2021

CHINA is planning to build more coal-fired power plants and could be rethinking its commitments on slashing emissions, dealing a humiliating blow to the UK's plans ahead of the COP26 summit.
China has announced plans to increase its reliance on coal as the energy crisis deepens, threatening a huge blow to the UK's ambitions for a landmark global agreement on phasing out the resource at COP26 climate change summit later this month. China has been hit hard by the energy crisis currently gripping the planet, with thousands of homes and factories plunged into darkness in rolling blackouts over recent weeks.

Now, Beijing has said it will ramp up coal use, hinting at a rethink of its timetable to slash emissions.

In a statement after a meeting of Beijing’s National Energy Commission, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, stressed the importance of regular energy supply.

As many as 20 Chinese provinces are believed to be experiencing the crisis to some degree, with factories temporarily closed, shops lit with candlelight and reports of mobile networks failing after a three-day outage hit the northeast.

China is already the world's largest consumer of coal, relying on the resource for 56 percent of its power.

China had previously published plans to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reduce emissions to become carbon neutral by 2060.

Analysts have said that for China to reach the 2060 goal, some 600 coal-fired power plants would have to shut.

In the statement announcing the new coal plants, there appeared a hint at a change in the plan, saying the crisis had led the Communist party to rethink the timing of this ambition, with a new “phased timetable and roadmap for peaking carbon emissions”.

The statement said: "Energy security should be the premise on which a modern energy system is built and the capacity for energy self-supply should be enhanced.
Full story
Told you so...


4) Vietnam's coal-fired power may double by 2030 under draft energy plan
Reuters, 15 October 2021

HANOI, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Vietnam may double the amount of coal-fired electric generation it installs by 2030 under a draft power development plan submitted to the prime minister for approval this week.

The draft plan guarantees that Vietnam will become more reliant on coal to power its fast growing economy at a time when financiers and insurers are refusing to back new projects because of fuel's large climate change impact.

Coal-fired power plants will account for up to 31.4% of as much as 143.8 gigawatts (GW) of installed generation capacity planned in 2030, according to a copy of the so-called Power Development Plan 8 (PDP 8) reviewed by Reuters.

That translates to about 41 GW of coal power by the end of the decade, up from 20.7 GW out of 69 GW of capacity from all sources as of 2020, according to the plan.

Vietnam, with a population of 98 million, is seeking to boost its power generation to support the growth of production bases for firms such as South Korea's Samsung Electronics (005030.KS) and LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS).

The PDP 8 assumes Vietnam's gross domestic product will increase annually by 6.6% between now and 2030 and 5.7% to 2045.

The country will need to invest $115.96 billion in new power plants and power grid expansions to 2030, and up to $227.4 billion to 2045, when installed capacity may be up to 329.6 GW, according to the plan.

Full story

5) Norway's new socialist government will "develop, not dismantle" oil and gas industry
Reuters, 13 October 2021 
HURDAL, Norway, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Norway will continue to explore for oil and gas in the next four years, with most new drilling permits to come in mature areas of the sea, the incoming centre-left government said on Wednesday.
A minority coalition of the Labour Party and the rural Centre Party will take power on Thursday after defeating the Conservative-led government in last month's election.

"The Norwegian petroleum industry will be developed, not dismantled," the two parties said in a joint policy document, adding that it will maintain the existing system of handing out exploration licences.
While climate change was a major issue debated during the campaign for parliament, Labour has said it wants to ensure any transition away from oil and gas, and the jobs it creates, towards green energy is a gradual one.

Full story

6) Editorial: The Net Zero crusade is futile without China
The Daily Telegraph, 14 October 2021
Just weeks before the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, China has announced plans to build dozens more coal-fired power stations. If Boris Johnson was looking to the world’s worst polluter to join his zero-carbon crusade then he looked in vain.
While the UK runs down its coal production, other countries are increasing theirs. EU nations such as Germany still rely heavily on the fuel, even while the bloc lectures the rest of the world to end their dependence.
China produces half the world’s coal and its commitment to running down the industry is essential to meeting any of the global targets for CO2 reduction. The UK points to its own success in this regard and yet imports both carbon-based fuels like gas and goods from high-polluting countries, thereby “offshoring” its own emissions.

The Europeans are increasingly beholden to Russia for their power. France, with little in the way of carbon fuel reserves, has invested heavily in nuclear power and this week announced a new generation of small modular reactors.

The UK’s contribution to world decarbonisation is minuscule in the great scheme of things, yet the zero-carbon mandates, taxes and levies will cause serious domestic price and supply issues this winter and beyond.
Not only does this put us at a significant competitive disadvantage to countries that have managed their energy policy better but it will make no difference at all to global warming if countries such as China and India take no action.

Hopes that Xi Jinping would attend the summit now seem unlikely to be realised, although Beijing has made one concession by pledging not to finance any new coal-fired power stations abroad. But it is now hinting that it will reconsider its timetable for reducing emissions following widespread blackouts and supply problems.

Mr Johnson has invested a great deal of political capital in making the Glasgow summit a success after the failure of previous gatherings to fulfil the ambitions set out in advance. Instead of spending so much time, effort and money on decarbonisation, the time has come to start preparing for the consequences of warming, as the head of the Environment Agency said yesterday.

Emma Howard Boyd said developing resilience to the already inevitable effects of climate change was just as important as actions to cut greenhouse gases. It was a case of “adapt or die”. The Government needs to take this seriously. 
7) Ben Marlow: China's coal addiction is stronger than Western eco warriors
The Daily Telegraph, 14 October 2021
China's decision to ramp up coal mining amid energy crunch should make us question the wisdom of blindly pursuing net zero goals

There is only one question on the lips of world leaders as the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow approaches and it’s not whether another Boris Johnson speech will leave them scratching their heads.
A bewildering turn behind the lectern from their born-again eco-warrior host is practically a given. Who can forget his strange Kermit the Frog gag at a recent United Nations summit? His reference to pink-eyed terminators and limbless chickens at a gathering to discuss the future of technology had them cringing in the aisles. If nothing else, our esteemed Prime Minister knows how to play the clown.
Instead, what everyone wants to know is whether President Xi Jinping will actually turn up.The importance of his appearance – or no-show – is difficult to overstate. With a share of almost 30pc of the world’s total CO2 emissions in 2019, roughly twice the amount emitted by America in the number two spot, China is the world’s biggest current contributor to global warming by a considerable margin.
Failure to turn up to the most significant climate gathering of statesmen since the Paris Agreement in 2015 will mean China’s commitment to fulfilling even that treaty will be in doubt.
The omens aren’t great. It is already known that Xi will skip the G20 summit in Rome in a fortnight. He has also rejected a face-to-face meeting with President Biden before the end of the year, in favour of a virtual one instead. Xi has not left China in nearly two years, a decision that is attributed to the pandemic but has fuelled speculation about whether there is another more sinister reason instead.
Some commentators have questioned whether China’s president refuses to leave the country because he fears a coup in his absence. Discontent at his Maoist crackdown on private wealth and enterprise is said to be building, while a fresh purge of domestic security forces will inevitably mean more dangerous enemies.
Or perhaps Xi simply doesn’t see the point of COP26. With unfortunate timing, China has made it abundantly clear where its priorities lie. Unsurprisingly, keeping the lights on and an economic miracle going is deemed far more important in Beijing than sticking to some woolly net zero targets made under duress at the UN General Assembly last year.
Chinese pledges to reach carbon neutrality before 2060 and ensure greenhouse gas emissions peak in the next decade were widely hailed by analysts as “a game-changer” for the planet.Yet just 12 months later, pragmatism has taken over. Experts say that for China to have any hope of meeting those targets it would have to shut down 600 coal mines.Instead, faced with an energy crunch that threatens economic growth and even food production, it has already performed a stark U-turn, ordering its coal miners to ramp up production and announcing plans to build new coal plants. It has also quietly overturned a ban on Australian coal imports, underlining the severity of the power shock in the world’s second largest economy.
As if it was needed, a statement from the Communist party confirmed that Xi's climate change commitments are more elastic than Kim Jong-un’s underpants.There will be a new “phased timetable and roadmap for peaking carbon emissions”, it said. “Energy security should be the premise on which a modern energy system is built and the capacity for energy self-supply should be enhanced.”
The conclusion of the West will be that China is playing us for fools. Consumers in the UK will certainly be entitled to ask whether all their sacrifices will be for nothing if China doesn’t engage in serious talks about reducing emissions. That would be the knee-jerk reaction at least.But perhaps it will prompt a rethink about the policy of blindly pursuing ambitious net zero goals without matching effort on how they are to be reached. That would be the grown-up response.
Britain's energy crisis has shown starkly that while ministers love to give speeches about abandoning fossil fuels, they have still not given enough consideration to how they are to be replaced.It is assumed that it will sort itself out, while nuclear power expansion plans get bogged down in the wrangling that increasingly paralyses attempts to renew infrastructure across the West.
If Boris and friends fail to tackle such issues, then we end up with a rolling crisis, where factories have to be bailed out, and people can’t afford to have their heating on during the winter.It is an abdication of leadership to hope that the market will figure out a new global energy system while the likes of Xi and Putin are around. As it stands, not only will there not be enough to go around but the West risks falling even further behind China’s pace.
8) The truth about Net Zero: London alone faces £100billion bill to decarbonise housing
London Evening Standard, 15 October 2021

London faces an almost £100 billion bill to upgrade homes if it is to hit green targets by 2030, it was revealed on Friday.

Domestic properties account for about a third of the capital’s greenhouse gas emissions and most require significant upgrades to reduce their carbon footprint, councils have said.

All 33 boroughs have agreed a joint plan to cut emissions produced by the almost four million domestic buildings across the capital by 2030.

But the plan to achieve net zero in all homes, which includes modernising millions of heating systems, comes with a £98 billion bill, according to umbrella group London Councils.

* 400,000 London homes with only single-glazed windows.

* 1.5 million that require window and external door upgrades.

* 17 per cent of London homes in conservation areas, which have a high number of historic buildings that are particularly expensive to upgrade.

London Councils is calling on the Government to announce the delivery of the £3.8 billion social housing decarbonisation fund and £2.5 billion home upgrade grant in the upcoming spending review.

They also want £30 million of up-front funding for the next phase of the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission work, which they say will unlock over £200billion of private investment for delivering net zero across the UK’s 12 biggest cities.

Full story

9) UK climate chief warns Tories of cost of delaying net zero
Politico, 13 October 2021

UK government faces complaints from a subset of Tory backbenchers who are increasingly vocal in their concerns about the impact of green policies on low-income voters.
PARIS — The president of the COP26 climate summit has a warning for his Conservative colleagues: Ignore global warming and it will cost you more.

Alok Sharma, Britain’s lead for negotiations ahead of November’s talks, attempted to ramp up the political jeopardy as domestic pressures build over the U.K.’s net zero commitments.

At home his government faces complaints from a subset of Tory backbenchers who are increasingly vocal in their concerns about the impact of green policies on low-income voters.

Speaking to POLITICO in the garden of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris following his last speech before the U.N. conference, Sharma urged colleagues to look at a recent Office for Budget Responsibility report on fiscal risks, which in his words, “makes it very clear that the longer you leave it, the more it’s going to cost you.”

A caucus of Conservative MPs called the Net Zero Scrutiny Group has built a membership of about 40, while the Global Warming Policy [Forum] — notorious to green groups for promoting climate change denialism (sic) — has been relaunched under a new name, Net Zero Watch.

Former Minister Steve Baker, a prominent member of both groupings, is a vocal opponent: “Ministers plan to make the public poorer and colder. They should spell out clearly by how much and test public opinion or we will have a terrible political crisis later,” he said.

Asked if he was worried about the Steve Bakers of this world, Sharma said: “What’s important is to be able to explain to parliamentary colleagues, but across the country as well, that the cost of not getting this right now is going to be far higher if we leave this.”

In an appeal to his party, he stressed that what is “really important for us Conservatives is ensuring that we are leveraging three times as much from the private sector.”

He cited private investment in offshore wind hub ports in Teesside and the Humber and gigafactories in Blyth, observing: ‘This is about revitalizing our industrial heartlands as well and I think that’s something that people do support.”

The Global Warming Policy [Forum], from which Net Zero Watch emerged, has never disclosed its funding, despite a concerted campaign from green groups. Director Benny Peiser said that some funders preferred to keep their support private because their children would be furious.

“We have donors who say look, I just can’t make this public because my daughter would be very cross with me,” he said.

While some of the organization’s supporters might be ghosting their families, Peiser said none had anything to hide from the broader public. “None of them have any vested interest in this issue. They’re all mainly individual business people who are just concerned about the economic and social implications of the policy and the lack of debate, the lack of scrutiny,” he said.
10) Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson’s eco-Micawberism will not pay the bills of net zero
The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2021

The Cop26 summit in Glasgow offers a perfect metaphor for the global climate conundrum. Britain is one of just a handful of countries with a legally-binding mission to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions; we’re urging others to match our ambition and follow our lead.

But when festivities begin (Boris Johnson sees this as an Olympics-style celebration, complete with its own mascot) the UK will be embroiled in an energy crisis. For a nation with pretentions to global eco-leadership, it’s not a great look.

We have a decent defence. Yes, dozens of our energy companies are going bust and yes, we may now be firing up old coal-fuelled power stations in a panic. But then again, gas prices are causing havoc the world over. China’s problems are severe enough to force many of its factories on to a four-day week. The United States, flush with the shale gas it has fracked, has still seen gas prices treble. So no one is immune. But not many are harder hit than Britain: our gas prices are five times that of America’s and we have just four days of gas supplies in reserve. In Italy it’s three months, and in the Netherlands closer to four months.

None of these countries have signed a net-zero target, and at times like these you can see why. Is it practical, or affordable? It’s easy to say you want green factories, less pollution and snug insulation by 2050. Such declarations can be made at any primary school assembly. My daughter went along to one last week, dressed in green as a “zero hero” with her class reciting the nation’s new environmental goals. But in politics, a higher standard of debate is expected.

The idea is to accompany the ambition with a plan for how it will be achieved and how much it will cost. This is the huge, perhaps fatal flaw in the Tory plan.

Ever since net zero was set as Britain’s great national goal – an Apollo mission for our time – we have heard almost nothing about the price tag. Ministers promised that they’d get around to telling us before the Cop26 summit, but there’s still no word. And there are now just 16 days to go.

Next week we’ll hear a bit more about the new heat pumps, which cost about £10,000 a throw. The current thinking is to offer a grant – perhaps as much as £7,000 – to those tempted (or forced) to take the plunge. But we’re unlikely to hear much about where we’d find the skilled workers needed to fit heat pumps at the rate of 2,000 a day. After Kate Bingham’s success with the vaccine taskforce, ministers have come to believe in someone coming along to do the impossible. But we’ll need an awful lot of Kate Binghams to hit net zero.

Throw in the transformation of roads (for electric cars), farms, factories and everything else and the price tag is likely to come in at over £1 trillion. The Climate Change Committee, which does the net zero sums, thinks it will be more like £50 billion a year from 2030 to make the transition, more than four times the sum raised by the coming National Insurance hike. The difference is that we’ve been told about the tax, whereas ministers are still talking as if net zero will be cost-free.

The Prime Minister has gone so far as to rule out a meat tax or carbon tax – and there’s more to this than Johnsonian denialism. The Cabinet members who are most keen on net zero say in private that the costs will be whittled away, perhaps to nothing, by advances in technology.

Going green, they think, will become the cheaper option so people will do it anyway. The idea is that capitalism, innovation and consumer demand will make Britain richer, as well as cleaner. “The economic growth will outweigh the costs,” says one minister. Quite a claim.

To be sure, the cost of wind power has certainly fallen faster than anyone predicted ten years ago: from $150 to $40 per megawatt hour as turbines became bigger and more efficient. The cost of solar panels has fallen almost as quickly. This is the “bright green” agenda: a belief that technology will come along and make all this affordable and that all we need is a few more Elon Musks.

But this eco-Micawberism runs a rather obvious risk: what if the new inventions don’t arrive? A report from the International Energy Agency laid this bare on Wednesday. There has been a headlong rush away from fossil fuels, now cast as the world villains – but renewable energy has not come on anything like as quickly to fill the gap. So we’re now falling between these two stools. France, at least, has nuclear energy to provide two-thirds of its electricity. Britain has nothing like that.

The mood in government, now, is to “double down” on net zero after the energy crisis, which takes us back to Glasgow and how credible the strategy really is. Without dazzling new inventions, we will be left with a big bill. You can argue that it’s unavoidable and that, if we don’t invest now, we will fry. But are we to believe that the Johnson Government will press ahead? He has yet to acknowledge that the current energy crisis will lead to rising bills this winter, let alone admit the costs of going completely carbon-neutral.

This is a government, remember, that tends to buckle under popular pressure. It was determined to suspend free school meal vouchers during the holidays until it faced a short campaign by the footballer, Marcus Rashford. The great Tory housebuilding plan also looks to have been abandoned after grumbles from the south of England. So is he really willing to force through a net zero agenda that could (at a low estimate) cost the average household an extra £1,700 a year, piled on top of unpopular tax rises and an emerging cost-of-living crisis?

All important questions – and all being studiously ignored until after the Glasgow summit. The Prime Minister sees in net zero a foreign policy, an industrial policy, a soft-power policy and a narrative that may win over voters who still resent him for Brexit. It deserves some frank discussions about how much it will cost.

Until that conversation takes place, there is no net zero strategy – just a wish list, a whole bunch of questions and a country in dire need of some answers. 

11) Tilak Doshi: ‘Tis The Silly Season With A Looming Winter Of (Energy) Discontent
Forbes, 11 October 2021 

No, this article is not about a socially-distanced, house-bound suburban family in lockdown zero-covid mode engaged in a game of charades with face masks on. Nor is it about the prospect of a Christmas that promises broken supply chains and bare shelves around the world for all the cheap goods made in China which is suffering from coal shortages and power blackouts.  

This article is about the mounting absurdities of the climate change crusade that is now the religion not just of highway-blocking Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion zombies but also of Prime Ministers and Presidents of the world’s leading democracies.

Silliness in energy policy is nothing new of course. President Carter delivered his “moral equivalent of war” speech in 1977 and gave the following litany of dark predictions:

“The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out.”

“Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil than it can produce.”

“World oil production can probably keep going up for another six or eight years. But some time in the 1980s it can’t go up much more.”

“We can’t substantially increase our domestic production…”

“Within ten years we would not be able to import enough oil—from any country, at any acceptable price.”

He was wrong on precisely all these prognostications in his famous MEOW speech, and is most remembered for America’s gas lines, inflation and the country’s loss of belief in itself as the world’s exceptional nation, at least until President Reagan declared “it’s morning again in America” in 1984.
To be sure, President Carter was no fool, and there were plenty of smart people proclaiming similar Malthusian gloom and doom forecasts of the world running out of fossil fuels. The pointy-head intellectuals of the Club of Rome running one of the earliest main-frame computer models of the global future got it just as wrong, issuing in 1972 the mother of all apocalyptic ‘end is nigh’ forecasts which, we were told, would strike well before the turn of the century.

In the first two decades of the new millennium, in the real world, the US emerged as a powerhouse of new oil and gas production with its remarkable fracking revolution and quickly achieved its status as the world’s leading oil and gas producer outranking both Saudi Arabia and Russia. No, the world did not run out of resources, and yes, despite the widely proclaimed “climate emergency”, the global population is doing very well.
Average global life expectancy at birth in 1950 was just over 45 years — and in 2019, it was almost 73 years. In 1970, 48 percent of the global population lived in absolute poverty. By 2015, this had dropped to less than10 percent despite a two-fold increase in world population.

But let us register the tally of energy silliness that has beset us this past few months, shall we? Let’s start with the new “not Trump” US President on his first day of office just over 8 months ago. On attaining office, President Biden immediately unleashed a series of executive orders to reverse his predecessor’s strategy of “energy independence”. At a stroke of his pen, he revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, suspended oil leasing in Alaska, halted oil and gas leases on federal land, and even invoked the Endangered Species Act to block energy resource development on private lands in the West.

Having demonized US oil and gas and doing everything to block its further development, the Biden White House did not take long to criticize the big oil producers in OPEC+ including Saudi Arabia and Russia for “insufficient crude (oil) production levels”. The White House put a global statesmanship gloss on this request for OPEC+ to increase oil production – US national security adviser Jake Sullivan opined  “At a critical moment in the global recovery, this is simply not enough.” But there is no doubt that the summer surge in US gasoline prices and tumbling popularity polls had much to do with President Biden’s request.

While many of us jaded observers of the energy scene are inured to the silly antics of our government leaders, its still quite something to see the Biden administration implore foreign producers to ramp up oil exports while doing its best to stymie America’s own oil and gas industry. Scott Angelle, a former Republican lieutenant governor of Louisiana and secretary of natural resources, said bluntly: “The White House doubles down on favoring OPEC production while giving the middle finger to American energy jobs, American energy consumers [and] climate-advantaged American production.”

It was also par for the course for the Biden administration to shut down the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline capable of moving 830,000 barrels per day of Canadian heavy crude oil to the US Gulf Coast refineries while standing down Trump’s sanctions on the company building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline delivering Russian natural gas to Germany. It gifted the Kremlin a major geopolitical prize which President Putin is now using as a bargaining chip to hold Europe to ransom amidst record high natural gas prices. Aleksandr Novak, Russia's energy minister, explicitly linked easing Europe’s gas crisis - caused when demand outstripped supply as economies reopened post-Covid - with the opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Energy policy silliness, however, is not a Biden administration monopoly. In a speech to the UN in New York in September, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressed countries “to deliver on their commitments” to reduce carbon emissions, reminding world leaders that the upcoming UN climate conference in Glasgow in November would be the “turning point of humanity”. Meanwhile, as the Prime Minister lectured from his UN podium that “it’s time for humanity to grow up”, his own party backbenchers in parliament back home warned that the country’s on-going energy crisis showed why the government had to scrap green levies and subsidies for the renewables industry.

Indeed, Johnson may have been competing with Biden for the energy silliness prize when he pledged to make the UK the “Saudi Arabia of wind power”. As it turns out, owners of UK’s last remaining coal power stations were paid huge sums to keep the lights on after an extended Europe-wide wind drought caused wind power to fail and natural gas prices climbed to record highs.

While natural gas and power prices surged in the UK, a raft of small energy companies went belly up and two fertiliser plants in northern England closed down, which forced most of Britain’s commercial carbon dioxide production to shut down. This in turn is threatening shortages in the food and beverage sector which depend on the gas for a host of applications. To top it off, UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, after holding emergency talks with energy chief executives to help companies weather the unprecedented spike in gas and electricity prices, doubled down on Britain’s shift to renewable energy. He has been busy explaining that surging natural gas and power prices, energy companies going bankrupt, and petrochemical producers shutting down operations really meant that the UK needed to develop renewable energy capacity even more rapidly.

To add to the compendium of silly energy policies, in the midst of a gas supply crisis, the UK government’s environment regulator just denied Royal Dutch Shell permission to further develop a site in the North Sea which could have supplied up to 10% of Britain’s annual natural gas consumption.
The UK government had already banned fracking in 2019, following Europe in the decision to keep fossil fuels “in the ground” consistent with their climate change predilections. And, in its wisdom, the UK government saw it fit to reduce Britain’s gas storage capacity to just 2 per cent of annual gas demand, compared with 25 per cent to 37 per cent in Europe’s four largest storage holders.

But it gets better – energy policy silliness is not just the province of the politicians. So-called energy experts and international bureaucrats are serious competitors in this arena. In mid-May of this year, the International Energy Agency published its “Net Zero By 2050” study. Described widely as a “bombshell report”, among its high points it proposed an end to all new investments in fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) from 2021.

After essentially calling for the most fundamental transformation of the global energy system since the advent of the Industrial Revolution over two centuries ago — to be completed within the next three decades — the IEA opined just weeks later that "OPEC+ needs to open the taps to keep the world oil markets adequately supplied". And, on cue, as Europe’s gas and power prices surged to record levels, the IEA called on Russia to be a “reliable supplier” and send more gas to Europe.

Perhaps it’s not so much silliness as a perfectly reasonable hypocrisy of the St. Augustine variety who in his confessions prayed “Lord, make me chaste – but not yet!” Lets hope that the onslaught of energy policy silliness (or hypocrisy) of the past several months does not cause a winter of discontent and that the gods of weather be merciful to us.

12) And finally: Welcome to eco-hell: Scottish rail and refuse workers vote to strike during COP26
Financial Times, 14 October 2021

Halt to services could throw forthcoming global climate talks in Glasgow into chaos

Scottish railway workers and refuse collectors have voted to back potentially highly disruptive strike action during the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow, in a major escalation of long-festering pay disputes.

The threat by the RMT transport workers union to halt all train services within Scotland from November 1-12 could throw into chaos the already challenging logistics surrounding an international meeting aimed at accelerating efforts to combat global warming.

Separate planned action by refuse collectors raises the spectre of piles of rubbish in the streets of Glasgow just as the eyes of the world turn to Scotland’s largest city.
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The London-based Net Zero Watch (formerly Global Warming Policy Foundation - GWPF) is a campaign group set up to highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies. The Net Zero Watch newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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