Friday, November 26, 2021

Net Zero Watch: It’s heat or eat as Britain's energy crisis bites


In this newsletter:

1) It’s heat or eat as energy crisis bites
The London Evening Standard, 23 November 2021

2) Energy prices are a bigger worry than Covid for almost half of Britons with third leaving the heating off in cold weather
Daily Mail, 18 November 2021

3) 'Complete Carnage': Eleven more energy suppliers are set to go bust with bills to soar to over £2,000 a year
The Sun, 24 November 2021

4) Europe's energy crisis deepens as energy prices soar to record high: Blackouts 'not if, but when'
Daily Express, 23 November 2021
5) Russia puts EU on 'red alert' with 48-hour warning before cutting gas supplies
Daily Express, 24 November 2021

6) U.S. warns allies of possible Russian incursion as troops amass near Ukraine
The New York Times, 19 November 2021

7) UK must allow new oil and gas fields or face soaring energy bills, trade body says
Energy Live News, 22 November 2021

8) Ben Pile: How the BBC is crushing the climate debate
Spiked, 24 November 2021

9) Noah Rothman: The Democrats’ incoherent energy policy
Commentary Magazine, 23 November 2021
10) Vijaya Ramachandran: Rich countries’ climate policies are colonialism in green
Foreign Policy, November 2021
11) And finally: The politicisation of science funding in the U.S. and the decline of innovation
The Daily Sceptic, 24 November 2021

Full details:

1) It’s heat or eat as energy crisis bites
The London Evening Standard, 23 November 2021
Growing numbers of energy customers are worried about whether they will be able to afford to eat and keep the lights on this winter


Growing numbers of energy customers are worried about whether they will be able to afford to “eat and keep the lights on” this winter, the head of the Citizens Advice charity warned on Tuesday.

Chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the service is “seeing people who are desperately worried about the costs they are facing”.

The cap on standard variable bills went up by an average of £139 in October to reflect soaring wholesale prices and is expected to rise again by several hundred pounds in April when it is next reviewed by energy regulator Ofgem.

Dame Clare added: “That goes alongside other price increases and for many of our clients the withdrawal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit has made another huge difference to their finances. So we are seeing people who are really, really worried about whether they can eat and also keep the lights on.”

Her stark warning came the day after the collapse of Britain’s seventh biggest energy supplier Bulb, which had 1.7 million customers. Many of them now face substantial increases in their tariffs when they are moved to another supplier.

A survey published today by comparison website found that more than a third of families with children at home will reduce other expenditures such as food and luxuries if their energy bills go up significantly.

Bulb is the latest and the largest in a list of more than 20 energy suppliers that have failed since the start of September as gas prices soared.
Full story
2) Energy prices are a bigger worry than Covid for almost half of Britons with third leaving the heating off in cold weather
Daily Mail, 18 November 2021

Some 49 per cent of voters polled say that the recent surge in gas and electricity bills is more of a concern that the pandemic, as the cold of winter approaches.

A third (33 per cent) surveyed by Redfield and Wilton Strategies for MailOnline admitted that they were keeping the heating turned off in cold weather in an attempt to lower their bills.

Four-in-10 said they were turning the heating down, with the same amount saying they were wearing more clothes indoors instead.

And also a third (30 per cent) said they were cutting down on other spending as they keep an eye on their outgoings.

It comes the day after it was claimed the average British family is more than £1,000-a-year worse off due to soaring inflation.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rose sharply from 3.1 per cent in September to 4.2 per cent last month, which is the highest level since December 2011.

The bigger-than-expected rise in the cost of living comes amid surging gas and electricity prices, with regulator Ofgem last month increasing the energy price cap by 12 per cent. But the figures also show sharp fuel costs rises and inflation building across food, household goods and hospitality as supply chain disruption takes its toll.
Full story
3) 'Complete Carnage': Eleven more energy suppliers are set to go bust with bills to soar to over £2,000 a year
The Sun, 24 November 2021

NEARLY a dozen more energy suppliers are on the verge of collapse – meaning rising household bills are set to soar even higher.


That is according to accountancy firm Price Bailey which checked the credit risk scores of all domestic electricity and gas licensees registered with Ofgem, the regulator for electricity and gas markets.

Price Bailey found that 14 suppliers - nearly half those still in the market - are deemed “maximum risk”, which puts them at imminent risk of collapse.
Three have since failed, including Bulb – the seventh biggest supplier – which went into administration on Monday.
That leaves 11 teetering on the brink, Price Bailey confirmed.

More than 20 have collapsed since the start of September, affecting nearly 4million households.

Customers sucked into the chaos face the inconvenience of being transferred multiple times and significantly higher bills if they come off cheaper fixed tariffs.

The industry also has to shoulder the cost burden, which tends to be passed onto billpayers.

It is estimated that a typical bill could rise to at least £2,000 next year, up from £1,277 as stands under the energy price cap. But 11 more failures would send bills up even more.
Price Bailey partner Matt Howard called the growing crisis “complete carnage”.
Full story
4) Europe's energy crisis deepens as energy prices soar to record high: Blackouts 'not if, but when'
Daily Express, 23 November 2021

THE EU's energy crisis isn't over as record-high energy prices have prompted fears of imminent shortages and blackouts across the bloc.

Panic erupted after Austria's Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner started a nationwide poster campaign that told her country to prepare for power cuts by keeping 15 days' worth of food stored for an emergency.
Ms Tanner sent a stark warning to consumers about the severe consequences of low energy supplies, stating last month: "The question is not whether a blackout will come, but when."

Her warning came as European leaders met last as they scrambled to resolve the crisis as the price of natural gas and power soared while renewable energy failed to pull its weight as a result of poor energy conditions.

James Huckstepp, a natural gas analyst from S&P Platts has predicted that West European gas storage will not go back to normal levels until November 2022, ending this winter with storage levels plummeting to 15 percent.

In October, energy prices surged when Russia decreased gas supplies travelling into Europe from pipelines as President Vladimir Putin hoped to speed the approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is due to transport gas from Russia to Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine.

But now, Germany has suspended certification of Nord Stream 2 and some warn the EU is "at the mercy" of Russia who supplies around 40 percent of its gas.

Full story
5) Russia puts EU on 'red alert' with 48-hour warning before cutting gas supplies
Daily Express, 24 November 2021

ALARM BELLS are sounding throughout the EU as Russia sent a 48-hour ultimatum to Moldova, warning it will cut gas supplies right on the bloc's doorstep.

Russia's energy giant Gazprom's spokesman Sergei Kupryanov told the small country, which is not in the bloc, but sits between the two EU states of Romania and Ukraine, that it will cut off its energy supply if it does not pay for deliveries under a contract agreed last month.
Moldova and Gazprom extended a deal to supply gas to the ex-Soviet country at the end of last month. It came after a bitter stand-off that saw Chisinau declare a state of emergency over gas shortages and sign a contract with a country other than Russia for the first time.

Although not in the EU, Moldova is wedged within the Bulkan states that have raised concerns over the Kremlin's provocative actions.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted: "Europe is facing new threats.

"Migration crisis, cyberattacks and gas price manipulation are just examples of hybrid war launched at Minsk and Moscow. We are witnessing an attempt to switch the current security order.

"Russia military concentration on the Ukrainian border and blackmailing Moldova with gas is a red alert for the EU. There is still time to avoid catastrophe."

Mr Morawiecki is now on a tour of European states in the hope of finding an appropriate collective response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already come under fire for reportedly toying with gas supplies in Europe and using the resource as a "geopolitical weapon".

The bloc relies on around 40 percent of its gas imports from Moscow.

The squeeze on supplies is said to have come in the hope that his new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, would avoid falling under strict EU rules.

Europe's energy crunch has been in the pipeline for years, having grown increasingly dependent on other sources of energy including wind and solar power.

Now countries in the Brussels bloc are finding themselves short of gas and coal - and without other renewable energy sources such as wind power, nations could see the worst-case scenario, including power cuts and factory closures.

In 2019, almost three-quarters of the EU’s imports of natural gas come from Russia - accounting for 41 percent.

The reported restrictions on gas flowing into the bloc sent prices soaring on several occasions and saw the EU hold several emergency talks on a looming energy crisis.

But Germany's energy regulator suspended the process for getting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline up and running last week.

It is now likely to not be commissioned until March next year, in a move that is said to have further angered the Kremlin.

Natural gas prices were sent soaring to over €100 (£84) per megawatt-hour last Wednesday.
6) U.S. warns allies of possible Russian incursion as troops amass near Ukraine
The New York Times, 19 November 2021

Western intelligence officials are increasingly convinced that the Russian president wants to take control of a larger swath of territory.

WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials are warning allies that there is a short window of time to prevent Russia from taking military action in Ukraine, pushing European countries to work with the United States to develop a package of economic and military measures to deter Moscow, according to American and European officials.

Russia has not yet decided what it intends to do with the troops it has amassed near Ukraine, American officials said, but the buildup is being taken seriously and the United States is not assuming it is a bluff.

Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, traveled to Brussels this week to brief NATO ambassadors about American intelligence on the situation and a possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Ms. Haines’s trip was long planned and covered a variety issues, but the growing concerns over Russia were among the short-term threats discussed, according to officials briefed on them.

The United States has also been sharing intelligence with Ukraine. And on Friday, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with Lt. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s military, to discuss Russia’s “concerning activity in the area,” the Joint Staff said in a statement.

American and British intelligence are increasingly convinced that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is considering military action to take control of a larger swath of Ukraine, or to destabilize the country enough to usher in a more pro-Moscow government.

American and allied officials sounded an alarm in April, as Moscow built up forces near its border with Ukraine. But the current buildup, which appears to involve more troops and sophisticated weaponry, has engendered more concerns — particularly as Russia has moved to jam Ukrainian surveillance drones. Hostilities have also spiked since Ukraine used one of its drones to attack a separatist howitzer, prompting Russia to scramble jets.

“It’s not inevitable that there’s going to be an increase of kinetic conflict, but all the pieces are in place,” said Frederick B. Hodges, the former top U.S. Army commander in Europe now with the Center for European Policy Analysis. “If we, the West, look like we are not cohesive and ready to work together, then the risk of the Kremlin making a terrible miscalculation goes up.”

American intelligence officials have told allies that Mr. Putin has grown frustrated with the peace process set up by France and Germany in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and engineered a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Some former officials say Mr. Putin could be intent on securing a land route between eastern Ukraine and Crimea. And American analysts believe Mr. Putin sees the next few months as a unique moment to act.
Full story
7) UK must allow new oil and gas fields or face soaring energy bills, trade body says
Energy Live News, 22 November 2021

OGUK said blocking oil and gas projects would leave consumers more exposed to soaring energy bills

Blocking proposed oil and gas fields would risk leaving consumers more exposed to soaring energy bills and fuel shortages.
That’s according to analysis by the trade body OGUK which suggests that if new oil and gas projects do not move forward, domestic production will plummet.

The report predicts that gas output could fall up to 75% by 2030.
That would leave the UK heavily reliant on imported energy, the OGUK suggests.
According to the latest official figures, the UK paid Norway £5.2 billion for gas and £6.1 billion for crude oil, Russia £524 million for gas and £3.2 billion for oil and the US £2.8 billion for crude oil.
Last week, Nicola Sturgeon said the Cambo oil gas field should not be given the go-ahead.

During COP26Wales vowed to stop licensed oil and gas production as part of its membership in a new global alliance of countries pledging to phase out fossil fuels to fight climate change.
Deirdre Michie, Chief Executive of OGUK, said: “The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry is committed to helping the UK government meet its ambitious net zero goals.
“We accept all the science around climate change and the need to cut emissions, but this transition must be managed.

“If we cut our own supplies of gas and oil faster than we can reduce demand then we will have to import more of what we need. Our import bills will go up without any reduction in emissions.”
8) Ben Pile: How the BBC is crushing the climate debate
Spiked, 24 November 2021
BBC News is equating criticism of the green agenda with conspiracy theories and science denial.

BBC News carried two articles last week denigrating and demonising the critics of climate-change alarmism.
The first was by Marianna Spring, the BBC’s ‘specialist disinformation reporter’. She asserted that criticism of environmentalism was being fuelled by right-wing conspiracy theorists who had switched ‘from Covid denial to climate denial’. And the second came from reporters Rachel Schraer and Kayleen Devlin, who are both part of the BBC’s ‘Reality Check’ team of fact-checkers. They claimed to have exposed ‘the truth behind the new climate-change denial’. Both articles are travesties of journalism.

Take Schraer and Devlin’s piece, which claims to debunk four claims supposedly made by climate deniers: that a ‘Grand Solar Minimum’ will halt global warming; global warming is good; climate-change action will make people poorer; and renewable energy is dangerously unreliable.
Despite the article’s dismissive approach, it completely fails to debunk what are plausible claims. For instance, the ‘Grand Solar Minimum’ – when the Sun gives off less energy as part of its natural cycle – is, as the article admits, a real phenomenon. Whether it will reduce the Earth’s global temperatures by a significant enough amount to offset climate change is up for debate, but it is a debate worth having. To write off theories of solar influence on climate in two perfunctory paragraphs, when there is still so much to research and understand, seems highly premature.

Or take the claim that global warming is ‘good’. There is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that a warming climate is not the terrible catastrophe many hype it up to be. Indeed, thanks to social and economic progress, fewer people today die or suffer from events and phenomena attributable to the climate than at any point in the past. And there is plenty of reason to think that such progress will continue in the future.

And what of the claim that climate-change action will make people poorer? Again, that seems like a fair comment. After all, it is precisely because of the impoverishing consequences of decarbonisation targets that so many developing nations are resistant to them – as the failure of COP26 to eliminate coal power showed. And as for renewable energy, it is unreliable precisely because much of it depends on the weather. If the conditions aren’t right, then wind turbines or solar panels do not produce energy. This is not a crack-pot theory. It is a simple fact.

Marianna Spring’s article is arguably more wrong-headed still. She contends that Covid conspiracy theorists have moved on from the pandemic to spread conspiracy theories about climate change. Spring argues that the so-called deniers claim the climate, like Covid, is being used by a shadowy elite to establish a New World Order. But the article goes beyond criticising obvious conspiracy theories. Spring claims that the notion of a ‘climate lockdown’ – that is, the ‘idea that in the future we might have Covid-style lockdowns to counteract climate change’ – is ‘completely unfounded’.

The only problem with this narrative is that, as I reported on spiked in 2020, it wasn’t a rag-tag band of conspiracy nuts who first connected Covid to climate change in this way. It was environmentalists themselves, aided and abetted by the great and the good. Indeed, almost from the moment we were first locked down in spring 2020, greens speculated about the possibility of using something akin to a lockdown in order to remake society along ‘sustainable’ lines.

In September last year, left-leaning economist Mariana Mazzucato even used the phrase ‘climate lockdown’ when speculating about the need for ‘a radical overhaul of corporate governance, finance, policy and energy systems’. And in April this year, Time ran the headline, ‘The pandemic remade every corner of society. Now it’s the climate’s turn.’ If anything, all the Covid-cum-climate conspiracy theorists have done is take politicians’, journalists’ and activists’ arguments at face value.

But there’s something else about these two BBC articles that tells us much about journalism and the green agenda today. That is, they both ground their claims on the views of political campaigners – which they then pass off as neutral, expert opinion.

For instance, both draw substantially on the views of Jennie King, senior policy manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). The ISD is a think tank devoted to combating ‘extremist movements, hate groups and conspiracy-theory networks worldwide’. This is not a neutral organisation. It is a politically driven one, in which what it views as ‘extremism’ encompasses not just neo-Nazis, but also people concerned about the effects of wind turbines on bird populations. It demonises criticism of the green agenda as extremism.

In this sense, the ISD is very much a wing of the establishment, peddling the establishment line on climate change. And no wonder. It is run by Lord Turner, whose past roles include: chairman of the Financial Services Authority, chairman of the Pensions Commission, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change and director-general of the Confederation of British Industry. For an organisation that claims to be ‘fiercely independent’, its staffers’ CVs look remarkably establishment-oriented. The ISD is also funded by the British state, among other sources.

And now the ISD is bolstering tendentious articles on the BBC News website. These two articles, published by the UK’s national broadcaster, are not the products of objective, dispassionate journalism, then. They are the products of spoon-fed ‘churnalism’, a re-packaging of the views of an establishment think tank. And their purpose is to denigrate and demonise any dissent from green ideology.

This shows how difficult it is to challenge climate-change alarmism today. It is being pushed not just by the political elite and the state, but also by supposedly independent think tanks and the media, which uncritically and credulously toe the green line. As any deviation from the establishment line is rebranded as ‘misinformation’, the space for debate gets ever narrower. This does not bode well for democracy.

Ben Pile blogs at Climate Resistance.
9) Noah Rothman: The Democrats’ incoherent energy policy
Commentary Magazine, 23 November 2021
The White House is hostile toward fossil fuels. But the administration also seems to believe that energy should be as cheap and abundant as possible. Biden officials don’t want to encourage the exploration and exploitation of domestic natural-gas deposits or crude wells, but they also want foreign producers like OPEC to increase supply.
Now that it’s acutely aware of the political costs associated with inflation, the Biden administration is finally taking action. “How about some immediate help with gas prices?” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain asked in a November 17 tweet. He answered his own question by linking to a CNN article advertising a forthcoming coordinated release of strategic petroleum reserves by the United States and other major energy consumers abroad. The article’s headline advised readers who are enthused by the declining price of petroleum products in futures markets to “thank China and Joe Biden.”

This episode illustrates the general absurdity of the Democratic Party’s energy policy, to the extent that it has one. The White House is hostile toward fossil fuels—indeed, per White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki, “the rise in gas prices over the long-term makes an even stronger case for doubling down our investment and focus on [a] clean energy option.” But the administration also seems to believe that energy should be as cheap and abundant as possible. Biden officials don’t want to encourage the exploration and exploitation of domestic natural-gas deposits or crude wells, but they also want foreign producers like OPEC to increase supply. They believe that major polluters such as China should limit their use of hydrocarbons but, apparently, not if those limitations contribute to rising consumer costs.

This is incoherent.
The administration’s decision to release 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve into a nation that consumes roughly 20 million barrels per day isn’t an energy policy. It’s a publicity stunt. It comes on the heels of a truly shameless effort on the Biden administration to intimidate oil and gas companies into reducing energy prices by referring them to the Federal Trade Commission for potential “illegal conduct,” e.g. gouging Americans at the pump. This display of manic gesticulations won’t ease the financial burdens on Americans. Indeed, it showcases how little appetite there is in the White House for genuine solutions to the present energy crunch.

“We’re focused on the economic boom,” White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein told reporters in June. By then, Biden had already signed a nearly $2 trillion Covid relief bill into law, piling more stimulus atop the $4 trillion in emergency spending that Congress approved in 2020. The administration’s primary objective at the time was to secure yet another $4 trillion spending bill, this time focused on “infrastructure” spending.

Although Bernstein insisted that the administration’s members weren’t “sitting on our hands” when it came to the threat posed by inflation, their proposals for curing this “transitory” phenomenon involved more government spending to keep consumer demand high. In other words, more of the same. It somehow came as a shock when Washington’s efforts to subsidize consumer demand created more consumer demand—a phenomenon augmented by the easing of the pandemic’s artificial limits on Americans’ spending habits.

In the fall, consumer prices continued to rise well above expectations, and goods shortages resulting from the pressures of the pandemic on the supply chain only contributed to that condition. Energy is a consumer good like any other, albeit one that lacks the elasticity of other consumer goods that you don’t need to get to work or stave off hypothermia. A comprehensive energy policy that actively responds to these adverse conditions might involve the release of some strategic reserves, but only in concert with policies designed to bring more domestic energy to market. The Biden administration has forsaken the second half of that strategy to satisfy the Democratic Party’s environmental activists.

On the eve of the pandemic, in late 2019, the United States was producing a record 13 million barrels of crude oil and 93 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Demand for energy cratered with the arrival of COVID. Subsidizing Americans’ lifestyles and the industries they patronized amid that temporary crisis was, indeed, a worthy priority. But Joe Biden didn’t enter office determined to restore the status quo. He came to overturn it. So for the first several months of his administration, the president put the screws to energy producers.

Biden shut down oil and gas leasing on federal land. He directed executive agencies to eliminate spending that in any way served to subsidize fossil-fuel producers. He forced developers to abandon critical transit networks such as the Keystone XL pipeline. All of this has contributed to the skittishness of the investor class, which was paring back expensive and risky investments in new wells even before the onset of the pandemic. This, along with high energy demand abroad, the reluctance of foreign producers to ramp up production, and increased costs of operations associated with clean-energy mandates, has exacerbated the supply crunch.
“All of those different moving pieces took U.S. energy production down by about 2 million barrels a day over the course of the last year, at a time when demand has surged based on the global reopening trade,” one market strategist told Axios reporters in October.

Taken together, this means real pain—pain for American consumers, pain for Americans in the energy sector, and political pain for the White House. And yet, the administration hasn’t curbed its addiction to quick fixes and clever messaging strategies. Rather than address the conditions contributing to the rising cost of consumer prices by closing off the spigot in Washington, Joe Biden’s White House is looking to change the subject again. The voting public doesn’t seem inclined to let them get away with it.
10) Vijaya Ramachandran: Rich countries’ climate policies are colonialism in green
Foreign Policy, November 2021

With natural gas prices at record highs in Europe, Norway is raking it in. The country is Europe’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia—and has just agreed to increase natural gas exports by 2 billion cubic meters to alleviate the continent’s acute energy shortage. Its neighbors, such as Britain, are grateful for every dollop of gas as winter approaches.
Yet even as wealthy Norwegians count their kroners thanks to rising prices and booming exports, their government is working hard to stop some of the world’s poorest countries from producing their own natural gas. Along with seven other Nordic and Baltic countries, Norway has been lobbying the World Bank to stop all financing of natural gas projects in Africa and elsewhere as soon as 2025—and until then only in “exceptional circumstances,” as an unpublished statement by the group, seen by Foreign Policy, details.
At COP26, 20 countries went even further, pledging to stop all funding for overseas fossil fuel projects beginning next year. Instead, the Nordic and Baltic countries suggest, the World Bank should finance clean energy solutions in the developing world “such as green hydrogen and smart micro-grid networks.”
The idea that some of the poorest people on Earth will be using green hydrogen—possibly the most complex and expensive energy technology that exists—and building out “smart micro-grid networks” in just a few years at anywhere near the scale required is absurd. Not even solar energy or wind power—if it could be built out quickly enough—could fuel development in the global south without backup power using fossil fuels, of which gas is the cleanest by far.
In sub-Saharan Africa, which has large gas fields offshore and includes many of the world’s poorest countries, a ban on financing gas projects would practically end support for the critical energy infrastructure necessary to support economic development and raise living standards—including electricity for homes, schools, and factories; industrial heat for producing cement and steel; the carbon dioxide that is an essential component of synthetic fertilizer; and liquefied gas for transportation and cooking fuel.

That last example makes perfectly clear what Norway’s fight against natural gas means for the world’s poor. About 3.8 million people die prematurely each year from the effects of indoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization. The vast majority of these deaths occur among the 2.6 billion people in poor countries who still burn wood, coal, charcoal, or animal dung indoors for cooking. Women and children doing household chores are particularly exposed to this toxic smoke, which penetrates deep into the lungs. The switch to bottled cooking gas—promoted on a large scale by India, China, and the United Nations—is saving countless lives in the developing world.
That’s one reason why the U.N.—where developing countries have a stronger voice than in Oslo, Washington, or Berlin—lists natural gas among clean energy sources and is promoting the switch to cooking gas in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for global access to affordable clean energy.

None of this is lost on the countries lobbying the World Bank: They acknowledge the need for fossil fuel-generated power to backstop weather-dependent wind and solar. They also acknowledge the benefits of clean stoves. And when the issue is its own oil and gas, Norway rejects restrictions. Ahead of COP26, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store argued that future oil and gas drilling will be critical to a transition to renewable energy. In other words: Norway knows gas is needed yet doesn’t want poor countries to produce that gas.

Norway is effectively telling Africa: We’ll stay rich, keep you from developing, and send some charity your way as long as you keep your emissions down.

Let’s call a spade a spade: Norway is advancing the green version of colonialism. And the problem isn’t just Norway. It’s the rich world telling the global south to stay poor and stop developing, which under no scenario is possible without a vast increase in energy use. Instead, development aid will be repackaged as climate-related transfers, keeping the global south dependent.
The accelerated transition to renewable energy being pushed on Africa by developed countries and their aid agencies, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni wrote in an op-ed last month, “stands to forestall Africa’s attempts to rise out of poverty.”

More than 400 million people in Africa live on less than $2 per day. Their needs are too great to be met solely with current green energy technologies, which are also too expensive for these governments’ finances. Costly subsidies can be borne in wealthier countries, which are responsible for the great majority of the world’s past and present carbon emissions. Zero-carbon grids exist almost nowhere in the world, with Iceland the main exception.
Everywhere else, fossil fuel electricity generation is still needed to balance out weather-dependent wind and solar. Low-cost, low-carbon alternatives aren’t yet available when it comes to the production of fertilizer, cement, and steel.

Beyond electricity, fossil fuels are even more critical to Africa’s development. Modern agriculture—which the continent needs to feed its population and offer rural youth a better future than subsistence farming—is heavily reliant on oil and gas. Synthetic fertilizer to improve yields is most efficiently produced with natural gas. Road and building construction is energy-intensive, as is cold storage for food and pharmaceuticals. The transportation sector remains almost entirely dependent on oil and gas. Failing to be honest about the energy needs of the developing world is inhumane, uncompassionate, and immoral.

Norway is the most fossil fuel-dependent rich country in the world. Crude oil and natural gas account for 41 percent of exports, 14 percent of GDP, 14 percent of government revenues, and between 6 and 7 percent of employment. Norway has the largest hydrocarbon reserves in Europe and is the world’s third-largest exporter of natural gas. It is effectively telling Africa: We’ll stay rich, keep you from developing, and send some charity your way as long as you keep your emissions down.

The hypocrisy extends to other countries, of course. U.S. President Joe Biden has set lofty targets but just called on major energy suppliers to ramp up production to meet U.S. demand for oil. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has outlined ambitious climate goals while giving Germans plenty of time—almost 20 years—to exit from coal.

Many who support restrictions on poor countries do so, ironically, in the name of climate justice, rightly noting the global poor are most at risk from climate impacts. Yet how will the global poor become more resilient to extreme weather events and other effects of climate change if not through development? The global poor are most at risk because they cannot afford adaptation measures such as air conditioning and irrigation.

Meanwhile, more than 1 billion people in 48 sub-Saharan African countries are responsible for less than 1 percent of cumulative global carbon emissions. Even if those nations tripled electricity generation solely with natural gas—an unlikely outcome given Africa’s renewable resources, such as hydroelectric power—global emissions would only increase by about 1 percent. Denying these 1 billon people access to more electricity, on the other hand, makes it much more likely they will remain poor and hence more vulnerable to the warming that rich countries are overwhelmingly responsible for.

Rich countries such as Norway claim they are committed to equitable and sustainable development. Instead of blocking it, they should make big investments in clean technology and infrastructure to support poor countries. They need to stop the easy slogans and be judicious about how and when to end support for fossil fuels, taking the social and economic consequences into account. They should enable the financing of natural gas projects for at least the next two decades so that poor countries can lift themselves out of poverty. Whatever they do, they should not pursue climate ambitions while losing sight of social justice, which will remain an empty phrase if the global south doesn’t have the energy resources to raise incomes, resilience, and quality of life.

The Nordics and other rich countries are betting on achieving their climate ambitions without the need for harder-edged policies at home. It is simply too tempting for leaders of rich countries—including those who produce plenty of oil and gas—to impose restrictions on others. Pursuing climate ambitions on the backs of the poorest people in the world is not just hypocritical—it is immoral, unjust, and green colonialism at its worst.

Vijaya Ramachandran is the director for energy and development at the Breakthrough Institute.  Twitter: @vijramachandran
11) And finally: The politicisation of science funding in the U.S. and the decline of innovation
The Daily Sceptic, 24 November 2021

In his 2011 book The Great Stagnation, economist Tyler Cowen argued that economic growth in the U.S. is slowing due to less technological innovation. And he suggested this is because most of the “low-hanging fruit” have already been picked. Other commentators have made similar arguments.

In a new report for the CSPI, researcher Leif Rasmussen puts forward an alternative (or additional) explanation for the decline in technological innovation: science has become politicised.

Scientists, Rasmussen argues, have come under increasing pressure to tailor their research to the agenda of woke activists. (He doesn’t use the term ‘woke’ in his report, but we all know what he’s talking about.)
Rasmussen’s method is very simple. He counted the frequency of various politicized terms (i.e., woke jargon) in the abstracts of successful National Science Foundation research awards between 1990 and 2020.

Specifically, he noted whether each abstract contained at least one of seven terms: ‘equity’, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘gender’, ‘marginalize’, ‘underrepresented’ and ‘disparity’. Variants of each term (e.g., ‘inclusive’ or ‘inclusivity’) were included in this.  

Note: the National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency with an annual budget of $8.5 billion (so not exactly pocket change). And it accounts for a quarter of all federal funding of basic research at U.S. colleges.
Rasmussen’s main finding is shown in the chart below, with each line corresponding to a different area of science.

As you can see, the frequency of woke jargon has increased massively in all areas of science. Unsurprisingly, the worst offender is ‘Education & Human Resources’. As of 2020, more than half of all abstracts contain at least one of the seven terms.

By contrast, ‘Mathematics & Physical Sciences’ has seen the smallest increase; though even here, the rise is non-trivial. More than 20% of abstracts now mention ‘equity’, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’ or one of the other terms.

It should be noted that every NSF abstract has a section titled ‘Broader Impacts’, in which the researchers must explain why on earth their research would be of interest to anyone else. The official guidance for this section explicitly mentions the goal of increasing representation of women and minorities:

"NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to the achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to: full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities … development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce."

Hence, it’s not necessarily true that every abstract mentioning one of the seven terms corresponds to an ideological research project per se. In a lot of cases, the researchers probably just crammed as much woke jargon as they could in the ‘Broader Impacts’ section, hoping to maximise the chance of success.

‘Our attempt to prove the Riemann hypothesis will encourage more women and minorities to enter the field of mathematics because…’ You get the idea.

Rasmussen’s finding is therefore consistent with two distinct types of politicisation. First, funding agencies may have become politicised. (And in fact, we can already see this in the text quoted above). And second, scientific research itself may have become politicised.

Further research is needed to quantify the scale of each of these types. (I suspect that both are getting worse, or at least have been for the last decade.) Nonetheless, Rasmussen’s report provides valuable insights into a troubling phenomenon, and is worth reading in full.

The London-based Net Zero Watch 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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