Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Net Zero Watch: A bloody new Europe is being born in Ukraine


In this newsletter:

1) Brandon Weichert: A bloody new Europe is being born in Ukraine
Asia Times, 10 December 2021
2) US could hold off for now on energy sanctions for Russia, fearing impact on global prices
CNN, 9 December 2021

3) Biden slammed for sleepwalking into Putin crisis: 'Handing him leverage'
Daily Express, 10 December 2021
4) Key climate plan in Biden’s spending package in limbo
Daily Caller, 9 December 2021

5) Newly elected governor to withdraw Virginia from costly climate programme
Washington Times, 8 December 2021
6) Gas and nuclear: Fate of EU green taxonomy ‘now in the hands of von der Leyen’
EurActiv, 10 December 2021
7) Welcome to Net Zero: Europe's energy costs hit new records
Bloomberg, 8 December 2021

8) Welcome to Net Zero: Millions of UK households face 70% rise in energy bills
9) Matt Ridley: The roots of Europe's suicidal energy crisis
Daily Mail, 20 September 2021 
10) Rupert Darwall: In the Race for 'Climate Leadership,' Everyone's a Loser 
Newsweek, 10 December 2021

Full details:

1) Brandon Weichert: A bloody new Europe is being born in Ukraine
Asia Times, 10 December 2021
Germany and the rest of Europe are far too reliant on Russian energy, and it is unlikely that most of these governments will risk their access to affordable, reliable energy for the sake of Ukraine.


As the world watches with a stunning degree of ambivalence the makings of a world war in Ukraine, Western leaders soothe themselves that the situation will not erupt into a wider war. Yet it does not appear that either the Russian or the Ukrainian government has a similar understanding of the situation.
Even after a protracted discussion between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, where the US president apparently gave assurances to the Russian leader that he would support a ratcheting down of tensions in the region, Russian forces continue surging to their contested border with eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has supposedly taken a provocative step by deploying one of its naval ships near Russian forces in the Kerch Strait. In response, Moscow ordered the Kerch Strait closed.

The Kerch Strait is a tiny yet strategically important waterway that connects Ukraine with the Azov Sea, and from the Azov Sea and the Port of Mariupol to the world beyond. Russia controls this waterway. By depriving Ukraine access of the strait, Moscow is in effect blockading the country’s only maritime route outside of the region.
To be clear: The Russian action is illegal under the conditions of international law (I know, very passé).
But what can Ukraine do against the Russian war machine – even with all its new, fancy NATO military gear? More important, why the hell does the North Atlantic Treaty Organization want to risk a war with Russia over Ukraine?
The decision to behave provocatively toward Russian forces in the Kerch Strait by Ukraine came shortly after a long phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky leader and President Biden.
Some insiders familiar with the call have elaborated that, contrary to their public statements, the Biden administration tacitly concurs with the Putin regime: that eastern Ukraine must be neutralized as a point of contention between the two nuclear-armed powers.

To achieve this, the pro-Western government in Kiev must cede its claim to eastern Ukraine, which Moscow has coveted since it illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Washington does not seek to see Russia take all of Ukraine. But there does appear to be an appreciation by those in Washington that the only way war can be avoided will be if the eastern Ukraine question is resolved fully at the diplomatic table.
And any failure by Washington and Brussels to stand beside Ukraine in its crucible will be taken by the rest of the world as further proof that America’s security guarantees are worthless. Years of feckless posturing and gaslighting of Kiev by less-than-committed Western governments in the face of a large, irredentist Russian neighbor has led to this pathetic moment in the history of the Western alliance.
Of course, what Putin and Biden are proposing as a resolution to the Ukraine quandary is a terrible deal for the government in Kiev. And Ukraine’s desperate government just might decide to make a final stand in the face of a Russian onslaught, triggering a war between the two sides, and possibly starting a European conflict that rapidly devolves into a world war.
But the world is not yet there. Certainly, Ukraine deserves better than the fate to which geography has consigned its gallant people. Sadly, geography is destiny. Few in NATO are willing – or even able – to wage war on behalf of Ukraine against a nuclear-armed Russia that has little to lose.
Yet Western governments continue beating their hollow chests at the Russian autocrat who has more nukes and tanks amassed against Europe than he knows what to do with.

The world again finds itself in a similar predicament to that during the run-up to the First World War: being led by statesmen from the last century who completely misunderstood the nature, speed, and severity of the new era of warfare.
Miscalculations will abound. What those in Washington assume to be a tertiary issue between Russia and Ukraine, to be resolved through the usual combination of carrots-and-sticks, in Kiev and Moscow this is a matter of national survival and prestige. It’s also a family matter between two squabbling groups in the larger Slavic community.

When fear, honor, blood, interest and ambition – the most essential components of human affairs – are on the line, do not expect reason to win the day.
And as various Western governments “signal” their desire for war against Russia, many of those same governments (I’m looking at you, Germany) have gleefully embraced Russia as a vital trading partner.
Russia sits atop of veritable sea of natural gas and oil, a position Moscow has dutifully exploited. Russian natural gas floods Europe, even as the various governments there attempt to hold fast to Washington’s line. Ultimately, money talks and excrement walks. Germany and the rest of Europe are far too reliant on Russian energy, and it is unlikely that most of these governments will risk their access to affordable, reliable energy for the sake of Ukraine.

So real changes are already afoot in Europe. The Ukraine crisis is just expediting those changes – which will not redound to America’s geopolitical benefit, no matter how much chest-thumping Washington does.
The loss of eastern Ukraine to Russia, either in the immediacy of war or the protracted diplomatic talks that Biden hopes will follow in the coming year, is likely a fait accompli. And the American position in Europe, one way or another, will be permanently damaged.
The question must be: What price is the West willing to pay for its lack of strategy for more than seven years regarding the matter or Ukraine? Is Ukraine worth a nuclear world war?
One way or another, a new Europe is at hand. This Europe will be far bloodier and divided than the Europe of the last few decades. It will also be unlike anything Washington has grown accustomed to since the end of the Cold War.
Washington has taken Europe for granted and has spent years stupidly painting Russia as the great villain of our time (it’s certainly a problem, but it is not the great villain. China is).
Now, as Moscow embraces the role that Washington has created for it, and the West is totally unprepared for the ferocity of Russian aggression against Ukraine, the only question left to answer is: How Russian will Europe become in the next decade … and how anti-American will it be?
2) US could hold off for now on energy sanctions for Russia, fearing impact on global prices
CNN, 9 December 2021

The Biden administration is drafting options for multiple rounds of harsh sanctions on Russia if it moves to invade Ukraine, but energy sanctions could be a last resort given the impact they could have on the global economy and domestic gasoline prices, three US officials tell CNN.
"We're trying to do it in such a way where it is a menu of options. We will not do everything on that menu all at once," one of the officials said. "The energy section of it is the more extreme option if it becomes necessary. I do not see that as being in the first tranche. You always want to keep things in your back pocket."

Some administration officials believe there is a clear correlation between President Joe Biden's approval ratings and the prices at the pump and don't want to rock the boat, the officials explained. But after this story was first published, the National Security Council said it won't factor in domestic political considerations when sanctions options are presented to Biden.

"The NSC officials who will present the range of punitive measures to the President denied domestic political considerations are a factor in sanctions packages," a senior NSC official said.

The State Department declined to comment.

As conversations continue about these sanctions packages, experts warn that avoiding hard-hitting measures targeting Russia's energy sector -- which could affect global oil markets and prices at the pump -- could mean the sanctions would not be strong enough to deter Putin. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has suggested the sanctions would be severe.

"It will be very difficult to impose severe economic harm on Russia without affecting energy markets," said Edward Fishman, a former State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. "Oil and gas account for 40 percent of Russia's federal budget. The United States and Europe can take steps in advance to contain spillovers, but if they plan to impose serious economic sanctions on Russia, they cannot avoid the energy sector entirely."


A source familiar with the matter said that "the options being presented to the President would inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system."
But the conundrum of how to structure the sanctions displays how foreign policy and domestic politics can often be intertwined.

Further, the Biden administration's relationship with its European allies could dissuade the White House from targeting Russian energy companies. That is because Russia is the largest exporter of oil and natural gas to the European Union and inflicting harm on that supply could have major consequences heading into the winter.

Among the options is to bar Russian energy producers from debt markets if Moscow moves to invade, an action applied to some Russian energy producers in 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded and then annexed Crimea. But there is also a fear that Russia could retaliate against any sanctions by holding back its oil production and wreaking havoc on markets, an official noted.

"I think the risks with oil prices and gas prices being loosely pegged to oil, that would be a tough thing to sell domestically," said Julia Friedlander of the Atlantic Council when asked about potential sanctions on Russia's energy markets.

"Because it is a publicly traded commodity, right? It's not a direct supply and demand question," she added. "I would foresee that being something that could blow back in our faces, but you know, never say never."

Officials from the State Department, the Treasury and the National Security Council are meeting regularly to develop sanctions options and believe there is a way to craft high-stakes economic measures that will harm Russia enough without upending the international economy. Part of their strategy is to draft options for multiple rounds of sanctions, explained a senior administration official.

The first official added that the first tranche of sanctions would likely involve trade restrictions and target Russian banks and other financial institutions.

Another administration official added that the US and its European allies recognize that tough sanctions "would come with some collateral risk" and will likely impact European economies. But the officials said there is a broad understanding that there are no "scalpel-like" sanctions left to impose that will effectively deter Russian aggression -- and US allies understand that an invasion could be far more destabilizing for Europe than a hit to their economies.

The State Department's number three official, Under Secretary Victoria Nuland, said that the US was discussing the energy sector ramifications with European allies. "This is part of what we're discussing with our allies and partners as we build the sanctions packages, that we need to understand the exposure of allies and partners, but also the risks to Mr. Putin and to his government," Nuland told Senate lawmakers. "As you know, energy is the cash cow that enables these kinds of military deployments. So Putin needs the energy to flow as much as the consumers need it."

Sullivan would not publicly detail the economic measures that the Biden administration is considering but told reporters this week that the US is "laying out for the Russians in some detail the types of measures that we have in mind."

"I will look you in the eye and tell you, as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now," Sullivan said.

The US has the ability to draw up harsh measures because the global financial market is so reliant on US currency and banks.

Maximum leverage

"The comparative power of the United States in the financial world globally so far outstrips anything that the US has in energy markets or otherwise," said Brian O'Toole, a former Treasury official who is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

But experts point out that the Biden administration must play its strongest hand in diplomatic conversations now, before it is too late.

"The point of maximum leverage is now, before Putin has decided to attack Ukraine. If Russian troops are pouring across the border and the West imposes sanctions, the game is already over. We have lost. We don't want to get to that point. That's why it's so important for the sanctions threat to be both serious and credible now. It needs to alter Putin's cost-benefit analysis about invading Ukraine," Fishman said.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky echoed that assessment, telling CNN that he believes imposing sanctions only after Russia invades would be futile, and that at least some penalties should be imposed preemptively to get Russia to back off.

"The view from Kiev is that any prospective sanctions should Putin invade have already been factored in by Moscow and provide close to zero deterrence value," the adviser said. "However, the imposition of strong sanctions now -- with rollback provisions built into them should Russia take real steps to de-escalate -- have a chance to work."
3) Biden slammed for sleepwalking into Putin crisis: 'Handing him leverage'
Daily Express, 10 December 2021

Joe Biden has been ripped apart for his role in the Russian gas crisis after "ignoring" the will of the US and approving a controversial gas pipeline.

The US President has been accused of allowing Russia’s chokehold on supplies to tighten after he waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 back in May.
Nord Stream 2 is the pipeline that will transit gas from Russia into Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine once it begins operating. Mr Biden’s administration lifted sanctions on the company building it. A State Department report was sent to Congress warning that Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, Matthias Warnig, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, engaged in sanctionable activity.

Jake Evans, a Republican candidate for Congress, wrote on Twitter: “Friendly reminder that Joe Biden shut down the American Keystone XL Pipeline and approved the Russian Nord Stream 2 Pipeline.”

Mr Biden has been repeatedly slammed for his move.

Republican Senator from Wisconsin Ron Johnson said: “[The Biden] administration is sending a message of weakness and appeasement to our adversaries, encouraging and emboldening them.“

The comments came after a group of US senate republicans said they introduced legislation that would impose mandatory sanctions on Nord Stream 2.

Senator Jim Risch, who led six lawmakers, offered the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorisation Act, a sweeping defence policy bill that Congress passes every year.

Mr Risch wrote on Twitter: “Unsurprisingly, the Biden administration continues to ignore Congress’ will on Nord Stream 2, therefore abandoning Ukraine and handing Russia energy leverage over our US allies.

“To stop this, I introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorisation Act imposing sanctions on Nord Stream 2.”

Mr Putin has been accused of using Nord Stream 2 as a "geopolitical weapon" after he reportedly decreased volumes of gas travelling into Europe to speed up its certification by German regulators.
Full story
4) Key climate plan in Biden’s spending package in limbo
Daily Caller, 9 December 2021

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the likely deciding vote for Democrats’ massive spending package, expressed concerns with the bill’s central climate provision on Wednesday.

The West Virginia senator suggested that a proposed methane fee that would fine companies emitting more than a predetermined limit was unnecessary given existing environmental protections, The Washington Post reported. In November, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled regulations that it said would cut methane emissions by 41 million tons.

“If they’re basically complying with the regulations, then they shouldn’t be subject to the fee,” Manchin told reporters Wednesday evening. 
Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, holds a key role in determining what is ultimately included in the bill, the Build Back Better Act, given the Senate’s 50-50 split and his moderate views. He previously delivered the death knell for a carbon tax provision and a sweeping $150 billion clean energy program included in past versions of the package.
On Tuesday, Manchin insisted that he is “not a liberal” when asked about the Democratic Party’s move to the left at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. Manchin also suggested that the federal government should be careful before pushing forward with large spending.

“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at,” Manchin said in the interview with the WSJ. “We’ve gotta make sure we get this right. We just can’t continue to flood the market, as we’ve done.”
“We’ve done so many good things in the last 10 months, and no one is taking a breath,” Manchin said. 

Leading energy industry groups, meanwhile, have come out in stark opposition to the methane fee in the House-approved version of the bill. In September, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and American Gas Association wrote a letter to Congress along with several other groups, advocating against the methane fee’s inclusion in the legislation.
“New fees or taxes on energy companies will raise costs for customers, creating a burden that will fall most heavily on lower-income Americans,” the letter said. “These major new costs most likely will result in higher bills for natural gas customers, including families, small businesses, and power generators.”
5) Newly elected governor to withdraw Virginia from costly climate programme
Washington Times, 8 December 2021

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday that he would seek to use his executive powers to withdraw the commonwealth from a multistate carbon cap-and-trade program he said has overburdened ratepayers and businesses.

Environmental attorneys and other advocates quickly shot back that Virginia’s participation, approved through legislation last year, could not be undone by the governor alone.

Youngkin’s remarks about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program between 11 mid-Atlantic and northeast states designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, came during a speech he gave to the Hampton Roads Chamber.

Youngkin, who will take office in January, pledged to withdraw Virginia from the initiative through “executive action.”

Full story
6) Gas and nuclear: Fate of EU green taxonomy ‘now in the hands of von der Leyen’
EurActiv, 10 December 2021
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has taken charge of a soon-to-be-published list of sustainable investments amid controversy around the possible classification of fossil gas and nuclear energy as “green” or “transitional” activities under certain conditions, according to several sources familiar with the process.
The European Union is moving closer to integrating nuclear power and natural gas into the bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy – a set of rules designed to provide investors with a common definition of what is green and what is not in order to channel more capital into sustainable businesses.

The list of activities that Europe considers “green” or “transitional” investments will be laid down in a so-called ‘delegated act’ adopted by the European Commission setting out detailed implementing rules under the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy regulation, adopted in December 2019.

But after several failed attempts and mounting controversy over the role of gas and nuclear power in the energy transition, President von der Leyen has now taken matters into her own hands, several sources told EURACTIV.

“It is possible that the Delegated Act will be presented to the college [of commissioners] next week,” said Pascal Canfin, a leading lawmaker who chairs the European Parliament’s powerful environment committee.
“The matter is now in the hands of Ursula Von der Leyen,” he told EURACTIV.

Bas Eickhout, a Dutch EU lawmaker with the Greens party who is one of the architects of the taxonomy regulation, confirmed that the matter has now reached the highest level in the European Commission.

“This delegated act is now Chefsache in the Commission, which is also logical since this decision is becoming a very important test for the credibility of the Commission on its Green Deal priority,” he told EURACTIV.

On Wednesday evening, the EU passed the first part of its taxonomy rulebook, setting out environmental criteria for investments including renewable energy, shipping and car manufacturing that will apply as of January 2022.

But no decision has been taken yet on the most politically sensitive part of the taxonomy, dealing with gas and nuclear investments.

The European Union has passed the first part of its rulebook on climate friendly investments, which from next year will define which activities can be labelled as green in sectors including transport and buildings.
Von der Leyen’s personal handling of the dossier is testament to the intensity of the battle surrounding the potential classification of nuclear and gas as a “green” or “transitional” source of energy.

Legislative proposals tabled by the European Commission usually originate from one of the 27 commissioner before they are discussed in the College and validated by the president of the Commission.

“Here, it is the other way around: it is von der Leyen herself, through her cabinet, who will present the proposal to the college,” said an EU source with knowledge of the matter.

Contacted by EURACTIV, the European Commission did not confirm whether von der Leyen had taken charge. Most likely, the proposal will be presented to the College of Commissioners by Mairead McGuinness, the EU financial services commissioner, and Valdis Dombrovskis, the vice-president in charge of the economy, a spokesperson said.

Given internal procedures, a final proposal should be ready by Friday before it is submitted to the college for approval next week, according to an EU source.

Europe divided
European countries are deeply divided on the subject. While France is leading a group of twelve countries supporting the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy, five other EU countries expressed their opposition to the move, with Austria even warning it was ready to challenge the decision before the EU court of justice.

Central and eastern European countries are also pushing to include fossil gas as a “transitional” activity in the taxonomy, arguing that gas is needed as a stepping stone for them to exit coal, the most polluting of all fossil fuels.
But the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a network of international investors, has advised the EU against allowing these energy sources a sustainable label.

The inclusion of gas-fired power “would seriously compromise” the taxonomy’s role as an independent and scientific tool in line with Europe’s climate goals, PRI warned in a briefing note.

And while a report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) looked favourably at the inclusion of nuclear, it did “not sufficiently [address] risks related to the storage of nuclear waste, severe incidents and nuclear proliferation,” UNEP said.

The UN-supported initiative recommends that Europe explores alternatives, either by developing a proposal for sectors involved with the energy transition or extending the taxonomy “to recognise intermediate economic activities and transition pathways such as gas-fired power that operates below the ‘significant harm’ threshold of 270g CO2/kWh”.

Decision-makers cannot let economic questions on energy security and cost thwart the scientific integrity of the EU Sustainable Taxonomy, write Elise Attal and Jan Vandermosten.
Full story 
7) Welcome to Net Zero: Europe's energy costs hit new records
Bloomberg, 8 December 2021

Europe’s energy crunch is set to last as electricity prices climbed to fresh records, fueling inflation and raising bills for millions of households and industries across the continent.

Power prices for delivery next year surged over 15% in Germany and almost 14% in France by Wednesday’s market close as freezing weather has forced European utilities to burn more gas, coal and even oil to keep the lights on. High prices this month are spilling into futures contracts for the following years, a sign that the crunch could last longer than many expected.

“There is still a lot of winter left,” said Arne Bergvik, chief analyst at Swedish utility Jamtkraft AB. A cold start will create “high energy prices for the rest of the season as the optionality to use stored gas or hydropower later is lost.”

The world is facing energy shortages as economies recover from the pandemic, boosting demand. At the same time, supply hasn’t been able to keep up due to years of lower investments in fossil fuels. Europe’s wide network of renewable energy sources has also struggled, with low wind speeds reducing output for most of the year.

German power for next year, a European benchmark, reached 192 euros ($218) a megawatt-hour, while the equivalent French contract surged to as high as 222.75 euros before closing at 222.50 euros. As utilities burn more fossil fuels, carbon prices surged to a record 90.75 euros a metric ton, with options traders betting prices will hit 100 euros before the end of the year. Carbon closed at 88.88 euros.

For consumers, higher gas and power prices are adding to an increase in food and transport costs. Bank of England Deputy Governor for Monetary Policy Ben Broadbent said this week that U.K. inflation may surpass 5% early next year. That could happen as energy regulator Ofgem allows utilities to raise prices for consumers again in April.

Europe has been shifting away from fossil fuels in a bid to reduce emissions, and it has also curbed its use of nuclear power. That’s leaving the continent to rely on renewable power such as wind and solar, which are intermittent sources.

The retirement of conventional power plants that can be quickly turned on and off “is increasing the impact of renewable energy production on market pricing,” commodities trader Trafigura Group said in its annual report. “The structural shift away from coal and nuclear towards wind and solar is also causing severe strains in the power system.”
8) Welcome to Net Zero: Millions of UK households face 70% rise in energy bills
The Times, 9 December 2021
Energy bills could rise to almost £1,900 a year from April as supplier collapses, caused by a decade of regulatory failings, add to the pain of record wholesale prices, a damning report warns.

Citizens Advice accuses Ofgem of a “catalogue of errors” that will mean households face paying an extra £94 a year on their energy bills from April to foot the £2.6 billion of costs from a wave of supplier failures over the past four months.

It says this increase will come “on top of an expected increase in the price cap of between £400 and £520 in the same period”, after unprecedented rises in wholesale gas and power costs.

The price cap for 11 million households on standard tariffs has already risen to £1,277 a year from October but the report implies an increase of as much as £614, or 48 per cent, taking typical bills to as much as £1,891 when the cap is next updated in April.

Citizens Advice says that Ofgem “failed to act against unfit energy suppliers for nearly a decade” despite repeated warnings from the influential charity and many others.

“Ofgem allowed unfit and unsustainable energy companies to trade with little penalty. Despite knowing about widespread problems in the market, it failed to take meaningful action,” it said. Rules designed to ensure suppliers were fit to trade “came too late and didn’t go far enough” while the rules that did exist were not enforced.

As a result, the regulator left the market in a “precarious position” when gas prices surged this year, precipitating the collapse of 26 companies supplying almost four million households since August.

Analysis by consultancy BFY for Citizens Advice, estimates the costs arising from 25 of these failures already stand at £2.6 billion that consumers will pay on their energy bills from April. That excludes the costs associated with the collapse of Bulb, Britain’s seventh-biggest supplier with 1.6 million households, which is being dealt with through government-backed special administration and has already required a £1.7 billion taxpayer loan.

The charity calls for an independent review of the causes of the market collapse and action by the government and Ofgem to “protect consumers from unnecessarily steep increases to bills to pay for supplier failures”.

Full story
9) Matt Ridley: The roots of Europe's suicidal energy crisis
Daily Mail, 20 September 2021

Matt Ridley says root of energy crisis is governments' pursuit of decarbonisation. Nobody was more delighted than Vladimir Putin who poured money into western environmentalists’ campaigns against it. 

Had it not been so exceptionally calm in the run up to this autumn equinox, one could call the energy crisis a perfect storm. Wind farms stand idle for days on end, a fire interrupts a vital cable from France, a combination of post-Covid economic recovery and Russia tightening supply means the gas price has shot through the roof – and so the market price of both home heating and electricity is rocketing.

But the root of the crisis lies in the monomaniacal way in which this government and its recent predecessors have pursued decarbonisation at the expense of other priorities including reliability and affordability of energy.

It is almost tragi-comic that this crisis is happening while Boris Johnson is in New York, futilely trying to persuade an incredulous world to join us in committing eco self-harm by adopting a rigid policy of net zero by 2050 – a target that is almost certainly not achievable without deeply hurting the British economy and the lives of ordinary people, and which will only make the slightest difference to the climate anyway, given that the UK produces a meagre 1 per cent of global emissions.

As for the middle-class Extinction Rebellion poseurs and their road-closing chums from Insult Britain, sorry Insulate Britain, they are basing their apocalyptic predictions of ‘catastrophe’ and billions of deaths on gross exaggerations.

Wind farms stand idle for days on end, a fire interrupts a vital cable from France, a combination of post-Covid economic recovery and Russia tightening supply means the gas price has shot through the roof – and so the market price of both home heating and electricity is rocketing +3
Wind farms stand idle for days on end, a fire interrupts a vital cable from France, a combination of post-Covid economic recovery and Russia tightening supply means the gas price has shot through the roof – and so the market price of both home heating and electricity is rocketing

And while preventing working people earning a livelihood may make them feel good, it does nothing to solve the real problem of climate change.

Yet this crisis is a mere harbinger of the candle-lit future that awaits us if we do not change course.

It comes upon us when we have barely started ripping out our gas boilers to make way for the expensive and inefficient heat pumps the Government is telling us to buy, or building the costly new power stations that will be needed to charge the electric cars we will all soon require.

When David Cameron’s energy bill was being discussed in Parliament in 2013, the word on everybody’s lips was ‘trilemma’: how to ensure that energy was affordable, reliable and low-carbon. Everybody knew then that renewables were unreliable: that wind power fully works less than one-third of the time, and that solar power is unavailable at night (of course) and less efficient on cloudy winter days.

Yet whenever we troublemakers raised this issue, we were told not to worry – it would resolve itself, they said, either because wind is usually blowing somewhere, or through the development of electricity storage in giant battery farms.

This was plain wrong. The task of balancing the grid and maintaining electrical frequency has grown dangerously the more reliant on wind power we have become – as demonstrated by the widespread power cuts of August 2019. The cost of grid management has soared to nearly £2billion a year in the last two decades.

Wind can indeed be light everywhere and the grid still needs vast extra investment to transfer wind power from northern Scotland to southern England. One of the cables built at huge expense to do just that has failed multiple times and Scottish wind farms are frequently paid extra to switch off because there’s not enough capacity in the cables.

As for batteries,it would take billions of pounds to build ones that could keep the lights on for a few hours let alone a week.

So the only way to make renewables reliable is to back them up, expensively, with some other power source, responding to fluctuations in demand and supply.

Nuclear is no good at that: its operations are slow to start and stop. So, ironically, renewables have only hastened the decline of nuclear power, their even lower-carbon rival (remember it takes 150 tonnes of coal to make a wind turbine).

And in any case, an inflexible approach to regulation has caused the cost of new nuclear to balloon – despite it being perhaps the most obvious solution to our long-term energy needs.

Coal – the cheapest option and the only energy source with low-cost storage in the shape of a big heap of the stuff – was ruled out as too carbon-rich, even though countries such as China are currently building scores of new coal-fired plants.

Unlike those countries, the UK Government has rushed to close its remaining coal power stations – and banned the opening of a opencast coalmine at Highthorn on the Northumberland coast last year, despite it winning the support of the county council, the planning inspector and the courts when the Government appealed.

Ministers decided they would rather throw hundreds of Northern workers out of a job, turn down hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and rely instead – for the five million tonnes of coal per year gap that we still need for industry – on energy imports from those famously reliable partners, Russia and Venezuela.

To add insult to injury, the Government has been handing out hefty subsidies to a coal-fired power station in Yorkshire, Drax, to burn wood instead of coal, imported from American forests, even though burning wood generates more emissions than coal per unit of electricity generated.

The excuse is that trees regrow, so it’s ‘renewable’, which makes zero sense then you think it through (trees take decades to grow – and then we cut them down again anyway).

So that leaves gas with the task of keeping the lights on.

Gas turbines are fairly flexible to switch on and off as wind varies, they’re relatively cheap, highly efficient and much lower in emissions than wood, coal or oil.

But until 2009, the conventional wisdom was that gas was going to run out soon.

Then came the shale gas revolution, pioneered in Texas. A flash in the pan, I was told by energy experts in this country: and ‘could never happen here anyway’. So Britain – whose North Sea gas was running out – watched on in snobbish disdain as America shot back up to become the world’s largest gas producer, with their gas prices one-quarter of ours, resulting in a gold-rush of industry and collapsing emissions as a result of a vast, home-grown supply of reliable, low-carbon energy.

We, meanwhile, decided to kowtow to organisations like Friends of the Earth, which despite being told by the Advertising Standards Authority to withdraw misleading claims about the extraction of shale gas, embarked on a campaign of misinformation, demanding ever more regulatory hurdles from an all-too-willing civil service.
Nobody was more delighted than Vladimir Putin, who poured scorn on shale gas in interviews, and poured money into western environmentalists’ campaigns against it. The secretary general of Nato confirmed that Russia ‘engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas’.

By 2019, shale gas exploration in Britain was effectively dead, despite one of the biggest discoveries of gas-rich rocks yet found: the Bowland shale, a mile beneath Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Just imagine if we had stood up to the eco-bullies over shale gas. Northern England would now be as brimming with home-grown gas as parts of Pennsylvania and Texas. We would have lower energy prices than Europe, not higher, a rush of manufacturing jobs in areas such as Teesside and Cheshire, rocketing wealth, healthy export earnings, no reliance on Russian whims (they control the reliability of supply and the price we pay for imported electricity, as we are experiencing right now) – and no fear of the lights going out.

But in lieu of that, we could at least invest in gas-storage facilities, to cushion against the Moscow threat and any potential disruptions to supply.

But no, we chose to close the biggest of them, Rough, off East Yorkshire, in 2017 and run down our gas storage to just under 2 per cent of annual demand, far lower than Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.

Why? Presumably because the only forms of energy that ministers and civil servants respect are wind and solar. Gas is so last-century, you know!

Yet your electricity bill is loaded with ‘green levies’ that in part go to reward the crony capitalists who operate wind farms to the tune of around £10billion a year and rising.

Because energy is a bigger part of the household budget of poorer people than richer people, this is a regressive tax.

Because of the price cap on domestic bills, these levies hit industrial users even harder than domestic, and thus put up the prices of products in shops and deter investment in jobs too.

In the past, coal gave Britain an affordable supply of electricity that was also reliable so long as the miners’ union allowed it to be.

The market mechanisms introduced by Nigel Lawson in the 1980s gave us greater efficiency, the dash for gas, cheaper electricity, a highly reliable supply and falling emissions.

The central planning of the 2010s has given us among the most expensive energy on the planet, futile price caps, bankrupt energy suppliers, import dependence, rising worries about the reliability of supply and – because of the fading influence of nuclear power – not much prospect of further falls in emissions.

So, it’s time to tear up the failed policies of today. What would I do? Take a leaf out of Canada’s book and reform the regulation of nuclear power so that it favours newer, cheaper and even safer designs built in modular form on production lines rather than huge behemoths built like Egyptian pyramids by Chinese investors.

Look to America’s example and restart the shale gas industry fast. Do everything to encourage fusion, the almost infinitely productive technology that looks ready to go by 2040. And call the bluff of the inefficient wind and solar industries by ceasing to subsidise them.

Energy is not just another product: it’s what makes civilisation possible
10) Rupert Darwall: In the Race for 'Climate Leadership,' Everyone's a Loser 
Newsweek, 10 December 2021
Climate leadership or hypersonic leadership — which one, would you bet, will win the race of the 21st century?


Last year, Joe Biden campaigned on the promise that America would lead the world in the fight against climate change. At last month's Glasgow climate conference, however, President Biden diluted candidate Biden's bold promise to a plaintive "hopefully"—implying, he said, leadership by example.
At home, his climate plan in the Build Back Better bill is stalled in the Senate, and his election pledge to legislate a net-zero enforcement mechanism by the end of his first term has gone nowhere.

Aspirations to climate leadership are faring little better in Europe. Germany's new traffic-light political coalition—the red SPD, the yellow Free Democrats, and the Greens—is making the Paris climate agreement its top priority. In April, Germany's constitutional court ruled that its 2050 net-zero target was so distant that it violated the freedoms of young people. So, along with Sweden, Germany became the first country to legislate a 2045 net-zero target. Yet the new German government's net-zero plan, as outlined in the coalition agreement, may as well have been designed to worsen Europe's current energy crisis and sink its largest and most successful economy.

Under the timetable inherited from the Merkel government, zero-emitting nuclear power—which only a decade ago accounted for one-fourth of German electricity generation—will be phased out by the end of next year. To make matters worse, the new coalition is bringing forward the closure of all Germany's coal-fired power stations from 2038 to 2030 and at the same time raising the share of renewables to 80 percent. Notes energy expert Lucian Pugliaresi, Germany's energy policy initiatives "will not be sufficient to meet demand for electricity in Germany in 2030."

Germany's loss is Vladimir Putin's gain—burning more natural gas will be the only way for the country to keep the lights on. That means higher natural gas prices across northern Europe, and a continent more dependent for its energy on a dangerous geopolitical rival.
The biggest disappointment among would-be climate leaders so far has been the host of the recent U.N. climate conference: Britain and its prime minister, Boris Johnson. Britain made its bid for climate leadership in the waning days of the premiership of Johnson's predecessor in the summer of 2019. Theresa May had already announced her decision to step down when she latched on to net zero as her prime ministerial legacy. After a 90-minute debate in the House of Commons, with no cost estimates and no vote, Britain became the first major country to write net zero into law.

A small clique of politicians close to the outgoing prime minister seized on the prospect of Britain winning the presidency of the 2020 UN climate conference (later pushed back to 2021 because of COVID-19) to save face post-Brexit. One of them, former energy secretary Amber Rudd, told Politico that she thought it would "help bind the U.K. closer to the EU" on climate and energy. It amounts to a reverse case of Boris Johnson's famed cakeism—instead of having your cake and eating it, Britain would have the disadvantages of being tied to the EU without the benefits of EU membership.

Having gotten into the business of climate leadership, Britain made "keeping 1.5 alive"—the maximum temperature rise of 1.5°C that net zero is meant to deliver—the main goal of the Glasgow conference. The result was humiliation. By its end, UN secretary general António Guterres had declared 1.5 "on life support" and the British president of the conference was fighting back tears.

Better, by far, to be an energy realist like Norway. A week before the Glasgow conference, newly elected prime minister Jonas Gahr Store defended Norway's production of oil and gas because both are needed for the transition to net zero. Similarly, Japan—the only country to have hosted a UN climate conference that resulted in treaty-based emissions cuts—is dragging its feet on phasing out coal and encouraging Japanese companies to invest in oil and gas production. In October, the Japanese cabinet approved a plan prioritizing energy security. "No compromise is acceptable to ensure energy security," it said.

Different countries choose different priorities. For Europe, it's the existential threat posed by climate change. If Congress lets them, Joe Biden and John Kerry would make that America's priority, too. Meanwhile, in October, it emerged that China had successfully tested a hypersonic missile that circled the globe. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the test as "very concerning." It provides a reality check.

Climate leadership or hypersonic leadership—which one, would you bet, will win the race of the 21st century?

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

1 comment:

ross meurant said...

This tirade begins: "Germany and the rest of Europe are far too reliant on Russian energy, and it is unlikely that most of these governments will risk their access to affordable, reliable energy for the sake of Ukraine."

In any opinion, balance provides greater credibility. Accordingly one might end the tirade with:

If Germany and the rest of Europe put their interests ahead of America's interests (a) to destroy the country's which has superior hypersonic missiles to USA and (b) to bully Europe into buying US gas at a higher price than North Stream gas, at a time when Russian gas is already into parts of eastern "EU" via Turkey pipeline, the Oligarch clan ridden Ukraine self made catastrophe, might be put in better perspective.