Friday, December 17, 2021

Net Zero Watch: Drill, Baby, Drill! Biden Administration urges domestic oil producers to raise output


In this newsletter:

1) Drill, Baby, Drill! Biden Administration urges domestic oil producers to raise output
Argus News, 14 December 2021


2) China begins walking back promises to reduce CO2 emissions 
Breitbart, 13 December 2021

 3) As ‘China realises key role of coal’ its climate  pledges are in doubt
South China Morning Post, 13 December 2021
 4) Russia vetoes U.N. resolution linking climate change and security
Associated Press, 14 December 2021

5) Boris Johnson plans to end private ownership of cars to meet his Net Zero target
Daily Express, 15 December 2021
6) UK government to be sued by frackers over unequal treatment as energy crisis deepens
The Sunday Telegraph, 12 December 2021
7) David Rose: Does the CCP control Extinction Rebellion?
Unherd, 15 December 2021

8) Bryan Bashur: Biden's renewable energy rush is making gas prices skyrocket
The Hill, 13 December 2021

 9) Rod Liddle: We’re screeching into a new Dark Age, and bad scientists are leading the charge
The Sunday Times,12 December 2021

Full details:

1) Drill, Baby, Drill! Biden Administration urges domestic oil producers to raise output
Argus News, 14 December 2021

President Joe Biden's administration is offering its strongest public support yet for domestic oil producers to boost output and drill on existing leases, while definitively ruling out the possibility it will reinstate a decades-old ban on crude exports.

US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm told oil executives today the administration was not "standing in the way" of oil and gas production and supported increased output. She noted that the administration has approved drilling permits on federal land at a faster pace than the prior administration, while pursuing other policies that could bring down retail gasoline prices that in the week ending 13 December were still just 10¢/USG shy of a seven-year high.

"Consumers as you know are hurting at the pump," Granholm said at a meeting of the National Petroleum Council, a group of high-level oil executives that offer advice to the US energy secretary. "I hope you will hear me say that please, take advantage of the leases that you have, hire workers, get your rig count up."

The change in tone comes amid growing frustration from US oil executives, who have bristled at what they see as a lack of support from the administration. Biden in one of his first acts in office blocked the 830,000 b/d Keystone XL pipeline and spent this summer unsuccessfully asking Opec+ to accelerate plans to boost output. US independent producer Pioneer Natural Resources' chief executive Scott Sheffield last week said he has yet to meet another oil executive who has received a call from the administration asking them to increase drilling.

But the administration has become increasingly vocal in saying it supports domestic production, as voter frustration over fuel prices becomes a growing threat to Democratic passage of a $1.85 trillion budget package. US senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) has cited high inflation rates as a reason to slow work on the budget bill, which includes hundreds of billions of dollars in support for clean energy.

No export ban plan

Granholm said it would make "little sense" for the administration to stand in the way of oil and gas production as the US recovers from the effects of Covid-19, echoing remarks that US deputy energy secretary David Turk made last to industry officials last week. She also more definitively ruled out the possibility that the administration would reinstate a ban on crude exports, something the White House said last week it was not considering. Granholm said she had heard from industry officials last week that it was important to take "off the table" the uncertainty of a potential crude export ban.

"I have heard you loud and clear, and so has the White House, and we wanted to put that rumor to rest," Granholm said.
Full story
2) China begins walking back promises to reduce CO2 emissions 
Breitbart, 13 December 2021

Communist China frequently placates climate activists by promising to cut pollution (sic) in the 2030s and strive for “carbon neutrality” by 2060.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Monday quoted senior Chinese officials already walking back those promises, recasting them as vague aspirations that might have to be put on hold until Beijing achieves its industrial goals.

The climate change movement has always been remarkably credulous when it comes to China. At the big COP26 “climate summit” in Scotland in October, China actually “pledged” to increase its carbon pollution over the coming decade – but the response was mostly muted grumbling from activists who demand immense short-term sacrifices from the Western world.

At the conclusion of the Glasgow summit, the Biden administration released a joint statement on reducing carbon emissions with Beijing, hailed by climate envoy John Kerry as a “roadmap for our future collaboration.”
Two months later, the Chinese are backing away from that road map, as the SCMP reported:
"Addressing a forum in Beijing on Saturday, former finance minister Lou Jiwei said that while China had said it would “strive to” reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060, there was a difference between this and “ensuring [those targets would be achieved]”.

“We are a developing country. We should bear common but differentiated responsibilities that are different from developed countries,” Lou told the gathering organised by the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges.
Han Wenxiu, from the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs, was similarly cautious, saying the two targets were complex and long-term tasks that required full consideration of the country’s energy and industrial structure.

“[The carbon targets] should not affect the country’s overall economic and social development,” Han said.

The day before those comments were made, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and his Politburo issued a statement that said reaching carbon neutrality will require “unwavering efforts,” but success “can’t be achieved in just one battle.” 
The same statement made it clear that China will not stop burning coal to generate electricity. The Chinese are currently pouring record amounts of coal into record numbers of power plants to meet the soaring energy needs of their industrial sector. As several Chinese analysts explained to the SCMP, critical power shortages in the latter half of 2021 frightened communist leaders away from any thoughts they might have been entertaining about eliminating coal.
“Wind and solar power account for about 9 percent of China’s electricity generation. The dominant role of coal in China’s power and energy structure cannot be changed in a short time,” Lin Boqiang of the China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy at Xiamen University explained.
Ma Jun of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing said the statement by Xi and the Politburo on Friday was a sign that “replacements have not been building up and we cannot phase out fossil fuels in a quick way.”
Ma thought the latest Communist Party statements on climate were nevertheless “meaningful” and carbon emissions would eventually be capped, but perhaps not on the timeline China has been promoting at the last few climate conferences.
Full story
3) As ‘China realises key role of coal’ its climate  pledges are in doubt
South China Morning Post, 13 December 2021

Targets come with no guarantees and should not affect development, former officials say. Awareness has grown of just how difficult it will be for the country to make the shift away from the fossil fuel, analysts say

Serving and former Chinese senior officials have urged caution on the path towards carbon neutrality, echoing the leadership’s assessment that climate targets “can’t be achieved in just one battle”.

Addressing a forum in Beijing on Saturday, former finance minister Lou Jiwei said that while China had said it would “strive to” reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060, there was a difference between this and “ensuring [those targets would be achieved]”.

“We are a developing country. We should bear common but differentiated responsibilities that are different from developed countries,” Lou told the gathering organised by the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges.

Han Wenxiu, from the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs, was similarly cautious, saying the two targets were complex and long-term tasks that required full consideration of the country’s energy and industrial structure.

“[The carbon targets] should not affect the country’s overall economic and social development,” Han said.
Lou and Han’s comments came a day after top Chinese top leaders stressed at a key annual economic meeting the need for a safe and sustainable energy transition.

Top economic policymakers led by President Xi Jinping and the Politburo, met during the week for the central economic work conference to review Beijing’s economic work over the last year and to set the tone for the country’s path in the year ahead.

In a statement released on Friday, the officials said: “Achieving carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals … requires unwavering efforts but it can’t be achieved in just one battle.”

According to the statement, fossil fuels should be phased out “based on” safe and reliable alternative sources of energy. China should also make clean and efficient use of coal, given the fuel’s dominant role in the country’s power generation and consumption, it said.

Zhang Xiaoqiang, a former senior official with the National Development and Reform Commission, underlined the role of coal on Saturday, saying that even if China reached its carbon peak in 2030, thermal power generation would still be 60 per cent of the total.

About 70 per cent of China’s electricity now comes from thermal power – obtaining thermal energy by burning fuels such as coal, gas or waste.
Full story
4) Russia vetoes U.N. resolution linking climate change and security
Associated Press, 14 December 2021

NEW YORK — Russia on Monday vetoed a first-of-its-kind U.N. Security Council resolution casting climate change as a threat to international peace and security, a vote that sank a years-long effort to make global warming a more central consideration for the U.N.’s most powerful body.


Spearheaded by Ireland and Niger, the proposal called for “incorporating information on the security implications of climate change” into the council’s strategies for managing conflicts and into peacekeeping operations and political missions, at least sometimes.

The measure also asked the U.N. secretary-general to make climate-related security risks “a central component” of conflict prevention efforts and to report on how to address those risks in specific hotspots.

“It’s long overdue” that the U.N.’s foremost security-related body take up the issue, Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason said.
The council has occasionally discussed the security implications of climate change since 2007, and the wider General Assembly pronounced itself “deeply concerned” about the issue in 2009. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also sounded alarms, telling the Security Council last week that the effects of climate change “compound conflicts and exacerbate fragility.”
Full story
5) Boris Johnson plans to end private ownership of cars to meet his Net Zero target
Daily Express, 15 December 2021
Government transport ministers have backed calls to end private ownership of vehicles in major overhaul.

Instead, they have asked for “greater flexibility” over vehicle use with experts believing “shared transport” is the way forward. Transport minister, Trudy Harrison, said any new proposals would be “fit for the future” of road travel. It could spark the beginning of the end of petrol and diesel car ownership as the pressure rises to meet pollution targets.

She said the country needed to move away from its “20th-century thinking centred around private vehicle ownership”.

She added it was “staggering” almost two-thirds of trips were conducted by lone drivers.

Ms Harrison also added the UK was now at a “tipping point” where shared transport would soon be a “realistic option” for many.

She made the comments to delegates at the Collaborative Mobility UK transport conference.

She said: “[It will soon be a] realistic option for many of us to get around.

“Where mobility hubs become a familiar part of our street architecture, and where all these options will be available to book and pay for at the touch of a smartphone.

“The challenge is to move further and faster to make shared mobility less of a novelty and increasing the norm to make it as easy, as convenient and as accessible as possible.”

She added: “I think the benefits are really significant."
The Government has repeatedly stressed the need to switch from a reliance on cars to other forms of transport.
Full story
6) UK government to be sued by frackers over unequal treatment as energy crisis deepens
The Sunday Telegraph, 12 December 2021
Fracking companies are threatening to sue the Government over its ban on the practice amid complaints they have been left out of the country's energy revolution.

The onshore shale gas industry has exchanged "pre-action correspondence" with Whitehall after it was barred from drilling following concern over earthquakes in 2019, before any gas was produced.

It raises the prospect that taxpayers could be forced to shell out compensation to an industry which came under sustained attack from campaigners over environmental concerns.

The potential legal action also raises questions for Cornwall's clean energy revival.

Fracking companies were riled after testing to extract heat, power and lithium from deep geothermal waters in the county last year triggered mini-earthquakes similar to those caused by fracking, but different regulations meant the work did not have to regularly pause as a result.

The billionaire industrialist Sir Jim Ratcliffe was among those who spent millions of pounds on fracking projects that had to be ditched following the ban. His company Ineos wrote off £63m in 2019.

It comes as the Government faces questions over whether its policies are deterring investment in energy that would help Britain secure independence from Russia and producers in the Middle East.

Charles McAllister, policy manager at UK Onshore Oil and Gas, the trade body, said: "We support the continued development of geothermal energy in the UK, however we would ask the Government to look again at lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in light of its approach to the regulation of seismicity from deep geothermal projects.

"Whether our members will legally pursue compensation for the £500m they have invested in the Midlands and the North of England is a question for each company.

"We would of course prefer the Government to look at the science, apply regulation fairly and allow our members to proceed in producing a much-needed source of domestic natural gas."

Widely used around the world, fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to release natural gas trapped between rocks.

Former prime minister David Cameron backed efforts to develop the first onshore fracking projects in the UK under a "dash for gas" bid to secure domestic energy supplies.

But tremors triggered during tests by leading player Cuadrilla in Lancashire led to the industry being placed under tight restrictions. It was then banned after the Oil and Gas Authority said it was not "possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking."

Cuadrilla, which said it is not part of any potential legal action or correspondence, wrote separately to the Government early this year highlighting that more "red-light" seismic events have been recorded from geothermal work in Cornwall than at its own wells.

Private company Geothermal Engineering has been testing water flows ahead of plans to develop geothermal power stations using hot water flowing up to 5km underground, from which lithium, used in electric car batteries, would also be extracted.

Producing energy from geothermal waters is a very different process to fracking as it involves pumping hot water that already flows naturally through rocks, rather than creating fractures.

Its seismic activity is generally regulated by local authorities based on the vibrations caused at the surface. Frackers, on the other hand, faced strict limits on earthquake magnitude regardless of what was felt at ground level.

Cuadrilla argues this difference is unfair, since both risk causing earthquakes even if small.

In its letter to the Government in February, the company said: "It is clear that resolving and lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing should happen in parallel with defining and appropriately mitigating and regulating the risks of induced seismicity associated with comparable operations."

This week, the company added that its questions had not been satisfactorily resolved.

The push from frackers comes as soaring global gas prices trigger a debate about domestic energy supplies.
7) David Rose: Does the CCP control Extinction Rebellion?
Unherd, 15 December 2021

Western activists are blind to President Xi's ambition


A few blocks away from Tiananmen Square, amid the cavernous splendour of the Beijing Hotel Convention Centre, an array of senior Communist Party officials gathered in September to proclaim a clear message: by “focusing on cutting carbon emissions… China will promote green development, and continuously improve its ecology”. The annual general meeting of the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development (the CCICED) was in full swing.

Rapturous applause filled the room, though that was hardly unexpected. Conferences run by the CCP are not usually marked by dissent, especially when they’re attended by the likes of Xie Zhenhua, who led China’s delegation to Cop26, and vice premier Han Zheng, one of the seven standing committee members of the Politburo, the Party’s supreme elite. Indeed, as the room fizzled with optimistic eco-rhetoric, you could almost forget that China is the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gases — and that the new coal-fired power stations in its construction pipeline alone have a greater capacity than Britain’s entire generation fleet.

What was remarkable about this meeting, though, was the surprising presence of an external delegation: joining the CCP apparatchiks on a collection of screens dotted around the room were a number of enthusiastic Britons and other Westerners. According to the official conference report, the “foreign committee members and partners lauded China’s ecological civilisation building and its new and greater contributions to promoting the construction of a clean and beautiful world”.

Who were these people? Strange to tell, they consisted of a veritable Who’s Who of British, European and American climate activists.

Here, for example, was Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, Chairman of the Grantham Centre on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, and a longstanding government adviser who wrote a report for Blair’s Labour government on the need to go green. He told the meeting the world is beginning a “new growth story” that “fits well with China’s vision of an ecological society”.

Here too was Kate Hampton, chief executive of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), which is mainly bankrolled by the billionaire Sir Christopher Hohn, a key financial backer of Extinction Rebellion and one of the world’s biggest sources of green largesse. During the meeting, Hampton said she “supported Chinese leadership on setting the global path for fulfilling Paris goals” — the attempt to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — and praised China for “supporting green Covid-19 recovery”.

Others were equally fulsome, including Laurence Tubiana, France’s former climate ambassador and now chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, which also gives millions to British green campaigns, such as UK100, an alliance of local authorities pledged to turn Net Zero by 2030; and the Conservative Environment Network.

Also present were representatives from ClientEarth, a law firm that tries to block development in Britain and other countries on environmental grounds in the courts; the Worldwide Fund for Nature, whose president is Prince Charles; and representatives from rich and influential organisations based in America including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Resources Institute and the Energy Foundation.

And yet in the weeks since the CCICED meeting, Cop26 has come and gone; and largely thanks to China, any hope of a meaningful deal has evaporated. On the last day, British minister Alok Sharma was reduced to tears when India and China refused to promise to phase out coal. Back in the real world, President Xi Jinping has said China will increase annual coal production by 220 million tonnes.

Such moves have, unsurprisingly, attracted robust criticism. Professor Jun Arima of Tokyo University, one of Japan’s Cop26 negotiators, told me that allowing China to benefit from cheap, coal-fired energy will only consolidate its industrial domination. Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, pointed out that China’s leaders have repeatedly shown they are not “men of their word”.

Yet those in attendance at the meeting in September have been unified by their reticence. Why?

Last year, in their book Hidden Hand: How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World, Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg revealed how China influences Britain and other Western democracies by seducing their elites. Its ‘useful idiots’ often believe they are acting for the common good, but become blind to Xi’s avowed ambition: for China to achieve global supremacy by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Maoist revolution.

Nowhere is this more effective than in the climate movement. I asked a specialist researcher fluent in Mandarin to examine open-source material from the Chinese web. The results suggest Western greens have become prime targets. Perhaps this isn’t so surprising: before he was a climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua helped run the Party Discipline Commission, which operates a secret prison network where torture, according to Human Rights Watch, has long been rife.

I asked Hamilton if China’s wooing of Western environmentalists explains why the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide has aroused so little protest? He believes it is likely: “They’ve fallen for what the Party calls ‘discourse control’ — to shape the way the rest of the world thinks and talks about China, presenting the Chinese government in a favourable light. Toadying to the Party leadership is letting them off the hook.”

For Lord Stern, this is nothing new: his environmental record is littered with papers saying CCP leaders are making great progress, and suggesting — prematurely — that their coal use and emissions have already or will soon peak. In 2014, for example, he claimed in a paper for the World Economic Forum that China was “emerging as a global leader in climate policy”. His co-author was He Jiankun, a ‘counsellor’ to China’s top administrative body, the State Council, and the director of the Energy, Environment and Economy Institute at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Three years later, following the the annual WEF jamboree at Davos, Stern said: “The world is looking for a climate champion. In China, it has one.”

Has Stern been naïve and let himself get too close to the CCP? Certainly for the Party, Tsinghua University has a special role: it is Xi Jinping’s alma mater, and home to multiple labs conducting secret research for the People’s Liberation Army. Yet the pair still work together: Stern’s spokesman told me that Tsinghua and the LSE are joint leaders of the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate, which held two international meetings before Cop26 with contributions from Alok Sharma, US climate envoy John Kerry, and — of course — Xie Zhenhua.

This year, for what it’s worth, Stern has called on China to stop building new coal-fired plants. But he still spoke at this year’s CCICED, while his spokesman told me that China remained “keen to learn from the UK’s example of world-leading action on climate change” and said the rate of increase in its emissions had slowed enormously. While this may be true, China’s emissions continued to rise even through the pandemic, and now exceed the total produced by rest of the developed world.

On paper, at least, you might argue there’s no harm in that. After all, the CCICED’s “mission” is to build “a more beautiful China and a green and bountiful world”. Who could possibly object?

Hardly anyone, I suspect, until they learnt that, the CCICED’s Chinese members include not only top Party bosses but officials who work with China’s United Front Work Department, one of the CCP’s main instruments for exerting influence abroad. Among them is Li Xiaolin, a top party cadre and the daughter of China’s late president Li Xiannan. Until recently, she was the chair of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries — which, as Hamilton and Ohlberg show in their book, is one of China’s most important foreign influence organisations.

What does this mean in practice? According to Patricia Adams, director of the Toronto-based environmental think tank Probe International, in 2017 a new Chinese law forced foreign NGOs there to submit to “close supervision” by the Ministry of Public Security, responsible for crushing dissent and controlling China’s secret police. Any organisation deemed to have “harmed the national interest” risks having its assets seized, its staff jailed, and being permanently banned.

Adams knows this fully well: in 2014, when the new law was being discussed, two Chinese academics she was working with were arrested and later jailed, and Probe International named as co-conspirators. Their crime? “Picking quarrels and provoking troubles” for speaking out on issues such as the rule of law. After that, Adams tells me, “it was no longer safe for us to work in China”.
As for the Western environmentalists who still do, she adds: “They hope they can influence China’s leadership. But they are also aware that for them, to publicly criticise China’s policy would be suicide.”
Full post
8) Bryan Bashur: Biden's renewable energy rush is making gas prices skyrocket
The Hill, 13 December 2021

The Biden administration exacerbated the inflation of gas prices by both restricting the supply of oil and pressuring banks and asset managers to divest from traditional energy projects. The result of these flawed policies is weakened purchasing power for consumers and more reliance on foreign countries to keep the United States powered. 

President Biden is restricting America’s ability to produce its own oil and is instead relying on foreign countries, some of which have governments run by totalitarian regimes, to produce more oil to lower gas prices. Biden’s decision to cut off avenues for more domestic supply of oil by canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and limiting exploration on federal lands and waters gives the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) significant leverage over American energy consumption. 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) hit the nail on the head by stating that, “begging the Saudis to increase production while the White House ties one hand behind the backs of American energy companies is pathetic and embarrassing.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 6.2 percent from October 2020 to October 2021. Specifically, energy prices increased by 30 percent in the past year, “its largest 12-month increase since the period ending September 2005.” At the same time, gas prices rose 49.6 percent.
Additionally, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index rose by 5 percent from October 2020 to October 2021.
Inflation is eroding purchasing power for low-income households and the Biden administration is seeking to choke off capital to the oil and gas industry, limiting the United States’ energy supply.
In October, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman stated that part of the reason why energy prices are so high is that financing for fossil fuel companies is “almost impossible” to attain. Moreover, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink also admitted that policies that restrict the “supply of hydrocarbons has created energy inflation” and that it is not transitory — in fact, it may stick around for a long time. 
Additionally, Christopher Wood, Global Head of Equity Strategy at Jeffries, told CNBC that the mismatch between demand and supply for energy could get worse. Wood states that the issue is the “oil price is gonna go higher in a fully reopened world because nobody’s investing in oil but the world still consumes fossil fuels.” Wood went so far as to say that in a “fully reopened world, the oil price could go to $150 dollars.”

The rise in prices can be attributed to political pressure from the administration to reel back oil and gas production. Wood claims that the “political attack” on oil and gas “has removed the incentive for investment in the sector despite its lingering importance.”

According to Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma, oil and gas producers are unable to access capital, because the Biden administration is “putting so much pressure on banks not to lend to us in the name of climate change.”

State officials from across the United States are fed up with politics seeping into investment decision-making. The Federalist obtained a letter sent by 15 state financial officers threatening to remove $600 billion worth of assets under management by U.S. financial institutions if they continue to discriminate against oil and gas investments. The letter explains how the Biden administration is choking off capital to oil and gas.
Specifically, the letter describes how the Treasury Department released guidance for multilateral development banks “to end American financial support for traditional energy production projects in developing countries around the world, likely ceding future development and exploration to Chinese interests.” 
Full post
9) Rod Liddle: We’re screeching into a new Dark Age, and bad scientists are leading the charge
The Sunday Times,12 December 2021
Stuck fast in a confined space between his mum and dad, Tane Mahuta eventually kicked out, sending his father, Ranginui, up to the sky and his mother, Papatuanuku, down to the earth. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the world was formed, according to Maori folklore.

A little later a demigod called Maui went fishing with a jawbone and was lucky enough to catch the north island of New Zealand, which is how it came into being. The south island was Maui’s canoe. A big canoe, then. I don’t know if the Maoris have an explanation for how their country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, was brought into existence. Perhaps one of those demigods put some puppies in a blender.

The Tane Mahuta stuff is a colourful and possibly (your call) delightful explanation of the creation of the world — although not, for me, wholly persuasive. It is not notably more mad than the idea that an all-powerful God, probably masked up and working from home according to guidelines, put in an onerous six-day shift to create everything around us and then took Sunday off to watch the golf on Sky. We create these myths in darkness and hope that they will provide us with a little light until something genuinely illuminating comes along, such as science: evidence-based and empirical.

So, from New Zealand, comes more evidence that what I call the De-Enlightenment really is upon us. There, a government working party has demanded that the story of Tane Mahuta and his various strange relatives should be given equal emphasis when children are taught the origins of the world: equal emphasis, that is, to the stuff we know to be true. To the science.

One very eminent scientist called Garth Cooper, a professor of biochemistry and clinical biochemistry at the University of Auckland, slightly balked at this. He signed an open letter suggesting that, while it was important everybody knew about the interesting Maori take on creation, “In the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself.”

You might have expected his colleagues to agree. Nope, not a bit of it. Cooper is in the process of being cancelled nationwide, with pretty much only the New Zealand Free Speech Union supporting him. The Royal Society of New Zealand has denounced him and he may be expelled from it. His own vice-chancellor at Auckland, a Brit called Dawn Freshwater, said he had caused “considerable hurt and dismay among our staff, students and alumni”.

A letter attacking him for causing “untold hurt and harm” was got up by two other academics. The first is Siouxsie Wiles, a pink-haired woman whose hobby is playing with Lego, despite her objections to the gender stereotypes inherent within Lego figurines. The other is Shaun Hendy, who is the mathematical modeller behind New Zealand’s policy of remaining within lockdown for ever in case someone dies. The letter was signed by more than 2,000 academics.

This story has not gained much traction in the British press, and when it has, it has been on the undoubtedly important issue of freedom of speech. Our own Richard Dawkins has written to the Royal Society of New Zealand voicing his incredulity.

Yet for once freedom of speech is not the crucial issue for me here. It is instead the burgeoning madness and stupidity, condescension and racism that are propelling us towards the De-Enlightenment. All of those academics, and the Royal Society, know full well that the Maori explanation for the creation of the world is not correct. And yet, hypocritically and patronisingly, they pretend otherwise.

The argument — facile beyond comprehension — is that science has been used by white, western, developed nations to underpin colonialism and is therefore tainted by its association with white supremacy. As Dawkins pointed out, science is not “white”. (The assumption that it is is surely racist.) Nor is it imperialist. It is simply a rather beautiful tool for discerning the truth.

It is not just New Zealand. Science is under attack in America and indeed here. Rochelle Gutierrez, an Illinois professor, has argued that algebra and trigonometry perpetuate white power and that maths is, effectively, racist.

Oxford University has announced that it intends to “decolonise” maths: “This includes steps such as integrating race and gender questions into topics.”

A lunacy has gripped our academics. They would be happy to throw out centuries of learning and brilliance for the sake of being temporarily right-on, and thus signalling their admirable piety to a young, approving audience.

It is an indulgence that, with every fatuous genuflection towards political correctness, is dragging us all backwards.

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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