Sunday, January 30, 2022

Net Zero Watch: Facing election fiasco, Joe Biden issues more oil drilling permits than Donald Trump


In this newsletter:

1) Facing election fiasco, Joe Biden issues more oil drilling permits than Donald Trump
The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2022

2) Far from dying, the Coal industry is actually booming
Javier Blas | Bloomberg, 28 January 2022

3) 'Green' Europe forced to rely on coal to keep the lights on
Bloomberg, 25 January
4) World is falling behind in climate battle, Kerry warns
Bloomberg, 27 January 2022
5) America’s electric-vehicle move empowers China
The Wall Street Journal, 28 January 2022
6) Boris needs to sack all the 'neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd' in No 10 now, says Lord Frost
Daily Mail, 27 January 2022
7) Boris Johnson's carbon taxes threaten UK airport expansion plans
Financial Times, 27 January 2022
8) Joseph C. Sternberg: Boris Johnson’s Partygate is about the economy
The Wall Street Journal, 27 January 2022

9) Brussels sets its sights on British wind power
The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2022

10) Radical Greens cause another humanitarian disaster: Organic farming causes man-made food crisis in Sri Lanka 
Development Discourse, 14 January 2022

Full details:

1) Facing election fiasco, Joe Biden issues more oil drilling permits than Donald Trump
The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2022
Faced with a fuel shortage, rising petrol prices and increasingly likely defeat at the all-important midterm elections later this year, the White House agreed to increase oil production even as Mr Biden implored world leaders to stop burning fossil fuels.

Joe Biden issued more oil and gas drilling permits than Donald Trump in his first year as president despite pledging to halt the practice as part of ambitious climate change goals.

When he entered the White House, Mr Biden identified climate change as one of four priorities and promised a dramatic reversal after the tenure of Mr Trump, who frequently mocked climate science.
However, federal data shows the Biden administration approved 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first year, far outpacing the Trump administration’s 12-month total of 2,658.
The yawning gulf between Mr Biden’s policies on oil, gas and coal extraction and his initial promises has threatened to throw his climate credentials into disarray.
At November’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow, the 79-year-old president called climate change “an existential threat to human existence” and pledged to cut US emissions by half over the next nine years.

Days later, the administration offered 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing and plans to offer more than 300,000 acres of public lands leases in March.
“Biden’s runaway drilling approvals are a spectacular failure of climate leadership,” said Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires ending new fossil fuel extraction, but Biden is racing in the opposite direction.”
Faced with a fuel shortage, rising petrol prices and increasingly likely defeat at the all-important midterm elections later this year, the White House agreed to increase oil production even as Mr Biden implored world leaders to stop burning fossil fuels.

In the Senate, meanwhile, Mr Biden has failed to persuade holdouts in his own party to vote for his landmark $1.7 trillion Build Back Better bill, which contains about $555 billion for climate provisions, including $320 billion in tax incentives for producers and purchasers of wind, solar and nuclear power, inducements intended to speed up a transition away from oil, gas and coal.

Some environmentalists speculate that the Biden administration has sought to use its executive authority sparingly, doing enough to strengthen major climate priorities but not so much as to put off moderate legislators whose votes will be needed to pass the bill.

Sources told The Washington Post that a White House review of federal coal leasing was paused to avoid alienating Senator Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat who has a pivotal role in the evenly divided Senate and whose state of West Virginia is one of the biggest producers of coal in the country.
Full story
2) Far from dying, the Coal industry is actually booming
Javier Blas | Bloomberg, 28 January 2022

In late 2021, diplomats spent hours arguing over whether to “phase-out” or “phase-down” coal in the final communique of the COP26 climate change summit. Under pressure from China and India, the watered-down second choice prevailed. Still, it was good enough for the United Nations to proclaim that the dirtiest fuel was being “consigned to history.”

Nothing is further from reality.

Coal is neither down or out. The best words to define the coal market today were pronounced in 2001 by Ivan Glasenberg, the former boss of commodity behemoth Glencore Plc. Back then, the foul-mouthed commodity tycoon said that “everyone’s h--ny as hell for coal.”(2) Two decades later, in a more politically-correct world, one can simply say the coal industry is booming.

Look at the market. The benchmark thermal coal price in Asia last week jumped to almost $244 per metric ton, the second-highest ever and only a handful of dollars below a peak in October. In a sign of market frenzy — triggered in part by an export ban by major producer Indonesia — one small shipment last week traded above $300 a ton in what many in the market believe is the most expensive coal transaction ever. The coal that’s used in steelmaking — so-called metallurgical or coking —  is also trading at a record high, changing hands above $400 per ton.  

The mining companies that have stuck with coal despite pressure to divest are making a killing. Look at Glencore, the world’s largest exporter of seaborne thermal coal. Its shares have risen to a 10-year high as investors anticipate a cash bonanza. For them, it’s an ideal world: Demand is rising, while supply is constrained because institutional investors, led by BlackRock Inc., have convinced nearly every miner to stop opening new pits. The arrangement is so good that from the outside it almost looks like a cartel. 

What’s good for Glencore and other die-hard coal enthusiasts is terrible news for the planet. The commodity is the world’s most carbon-intensive fuel, and every energy scenario compatible with net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 features a rapid decline in its use. The opposite is happening, though, sending more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Last year, the world burnt the largest amount ever of coal to produce electricity. And under current trends, total global consumption, which on top of power generation also includes industrial uses such as in steel and cement, will hit a record high this year, according to the International Energy Agency.

The consumption boom has wrong-footed many who said back in 2013-14 that coal demand had peaked and would soon start to decline. At best, coal consumption is settling at a high altitude plateau. At worst, it may continue rising. Beyond this year, the IEA forecasts some additional small demand increases for 2023 and 2024, setting fresh record highs in both years.  

The gap between the world’s ambition to get rid of coal and the reality of its energy system hasn’t been wider. China is a key reason why demand climbed so much last year, and continues to do so in 2022. Facing electricity shortages, Beijing ordered its state-owned coal miners in late 2021 into Stakhanovite efforts to avoid blackouts. The result was that the Asian giant dug more coal than ever in November and December.

But Beijing wasn’t alone. In the U.S., Senator Joe Manchin is doing his best to keep the coal industry alive. Governments in green-conscious Europe turn a blind eye to burning coal for electricity when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shining, and natural gas becomes too expensive. The U.K. on Monday burnt the most coal in nearly a year to help keep the lights on. And then there are the own-goals. In one perplexing policy decision, Germany is retiring its nuclear power stations quicker than its coal-fired plants. Nuclear power should easily substitute for coal in delivering electricity. 

All of that means that coal demand is likely to grow nearly 3% from 2019 to 2024, reaching an all-time high of 8,031 million tons, according to the IEA. The forecast is far more pessimistic than the three scenarios the agency mapped last year for future energy demand.(1) One saw demand roughly flat from 2019 to 2024; the two others pointed to consumption falling. Using the IEA numbers, the world would need to reduce coal demand by more than 20% from 2019 to 2024 to be on a trajectory compatible with the agency’s goal of net-zero by 2050. For now, the world is heading in the opposite direction. 

Optimists will say coal is losing market share in global electricity production as green energy sources like wind and solar take hold. On paper, they are right: In 2022, coal is likely to account for about 36% of the world’s electricity production, down from more than 40% only a few years ago. But that’s of little help to the atmosphere, which cares about the absolute number of coal burnt — and therefore, CO2 emitted — rather than percentage of market share. The optimists are technically right — but wrong, in practice.

The world needs to stop debating about whether to phase-out, phase-down and other grand statements that do little to reduce consumption. Instead, it needs to focus on why coal is in so much demand and how to change it — not in 2050, but over the next ten years.
3) 'Green' Europe forced to rely on coal to keep the lights on
Bloomberg, 25 January

Coal will play a vital role in helping to keep the lights on in Europe this winter even as prices are jumping and lawmakers are doing their best to kill off one of the dirtiest power-plant fuels. 

Northwest European coal for February rose more than 3% to trade at its highest in three months on Tuesday. The latest example of the fuel’s importance came on Monday as U.K.’s usage peaked at its highest level since March to help plug a gap in supplies early in the evening. 

Governments from Germany to the Netherlands and the U.K. are all shuttering coal plants, which emits about twice as much carbon dioxide as plants burning gas. At the same time, grid operators are paying a fortune to some utilities to keep them available as a last resort when supplies from renewables plunge. 

The U.K.’s National Grid Plc on Monday issued a warning that more capacity was needed and plants were called upon through the capacity market. Coal plants were producing as much 3,000 megawatts at about 5 p.m. London time. Gas plants also came on quickly to help fill the shortage. 

Overall though, coal is still used for a tiny proportion of U.K. demand, which was just below 45 gigawatts at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, according to National Grid data.

The country is trying to shake its reliance on the sedimentary rock, with Drax Group Plc and Electricite de France SA set to stop using it completely later this year. That means an even greater need of natural gas, which is also soaring in price because of uncertainty over supplies from Russia and record low storage levels. 

The closure of the U.K.’s remaining coal capacity coupled with the decommissioning of old nuclear plants “has the potential to further deepen the exposure” to gas prices, according to Glenn Rickson, an analyst at S&P Global Platts.

In Germany, Europe’s biggest power market, coal also showed its importance in November and December, with power output from hard-coal plants rising 16% from a year earlier, according to Fraunhofer data. That was partly driven by a rebound in demand
4) The world is falling behind in climate battle, Kerry warns
Bloomberg, 27 January 2022

U.S. climate chief John Kerry is set to warn roughly two dozen nations Thursday that the world isn’t moving fast enough to arrest global warming, as countries burn more coal and clean energy legislation falters in Congress.

“We’re not in a good track right now,” Kerry said in an interview for an episode “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” set to be broadcast on Feb. 16. “The world is not serious enough about reducing our emissions fast enough.”

Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, said he would deliver that assessment during a virtual meeting on Thursday of fellow environmental ministers from countries responsible for 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. “I will be raising the subject that we are behind,” Kerry added.

His warning comes as the world burns more coal -- consumption of the fossil fuel surged roughly 20% in the U.S. and European Union last year -- and as energy supply concerns heighten political pressure on European leaders to slow the green transition.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, said earlier this week that the nation’s carbon goals shouldn’t clash with other priorities. And in the U.S., the Senate remains deadlocked over legislation that would devote some $555 billion to advancing clean energy and is seen as critical for the country to meet its emissions-cutting pledge. 

Kerry, a former secretary of State, Democratic presidential nominee and senator from Massachusetts, decried the continued flow of funding to coal and natural gas plants. 

“There’s about 300 gigawatts of new coal construction coming online at a time where the International Energy Agency says you’ve got to reduce coal plants by 870 gigawatts,” he said. “The imbalance of that is dangerous for everybody and is at the heart of what we really have to tackle now.”

Kerry, who helped broker the landmark 2015 Paris agreement and a follow-on pact at last year’s United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, linked the climate and coronavirus crises, saying in both cases the consequences of inaction are clear and costly. 

“When 99% of the people dying are unvaccinated, and 97% of the people going to the hospital are unvaccinated, you get a message from that,” Kerry said. “It’s about the same thing here. We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars cleaning up the mess after a storm that we might have been better off preventing in the first place.”

In Glasgow, part of Kerry’s mission was assuring other nations the U.S. would follow through on its pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by the end of the decade, despite past retreats from the climate fight. Now, more than two months later, U.S. credibility on the issue remains at stake, with Biden’s climate-and-spending bill stalled in the Senate.

Proposed tax credits in the measure for renewable power, nuclear plants and advanced manufacturing are seen as vital -- along with environmental regulations, state action and private sector initiatives -- for the U.S. to fulfill its pledge. A separate infrastructure law enacted last year already marks a major step forward, Kerry said, with funding devoted to vehicle charging stations and the electric grid. 
5) America’s electric-vehicle move empowers China
The Wall Street Journal, 28 January 2022
The headlong pursuit of EVs in Detroit and California alike risks replacing the American driver’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil with an equally problematic reliance on Chinese battery materials.

Electric vehicles won’t get a “100% Made in U.S.A.” stamp for a good while yet.

U.S. auto makers are pouring billions of dollars into domestic EV factories and lithium-ion battery plants to supply them. General Motors this week announced $6.6 billion of EV investments into two Michigan plants, including $1.3 billion from its South Korean battery partner, LG Energy Solution. Ford F -1.82% announced similar projects in Tennessee and Kentucky last September alongside LG’s archrival, SK Innovation. 096770 0.23%

Move further upstream in the U.S. EV supply chain, though, and the torrent of capital turns into a trickle. Unless that changes, the headlong pursuit of EVs in Detroit and California alike risks replacing the American driver’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil with an equally problematic reliance on Chinese battery materials.
Some projects are under way, often led by partnerships or supply deals with car makers. Relative to the scale of investment downstream, though, they seem small.

GM last month announced a joint venture with Posco Chemical, another South Korean company, to open a cathode materials plant in the U.S. in 2024. The cathode is the most valuable component of a battery cell, accounting for about 40% of its cost. The car maker said the factory would employ hundreds of people.

At the start of the supply chain, a clutch of miners are developing U.S. prospects for battery materials such as lithium and nickel. Toronto-listed Talon Metals, which owns the Tamarack nickel project in Minnesota alongside iron-ore giant Rio Tinto, last week said it would sell stock worth at least 33.9 million Canadian dollars, or roughly $27 million, to further its plans, exploiting a strong share price after Tesla committed to purchase at least 75,000 metric tons of Tamarack nickel over six years.

Yet it is the obscure intermediate links in the supply chain that require most attention. This is where China really dominates the battery industry today.

Chinese lithium miners Ganfeng Lithium and Tianqi Lithium do more work turning the metal they extract into useful chemical compounds than their big U.S. peer, Albemarle. Ganfeng even makes EV batteries itself. In their emphasis on vertical integration, the Chinese players are in some ways clean-energy takes on the likes of Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell —“integrated oil companies” that pump, refine and market their resources.

As for nickel, there is so little processing in the U.S. that the only domestic production site today, the Eagle Mine in Michigan owned by Lundin Mining, sends its output to Canada for processing. From there it might head to the processing hub of Finland or elsewhere before reaching global markets. In the context of batteries, that usually means China.

Until this kind of situation changes, America’s new battery plants will have to source materials chiefly from China, handing geopolitical leverage to Beijing as the EV industry expands.
Full story
6) Boris needs to sack all the 'neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd' in No 10 now, says Lord Frost
Daily Mail, 27 January 2022
Former Cabinet minister Lord Frost has urged Boris Johnson to axe 'all the neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd' in Downing Street to reset his premiership after the Partygate scandal.

The row over Covid rule-busting gatherings looks set to drag into next week with Sue Gray still yet to hand over her report to Number 10 - and Tories drawing battle lines over efforts to 'suppress or conceal' damaging details.

Mr Johnson has flatly denied that Ms Gray's inquiry is being neutered as the wait for the conclusions continues - with complaints that other crucial issues are being ignored.

The PM is under growing pressure from Tory figures to conduct a massive clear out of his current Number 10 operation after the report is made public.

Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, tweeted that 'whatever conclusions about the leadership Tory MPs may draw from the Gray report and whatever follows, the crucial thing is significant change in policies and in systems & people around the PM'.

Referencing a column written by The Telegraph's Allister Heath, the peer said: ‘In systems & people - so the levers of government work, and, as Allister says, "with all the neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd exiting immediately".'

The comments from Lord Frost are likely to be seen by some as a jab at Mr Johnson's wife, Carrie, who is a passionate environmentalist and has been credited with influencing the PM's previous declaration to pursue a 'green recovery' after the Covid pandemic.

The Prime Minister has faced criticism from some Tory MPs over his 'green' policies, with many concerned about the cost of hitting his net zero emissions target.

Full story
7) Boris Johnson's carbon taxes threaten UK airport expansion plans
Financial Times, 27 January 2022

Tougher planning rules designed to help curb climate change are threatening the viability of UK airport expansion plans, which have become a battleground for campaigners who oppose growth of the aviation industry.

New runways or terminal buildings are increasingly at risk from legal challenges on environmental grounds, according to lawyers, with one arcane metric offering activists a potential new weapon: the rising cost of carbon emissions.

Campaigners are hoping that planning authorities will take greater account of the impact of emissions on the economic case of proposed projects.

The government in September more than tripled the so-called “carbon value” — the official benchmark that puts a price on the emissions associated with a scheme — to reflect the country’s net zero 2050 commitment.

Yet the economic cases for six of the seven major airport expansion proposals — including London’s Heathrow and Gatwick — use either the old value, or none at all, according to the New Economics Foundation, a leftwing think-tank.

The NEF, which is highly critical of airport expansion on climate grounds, warned in a recent report that the increase in carbon values — the central price rose from £77 to £245 per tonne of carbon — meant the environmental impact of these projects had been “dramatically underestimated”.

Sarah Fitzpatrick, a partner and head of the planning team at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said the aviation sector’s role as a polluter was coming under greater scrutiny. “Assessment of carbon values, and non-CO2 based emissions that contribute to climate change, are likely to be very important when promoters of airport expansion proposals are assessing their projects and seeking consent.”

As yet, planning law in England does not explicitly require carbon values to be used. But the relevant planning authority can demand they are included in applications.
Full story
8) Joseph C. Sternberg: Boris Johnson’s Partygate is about the economy
The Wall Street Journal, 27 January 2022
Tacking leftward was supposed to attract the working class, but that agenda hasn’t delivered.

Forget those infernal parties. If Boris Johnson’s tenure as U.K. prime minister comes to an abrupt end in the coming weeks or months—and it very well might—it won’t be because of a birthday bash. Instead, it will be because Mr. Johnson was foolish enough to buy into a lot of trendy theories concerning how parties of the political right need to remake themselves to win elections.

The prime minister is in trouble now most immediately thanks to a monthslong trickle of revelations about parties in his office-and-residence complex on London’s Downing Street. At least some of these get-togethers may have broken pandemic lockdown regulations in effect at the time.

But understand what’s really going on here. Lockdown busting alone doesn’t bring down politicians. Ask California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who survived a full-on recall election after attending a birthday celebration at a chichi French restaurant. The rule is simple and universal. You survive if your allies and voters conclude you still serve some purpose of theirs, and you don’t survive once they conclude your usefulness is spent.

Mr. Johnson’s difficulty is that partygate has arrived at precisely the moment the wheels are falling off the British economy. The country is in the grip of an energy crisis that is causing the prices households pay for electricity and natural gas to skyrocket. This is contributing to a cost-of-living crisis fueled by the fastest consumer-price inflation in nearly 30 years. Supermarkets still aren’t fully stocked, and parts of the country were paralyzed by gasoline lines for a week last autumn.

Much of this results from Mr. Johnson’s leftward policy lurch. He’s thrown himself into climate piety, committing the U.K. to a net-zero carbon-emission pledge that inevitably will drive energy prices even higher. He has promised more money to the socialized National Health Service—some £12 billion ($16.2 billion) a year—to be funded by a payroll-tax increase on workers and employers. Missing is any convincing plan of the sort voters ordinarily expect from a Conservative administration to rev business investment, job creation and inflation-adjusted wage growth.

This is all the fruit of a strategic bet Conservatives made around Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union. That vote resulted from a fragile alliance between the more libertarian wing of Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party and working-class left-wing voters traditionally more at home in the opposition Labour Party. The challenge became how to unite those factions into a durable coalition.

The Tories decided the solution was to transform into a party of big government. This strategy failed abjectly for Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, who temporized on taxation and co-opted left-wing desiderata such as a pledge to mandate diversity on corporate boards. She squandered an impressive poll lead over a dysfunctional Labour Party in a snap 2017 election and never recovered politically.

But the Tories convinced themselves Mrs. May’s flaw was her failure to deliver Brexit. This view appeared to be vindicated when Mr. Johnson led the party to a historic victory in December 2019 after replacing Mrs. May on a pledge to get Brexit done. Despite sometimes espousing more-libertarian views, by election day Mr. Johnson had become the big-government conservative Mrs. May always aspired to be. The centerpiece was a “leveling up” agenda that would pour huge resources into the North of England.

The pandemic scrambled things, but only somewhat. Offering Covid as a catch-all excuse ignores the ways Mr. Johnson’s terrible policy instincts are hobbling the recovery. That payroll-tax hike as well as higher taxes on business profits and capital gains and a stealth inflation tax increase on households (via frozen tax brackets) are dinging confidence at a particularly uncertain time.

And for what? Mr. Johnson is supposed to be a sort of working-class-vote whisperer when it comes to the many seats the Tories snatched away from Labour in the 2019 election. Yet a recent YouGov survey found most of those voters have little or no idea what that much-vaunted big-government leveling-up agenda is, and most don’t expect more money to flow into their regions. A conspicuous hub of the rebellion against Mr. Johnson is lawmakers from precisely these districts. They owe their jobs to the prime minister and yet apparently have concluded their voters no longer buy whatever he’s selling. Voters don’t trust the sincerity of his leftward tilt, and he has no economic growth to offer them as an alternative.

Might partygate have proved less dangerous to Mr. Johnson? A more functional economy undergirded by economic-growth policies from a less confused Conservative Party certainly wouldn’t have hurt. A more coherent pro-growth agenda would have given voters more reasons to stick with a politician. Which presents an irony worth noting in Britain and in corners of America’s Republican Party as well. The leftward tack that was supposed to make a Conservative coalition more durable instead has made it more brittle.
9) Brussels sets its sights on British wind power
The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2022
EU demands access to UK wind farm contracts as figures show that wind energy has fallen to four-year low

The young boy cut a vulnerable figure as he marched amidst hundreds of sturdy manufacturing workers in Edinburgh, clutching a sign reading ‘Save Daddy’s Work’.
He may have captured the sympathy of onlookers in the Scottish capital, but his efforts were in vain. The company they were trying to save, Fife-based Burntisland Fabrications, collapsed a few years later in December 2020. Work it was hoping to get for offshore wind farms was awarded to firms abroad.
Its demise fuelled mounting anger that the economic rewards from the UK’s rapid growth in offshore wind farms were not being felt domestically, as jobs and cash instead went abroad, including to China and the UAE. 
Efforts since made to try and reverse that situation and protect UK jobs now face a challenge from abroad. The European Commission is examining whether Britain is unfairly prioritising local firms and, reported the Sun, is on the brink of filing a challenge with the World Trade Organisation. 

That could test the balance ministers appear to be trying to strike: pushing wind farm developers towards hiring local companies and talking up their prospects, yet not putting legal requirements in place that would risk falling foul of fair trade rules. 

It comes amid mounting concern about how certain workers will fare in the shift towards greener energy. In particular, whether thousands of workers in the oil and gas industry will find a new home in the growing offshore wind, hydrogen and carbon capture sectors as the UK shifts away from fossil fuels.  
Unions are watching closely. “If the UK doesn’t secure the tens of thousands of green manufacturing jobs needed to develop the next generation of offshore wind, then it won’t be the fault of the EU, it will be the fault of the UK Government,” says Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB Union. 
“Ministers know this, so rather than bleating about what competitors may or may not do, they need to get our own house in order so we can start onshoring the jobs from our renewables sector that have been offshored to the rest of the world over the last decade.
“Bluntly, the credibility of the government’s 'levelling-up' and 'green industrial revolution' agendas depend on this.” 
Lured by the North Sea’s high wind speeds and a generous subsidy regime, international wind farm developers have helped turn the UK into one of the world’s largest offshore wind markets. 
The country had the most installed capacity globally until this year, when it was overtaken by China. Turbines in UK waters now provide about 10pc of domestic electricity, compared to 0.8pc in 2010.  
Despite a recent period of low wind highlighting the challenges of relying on the intermittent source, capacity is set to grow. The Government aims to quadruple offshore wind capacity by 2030, part of its race to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. And it seems to be taking off: Scotland’s latest seabed leasing round exceeded expectations with international developers queuing up for rights to build 17 new projects. 

There have also been moves to strengthen developers’ spending with UK companies. In 2020, industry set a target of 60pc UK content in domestic projects by 2030, up from an existing 50pc target, as part of a sector deal with the Government. 
Companies are also asked to give details of their supply chain plans in a questionnaire before being able to bid for Government support in the form of a guarantee on the price they are paid for electricity, known as a Contract for Difference (CfD). 
In July 2021, the Government announced reforms allowing it to strip companies of CfDs on failure to meet the commitments they have put forward. “Upgrades to the scheme will help the offshore wind industry deliver on its commitment to ensure that 60pc of the manufacturing for wind farm projects should be based in the UK,” it said at the time. 
However, it is understood there is no legal requirement to use UK contractors. Crown Estate Scotland asked similar questions ahead of its recent successful seabed licencing round, but said in 2020 the information would not “form part of any scoring relating to selection of winning applications.”
The UK Government's CfD supply chain questionnaire is believed to be at the heart of a possible challenge from the European Commission. Ministers are understood to believe the rules comply with all legal obligations, and have a robust defence case. 
A Government spokesman said it had engaged with the EU over its concerns, adding: “We wait to see what action they may take, but would contest any challenge the EU brought against the UK on this matter.
"CfD auctions are a vital part of our efforts to drive down the cost of renewable energy. The application process does not include a requirement for developers to use UK content, as alleged by the EU.”  It is not expecting any disruption to its next CfD round. 

As an EU challenge looms, facts on the ground are changing fasts. A record more than £1bn was invested in UK factories serving the offshore wind sector over the past year, according to trade body RenewableUK. South Korea's SeAH Wind, Smulders Projects UK - part of France’s Eiffage - and US giant GE Renewable Energy, have announced new or upgraded factories in the north-east of England. The sector employs 26,000 directly and indirectly, with forecasts this will reach 70,000 by 2026. 

“Our world-leading offshore wind market is providing huge opportunities for firms across the UK and the EU, boosting their ability to compete in an increasingly global market,” says Dan McGrail, chief executive of trade body RenewableUK. 

"As hard-pressed bill payers across Europe are being hit by rocketing international gas prices, now is the time to focus on collaborating to accelerate the global transition to low-cost clean energy". 

A European Commission spokesperson said: "The Commission’s assessment of the compliance of the United Kingdom renewable energy support scheme with the UK international obligations is still on-going."
Depending on what they find, those who remember the march for Burntisland in Fife may discover history ends up repeating itself.

10) Radical Greens cause another humanitarian disaster: Organic farming causes man-made food crisis in Sri Lanka 
Development Discourse, 14 January 2022
Sri Lanka is in dire straits, with food prices ballooning  to record highs and the government and ordinary citizens alike in danger of running out of cash. The calamity has been greatly catalysed by Colombo's sudden decision last April to make Sri Lanka the world's first country to embrace 100% organic farming.



Colombo has floated increasingly desperate measures to alleviate the crisis, including appealing to Beijing to ease its substantial debt burden, opening up credit lines to import food and medicine from India and rolling out a $1.1 billion relief package to help citizens cope with soaring food costs and subsidies to try and get people to grow their own food. The measure is desperately needed in the country after a poorly planned ban on agrochemicals crippled food production and saw prices spiral.

Despite its eco-friendly reputation, organic farming also reduces crop yields and requires more land to achieve the same productivity, something which is counterproductive both environmentally and economically when implemented on a large scale—particularly when carried out suddenly without preparing farmers for the dramatic change, as occurred in Sri Lanka. The serious food crisis now unfolding in Sri Lanka provides a cautionary tale to India and other developing countries that precipitous phase-outs of agrochemicals can send food security into a tailspin.

Short-sighted government schemes

The targeted relief package is Sri Lanka's latest attempt to depressurize the mounting crisis in the food sector. In recent months, Sri Lankan supermarkets have begun rationing staple products like milk powder, sugar or lentils, while food prices rose by a record 22 percent in December.

Multiple factors have contributed to the crisis, including supply chain issues, a sinking currency and declining tourism revenue due to the coronavirus. The calamity, however, has been greatly catalysed by Colombo's sudden decision last April to make Sri Lanka the world's first country to embrace 100% organic farming. In order to achieve this goal it banned the import of chemical fertilizer and other agrochemicals—a strategy made all the more bizarre by the speed with which it was brought about. The prohibition went into effect suddenly right before the vital Yala planting season, giving farmers no time to prepare for the massive shift in agricultural practice.

With 85% of Sri Lankan farmers expecting a reduction in their harvest due to the agrochemical ban and more than half anticipating a 40% cut in crop yields, many farmers accustomed to relying heavily on fertilizers and pesticides decided not to cultivate crops at all.
The results have been predictably catastrophic—food shortages have spread across the nation, with prices for basic products like rice and sugar doubling or even tripling in just a few months. As fears mount that Sri Lanka's crucial agricultural exports— including cinnamon, pepper and most importantly tea, which makes up 10% of the country's total exports—are in jeopardy, pundits have warned that Sri Lanka could go bankrupt in 2022.
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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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