Thursday, February 17, 2022

Net Zero Watch: Back to the Dark Ages


In this newsletter:

1) Back to the Dark Ages: Britons return to burning wood to cut spiralling energy costs
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2022
2) Welcome to Green Britain: One million adults in UK went entire day without food last month
Sky News, 15 February 2022

3) Three months on from COP26 and Net Zero targets are already backsliding
The Independent, 15 February 2022

4) Fracking problems on the horizon for Net Zero
City A.M. 15 February 2022

5) Editorial: Government's anti-fracking excuse is a smokescreen for its cowardice
The Sun, 15 February 2022

6) Putin's useful idiots to target UK oil and gas production
The Times, 15 February 2022

7) UK urged not to abandon climate goals amid Net Zero row
The Guardian, 14 February 2022 

8) Daniel Yergin: America Takes Pole Position on Oil and Gas
The Wall Street Journal, 15 February 2022
9) Sam Buchan: How to Solve Europe’s Energy Crisis
Real Clear Energy, 14 February 2022

10) Ollie Wright: America and the unanswerable case for fracking
The Conservative Woman, 15 February 2022
11) WSJ: Biden’s Cost-of-Carbon Inflation
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 15 February 2022

12) Matt Ridley: Why global warming is good for us
Spiked, 15 February 2022

Full details:

1) Back to the Dark Ages: Britons return to burning wood to cut spiralling energy costs
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2022
Families have turned to burning wood to cut spiralling energy costs, as the gas crisis continues to push up household outgoings.

Gas and electricity bills climbed 12pc this winter but will rocket by a further 54pc from April when the energy price cap rises to £1,971.

The Stove Industry Alliance, a trade body which represents 80pc of British wood-burning stove manufacturers, said more households had turned to wood as a result.

The SIA's Andy Hill said: "There was a strong upturn in sales last year as homeowners faced spiralling energy bills, along with a growing awareness of the shortfalls of grid dependency during power cuts."

Those making the switch could potentially save hundreds a year. However, the upfront costs of the devices could still take years to pay off. The cost of wood-burning stoves including insulation costs is around £2,950, according to Checkatrade, a tradesperson comparison website.

Heating is responsible for around two thirds of energy use and half of energy bills, according to Look After My Bills, a comparison site. From April, heating alone will cost the average household roughly £986 per year.

Fuel for a wood-burning stove costs roughly £455 a year, according to the SIA. This means a wood-burning stove would cut bills by £531 if a household relied on it solely for heating.

But the real difference would be smaller than this, as homes are unlikely to rely only on a stove to heat their home.

Full story
2) Welcome to Green Britain: One million adults in UK went entire day without food last month
Sky News, 15 February 2022


Some 4.7 million adults experienced food insecurity in the last month, according to The Food Foundation - with 1 million saying they or someone in their household had to go a whole day without eating because they could not afford or access food.

A million adults in the UK went an entire day without food last month as the cost of living rises, data reveals.

Some 4.7 million adults, or 8.8% of households, experienced food insecurity in the last month, according to The Food Foundation, an increase from 7.3% in July 2021.

Of those, 1 million reported that they or someone in their household had to go a whole day without eating because they could not afford or access food.

"This clearly shows that soaring energy and food prices, along with the removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit are having a devastating impact on millions of people across the UK," the charity said.

The issue highlights the impact of the rising cost of living, which the charity said has seen 62% of households experience higher energy bills and 16% have to cut back on the quality or quantity of food to afford essentials such as their energy bills.

Meanwhile, 59% of households said they were worried increased energy prices will mean they have less money to afford enough food for themselves or their family.

The cost of living crisis is set to only get worse, with the British Retail Consortium warning prices will continue to rise and at a faster rate than last year.

Full story

3) Three months on from COP26 and Net Zero targets are already backsliding
The Independent, 15 February 2022

From the US to China, in Europe, India and Japan, fossil fuels are staging a comeback, clean energy stocks are taking a hammering, and the prospects for speeding the transition to renewable sources of power are looking grim. 

At the conclusion of Cop26 in November, summit chair Alok Sharma praised the “heroic efforts” by nations showing they can rise above their differences and unite to tackle climate change, an outcome he said “the world had come to doubt.” Turns out the world was right to be skeptical.
Three months on, a toxic combination of political intransigence, an energy crisis and pandemic-driven economic realities has cast doubt on the progress made in Glasgow. If 2021 was marked by optimism that the biggest polluters were finally willing to set ambitious net zero targets, 2022 already threatens to be the year of global backsliding.

From the US to China, in Europe, India and Japan, fossil fuels are staging a comeback, clean energy stocks are taking a hammering, and the prospects for speeding the transition to renewable sources of power are looking grim. That’s even as renewable energy costs have fallen rapidly and investment in clean technologies is soaring, while voters across the world demand stronger action.

“We’re going to have a multi-year stress test of political will to impose costly transition policies,” said Bob McNally, president of Washington-based consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official.
Emissions rose last year, when they needed to decline if the world is to stay on track to hit climate goals. National interest was always going to run up against the kind of painful measures scientists agree are needed to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C relative to pre-industrial levels. But even this early in the year, the headwinds to aggressive climate action are ferocious.
Oil is on a roll as the world economy picks up from its pandemic-induced swoon, nearing $100 a barrel just two years after the price collapsed. That’s swelling the influence of fossil fuel giants like Saudi Arabia and Russia, while reinvigorating an industry that had been shifting its focus to clean energies. ExxonMobil has just given a vote of confidence in the US shale industry with plans to boost output by 25 per cent this year in the Permian Basin.
And with gas prices hitting records, utilities have been turning to coal instead, despite it producing about twice the carbon, according to Kit Konolige, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
Even the UK risks regressing, with Boris Johnson on the ropes and some members of the Conservative Party pushing back against his green agenda.

In Washington, Joe Biden is struggling to get his signature “Build Back Better” bill and its core climate measures through the Senate. An initial proposal, which would have devoted some $555bn (£410bn) to climate and clean energy, has collapsed amid objections from all of the chamber’s Republicans and a key Democrat, Joe Manchin of coal- and gas-rich West Virginia. Rather than the leadership role that Biden has claimed, that makes the US look like a climate straggler.
Democratic lawmakers are still hoping to revive the legislation, though there’s little time with November’s midterm elections looming large.
Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, is feeling similar pressure. Last month, in an effort to keep a lid on prices, his government announced subsidies for oil refiners worth some 3 US cents per litre of gasoline produced. This week, it said it was considering going further to mitigate the impact of rising oil prices amid reports it may triple the subsidy rate. All of which looks like a free pass to China, the world’s biggest emitter.

In several recent high-level meetings, top Chinese officials have stressed energy security alongside carbon reduction efforts. As the People’s Daily, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, said in an recent commentary: “The rice bowl of energy must be held in one’s own hand.”

While top leaders have stressed that its record-breaking build out of solar and wind power is part of the campaign to secure China’s energy future, the push has yet to tangibly shift the nation’s energy mix. China’s share of coal and gas in power generation was still as high as 71 per cent in 2021, the same as 2020.

After an unprecedented power crunch that struck China in the second half of last year, Beijing was forced to raise coal output and imports to record levels. At a group study session of the Politburo last month, Xi Jinping said supply chain security should be guaranteed while curbing emissions, and that coal supplies should be ensured while oil and gas output need to “grow steadily”. The Chinese president added that “cutting emissions is not aimed at curbing productivity or at no emissions at all,” stressing that economic development and the green transition should be mutually reinforcing.
It’s a sentiment shared elsewhere. South Africa’s energy minister Gwede Mantashe told the heads of mining companies on February 1 that coal will still be used for decades and that rushing to end the country’s fossil fuel dependency “will cost us dearly”.

India’s biggest coal miner, state-owned Coal India Ltd, is ramping up production as the country reduces its dependence on imports. The country is the second-biggest coal user after China, and last year coal accounted for 74 per cent of power generation, followed by renewables with a 20 per cent share, according to the latest report by the International Energy Agency.
Yet that ratio is set to shift, with ambitious plans to build out renewable capacity. Billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani helped drive investment targeting alternative energy to a record $10bn last year, but that’s dwarfed by Ambani’s new clean-energy plan worth a total $76bn (£56bn).
Meanwhile, the energy crunch has without doubt cast a shadow on the EU’s debate about how to implement its Green Deal, an unprecedented economic overhaul to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Many governments are concerned that the spike in prices may undermine public support for the reforms.

The political atmosphere is not helped by the west’s standoff with Moscow over Ukraine, a situation that raises the threat of disruption to Russian gas supplies, stoking prices still further. For now, however, flows are intact, albeit more volatile than usual.
Higher fossil fuel and emissions prices may improve the relative economics of renewables. EU leaders have in any case already thrown their weight behind the Green Deal. And with polls consistently showing climate to be among the biggest concerns for the bloc’s voters, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, is doubling down.
China meanwhile added a record amount of solar power last year, and is likely to break that again in 2022, driven by a nationwide push for more rooftop installations and a mammoth build-out of renewables in the northern deserts. In the US, private sector capital is racing ahead of the political will to enact meaningful climate policy. Globally it totalled $755bn in 2021, according to BloombergNEF.
4) Fracking problems on the horizon for Net Zero
City A.M. 15 February 2022
The Net Zero agenda is popular as long as we don’t have to pay for it. For now, Boris Johnson is holding firm against the call to scrap the fracking ban. But he’ll have his work cut out to keep fending off the cost of net zero debate.

The latest flashpoint over the cost of green policies has been about fracking – a way to extract natural gas and oil from shale by pumping a water mixture down into the earth. Around 30 Tory MPs and peers, including Lord Frost, are calling for the ban on fracking to be scrapped. They argue that the UK needs this home-made gas to navigate future energy crises.

Ministers have declined the call, claiming that fracking is unpopular and risky for local communities. The ban has been in place since 2019.

This row is symptomatic of an emerging pattern. As the cost of living crisis looms larger and larger, Tory MPs feel increasingly uneasy about the short-term financial sacrifices needed to achieve long-term sustainability gains. The green agenda is popular as long as we don’t have to pay for it. For now, Boris Johnson is holding firm against the call to scrap the ban. But he’ll have his work cut out to keep fending off the cost of net zero debate.

5) Editorial: Government's anti-fracking excuse is a smokescreen for its cowardice.
The Sun, 15 February 2022

THE latest Government anti-fracking excuse is a smokescreen for its cowardice.

It has no stomach to fight the scaremongers who killed our potentially huge shale industry, even though our need for cheap gas is now far more urgent.

So Energy Secretary Greg Hands says he would need “compelling scientific evidence” that it’s safe. What drivel.

The public was only persuaded it was unsafe by a campaign of misinformation and conspiracy theories which Tory Governments have been too timid to counter.

Yes, drilling for shale triggers earthquakes. So does coal mining.

They are tiny ones no one can feel.

And the environmental damage is vastly exaggerated.

UK fracking would have been regulated far more tightly than America’s.

But our earthquake “safety” level was set so farcically high it was unworkable.

Producing cheap gas from shale is our best bet until, in a few decades, we can achieve the Net Zero dream and solely use wind, solar and nuclear power.

The Government needs to grow a spine.

6) Putin's useful idiots to target UK oil and gas production
The Times, 15 February 2022
The successor movement to Insulate Britain was launched yesterday and delivered an ultimatum to Downing Street that if its demands were not met it would be its “duty to intervene”.
The letter was delivered by members of Just Stop Oil (JSO), formed by, the mastermind behind Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, which brought motorways and roads to a standstill 19 times between September and November last year.

The ultimatum called for the government to make “a statement that it will immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK”.

It continued: “If you do not provide such assurance by March 14, it will be our duty to intervene — to prevent the ultimate crime against our country, humanity and life on Earth.”

The Times revealed last month that JSO intends to disrupt oil supplies if its demands are not met, targeting oil refineries and petrol stations.

Hallam, 55, has been touring universities around the country in an effort to recruit students to the cause. The group is believed to have more than 500 signed-up members. Insulate Britain had less than 200.

Among those who delivered the letter was Louis McKechnie, 21, an engineering student who was jailed for three months for blocking the M25 with Insulate Britain in October. On being released last month he said he would do it all again.

He said: “We know what needs to be done, it’s simple, Just Stop Oil. Right now. They are doing the opposite.” The climate change committee, which advises the government on its climate targets, said that while Cop26 delivered an increase in ambitions to cut carbon emissions worldwide, the current climate policies of countries did not come close to achieving these aims and would mean a catastrophic 2.7C rise of global heating.

It is understood that as well as students, JSO is seeking to mobilise trade unionists into strike action. A document seen by The Times, which was sent to union branches around the country, said it was “time for trade unionists to honour their radical traditions”.

Full story
7) UK urged not to abandon climate goals amid Net Zero row
The Guardian, 14 February 2022 
Senior figures in climate diplomacy, including the key architect of the Paris climate agreement, have urged the UK government to maintain its commitments to climate action, amid escalating attacks intended to generate a “culture war” on the net zero target.
Laurence Tubiana, the French diplomat who crafted the 2015 Paris agreement, now chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, said: “We are not happy, and we are crossing our fingers [that the UK will reaffirm its net zero commitment]. It’s very important that the UK keeps this direction of travel.”
She and other international observers are increasingly worried that the rows over net zero within the UK government, which have seen the Net Zero Scrutiny Group linking the cost-of-living crisis to the carbon reduction agenda, will undermine the progress made last year at the Cop26 UN climate talks.

The UK will continue to lead the talks until Egypt takes over at the next summit, Cop27, this November. British leadership will be essential to the success of Cop27, as countries must use the next eight months to revise their national emissions-cutting plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), as they agreed to do at Glasgow.

But British diplomats will be hamstrung if rows at home over net zero overshadow their efforts, and if support from key cabinet ministers – including the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, who has barely mentioned Cop26 although it was the biggest diplomatic event on British soil since the second world war – continues to be lukewarm or nonexistent.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, praised the UK for the “really marvellous” achievements of Glasgow, and said it was “irresponsible” for some to claim that net zero was behind raising energy prices. “I hope the UK will continue with the leadership that we have seen at Glasgow, and go further to make sure that governments fulfil their pledges they have made before and during Glasgow. The UK is capable and responsible for making sure these are implemented.”

Birol added: “The current high energy prices are nothing to do with net zero. This is not a clean energy crisis, or a renewable energy crisis. These claims are irresponsible and are being used to attack public support for the net zero transition.”

Jennifer Morgan, the outgoing chief of Greenpeace International, told the Guardian shortly before her recent appointment as the German government’s climate envoy that any indication the attacks on net zero were persuading ministers to backpedal would be severely damaging. “It would clearly reduce the UK’s standing in the world, and as a partner for tackling the world’s biggest issue,” she said. “It would be a complete failure of leadership, and the world would judge [the UK government] harshly.”

The British public was also being harmed, added Rachel Kyte, a former World Bank climate official, now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a climate adviser to the UN secretary-general. “There is something deeply disturbing about would-be political leaders jockeying for position by seizing on high energy prices, wilfully misdiagnosing the causes as shifting to renewable energy, and then suggesting as a remedy a harmful about-face by abandoning net zero goals. It is perverse and disingenuous, selling the British public out, and the opposite of the long view demanded of leaders today in combating climate change,” she said.

Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser, now with the Progressive Policy Institute, said that although political attention was focused on Biden’s stimulus, the UK government’s moves on net zero were also viewed with concern. “Boris Johnson’s dedication to net zero is seen in Washington as a linchpin for greater ambition by nations around the world, including at Cop27, so his recent troubles and backbencher bellyaches on climate are worrisome,” he warned. “Johnson should never allow the Tory right fringe to undermine his climate legacy.”

8) Daniel Yergin: America Takes Pole Position on Oil and Gas
The Wall Street Journal, 15 February 2022

Today there is no doubting the geopolitical importance of America’s new oil-and-gas position. The Ukraine crisis and Europe’s energy crisis shine a light on the global impact of U.S. oil-and-gas production.


While the Ukraine crisis was raising anxiety about Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas, something remarkable happened. Last month, for the first time ever, U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe exceeded Russia’s pipeline deliveries. Russian exports, which normally account for about 30% of Europe’s gas use, dropped substantially because of Russian pricing. And with European gas prices about four times as high as normal, U.S. exports surged to fill the gap.

The extraordinary growth in U.S. oil and gas production is a geopolitical and economic asset for the U.S. that contributes to global energy security. As the domestic oil-and-gas industry continues to rebound from the spring 2020 price collapse caused by the onset of Covid, the U.S. is again the world’s top oil producer—almost 20% above the other two largest producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia—and the world’s top natural-gas producer.
The global oil market, which was drowning in oversupply less than two years ago, has tightened dramatically as the world emerges from Covid shutdowns. That makes the market vulnerable to crisis. Russia’s push on Ukraine, a rebounding global economy, major weather events, or a surprise event could send prices soaring.
That is what oil prices above $90 a barrel are signaling. If there is a new nuclear agreement with Iran that brings its oil back to market, that could moderate prices some. But unless a new virulent Covid wave causes more shutdowns (or the Omicron variant slows China’s economy), prices will remain high.
The shock absorber for averting crisis is “spare capacity,” the sum of the potential output from wells that is currently not produced but can be turned on during a disruption. Spare capacity has shrunk as the rebounding world economy has pushed demand up and some oil-exporting countries, because of underinvestment, haven’t been able to return to former production levels. Almost all the spare capacity that now exists—about three million to 3.5 million barrels a day—is concentrated in two countries: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

One critical offset to the tightening market is the current upswing in shale output from the U.S., which could add more than 900,000 barrels a day this year. Without the resurgence in U.S. supply, oil prices would likely be even higher.
With new export capacity coming this year, the U.S. will become the world’s largest LNG exporter, ahead of Australia and Qatar. In a tight global gas market, U.S. LNG is critical to avoid a world-wide shortage and keep the lights on in Europe, as demonstrated by the flotilla of tankers headed to Europe.
In the coming months, even if all Russian pipeline exports through Ukraine were cut off, U.S. exports could make up the deficit. But in the unlikely event that Russia cuts off all gas exports to Europe, U.S. exports wouldn’t be enough. Europe would have to scramble, using gas from already-thin storage and restarting coal and nuclear facilities to generate electricity.
America’s position as a top energy producer has provided new influence and greater flexibility. The U.S. imposed sanctions in 2012, for example, that prevented Iranian oil exports to push Iran to negotiate during the runup to the 2015 nuclear agreement. Iran initially scoffed, convinced that keeping its oil out of the market would cause shortages and price spikes that would undermine the restrictions. But Iran was wrong. The rapid growth in U.S. oil production quickly replaced, then exceeded, the bottled-up Iranian oil, forcing Iran to negotiate.

U.S. exports of LNG and oil have been welcomed by countries like Japan and South Korea and have bolstered their energy security and deepened their relationship with America. U.S. exports also have become one of the foundations of Washington’s improved and expanded relationship with India.
But there are limits. Like all assets, this new position needs to be managed wisely. To use the oil and gas supply as a tool or weapon would undermine its reliability and could devalue it.
Today there is no doubting the geopolitical importance of America’s new oil-and-gas position. The Ukraine crisis and Europe’s energy crisis shine a light on the global impact of U.S. oil-and-gas production.
Some saw this significance much sooner than others. At the 2013 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin was on stage with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in front of several thousand people. I asked Mr. Putin how Russia planned to diversify its economy from its dependence on oil and gas export revenues. In the course of asking my question, I mentioned the word “shale.” Before I finished, Mr. Putin reacted sharply, denouncing shale gas as a grave threat that should be stopped.
Reflecting afterward, I realized he had two strong reasons to oppose U.S. shale gas. First, it would compete with Russian gas in Europe. Second, shale gas and oil would enhance America’s global strategic position. Given how events are unfolding in Europe today, one would have to say he was prescient.

Mr. Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit, is author of “The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations.”
9) Sam Buchan: How to Solve Europe’s Energy Crisis
Real Clear Energy, 14 February 2022

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the climate activists did not fully control the political agenda, and leaders were committed to avoiding catastrophic system vulnerabilities.
Amidst the backdrop of a frenzied world tour to secure contingencies in the event of a catastrophic energy crisis, EU representatives attended the 9th U.S.-EU Energy Council. Still, throughout all the statements and optimistic tweets pointing to vague targets like greater “cooperation,” the solution seemed elusive. 

Political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic must acknowledge that the status quo got Europe into the crisis today. They would be wise to change course both through their action and their words immediately. 

The oddity is that both U.S. and EU leaders continue to overlook the not-so-subtle cries from energy markets resulting from aggressive climate policies forcing would-be project financiers to seek shelter and marginal returns in renewables. Investment stagnated, critical projects were abandoned, and Russia pressed for a more significant market share. 

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the climate activists did not fully control the political agenda, and leaders were committed to avoiding catastrophic system vulnerabilities. The U.S. and EU were once on track to facilitate new infrastructure development, further market inroads for natural gas, including those dominated by coal, cut off from access to clean energy, or dangerously dependent upon Russian supplies. 

In July of 2018, Former Secretary Rick Perry and EU Energy and Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete hosted the first U.S.-EU High-level Business-to-Business forum on LNG, which according to the EU, fostered “further actions to harvest commercial opportunities” in LNG trade. The message was clear and included “new infrastructure for upstream development, liquefaction, and re-gasification,” as well as “new business models and financial instruments in a changing market.” 

This kind of support is partly why U.S. LNG exports to Europe have experienced a 2418 percent increase since President Trump empowered U.S. LNG exporters and embraced the very “cooperation” leaders now call for.

The last two years saw this progress undermined, but there are still avenues for returning our continents to our once valued course toward energy security and a sustainable transition. 
First, the Biden administration and the EU Commission must send a clear signal to the market and investment community by publicly demonstrating their commitment to natural gas, principally LNG, as a viable long-term clean energy fuel. Without such action, investors will continue avoiding critical infrastructure, including the multi-billion-dollar export-import operations that the EU relies upon for security of supply and a future hydrogen economy. 
Allowing climate activists and political leaders to shame natural gas is why European gas purchasers are reluctant to sign long-term contracts, the absence of which exposes them to price volatility. The best course of action is for the EU to host a forum like the one held in 2018 to restore cooperation on LNG and expand the supply and price stability experienced by nations with long-term contracts with U.S. LNG suppliers. 
Second, if he genuinely wants to assist Europe, President Biden should lift his hold on the “up to $1 billion” investment into Europe’s energy infrastructure that President Trump committed to through the Three Seas Initiative. Secretary Blinken could deposit funds tomorrow in the U.S. Treasury to secure credit for the U.S. Development and Finance Corporation. President Biden wouldn’t even need to reverse his horrible decision to oppose overseas fossil fuel projects, although he should. Congress provided the legislative cover for DFC under the European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019. Investments that mitigate midstream constraints should be a top priority for the newly confirmed DFC CEO.
Third, the EU should actively counter Russian disinformation campaigns that paint U.S. natural gas as “dirty.” According to the IEA, Russian gas has the highest methane intensity globally. The EU should also launch a program in cooperation with global LNG suppliers to help educate the electorate on the climate attributes of this “bridge fuel” in the transition. This would complement ongoing efforts between the U.S. and EU on methane mitigation and transparency.
Finally, Germany should restart discussions on developing its own LNG terminal. Such a move would mean diversification for Germany and much-needed economic leverage against Russia. Chancellor Scholz must restore its credibility after Germany killed off its nuclear fleet and cozied up to the Russians. The latter was made clear when former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was nominated to the Board of Russia’s Gazprom. It’s time to break the cycle of pro-Russian German Chancellors.
These actions do nothing to undermine the shared values of the U.S. and EU in pursuing a cleaner and more secure energy future; in fact, they further this vision by fostering greater cooperation and transparency between U.S. and EU officials, as well as with LNG industry leaders. 
10) Ollie Wright: America and the unanswerable case for fracking
The Conservative Woman, 15 February 2022
We’ve allowed ourselves to be talked out of benefiting from an enormous national asset by a movement which fundamentally is against the very basis of our society. The wider green movement might contain well-intentioned people, but at its heart is an anti-capitalist ideology which would demolish our way of life.

IT didn’t happen. The apocalypse the Green movement promised fracking would bring to America: thousands dead from poisoned water, birds falling from blackened skies and cities fractured by earthquakes, just didn’t happen.
Or at least if it did, I didn’t see it on the BBC. Despite a revolution which led to fracking now providing over 67 per cent of America’s gas production and 51 per cent of its crude oil, there was no disaster, no cataclysm.

Instead, there’s a booming energy sector that according to Forbes magazine is estimated to have saved American industry and American consumers more than a trillion dollars (and counting). We’ve now had more than 15 years to evaluate the supposed dangers of widespread fracking and it’s been found safe.

You might remember the video clip the anti-frack movement circulated back in 2010, where water from an ordinary tap in an ordinary home caught fire as the householder applied a match to it. It’s worth watching as a very powerful piece of propaganda.
Fortunately, it’s no more than propaganda. The ‘burning water’ phenomenon is real and is due to naturally occurring methane. It has been well documented for many years prior to fracking and is just as likely to occur in areas with no fracking. Where it has occurred in fracking areas, no causative link has been ever established.  It’s also true that court cases in America have found some of the anti-fracking footage of burning water quite simply to have been faked. Fracking has not caused American kitchen sinks to burst into flames. Sorry, but it just wasn’t true.
If you look at at more or less any scientific controversy, it’s easy to find papers backing your side of the argument. This is certainly true with fracking. But the list of respected organisations happy to put their names behind fracking’s safety is long and impressive.
Not only is fracking essentially safe, it’s also relatively clean. Despite considerable growth in America’s economy since the start of the shale revolution (at least pre-pandemic), American carbon emissions have dropped substantially. Between 2005 and 2017 as fracking boomed, the economy grew by 20 per cent while carbon emissions decreased by 14 per cent.
Much of the campaigning against UK fracking from a few years ago concentrated on local issues such as the potential for noise, disruption, pollution or congestion. But these are all things that although unpleasant can be associated with almost any industrial activity. If you don’t want industry – fine, welcome to your cold bleak new life in the 15th century. With sufficient care and imagination much can be done to mitigate industry’s less pleasant sides.

American ingenuity has disguised much of the ugliness associated with its drilling industry. Los Angeles, for example, is packed with hidden oil wells that locals don’t even realise exist.

If we want affordable energy to power our homes and economy, fracking is an obvious part of the solution. You can’t realistically put a worth on the shale gas we have beneath our feet in the UK. Obviously, gas values fluctuate like any other commodity and there is no clear consensus on exactly how much frackable gas we have. Nevertheless the amounts are still huge and, as demonstrated in America, the costs of extraction are affordable.
We’ve allowed ourselves to be talked out of benefiting from an enormous national asset by a movement which fundamentally is against the very basis of our society. The wider green movement might contain well-intentioned people, but at its heart is an anti-capitalist ideology which would demolish our way of life. They cheerfully admit to wanting to making us poorer by, as the Green Party puts it, ‘reducing consumption’. Exactly how much they want us to reduce consumption is something they have failed to be clear about. But I don’t want to reduce mine and I imagine you don’t want to reduce yours either.

The government should be allowing industry to surge forward with fracking while actively leading an aggressive political campaign to set out the benefits. It should also resurrect the idea of ways to compensate (perhaps reward is a better word) the communities that might be affected. Why not promise a royalty fee? Either to be spent collectively at community level or divided and shared by all households in fracking areas?
If the public understood the benefits of fracking and how safely it has been developed in America, it is hard to imagine that the battle against the miserablist hardcore of Greenies would be lost for a second time. 
11) WSJ: Biden’s Cost-of-Carbon Inflation
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 15 February 2022
A judge calls out a regulatory ruse to gut cost-benefit analysis.

The administrative state works in sneaky ways, and one of them is to dodge cost-benefit analysis for regulation. A federal judge on Friday nailed the Biden Administration for the ruse of attempting to use an inflated “social cost” for carbon emissions.
Pollutants like NOx and sulfur dioxide have direct public-health and environmental impact on local communities. Carbon, not so. By contributing to global warming, greenhouse gases may pose indirect costs on society. But these are hard to quantify and hotly debated. Some argue carbon emissions have a net benefit.

Progressives nonetheless want to use inflated social costs of carbon emissions to justify stringent regulation on carbon energy. Enter the Biden Administration, which last February adopted an Obama -era estimate of $51 per ton cost of CO2. This would mean drivers of gas-powered cars are costing society $230 every year. For shame.
The Administration has used this inflated social cost to impose more onerous fuel-economy and energy efficiency standards. Agencies are also using it to conduct environmental impact statements under the National Environmental Policy Act for an Alaska liquefied natural gas project and mineral leases.

Yet the Administration bypassed notice and comment and junked longstanding administrative practice that regulators must consider only domestic social costs and use a 7% rate to discount them. Discount rates are used to adjust estimated benefits and costs over time, and lower rates yield bigger cost estimates.
The Trump Administration, following administrative norms, estimated the social cost of CO2 at $1 per ton. The Biden team inflated the number by using a 3% discount rate and calculating the global social impact. Its opaque model includes agricultural productivity, human health, property damage from natural disasters, disruption to energy systems, risk of conflict over resources, environmental migration and the value of ecosystem services. That’s it?
Federal Judge James Cain ruled Friday that the Biden team’s departure from administrative norms was arbitrary and capricious. He also held the Administration likely violated the separation of powers by imposing new obligations of “vast ‘economic and political significance’” on private parties and states. Its “estimates artificially increase the cost estimates of lease sales, which in effect, reduces the number of parcels being leased,” the judge explained.
Any regulatory relief may be short-lived, however, since the Administration is expected this month to issue a new social cost estimate based on updated models, which perhaps even include the war in Afghanistan and the migrant surge at the Southern border.
Progressives want the Administration to inflate its social cost estimates even more, perhaps to German levels of $800 a ton. The goal is to justify new rules on fossil fuels that raise costs for workers, consumers and businesses. We hope courts aren’t fooled by this plan to rig cost-benefit analysis on the sly.

12) Matt Ridley: Why global warming is good for us
Spiked, 15 February 2022
Global warming is real. It is also – so far – mostly beneficial. This startling fact is kept from the public by a determined effort on the part of alarmists and their media allies who are determined to use the language of crisis and emergency.


The goal of Net Zero emissions in the UK by 2050 is controversial enough as a policy because of the pain it is causing. But what if that pain is all to prevent something that is not doing net harm?

The biggest benefit of emissions is global greening, the increase year after year of green vegetation on the land surface of the planet. Forests grow more thickly, grasslands more richly and scrub more rapidly. This has been measured using satellites and on-the-ground recording of plant-growth rates. It is happening in all habitats, from tundra to rainforest. In the four decades since 1982, as Bjorn Lomborg points out, NASA data show that global greening has added 618,000 square kilometres of extra green leaves each year, equivalent to three Great Britains. You read that right: every year there’s more greenery on the planet to the extent of three Britains. I bet Greta Thunberg did not tell you that.
The cause of this greening? Although tree planting, natural reforestation, slightly longer growing seasons and a bit more rain all contribute, the big cause is something else.
All studies agree that by far the largest contributor to global greening – responsible for roughly half the effect – is the extra carbon dioxide in the air. In 40 years, the proportion of the atmosphere that is CO2 has gone from 0.034 per cent to 0.041 per cent. That may seem a small change but, with more ‘food’ in the air, plants don’t need to lose as much water through their pores (‘stomata’) to acquire a given amount of carbon. So dry areas, like the Sahel region of Africa, are seeing some of the biggest improvements in greenery. Since this is one of the poorest places on the planet, it is good news that there is more food for people, goats and wildlife.

But because good news is no news, green pressure groups and environmental correspondents in the media prefer to ignore global greening. Astonishingly, it merited no mentions on the BBC’s recent Green Planet series, despite the name. Or, if it is mentioned, the media point to studies suggesting greening may soon cease. These studies are based on questionable models, not data (because data show the effect continuing at the same pace). On the very few occasions when the BBC has mentioned global greening it is always accompanied by a health warning in case any viewer might glimpse a silver lining to climate change – for example, ‘extra foliage helps slow climate change, but researchers warn this will be offset by rising temperatures’.
Another bit of good news is on deaths. We’re against them, right? A recent study shows that rising temperatures have resulted in half a million fewer deaths in Britain over the past two decades. That is because cold weather kills about ’20 times as many people as hot weather’, according to the study, which analyses ‘over 74million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries’. This is especially true in a temperate place like Britain, where summer days are rarely hot enough to kill. So global warming and the unrelated phenomenon of urban warming relative to rural areas, caused by the retention of heat by buildings plus energy use, are both preventing premature deaths on a huge scale.
Surely this will change in the future? Probably not. Britain would have to get much, much hotter for summer mortality to start exceeding winter deaths. Not even Greece manages that. And the statistics show that – as greenhouse-gas theory predicts – on the whole more warming is happening in cold places, in cold seasons and at cold times of day. So winter nighttime temperatures in the global north are rising much faster than summer daytime temperatures in the tropics.
Summer temperatures in the US are changing at half the rate of winter temperatures and daytimes are warming 20 per cent slower than nighttimes. A similar pattern is seen in most countries. Tropical nations are mostly experiencing very slow, almost undetectable daytime warming (outside cities), while Arctic nations are seeing quite rapid change, especially in winter and at night. Alarmists love to talk about polar amplification of average climate change, but they usually omit its inevitable flip side: that tropical temperatures (where most poor people live) are changing more slowly than the average.

But are we not told to expect more volatile weather as a result of climate change? It is certainly assumed that we should. Yet there’s no evidence to suggest weather volatility is increasing and no good theory to suggest it will. The decreasing temperature differential between the tropics and the Arctic may actually diminish the volatility of weather a little.
Indeed, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) repeatedly confirms, there is no clear pattern of storms growing in either frequency or ferocity, droughts are decreasing slightly and floods are getting worse only where land-use changes (like deforestation or building houses on flood plains) create a problem.
Globally, deaths from droughts, floods and storms are down by about 98 per cent over the past 100 years – not because weather is less dangerous but because shelter, transport and communication (which are mostly the products of the fossil-fuel economy) have dramatically improved people’s ability to survive such natural disasters.
The geological record shows greater climatic volatility in cold periods of the Earth’s history than in hot periods. At the peak of recent ice ages, the temperature fluctuated dramatically between years and decades, while decade-long mega-droughts ravaged Africa, drying up Lake Victoria at least twice. Those mega droughts happened 17,000 years ago and 15,000 years ago respectively, when the world was much colder than today and cooler oceans meant failed monsoons. One theory about the invention of farming argues that it was impossible until the climate settled down in the post-glacial warmth of around 10,000 years ago: ‘Recent data from ice- and ocean-core climate proxies show that the last glacial climates were extremely hostile to agriculture – dry, low in atmospheric CO2, and extremely variable on quite short time scales.’ It then became calmer as it became significantly warmer than today between 9,000 and 6,000 years ago, when human civilisation emerged.
The effect of today’s warming (and greening) on farming is, on average, positive: crops can be grown farther north and for longer seasons and rainfall is slightly heavier in dry regions. We are feeding over seven billion people today much more easily than we fed three billion in the 1960s, and from a similar acreage of farmland. Global cereal production is on course to break its record this year, for the sixth time in 10 years.
Nature, too, will do generally better in a warming world. There are more species in warmer climates, so more new birds and insects are arriving to breed in southern England than are disappearing from northern Scotland. Warmer means wetter, too: 9,000 years ago, when the climate was warmer than today, the Sahara was green. Alarmists like to imply that concern about climate change goes hand in hand with concern about nature generally. But this is belied by the evidence. Climate policies often harm wildlife: biofuels compete for land with agriculture, eroding the benefits of improved agricultural productivity and increasing pressure on wild land; wind farms kill birds and bats; and the reckless planting of alien sitka spruce trees turns diverse moorland into dark monoculture.
Meanwhile, real environmental issues are ignored or neglected because of the obsession with climate. With the help of local volunteers I have been fighting to protect the red squirrel in Northumberland for years. The government does literally nothing to help us, while it pours money into grants for studying the most far-fetched and minuscule possible climate-change impacts. Invasive alien species are the main cause of species extinction worldwide (like grey squirrels driving the red to the margins), whereas climate change has yet to be shown to have caused a single species to die out altogether anywhere.
Of course, climate change does and will bring problems as well as benefits. Rapid sea-level rise could be catastrophic. But whereas the sea level shot up between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago, rising by about 60 metres in two millennia, or roughly three metres per century, today the change is nine times slower: three millimetres a year, or a foot per century, and with not much sign of acceleration. Countries like the Netherlands and Vietnam show that it is possible to gain land from the sea even in a world where sea levels are rising. The land area of the planet is actually increasing, not shrinking, thanks to siltation and reclamation.
In January 2020, the UK’s chief scientific adviser organised for some slides to be shown to Boris Johnson to convert him to climate alarmism. Thanks to a freedom of information request, we now know that these slides showed the likely acceleration in sea-level rise under a scenario known as RCP 8.5. This is shocking because RCP 8.5 has long been discredited as a highly implausible future. It was created by piling unrealistic assumptions on to each other in models: coal use increasing tenfold by 2100, population growth accelerating to 12 billion people, innovation drying up and an implausibly high sensitivity of temperature to carbon dioxide. No serious scientist thinks RCP 8.5 represents a likely outcome from ‘business as usual’. Yet those who want to grab media attention by making alarming predictions use it all the time.
Environmentalists don’t get donations or invitations to appear on the telly if they say moderate things. To stand up and pronounce that ‘climate change is real and needs to be tackled, but it’s not happening very fast and other environmental issues are more urgent’ would be about as popular as an MP in Oliver Cromwell’s parliament declaring, ‘The evidence for God is looking a bit weak, and I’m not so very sure that fornication really is a sin’.
And I speak as someone who has made several speeches on climate in parliament.
No wonder we don’t hear about the good news on climate change.
Matt Ridley is co-author of Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, with Alina Chan.

see also Matt Ridley's 2016 Annual GWPF Lecture: Global Warming vs Global Greening


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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