Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Net Zero Watch: Greens fear Boris Johnson's downfall could kill off his Net Zero plans


In this newsletter:

1) Greens fear Boris Johnson's downfall could kill off his Net Zero plans
Politico, 3 February 2022

2) Why the cost of Net Zero is too high for the country – and for Boris too
The Sunday Telegraph, 6 February 2022

3) Trevor Kavanagh: This is an energy crisis, Boris – stick solar panels where sun don’t shine
The Sun, 7 February 2022

4) Janet Dailey: This self-inflicted cost of living crisis will bring Boris Johnson down
The Daily Telegraph, 5 February 2022
5) Craig Mackinlay: A Conservative free-market approach is the solution to our energy woes
The Sunday Telegraph, 6 February 2022

6) Rishi Sunak urged to drop green levies to ease the cost of living crisis
Politics Home, 4 February 2022
7) Homes risk energy rating downgrade and drop in value if they install a heat pump
The Daily Telegraph, 7 February 2022
8) Francis Menton: The Shifting Politics Of The So-Called "Green" Energy Transition
Manhattan Contrarian, 4 February 2022
9) Larry Fink’s green crusade runs into resistance
Real Clear Energy, 4 February 2022

Full details:

1) Greens fear Boris Johnson's downfall could kill off his Net Zero plans
Politico, 3 February 2022
Can Britain’s climate policy survive the turbulence created by Boris Johnson’s latest scandal?

LONDON — Green activists haven't always loved Boris Johnson but they might miss him when he's gone.

The British prime minister teeters on the edge after another perilous week in Westminster.

Johnson must now wait to see if enough of his own Conservative MPs decide to topple him and brace for a police investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties. Even if he gets away with this scandal, Johnson is severely weakened, which makes many of his policy priorities — notably net zero — targets for his opponents.

His two most fancied successors — Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss — are known to be cool on the policy. Several agitators in the party, including former Brexit minister David Frost, who surprised Westminster by quitting in December, have also been vocal with concerns about the cost of reducing emissions.

Serial rebel Steve Baker MP said net zero is “absolutely” likely to dominate the next Tory Party leadership contest, adding: “[Net zero] is going to hit everyone, and it’s especially going to hit the poor. That means I believe it’s going to be bigger than Brexit, it’s going to be bigger than the poll tax.”

Several MPs who Johnson and his allies courted over the last week in an attempt to shore up his position reported that they had stressed the need to alleviate the cost of living squeeze. They were not altogether satisfied by the new package of support announced Thursday to offset soaring energy prices, and want to see green levies reconsidered.

Others counter that the party, along with the wider public, have moved a long way on climate and any new leader would need to pick up the net zero plan.

Either way, Johnson's stumbles have demonstrated that the battle over net zero in Britain is far from over, sending jitters through the climate world.

Who comes next

Uppermost in the minds of those who fear Johnson’s exit is the track record of his rivals.

Sunak’s ambivalence towards the green agenda has been well-documented: net zero was entirely absent from his last party conference speech, while he announced a cut in air passenger duty on domestic flights and a freeze on petrol duty in his recent budget.

Truss appears to give the fight against climate change even shorter shrift. In a previous Cabinet job, she opposed the U.K.’s bid to host COP26 and as trade secretary reportedly allowed Australia to strip out climate change commitments from their free-trade agreement.

One prominent climate adviser claimed Truss was “not bothered about whether she turns up at COP26 — and this is the fucking foreign secretary,” while the divide between Johnson's team and that of his chancellor on net zero is "not over-inflated, it's definitely a real thing."

Another said: “They’ve each wanted to have some definition against Boris Johnson's agenda. That's been useful for them while they're in the race to be leader.”

Both Sunak and Truss have played their cards close to their chest with one eye on their selectorate — the Conservative MPs who would be critical to any future leadership bid.

A small but vocal minority of Tory MPs, including Baker, who believe policies such as the phaseout of gas boilers and diesel cars will hit the poorest hardest and need to be rethought entirely, have formed a loosely organized caucus.

One of their number said the cost of living and energy bills were a “massive” concern for all in the party which No. 10 had not fully grasped.

“If David Cameron was the original Notting Hill set, this is Notting Hill the sequel, all this green stuff. It's a lot of rich people who are telling working people how to live their lives at great cost,” he said.

Recently the ex-minister Chris Skidmore founded a “net zero support group” intended to speak up for those MPs who back the agenda — a sign that it needs defending.

Officials are also concerned. One senior civil servant said: “There is a real danger that domestic net zero becomes a pawn in the leadership contest, which I think would be incredibly bad news.” They added that if the next leader adopts a “red meat strategy” that would likely mean “a whole series of sort of grandstand moments where you pull money away from green stuff."

Tom Sasse, net zero lead at the Institute for Government think tank, pointed to the need for strong leadership on the green agenda. While long-term regulatory targets have been set, many aspects of funding and implementation have not been filled in.

“There's an awful lot of things that could go wrong along that journey if you don't have a committed prime minister but one who just leaves cabinet ministers to butt heads,” Sasse warned.

It’s a concern not just for Brits but for the world, with COP26 President Alok Sharma widely seen as having built strong international relationships aimed at holding countries to their climate policies.

The U.K. already faces a diminished role in global climate affairs as the authority of its climate presidency seeps away toward the next talks in November, which Egypt will chair. But in the all-hands-to-the-pump atmosphere of climate diplomacy, E3G chief executive Nick Mabey said a shift in leadership priorities in London could hurt global efforts.

“Leaders probably think they did climate last year. And the question is, can we get them to refocus on it to drive forward?” said Mabey. He added that a weaker U.K. would leave a gap the EU would have to fill.

The U.K. is tied to its post-Brexit Global Britain agenda, said Pete Betts, a former lead climate negotiator for the U.K. and EU. “It's important that whoever replaces Johnson resists and doesn't heed the voices of those who might say retrench on climate.”

No turning back

Others, however, believe there are reasons to be optimistic about the U.K.’s trajectory.

Anthony Browne, a Conservative MP and former environment editor of the Times, said he had been surprised by the level of support for net zero in the parliamentary party he has encountered since he was elected in 2019.

“I think there was a lot more political cynicism in the Conservative Party [in the Cameron era] about the whole climate change agenda that has now largely evaporated,” he said, articulating a view popular with many green Tories that they cannot “just leave it to the Left to deal with.”

Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network, echoed this: “The broad majority of the Conservative parliamentary party is supportive of net zero, the opinion polling is clear that the public wants action on climate, and the economic case for action on climate change gets stronger every day with falling technology costs and the green jobs that come in.”

Full story
2) Why the cost of Net Zero is too high for the country – and for Boris too
The Sunday Telegraph, 6 February 2022
By Matthew Lynn

We need to start asking whether net zero is still worth it – or whether, at the very least we need to start slowing it down. 

Giant windmills across the North Sea would feed cheap, reliable electricity into the grid. Energy-efficient boilers would heat perfectly insulated homes to a pleasant temperature, even through the depths of winter. 

Electric cars would hum along the roads, consuming a fraction of the power of their petrol predecessors; high-speed trains would whisk us off on holiday, while the newspapers would be full of stories of democratising reforms within the old petrostates as their oil revenues dwindled away.
Or, as Boris Johnson himself put it in 2020: “You cook breakfast using hydrogen power before getting in your electric car, having charged it overnight from batteries made in the Midlands. Around you, the air is cleaner; trucks, trains, ships and planes run on hydrogen or synthetic fuel.”
In some parallel universe, the UK, along with most of Europe, would by this year have been well on the way to hitting its net-zero targets, with clean, cheap and renewable energy replacing fossil fuels, at lower cost and with greater security. Johnson, along with other leaders from around the world, would be basking in approval for rescuing the planet, while delivering a better quality of life.

The trouble is, in this universe it is not quite working out as planned. Instead, we are entering an increasingly dystopian world of soaring gas prices, energy shortages, fuel poverty, warnings of blackouts and school closures and, perhaps worst of all, we are being held to ransom by Russia’s President Putin, manipulating the energy market as he threatens to invade Ukraine. We are in the middle of an unfolding energy crisis the likes of which Europe has not witnessed since the 1970s.
Everyone – well, almost everyone – agrees that climate change is a serious issue and one that needs to be addressed.
“Humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change,” we were warned by Johnson last year. “It’s one minute to midnight on that Doomsday Clock, and we need to act now.” And yet it is also becoming abundantly clear that the speed of that transition is becoming increasingly expensive. It is creating a cost of living crisis that is only going to get worse. It is tearing apart political structures. And, perhaps most of all, it has undermined energy security, handing vast geopolitical power to a newly aggressive Russia.
We need to start asking whether net zero is still worth it – or whether, at the very least we need to start slowing it down. And, more urgently, whether it will be his commitment to net zero – to “keep that promise to the letter” – that brings Johnson down. It may have seemed the right thing to do 12 months ago. But the world has changed fundamentally since then – and, before long, government policy has to change as well.

“Even if we are just the second or third country in the world to hit net zero, it would make a huge difference to how much this is going to cost us, both financially and politically,” says David Davis, the former Brexit minister.
“It is the obsession with being the world leader that is really costing us,” he adds.

Brutal shock
It might have been widely expected, but the lifting of the energy price cap on Thursday will still have come as a brutal shock to millions of households. At a single stroke, the energy regulator Ofgem raised the price cap by 54 per cent – and with it, the average yearly household bill soared to £1,971: an increase of £700. 

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak stepped in with a package of measures to support the most vulnerable, including council tax rebates, and loans to energy providers. But it is still going to hit middle England in the pocket. Already, there are tales of extra blankets being bought, heating being turned off and food budgets shaved to deal with the fallout.

Even worse, on the same day, the Bank of England pushed up interest rates for the second time in two months, with more to come, increasing mortgage bills. The Bank forecast that inflation would hit an alarming 7.2 per cent this year, well ahead of wages rising at 4 per cent annually, meaning real living standards are now falling at some of the fastest rates on record. 

And yet there are plenty more steep price rises just down the line, all of them imposed by the Government. The rising cost of energy will very soon be feeding into the cost of everything else we buy, from food, to services, to leisure.
One estimate last week calculated that switching to heat pumps to keep the house warm, and installing chargers for the electric car to get around, would cost the average household £35,000 – or significantly more than the median after-tax household income of £30,800. In effect, 14 months of earnings are going to be eaten up by switching from one form of power that worked perfectly well to another one that still isn’t proven.
And with inflation spiralling, those costs will prove even higher. Looming over everything, a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine that would send energy costs through the roof: within days of the tanks rolling across the frozens steppes of Eastern Europe, the 54 per cent increase in the energy price cap might seem relatively modest.
Cause and effect 
There is a common thread linking all the different aspects of the cost of living crisis: a poorly-planned, over-rushed drive to eliminate all carbon emissions as quickly as possible, and by 2050 at the latest. “The Ukraine crisis has highlighted the fact that we have not taken energy security seriously enough,” says Clive Moffatt, who chaired the UK Energy Security Group from 2017 to 2019, and has advised on energy for 30 years. “A lot of the risks in the supply of gas are down to the fact that most governments, including our own, have not thought about the issue as much as they need to.”

Very true. In fact, Europe’s energy crisis, including the UK’s, has been more than a decade in the making.

Rewind 10 years, and governments around the world were just starting to take climate change seriously, with the likes of Japan, Korea, Canada and New Zealand setting themselves the ambitious target of “net-zero” economies. In effect, that meant phasing out oil and coal, and relying instead on green energies such as wind and solar power. 

In the UK, it meant a vast investment in wind turbines, most located offshore, where the gales are most reliable. There are now more than 11,000 turbines in operation, and on a good day they account for 24 per cent of our electricity consumption.

Along the way, however, we forgot an important detail. We don’t just need the power to be green. We need it to be reliable as well – and, come to think of it, preferably not too expensive. And the wind, as anyone who has ever tried flying a kite will tell you, is not quite that. It is a variable and unpredictable source of energy: great when a force niner is blowing in from the east, not so good on a still day.

Only last week, the Government published data showing that power generation from wind farms fell by 30 per cent between July and September last year, as air speeds dropped to their lowest level so far this century. 
That might be a one-off, but it dramatically highlights just how variable wind is compared with traditional forms of power; a gas field or oil well can produce roughly the same amount year after year until it runs out, and so can a nuclear plant.
As Moffatt and others argued to the Government, there was nothing wrong with switching to renewable energy sources. But it meant we needed to make sure there was a back-up source of power. The only really practical one was gas. 
And yet, instead of ensuring there was plenty of capacity, the UK dangerously ran down its supplies. We actively discouraged investment in the North Sea, where there is still plenty of gas, and which still accounts for 40 per cent of the UK’s energy needs. 
Energy giants such as Shell decided it was no longer worth the flak, with leaders in Edinburgh and London competing to demonise them. Britain could have opened up new gas fields with only modest levels of investment, and if necessary kept them as backup if renewables ran low. Just last week, the European Commission deemed natural gas and nuclear plants “green energy” as long as they meet certain targets. And yet Britain has pressed on with the total elimination of gas as a practical energy source.

Just as seriously, we effectively banned fracking, on the basis of a few wild conspiracy theories about earthquakes, and fracking’s impact on unborn babies (most of which make the anti-Covid vaccination sites look like a model of scientific rigour), even though there are vast reserves of shale gas in the north of England. In the US, where fracking went ahead, and which doesn’t seem to have been destroyed by earthquakes yet, gas prices have barely risen this year.

We ran down nuclear energy because we decided it wasn’t green enough – which, along with Germany’s decision to decommission its plants, left France as the only serious nuclear player left in Europe. Perhaps worst of all, we allowed storage facilities to be run down, so we have miniscule reserves of gas. 

We assumed that we could always import liquified natural gas, shipped in from Qatar on huge container fleets to plug any gaps in demand. In effect, the UK created a power system that was greener, reasonably cost effective on a good day – but very, very fragile.

We are seeing the impact of that now. Gas prices have soared right across Europe, rising five-fold in the space of a year. There are plenty of reasons for that.

The pandemic created rising demand across the world as the economy locked down then bounced back. But the major one is Russia, Europe’s major supplier of gas, with huge pipelines feeding into the continent, and while that energy is still flowing it is not as plentiful as it was.

True, the UK does not buy much gas directly from Russia. But we do buy lots of gas on the global market, and that price is set by what Russia is doing. If it does invade Ukraine, the gas supplies may be cut off completely. At that point, it may be impossible to keep the electricity running.

High price to pay
Energy costs, and the dependence on a volatile gas market, are just one part of the story. The Government is driving to eliminate carbon emissions at a far faster rate than most major economies. The catch is this: it means pioneering new technologies when they are still being developed, and before mass manufacturing means that costs have come down.

We are forcing families to switch to electric cars with gimmicks such as London’s £12.50 a day charge for older vehicles. But everyone knows electric vehicles will be dramatically cheaper in just five years’ time, as batteries develop, and new types of cables mean expensive upgrades to domestic fuse boxes won’t be needed, and as giants such as Toyota and Volkswagen bring new models into production.

Already, the cheapest electric car for sale today comes in at under £20,000, and is expected to drop to under £10,000 later this year with the arrival of the Citroën Ami; a recent report claimed that by 2027, electric cars will be cheaper to produce than models with petrol and diesel engines (although questions are now arising as to how green electric cars are really (see story, left).

Meanwhile, the Government is busy demanding that gas boilers be phased out, replaced mainly by expensive and unreliable heat pumps, when new technologies such as hydrogen may well make them obsolete as soon as we have spent the tens of billions necessary to install them across the country. Pushing the target out by just two or three years would make it much cheaper to hit.

“When it becomes a real hot potato politically is when people realise the rising cost of energy is partly down to government policy,” warns Davis. Unfortunately, that point is very close.

If the UK developed new gas fields in the North Sea, had half a dozen nuclear plants ready to switch on, or fracking sites up and running, the energy price charts would be as dull as they were for most of the last 20 years. Net zero may have started out as a laudable enough aim.

But it was designed at a very different time. In the last year, inflation has started to take off, making the cost unaffordable for many families. And, combined with our own failure to take energy security seriously, it ended up playing straight into the hands of Vladimir Putin. The whole of Europe is now, in effect, dependent on the Russian autocrat to keep the lights switched on. And now that he has that power, he is not likely to surrender without a struggle.
So how do we get out of this mess? “In the short term, there is not a lot we can do about it,” warns Moffatt. Power plants can’t be built at the click of a finger, and neither can storage facilities, and the blunt truth is we have no way of knowing for sure how much power wind will generate.
In the medium-term, however, we could do more. We could rebuild our reserves, putting more storage in place at only modest cost. We could open new fields in the North Sea. We could restart nuclear, and allow one or two fracking fields to open; the Government made a modest start on that last week, with support for a Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk.
Perhaps most of all, we could accept that getting to net zero will be a little slower, and that if Germany or Canada gets there first… well, that’s fine. In the meantime, we will have to hope the winter stays as mild as it has been so far, and that the Beast from the East is geopolitical, rather than meteorological. If there is a February cold snap, such as the one we experienced in 2018, there could easily be rolling power cuts and shortages.
The last time that happened, in the early 1970s, it effectively finished the career of a former Tory prime minister. If it happens again, it might finish Boris Johnson – and in truth, like Edward Heath, he will only have himself to blame.
3) Trevor Kavanagh: This is an energy crisis, Boris – stick solar panels where sun don’t shine
The Sun, 7 February 2022
FORGET about Partygate, Carriegate and Downing Street BYOB orgies. They are sideshows compared with the perfect storm about to crash on No10, whoever is Prime Minister.

A £2,000-a-year energy bill bombshell will hit house-holders, millions of them Sun readers, like a brutal kick in the teeth.

They will be paying through the nose for a gamble denounced as “green crap” by ex-PM David Cameron — and derided by Boris Johnson until he won the December 2019 election.

Through no fault of their own, voters face higher taxes, dearer mortgages and shockingly high fuel bills.

For some, it will mean a choice between heating and eating, selling their homes at a loss and watching their businesses go bust.

Nor will their anger be appeased by £200 loans or bailouts with their own money.

They are carrying the cost of Boris Johnson’s vow at last year’s COP26 carbon emissions summit that Britain will be among the first to hit zero.

The issue is set to boil over as the Just Stop Oil nutters threaten to block refineries, paralyse tanker deliveries and pile the agony on motorists.

In an understated message to wide-eyed supporters, Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam said: “You have an absolute responsibility to take action on the greatest act of injustice and obscene evil in the history of humanity.

“What other description can we give to COP26, which knowingly decided to condemn the next generation to a world that is uninhabitable. A world of starvation, rape and slaughter.”

On past performance, the Woke Police will stand by with arms folded and offer them hot chocolate and blankets.
“It’s like designing a little mini-holiday,” Hallam added.

As with so many recent disasters, this crisis was totally avoidable.

Thanks to a cult-like green obsession, Britain is paying for costly imported fuel rather than harvesting an untapped ocean of frackable gas and North Sea oil.

Far from using our own cheap energy, we are being manipulated like puppets by malicious Kremlin tyrant Vladimir Putin.

Boris has somersaulted dramatically over energy supplies, but to be fair so has every prime minister from Tony Blair onward.

They all ignored warnings the lights would go out without reliable new power plants, especially nuclear.

To save a few quid, they scrapped gas storage units, leaving us with only three days’ supply in an emergency.

So we rely on windmills, becalmed for days on end, and on solar energy where the sun don’t shine.

Meanwhile, billions in taxpayers’ cash has been poured into dodgy green subsidies to rich landowners, which end up as a hidden tax on domestic fuel bills.

The PM’s wife, green goddess Carrie Johnson, is feeling the heat, perhaps unfairly.

Her obsession is with animals and gay rights, not gas and electricity.

Those with real influence are BoJo’s father, Stanley, and billionaire green fanatic Zac Goldsmith, a minister in the House of Lords.

Along with Carrie, who once worked for Goldsmith, they are known as the Zac Pack.

There is a powerful case for renewable energy, already on stream with commercially viable new technology.

But before we swallow Hallam’s doom-laden images of global meltdown, let’s recall the equally overblown “worst case” Covid fantasies from Sage scientists.

“Bonking” Professor Neil Ferguson terrified us into lock-down with ludicrous forecasts of half a million dead.

Critics fear a similar panic over climate change will destroy the global economy — with consequences for us all.

Right now, 70million UK citizens are being given a glimpse of that future as they plunge into the worst cost- of-living-crisis in half a century.

But this is not the 1970s. Back then we were accustomed to non-stop industrial strife, with wages chasing prices. Inflation was a fact of life.

Today, we’re used to stability, cheap food and fuel, low mortgages and full employment — a fool’s paradise, it now seems.

“Things are going to be difficult,” admits Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday, the minister who banned fracking in 2019.

“Difficult” doesn’t quite cut it.

Once gas and electricity bills start to land on doormats, the green crap really will hit the fan.
4) Janet Dailey: This self-inflicted cost of living crisis will bring Boris Johnson down
The Daily Telegraph, 5 February 2022
This is a political collapse which is quite without precedent. And that is not just because of the Prime Minister’s behaviour, however egregious that may have been. It is because his government has precipitated a cost of living crisis like no other I can recall.

Not that it will be without equal in its severity – the 1970s will still take some beating on that score – and not because its threat to economic stability will necessarily be greater than previous price explosions. What will make this drop in disposable income – and thus the standard of living – of most of the population so different is that, to a very considerable extent, it has been deliberately created by government policy.
The extraordinary leap in the cost of energy certainly is, as the Chancellor emphasised repeatedly last week, connected to increased global demand. That has always been the inescapable logic of commodity prices: more demand on existing resources means everybody pays more for the product.

But there is also a well-established logic for dealing with such problems: increase the supply of the commodity (or the ingredients needed to produce it) that is in such great demand and inevitably the price will drop.
Unleash production of whatever it takes to make the goods, open the markets to competition, remove any obstructions to the delivery of said goods to eager customers and bingo – prices fall, the economy grows and almost everybody can find a cost of living level that is bearable.
This is the basic lesson of supply side reform that we thought we had learned in the 1980s. Scarcity is what makes a thing expensive. So you take away the conditions that cause that scarcity – like nationalised rationing or private monopolies, or, in this case, untapped resources – and then make suppliers compete for business.
The purveyors of more expensive goods and services can survive by making themselves more attractive to a selective client base. Others can specialise in basic or minimised services for those who prefer to pay less. Result: a varied and prolific market which is flexible and responsive to the needs of consumers.
But as you may have noticed there is a difficulty with this formula for the present government. Some of the things that are contributing to the increased cost of such necessities as heat, light and food production have been engineered by the government itself.
Roughly a quarter of the cost of your electricity bill consists of green levies, a regressive form of taxation that was officially designed to subsidise new climate-friendly industries but which in fact serves to penalise people who use (“waste”) the most electricity. And that is not accidental.

The Johnson government, like the one before it and indeed all the existing major political parties, has adopted policies specifically aimed at raising the cost of using energy – and hence, the cost of living.
This is the terrible realisation that is now dawning on the electorate. The Conservatives, even though they are historically the bearers of The Great Supply Side truth, cannot make use of the free market-increased supply-lower prices formula because they (deep breath) do not want energy prices to be lower. They want you to understand that using heat and light is a kind of privilege which must be done only abstemiously and with great discipline. Self-denial is the whole point. This is a moral crusade. The extreme climate campaigners are quite clear about this: we have exploited the planet and now we must be punished.
The only amelioration of this brutal retribution for our past sins and self-indulgence is directed at the poor or, as modern politics puts it, “the least well off”. The people who might cause embarrassment by telling television interviewers that they are sleeping in their coats or going without meals are to be given handouts in the form of loans which will have to be repaid.
So a proportion of the money that is currently being taken away from them by government in green taxes will be lent back to them by another agency of government, to be paid back to the energy supply companies (which have now effectively become a branch of government) over the next four years. Have you got that?

Government has artificially raised the cost of energy for everyone and will now compensate those they believe to be deserving: this is Gordon Brown revisited. All of this handing of money back and forth will cost the usual fortune to administer by central bureaucracy and will be subject to all the messy, accident-prone foibles of any means-tested benefit.

So why not just remove the green levies, I hear you ask in exasperation? Because that would undermine the theological commitment to Net Zero which does, in fact, necessarily involve reducing the advantages of prosperity as we have come to know it.
The only clear way out of this - the expansion of supply and the deregulation of its delivery - has been made perversely unavailable by the rejection of fuels like natural gas as unGreen (although Europe has now decided to re-admit gas to the acceptable Green fuel category). The Johnson government is now making economic decisions that are simply absurd and self-cancelling.
This is nothing new, of course. Governments frequently make economic mistakes, often in the cause of ideology. But what is peculiarly infuriating is that Boris Johnson’s generation of Tory politicians are repudiating precisely the lesson that their own party taught the country within living memory.
Even voters who are not old enough to remember the origins of that great liberation of free market economics are experiencing its advantages every time they choose a new mobile phone or broadband supplier from a vigorously competitive field.
There was a time when Boris Johnson talked like this – quite convincingly. Not anymore. And it is that – and the consequences it will have for people’s lives – which will finish him. All it needs is for some prospective leader of the party to say out loud what the Tories used to believe, and Boris will be gone. I doubt it will be long now.  
5) Craig Mackinlay: A Conservative free-market approach is the solution to our energy woes
The Sunday Telegraph, 6 February 2022
International gas prices may be to blame for our bills, but self-inflicted pain caused by the rush to Net Zero is disastrous

Theresa May’s decision to embark on the wholesale decarbonisation of the economy – so called ‘Net Zero’ – is now having disastrous implications for the cost of living. Back in 2019, ministers confidently claimed that the costs were relatively modest, and promised huge savings in certain areas that would reduce the financial pain. We are now seeing the results of that failure in our bills. The Government has responded to the Ofgem price cap increase with a range of inventive interventionist measures.

The Government and the usual green cheerleaders have blamed global pressures on gas prices for the mess we are in and cry for a further increase in reliance on expensive and unreliable renewables as the route to salvation. While international prices are significantly to blame for this immediate pain, if we fail to recognise that much of this is self-inflicted, then we won’t be able to find a way out of the current crisis.

The baffling decision to impose a moratorium on extracting our own shale gas resources and a broad refusal, with limited exceptions, to unlock North Sea reserves are cases in point.

Direct subsidies for renewable energy, along with other social obligation costs, now add an extra 25 per cent onto household electricity bills. For some time this increase has been counteracted by low gas prices, but households have now been left hopelessly exposed as gas prices have risen and wind speeds have been below expectations. It’s clear that using nuclear would provide much better protection but that solution lies a decade away.

These extraordinary own goals could have been avoided. As Lord Frost has experienced working from the heart of Government, a rot has set in, brought about by an over-reliance on a narrow set of advisers and a narrow ideological mindset. This holds that nothing must be allowed to get in the way of decarbonisation efforts, and anyone who questions this must be some sort of climate ‘denier’.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) lies at the centre of this nexus, and it has been responsible for a large quantity of poor-quality advice.

Management consultancy McKinsey claims the extra spending required to deliver Net Zero would be ‘equivalent to about 7.5 percent of GDP from 2021 to 2050’. That’s five times the CCC’s figure, which Parliament accepted when it decided to enshrine the Net Zero target into law.

What would such a huge cost mean in reality? A prolonged squeeze on living standards seems likely. The staggering rises in energy bills that we are seeing now could be just the start of an all-out assault on our prosperity, that sees living standards deteriorate for decades to come.

The alternative is to make sure that we make use of the extraordinary natural resources that we have under our feet and out to sea. By ending the incoherent shale gas moratorium, we could create 74,000 skilled jobs in the Red Wall.

That won’t be enough on its own, however, to solve our current energy woes. Consumers need urgent relief from spiralling prices. Relief from VAT and from the cost of environmental levies would have been a more elegant solution than the government’s plan, but we also need to reform the energy market to get bills down for good. Affordability must become the priority, and it is a traditional Conservative free-market approach that is the solution.

Craig Mackinlay is chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative MPs
6) Rishi Sunak urged to drop green levies to ease the cost of living crisis
Politics Home, 4 February 2022
The Chancellor is facing renewed pressure from backbench MPs to scrap the green levy on energy bills in an effort to alleviate the spiralling cost of living.

Tory MPs who spoke to PoliticsHome remain concerned that the government’s continued push for “net zero” is putting unnecessary pressure on households by adding to their overall cost of bills.

Currently households pay on average £159 or 12.5 % of their combined gas and electricity bill on green schemes, if their bill is set at the level of the Energy Price Cap.

With millions of households learning on Thursday that their bills could go up by £693 when the cap rises by 54% in April, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a support package to help with costs, as well as allocating more money to local councils to support the poorest.

Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, who leads the MPs 'Net Zero Scrutiny Group’ which includes former Cabinet ministers Steve Baker and Esther McVey, told PoliticsHome some of Sunak’s ideas in his £9billion support package were welcomed, and novel, but cautioned against a race to the bolster renewable sector.
“We’ve still got the COP presidency hat on right now and [scrapping the levies] would not be the current message of the government … but I think reality will have to come home to roost before very long as this whole dash to renewables isn’t really working,” he said.

He believed the fact that companies developing renewable green energy supplies were having to rely on a green levy on people's bills proved the system is fraught with difficulty.

“And we’ve only seen very small parts of the renewables cost so far," he said.

"We haven’t even seen the costs of storing that energy. We’ve only touched the surface of using renewables ... and the storage costs are unbelievably expensive."

Mackinlay said the government needs to focus on its own energy resources, which includes developing its domestic gas supply, as well as nuclear energy. It coud have also gone forward with VAT cut to bills, which is a popular strategy among some Tory backbenchers and pushed for by Labour.

On the UK energy resource, he said: “We have been blessed in this country with very large gas reserves. Why on earth would you be importing gas which everybody accepts has to be part of the energy mix, no matter if you’re fully onto net zero or not. We have those reserves, for heavens sake let’s use them."The UK government has made much of its commitment to meeting net zero emissions by 2050 and held the COP 26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

Mackinlay's comments come as The Telegraph reported that senior Cabinet ministers believe there should be a rethink of the Government's net zero plans. Their report suggested a number of ministers have concerns the pace of the planned switch to renewable energy as part of their 2050 net zero target is too fast and is increasing costs for consumers.

Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, told PoliticsHome he wants to see the green levy scrapped and that this is one measure the government could take to immediately lower bills.

He also wants to abandon the National Insurance hike to try and ease the burden of the cost of living for people.

“It’s a tax on jobs and employers [and will] force up inflation even further,” he said.

One disgruntled Conservative MP said the government’s decision to stick with their planned rise in National Insurance by 1.25% from this April, while also giving people their “own money back” as part of Chancellor's energy support scheme didn’t ring true of “small ‘c’ Conservatism.

“I sat in meetings where lots of people called for Sunak to cut tax, and reconsider green levies which amount to 12.5% of bills. Obviously, [he’s] not taken that on board," they said.

The green levy on bills was introduced in 2002 and the money collected goes on projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, incentives to deliver low carbon energy sources and mechanisms to deliver funding for energy efficiency schemes.

A group of green Tory MPs have also called for the environmental levy on bills to be temporarily axed and instead paid by the Treasury directly to bring bills down.

The Tax Payers Alliance, said: “If ministers really want to help households with the cost of living, they should power ahead with suspending green levies and the planned national insurance hike."

Tory MP Simon Fell has welcomed Sunak's. "The approach that the chancellor has taken will ensure that those families who are most affected by pressures on the cost of living get help and quickly," he said.

"It’s very tempting to look at a VAT cut as a simple and fast response, but it would not target those most in need – this approach makes the best of a gloomy situation and directly helps those of our constituents who will be worst affected."

Energy minister Greg Hands told LBC that the "green side" of the energy mix was something the government felt was right to pursue.

"In the medium to long term the answer is to have less dependence on fossil fuels, less dependence on these volatile global gas prices that has led to the rise in energy bills. And the way to do that is home grown, low, zero carbon electricity through renewables and nuclear," he said.

"We are also moving into things like tidal, floating offshore wind, a lot of new and nascent technologies that I think will produce the energy of the future.

"That is the long term solution here."

Sunak told reporters at the Downing Street press conference that the transition to net zero was the right path to take.
7) Homes risk energy rating downgrade and drop in value if they install a heat pump
The Daily Telegraph, 7 February 2022

Energy scores for homes are to be overhauled by the government, amid fears that under the current system installing a heat pump could cut the value of properties.


It comes after the Daily Telegraph disclosed that several Cabinet ministers were already concerned about the speed of the transition to net zero and cost to households, amid record energy price increases and the biggest cost of living squeeze in a generation.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) grade a house from A to G based on efficiency, and the rating is increasingly tied to property prices.
Landlords are required to hit a minimum rating under upcoming rules and some mortgage providers take the certificates into account when lending.
But the way that the ratings are currently estimated means that replacing a traditional gas boiler with a heat pump can lower a home's energy efficiency rating.

The Government has held meetings with the industry about a possible rule change to rectify the issue, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.
A Whitehall source said: "We are aware of this problem and it is being reviewed."
The Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny group, said: "Given that heat pumps can actually increase energy use, on which EPC certification is derived, they could push a property that might have been rated C under an old method into D.
"That could make it both unrentable and possibly even unsaleable, if some of the more nonsensical Net Zero measures that we hear about are realised."

EPCs are currently based on an estimate of what it costs to heat a home rather than the carbon emissions generated. Heat pumps - which transfer thermal energy into a property from the ground or air - produce less CO2 than burning gas, but are not necessarily recorded as being cheaper to run.
The Prime Minister has vowed to wean British households off natural gas as part of his pledge to hit net zero by 2050.
A heat pump can cost up to £20,000 and is currently the only mainstream alternative to a gas boiler. Ministers hope to eventually switch to a system where boilers can burn hydrogen, but the technology for this has never been used in housing at a meaningful scale.
Rishi Sunak and Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, have made the case that the UK should continue to rely on domestic gas production as the country transitions to net zero, rather than relying solely on renewable energy sources.
The EPC system was drawn up in 2007 as a way of nudging property owners into making their houses more efficient. It has become increasingly important over time, with lenders such as Natwest now offering so-called green mortgages with cheaper rates for properties graded A or B.

The Sunday Telegraph revealed last month that Lloyds, the UK’s biggest mortgage lender, is looking at including EPC ratings in its home loan affordability tests.

The Government has also proposed a voluntary target for lenders to improve the average rating of homes on their books to at least band C by 2030, and landlords have been told they must achieve an EPC rating of at least C on new tenancies from 2025.
Improving a property's energy rating from G to A can increase its value by as much as 14pc, according to research from Moneysupermarket.
Martyn Reed, managing director at Elmhurst Energy, said the ratings are “already impacting the price of poorly performing homes” as “you’re basically excluding landlords from buying your property because they won’t be able to rent that property”.
Full story
8) Francis Menton: The Shifting Politics Of The So-Called "Green" Energy Transition
Manhattan Contrarian, 4 February 2022

When I began this blog back in 2012, I had already studied up on the “climate change” issue. And I had already come to the conclusions that not only was the science of human-caused catastrophic global warming hogwash, but also that the proposed solution of replacing energy from fossil fuels with the wind and sun could never work at reasonable cost.

My first post on the subject was on December 4, 2012.

But at that time there was almost no organized political opposition to the program to “save the planet” by transitioning to “green” energy. Here in the U.S., the Democrats were unanimous in their plans to replace fossil fuels, and Republicans mostly went along — some enthusiastically, others perhaps trying to slow things down a little. Indeed, when I began the blog, I had only recently attended a fundraiser for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election (yes, I gave the guy money) where he chose to make his speech mostly about how he would fix the environment by promoting green energy. And over in Europe it was even crazier, with essentially no major political party in any country taking a position in opposition to the forced elimination of fossil fuels. The so-called “Energiewende” in Germany had kicked off in 2010, with essentially no significant political opposition.

I have long thought that the political situation would change, perhaps suddenly, when the costs and unworkability of the intermittent energy sources started to become more obvious. Meanwhile the Democrats have only become more zealous and extreme in their plans (now known as the “Green New Deal”), with loud support from the megaphones in the media and academia.

But meanwhile, after a long wait, the costs are bubbling to the surface, and the opposition is growing rapidly and headed toward critical mass. Today, some developments from the UK and US.


The headline from today’s Times of London is “Britons facing biggest drop in living standards.” The lede:

"In a bleak assessment of the year ahead, the Bank of England warned people that take-home pay would fall by five times the amount it did during the financial crisis of 2008. It will be the worst hit to real incomes since comparable records began in 1990.

And what is the main cause of the drop in living standards? Soaring energy costs. The government had tried to conceal the costs of suppressing fossil fuels by imposing price caps on household energy bills, but that only resulted in dozens of the local suppliers going out of business. Now, the authorities are unable to hold to the price caps:

"Ofgem, the energy regulator, announced yesterday that the price cap on energy bills for 22 million households would rise by 54 per cent from April. For most households the increase will be £693 to £1,971 a year, whereas the costs for 4.5 million with prepayment meters will rise by £708 to £2,017 on average.

The conservative newspapers, particularly the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, have completely figured out that soaring energy prices are a self-inflicted consequence of failed government fossil-fuel-suppression policies.
Excerpts from an editorial in the Daily Mail today:
"Successive governments ignored warnings about the insanity of having no long-term strategy to safeguard energy security. Now the chickens have come home to roost. How unnecessary this is. For Britain sits on an energy goldmine. We have vast unexploited reserves of oil, gas and shale. And we had the chance to expand nuclear power. But hypnotised by the apocalyptic alarmism of eco-activists, our politicians have pursued an aggressive green agenda, shunning these abundant power sources. It means we are left at the mercy of unreliable renewables and importing high-priced energy to stop the lights going out.
And from the Daily Telegraph, also today:
"The big political question is whether the country is prepared to pay for net zero now that people can see the implications of a policy that will do nothing to combat global climate change for as long as the world’s biggest CO2 producers refuse to change their own practices.
Of course, the insane energy policies, at least for the moment, are being inflicted on the people by the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
But by now many of the Tory back benchers have figured this out, and the demands to stop the insanity have even begun to seep up to the cabinet level. From another article in today’s Daily Telegraph:
"A number of ministers have expressed concern that the pace of the planned switch to renewable energy is too fast and is increasing costs for consumers. They believe Britain should use more of its own gas in the short-term. . . . Cabinet ministers are increasingly uneasy about Downing Street’s focus on its net zero target and have warned that the cost of living crisis should be given more priority in the coming years.
OK, I have some news for these cabinet ministers: so-called “green” energy isn’t going to get any cheaper or more affordable or more useful if you merely slow down the transition. The problems of intermittency and need for full backup and/or storage are intractable and are not going to go away. But at least the effort to slow things down is a start. Next up: replacing Johnson. With all the other major UK parties having gone all in for “green” energy, the only route to rescue the country is via a Tory Party led by someone other than Johnson that puts an end to the “green” energy madness..
In a post last week, I reported on how the insane push for “green” energy had infested even the major money managers in the U.S., led by Larry Fink of Black Rock, who were using their voting power to attempt to force large public companies to make “net zero” pledges. For years this trend has proceeded without significant pushback. But today a post at RealClearPolitics by Andy Puzder and Stephen Soukup reports that “Larry Fink’s Crusade Runs Into Resistance.” (You may remember Puzder as Trump’s first nominee for Labor Secretary, who did not get Senate confirmation.) Excerpt:
By year’s end, the resistance to ESG and woke capital had increased in size and variety. Everyone from shareholder activists to U.S. senators, state treasurerslegislators, and governors, as well as the former director of “sustainable investing” for BlackRock itself – were charting various forms of pushback against the newly woke masters of the financial universe.
Leading the charge are elected official in Republican-led states, with Texas, West Virginia and Florida in the forefront:
"State officials, in particular, have started resisting. . . . Texas has enacted legislation banning companies that engage in political vendettas against oil and gas or gun companies from doing business with the state. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked the state’s comptroller to place BlackRock on this list of banned companies. West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore announced that the Board of Treasury Investments, which manages the state’s roughly $8 billion operating funds, will cease doing business with BlackRock because it embraces “‘net zero’ investment strategies” that harm the energy sector, “while increasing investments in Chinese companies.” “[T]o combat woke corporate ideology,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the trustees for the State Board of Administration voted to “clarify the state’s expectation that all fund managers should act solely in the financial interest of the state’s funds” and revoked “all proxy voting authority of outside fund managers,” including BlackRock.
It’s fair to say that at this point almost the entire Republican Party in Congress and state governments has caught on to the “green” energy scam. I say “almost” because I’m sure there are a few — like Romney — who have not. But unlike ten years ago, it’s no longer so easy for the left to intimidate potential opponents into silence with accusations that fossil fuels are “dirty” or that anyone questioning progressive climate dogma is a “denier.” As the enormous costs become patent, the politics are shifting rapidly.
9) Larry Fink’s green crusade runs into resistance
Real Clear Energy, 4 February 2022
By Andy Puzder and Stephen Soukup

Only a few years after “woke capitalism” was touted as the wave of the future, its supporters are getting a wakeup call of their own.
Just ask BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. The tone of his 2022 letter to CEOs is very different from his previous two, both of which pushed Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment criteria and “stakeholder capitalism” relentlessly. As far as Fink was concerned, ESG, “sustainability,” and the agenda for what we have termed “woke capital” would dominate the markets for years, while he and his $10 trillion asset management behemoth would, in turn, dominate them. Fink was to be king of the stakeholder world.

But then something fascinating happened.

Shortly after Fink’s triumphant 2021 letter, Encounter Books published “The Dictatorship of Woke Capital.” The book turned out to be the tip of the proverbial iceberg, heralding a massive backlash that was already building against ESG, woke capital, and the hubris that animates top-down, anti-democratic efforts to undermine free-market capitalism for partisan ideological ends.
By year’s end, the resistance to ESG and woke capital had increased in size and variety. Everyone from shareholder activists to U.S. senators, state treasurerslegislators, and governors, as well as the former director of “sustainable investing” for BlackRock itself – were charting various forms of pushback against the newly woke masters of the financial universe.

State officials, in particular, have started resisting the notion that unelected and unaccountable functionaries – such as Fink, World Economic Forum executive chairman Klaus Schwab, Federal Reserve Bank Governor Lael Brainard, or SEC Chairman Gary Gensler – can legitimately substitute their progressive beliefs and fixations for the will of the American people.
For example, Texas has enacted legislation banning companies that engage in political vendettas against oil and gas or gun companies from doing business with the state. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked the state’s comptroller to place BlackRock on this list of banned companies. West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore announced that the Board of Treasury Investments, which manages the state’s roughly $8 billion operating funds, will cease doing business with BlackRock because it embraces “‘net zero’ investment strategies” that harm the energy sector, “while increasing investments in Chinese companies.”
“[T]o combat woke corporate ideology,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the trustees for the State Board of Administration voted to “clarify the state’s expectation that all fund managers should act solely in the financial interest of the state’s funds” and revoked “all proxy voting authority of outside fund managers,” including BlackRock. The board also voted to conduct a survey “to determine how many assets the state has in Chinese companies.”
Fink has apparently noticed. Faced with this opposition, he is attempting to reposition his efforts, disingenuously titling his 2022 CEO letter “The Power of Capitalism.” To bolster that attempt at rebranding what he does, Fink now defines “stakeholder capitalism” as “real” capitalism. News flash – it’s not.
Anyone who has ever owned, managed, worked for, or purchased something from a business knows that employees, customers, suppliers, local communities, and other stakeholders matter to success. But with “real” capitalism – traditionally defined – the goal is financial, not ideological, success. The result of that focus on profits is broad-based prosperity and abundance.
Even Fink’s insistence that U.S. corporate managers need his help to understand their stakeholder responsibilities is a ruse designed to empower elites to remake society in their own vision. Fink’s version of “stakeholder capitalism” attempts to redirect management’s focus from financial success to meeting radical environmental and social policy goals.
Fink’s entire “stakeholder capitalism” pitch is transparently political, particularly given BlackRock’s foray into China. Does anyone seriously believe that Chinese companies are less in need of Fink’s sage advice on stakeholder responsibilities than American companies? Does anyone believe they’ll get it?
Fink’s letter does attempt to make the case for empowering elites. When he writes that the world desperately needs consistency “for sustainability policy, regulation, and disclosure across markets,” he is actually arguing that unaccountable federal bureaucrats – and even less-accountable global economic forums – should provide guidance, that businesses should provide compliance (regardless of the costs), and that the general population should stand aside and accept whatever its betters say is necessary.
It’s certainly a positive development that some states are reacting to this attack on free market capitalism. But while necessary, none of these state actions is ideal. The better idea would be to get politics out of business, not to turn capital markets into a partisan or ideological battleground. Nevertheless, only by imposing real financial costs on Fink and his ilk is it possible to force the changes needed. This has been the culture war’s pattern since the dawn of progressivism.
Convinced that the people are incapable of governing themselves, progressives try to change or hijack a formerly private sphere of life. Then, when the people and their elected representatives turn out to resent this usurpation of their rights, progressives cry out against this opposition, which they deride as “politics.” Despite what he says, Larry Fink does believe he should be the “climate police” (or the “diversity police,” or whatever). Now that he’s been called on it, he advances the fantasy that his crusade is about “stewardship,” not politics.

Thankfully, a full-blown resistance movement is blossoming to make just that case to markets, managers, and governments – on behalf of the American people.

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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