Friday, February 17, 2023

Net Zero Watch: New climate wars erupt down under


In this newsletter:

1) Australia's Greens prepare to kill Labor's climate policy
The Australian, 15 February 2023

2) Australian Greens accused of ‘reigniting climate wars’ over Labor's climate plans
Nationwide News, 15 February 2023

3) Labor minister: “We won’t get to Net Zero without gas, and even without coal"
The Australian, 15 February 2023

4) Simon Benson: Labor and Greens return to climate wars
The Australian, 15 February 2023
5) Green Britain: All major road building projects in Wales scrapped for Net Zero
BBC News, 14 February 2023
6) Net Zero costs 1,300 Ford jobs in UK
The Daily Telegraph, 14 February 2023
7) Green Britain forced to spends £4bn to prevent blackouts after surge in wind and solar
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2023
8) Andrew Montford: Why the intermittency problem can’t be solved
Net Zero Watch, 15 February 2023

9) Ralph Schoellhammer: Firms are starting to wake up to the lunacy of Net Zero
Spiked, 14 February 2023
10) Ben Marlow: Ford just exposed the biggest lie of Net Zero
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2023
11) And finally: King Coal drives mining giant to record profit in blow to Net Zero
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2023

Full details:

1) Australia's Greens prepare to kill Labor's climate policy
The Australian, 15 February 2023

Anthony Albanese’s signature ­climate policy – underpinning his election promise to achieve 43 per cent emissions reductions by 2030 – is on the brink of collapse as the Greens prepare to kill Labor’s safeguard mechanism.

Greens leader Adam Bandt has issued a “red line” demand for the government to ban new coal and gas projects, fuelling concerns among senior government and ­industry figures that he will repeat Bob Brown’s scuttling of Kevin Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009.

Mr Bandt, who is refusing to back a raft of key legislation ­including the government’s ­marquee climate, manufacturing and housing policies, said the Greens would blow up the ­safeguard mechanism unless the Prime Minister stopped fossil-fuel projects.

The Albanese government, which is under pressure from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, industry and unions to unlock new gas fields or face an energy crunch by 2027, is not expected to yield to the Greens’ demands.

Mr Bandt said the Greens would support Labor’s tougher safeguard mechanism – forcing Australia’s 215 biggest-polluting facilities to slash emissions by ­almost 5 per cent each year out to 2030 – if the government “stops opening new coal and gas mines”.

Splits inside the Greens party room, which met on Tuesday, are understood to have heaped pressure on Mr Bandt to adopt a hardline position on the safeguard mechanism after last year backing Labor’s 43 per cent emissions-­reduction target.

The Greens’ 2030 election pledge to reduce emissions by 75 per cent was almost double Labor’s commitment.

As Labor races to win Greens and crossbench support for the safeguard mechanism, the $15bn National Reconstruction Fund and the $10bn Housing Australia Future Fund, which are slated to start from July 1, Mr Bandt said the emissions-reduction scheme would “make the climate crisis worse”.

“You can’t put the fire out while pouring petrol on it. The first step to fixing a problem is to stop making the problem worse. Coal and gas are driving the climate crisis, but Labor wants more,” Mr Bandt said.

“The Greens have huge concerns with other parts of the scheme, such as the rampant use of offsets and the low emissions-reduction targets, but we’re prepared to put those concerns aside and give Labor’s scheme a chance if Labor agrees to stop opening new coal and gas projects.

“Labor needs the Greens to get this through parliament. If Labor’s scheme falls over, it will be because Labor wants to open new coal and gas mines. Labor has to decide how much it wants new coal and gas mines.”

The Australian understands options to placate the Greens, whose 11 upper-house votes are needed by Labor if the Coalition is opposed, include a climate trigger and blocking coal and gas companies from accessing a $600m safeguard mechanism transition fund. The climate trigger, which senior government figures oppose as it would likely have unintended consequences across other critical sectors, could be included under Labor’s overhaul of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Full story
2) Australian Greens accused of ‘reigniting climate wars’ over Labor's climate plans
Nationwide News, 15 February 2023


The government has sensationally accused the Greens of “driving themselves into the past” after the minor party’s call on the proposed safeguard mechanism.

The Greens and the Coalition have been accused of reigniting the climate wars and “driving themselves into the past”.

The Coalition has said it would not support Labor’s Safeguard Mechanism – which would hold the largest fossil fuel emitters to a legislated emissions reduction standard – meaning Labor needs the Greens and two independent senators to get the legislation through the senate.

The minor party says it will not support the mechanism unless the government closes the loophole allowing new coal and gas projects.

Resources Minister Catherine King used a Dorothy Dixer in Question Time on Wednesday to attack the Greens over former leader Bob Brown’s rejection of the former Labor government’s carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009.

“We remember … What they did is teamed up with the Liberals and the Nationals opposite to make sure there was no action on climate change nearly 13 years ago,” Ms King said to the minor party.

“(Now) You are driving yourselves into the past, reigniting the climate wars.

“This country, the people of this country elected this government earlier this year because they wanted an end to the uncertainty you have created for the whole nation, for our economy and for our resources sector.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt inaudibly shouted back across the chamber.

Ms King also hit out at the former government for failing to acknowledge the “absolutely essential” role the resources sector would play in transitioning to net zero.

Later, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek also attacked the Greens, saying she thought voters would be “shocked” that the minor party was “getting ready to sit next to Peter Dutton and Barnaby Joyce to vote against action on climate change”.
Full story
3) Labor minister: “We won’t get to Net Zero without gas, and even without coal"
The Australian, 15 February 2023
[...] Resources minister Madeleine King said the Greens “take it or leave it” stance on banning new fossil fuel projects was “entirely unhelpful” and out of touch with the reality of Australia’s energy market.

“The truth of the matter is we will need gas for this country to continue for its energy security,” Ms King said on Sky News this morning.

The Labor government had not “ruled anything in or out”, she said, but Australia needs gas “in the short-term, medium-term and long-term”.

“We won’t get to net-zero emissions in this country, or indeed the world, without the resources sector, without gas, and even without coal. You cannot build a wind turbine without coal,” she said.

Full story
4) Simon Benson: Labor and Greens return to climate wars
The Australian, 15 February 2023
Labor and the Greens are once again embroiled in a game of mutually assured destruction over climate change policy.

The parliament is facing a back-to-the-future moment.

And certainty for industry over mandated emissions reductions is no closer to resolution.

The Greens have drawn a line in the sand over its support for the government’s signature emissions reduction plan.

And the Coalition’s position is largely irrelevant.

This is a battle between forces on the left over political territory.

The Greens are now refusing to support Labor’s changes to the safeguard mechanism – a Coalition policy – without a commitment from Labor to end all new gas and coal projects.

This is not a demand that the Albanese government can accept. It would have been difficult to make prior to the current energy price crisis. It is impossible now.

While insiders say there is goodwill on both sides for a détente, the stakes are now as high as they were 15 years ago.

If the Greens follow through with their threat to use their Senate power to block Labor’s broader scheme, the parallels with the Rudd government’s failure to reach consensus with the Greens in 2009 will be repeated. Having rejected the imperfect, it will also deny what may be acceptable.

The safeguard mechanism changes being proposed by Labor are the most significant climate policy changes in decades. There is no prospect of the Albanese government reaching its emissions reduction targets of 43 per cent by 2030 without them.

The Greens reluctantly backed Labor’s targets last year despite its own claims of a 75 per cent reduction.

It has rolled over on other policies, as well. But Adam Bandt has clearly been saving up the party’s balance-of-power muscle to have a fight this year over core Greens policy, in an attempt to reassert its new parliamentary authority.

If the Greens concede on this issue, without securing a future ban on coal and gas, it becomes politically irrelevant to a significant cohort of its constituency. Yet if it persists with an all-or-nothing approach, as it did with Kevin Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme, it risks disenfranchising a broader support base.

The cost-of-living crisis once again complicates the problem for Labor. Its last attempt to impose an effective carbon tax came amid the global financial crisis.

The retail politics of climate change and energy prices are once again stacked against Labor, which is pursuing a totemic social and economic policy amid a time of great economic uncertainty.

This complicates the political fight it is once again having with the Greens, who are acutely aware of its own political vulnerabilities; the minor party cannot afford to give Labor a victory through appeasement on a policy that underwrites its existential principles.

Nor can Labor afford to fail on achieving a core election pledge on emissions reductions.
Full post
5) Green Britain: All major road building projects in Wales scrapped for Net Zero
BBC News, 14 February 2023


All major road building projects in Wales have been scrapped over environmental concerns.

The planned third Menai bridge will not go ahead and neither will the controversial "red route" in Flintshire.

The move is part of the Welsh government's National Transport Plan and follows a year-long review.

Environmental campaigners called it "world-leading and brave" but some in the construction industry warned the announcement could put jobs at risk.

It comes as the Welsh government is accused of endangering bus services as a senior minister said industry subsidies have yet to be confirmed beyond summer.

The Welsh government said all future roads must pass strict criteria which means they must not increase carbon emissions, they must not increase the number of cars on the road, they must not lead to higher speeds and higher emissions, and they must not negatively impact the environment.

Full story
6) Net Zero costs 1,300 Ford jobs in UK
The Daily Telegraph, 14 February 2023


The company is battling high energy costs and more expensive borrowing as rates rise.

Ford is to cut 1,300 jobs in the UK over the next three years as it shifts production towards electric vehicles.

The carmaker is shifting its model line-up to battery-only in Europe by 2035 and has said the lower complexity of electric cars meant it could cut staff from its product development teams.

Most UK cuts will be at its research centre in Dunton, Essex, where Ford designs vans. The layoffs in the UK are equivalent to a fifth of its workforce in the area.

In total, 3,800 jobs across Europe will be cut, with the deepest cuts – 2,300 – felt in Germany, where Ford has a larger presence. Those cuts amount to one in nine jobs across the continent.

The global carmaker said 2,800 engineering roles will be axed by 2025, and around 1,000 jobs in its administrative, marketing, sales and distribution teams across Europe are set to go.

Martin Sander, head of Ford Germany said: “There is significantly less work to be done on drivetrains moving out of combustion engines. We are moving into a world with less global platforms where less engineering work is necessary. This is why we have to make the adjustments.”

Tim Slatter, chairman of Ford of Britain also blamed “a pretty difficult economic situation” and uncertain outlook across Europe.

The company is battling high energy costs and more expensive borrowing as rates rise, he said.

Full story
7) Green Britain forced to spends £4bn to prevent blackouts after surge in wind and solar
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2023

National Grid was forced to spend more than £4bn to keep the lights on during 2022 following a surge in power prices and a jump in intermittent wind and solar power.

The company spent a record £4.2bn on balancing payments - taking actions such as importing power from abroad, ramping up gas stations, or turning off wind turbines, to make sure supply always matches demand.

The so-called “balancing costs” are ultimately added to consumers’ bills, on top of high energy costs which are fuelling a cost–of-living crisis.

The Nuclear Industry Association, which calculated the figures using data published by National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO), said it was the first time annual balancing costs had shot past £4bn.

It argues the figures show the need for more stable sources of power, such as nuclear power stations.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the NIA, said: “We urgently need to get going with a pipeline of large-scale stations and a fleet of small-modular reactors to provide stable, predictable, clean power alongside renewables.

“If we don’t act urgently with a clear policy framework, other countries will leapfrog us in attracting investors who want to develop in Britain, and we risk not delivering on energy security and net zero.”

Electricity supply and demand must be constantly matched to avoid triggering blackouts.

National Grid ESO intervenes in the market throughout the day to smooth out any mismatches between supply and demand, and make sure there is always a healthy buffer of supplies.

It can, for example, pay power stations to quickly ramp up if there is a looming shortfall, or it can buy in power via undersea cables from France, Belgium or other neighbours.

It can also pay wind farms to switch off if it is too windy and turbines risk overwhelming the grid. This often happens because cables are not large enough to move the electricity from windy areas to where it is needed.

The ESO’s task in balancing the market is getting more complicated with more wind and solar power on the system, as the supplies are intermittent and not completely predictable.

Wind power supplied more than a quarter of Britain’s electricity last year for the first time.

Meanwhile Britain’s ageing nuclear stations, which provide a steady flow of power once on, have been closing down because of their age, with replacements yet to be built.
8) Andrew Montford: Why the intermittency problem can’t be solved
Net Zero Watch, 15 February 2023

I often ask renewables enthusiasts to explain what we are supposed to do when the wind isn’t blowing if we can’t fall back on fossil fuels.
The other day, I pressed James Murray, the editor of Business Green magazine, what forms of storage he thought we could use, and this is what he said:

"… a portfolio of nuclear, demand response, grid scale batteries, other emerging forms of energy storage technologies, hydrogen, and gas, ultimately in conjunction with CCS."
Clearly, we were talking somewhat at cross purposes; my question was specifically about storage, but even if we broaden the scope to cover the general question of “what do we do when the wind isn’t blowing”, his answer suggests that he hasn’t grasped the fundamental economic problem.
That problem is that, with wind dominating the grid, for anyone looking to make money in the lulls, the economics look grim. There are two major kinds of lull that need to be filled. The first is a dunkelflaute, a lull in the winter, when solar is generating little or nothing. We get a dunkelflaute most years, and sometimes more than one. They can last from 1-3 weeks. The second is the long summer lull, with low wind generation right through the summer month, although perhaps with occasional windy interruptions. This happens every year of course, and a large amount of energy needs to be stored to cover the gap: perhaps as much as 50 days’ demand.
If we are talking about storage then, most of it will barely be used; it’s required just once a year to deal with the summer wind lull. Most of it will be filled in autumn, and will then sit there waiting for the summer, when it will be emptied to meet demand, before sitting empty again until the winds pick up again as the nights draw in.
Making money on this basis is impossible. A kilowatt hour of lithium ion battery storage might cost £350. If, optimistically, it gets perform two charge-discharge cycles per year, it will complete just 20 cycles over its lifetime. That means it needs to charge £17.50 per kilowatt hour, just to cover its capital costs; the electricity is extra! That is perhaps thirty times the level seen at the peak of the crisis last year, and 300 times the prices we used to enjoy before the advent of “cheap renewables”.
Of course, cheaper storage systems may be on the horizon, so it’s worth looking at these. The best bet on the horizon seems to be liquid air storage, which has a 25-year lifespan, so might be expected to complete 50 recharging cycles. Its capital costs are also much lower, but it will still need £1.68 to cover its capital costs. That’s three times the peak price last year, and thirty times what they were in the good old days.
Needing a large amount of electricity just a couple of times a year makes the economics impossible. It’s not just storage technologies that are affected – James’ idea that we could use nuclear to plug the gap therefore doesn’t stack up. Who is going to build a nuclear power station that only gets to run for 50 days a year? The idea is preposterous. In essence, the intermittency problem can’t be solved. The costs of doing so make it impossible, for any technology, even on the most optimistic assumptions about cost trajectories.
As a coda, it’s interesting to note that the Committee on Climate Change’s model for a net zero energy system has a vast fleet of gas turbines (122 GW of them!) burning hydrogen to deal with the intermittency of its vast fleets of wind and solar. But the power stations get run very rarely – they deliver just 2% of their capacity each year. By my calculations this means they will deliver power at around £1/kWh, or 40 times the prices from the good old days. However, the CCC, perhaps wisely, has accidentally missed the bill for these units out of the final reckoning of the cost of net zero.
9) Ralph Schoellhammer: Firms are starting to wake up to the lunacy of Net Zero
Spiked, 14 February 2023


Economist Herbert Stein once said that ‘if something cannot go on forever, it will stop’. Today, there is growing evidence that ‘Stein’s law’ is coming for the renewables industry, particularly for wind and solar power.

After investing billions of dollars into the green-energy transition, many of the major players in the energy sector are now shifting their priorities. The global energy shortages of 2022 seem to have woken much of the world up to just how impractical renewable energy can be.
Last year, not a single investment was made in a major European offshore wind farm. The numbers for overall wind-turbine orders also declined by 47 per cent compared with 2021. Earlier this month, the Financial Times also poured cold water on hopes of a breakthrough in battery technology. Batteries are critical if we want to store wind- and solar-generated power for when the wind isn’t blowing or the Sun isn’t shining.

Another signal of this shift comes from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which has suggested it could soon soften the requirements it places on companies to estimate and disclose their impact on the climate.
Major fossil-fuel giants have put great efforts into rebranding themselves as ‘green’ in recent years. But they are now starting to shift gear. BP, after years of using the slogan ‘Beyond Petroleum’, is quietly moving back to plain-old petroleum. As CEO Bernard Looney stated frankly earlier this month: ‘We have to invest in today’s energy system, and the reality is that today’s energy system is predominantly an oil and gas system. And that needs investment.’ Although changing the corporate strategy of a giant multinational can often be achingly slow, it seems as if ‘reality’ has an expediting effect.

Remember peak oil? We were supposed to have passed the global peak of oil demand back in 2020. But given current trends, peak renewables seems more likely. While politicians will undoubtedly keep paying lip-service and taxpayer money to renewables, the ground really is shifting. Even US president Joe Biden, who in 2019 promised to ‘end fossil fuels’, has seemingly changed his tune. In his State of the Union address last week, he noted that the world will need oil for ‘at least another decade’.
Meanwhile, new data from Germany show that consumers’ willingness to switch from traditional cars to electric vehicles (EVs) declines substantially once government subsidies are reduced. Total EV sales are expected to fall by eight per cent this year in Germany. This may not seem like much, but the trend is going in the exact opposite direction to what would be needed to reach a fossil-free future.

Even Denmark, once known as a wind-power pioneer, is having second thoughts. It is both re-evaluating new renewable-energy projects and reopening the door for a return to nuclear energy.
Poland, which currently relies heavily on coal, has decided to go all-in on nuclear power. It is planning to open up new fleets of both conventional nuclear reactors and, later on, smaller modular ones. Meanwhile, it is creating regulatory hurdles for renewables like wind. In some countries like Germany, people are terrified of living near a nuclear power plant. But in Poland there is just as much resistance to living near wind farms, which is why a new law has increased the minimum distance onshore wind projects must be from people’s homes, from 500 to 700 metres.

The year 2022 marked a decisive shift. Energy security replaced climate change as the world’s top priority. And while politicians’ green rhetoric will carry on as normal, the markets are reflecting this transition. In the US, the market for green bonds has already started to stall as producing clean energy has become less of a priority than producing energy full stop.
This process is not likely to be smooth, however. Politicians and CEOs could still be held accountable for their over-ambitious green promises of recent years. Oil giant Shell, for instance, is currently being sued by some of its shareholders for failing to implement an energy-transition strategy. Like BP, Shell promised to become a Net Zero business by 2050, and it will be difficult to wriggle out of some of these commitments.

The energy crisis was a major wake-up call for the world. It was a reminder that our energy supplies are far more fragile than we often realise. And it made it clear that green technology can rarely be relied on. The exception to this rule is nuclear power, which can produce vast quantities of electricity without any carbon emissions. Despite this, during last year’s global energy crunch, working nuclear power plants were shut down across the world, from California to Germany. This will be seen by future generations as a moment of absolute madness. As will attempts to phase out fossil fuels before reliable replacements are available.
To return to Herbert Stein’s quote, there is a positive to stopping something that cannot go on forever. It forces us to face up to the reality of our energy needs and to reject the green delusions that have dominated decades of policymaking. A complete overhaul of Europe's energy strategy is long overdue. We cannot afford to keep ignoring reality.

Ralph Schoellhammer is an assistant professor in economics and political science at Webster University Vienna.

10) Ben Marlow: Ford just exposed the biggest lie of Net Zero
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2023


Electric cars will be a disaster for blue collar workers

Now is not a good time to be working in Britain’s car industry. Nobody said the shift to electric vehicles was going to be smooth, but the true scale of the disruption is only just starting to be understood.

The level of reinvention required on the path to decarbonisation is almost akin to starting again. Entire business models that have existed for decades are being torn up, factories mothballed, and car line-ups dramatically scaled back.

Honda brought down the curtain on its Swindon plant in 2021, not because of Brexit as some Remainers had disingenuously claimed, but due to a need to “accelerate” its “electrification strategy” and “restructure” the Japanese outfit’s “global operations accordingly,” Honda’s Europe chief, Katsushi Inoue, said at the time.

More recently, BMW has announced it will shift production of the electric Mini from Cowley, Oxford to a new plant in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu later this year. Jaguar Land Rover had been planning to build a battery gigafactory near Bristol or Redcar, but after a row with the Government over the level of state support, has reportedly threatened to choose Slovakia instead.

Meanwhile, a new generation of start-ups that is meant to be spearheading the revolution are struggling to get off the ground. Battery hopeful Britshvolt managed to last all of a year before it collapsed after burning through its cash pile.

Ultimately the company’s business plan was deeply flawed and its prospects wildly over-egged, but none the less it is further evidence of the huge challenges inherent in trying to create not just an entirely new industry from scratch, but so too the infrastructure required to support it.

But it is the announcement of several thousand job losses at Ford that will send the biggest shockwaves through the global car sector – 3,800 in total, 2,300 of which will come in Germany, 1,300 in the UK, and the remaining 200 across the rest of Europe.

While the numbers themselves are pretty grim, it is the pointed comments from its German chief about the reason behind the redundancies that jump out.

One of the central premises of net zero is that the resulting job destruction in old industries such as car-making, but also oil and gas exploration, construction and farming, will be more than offset by the job creation in green industries such as renewable energy – but if the remarks of Ford Germany’s boss Martin Sander are anything to go by, that looks doubtful at best.

There were the usual empty corporate platitudes about recognising “the uncertainty it creates” for employees – an understatement if ever there was one – and how those affected would receive “full support in the months ahead”.

Meanwhile Tim Slatter, chairman of Ford’s UK arm, was at pains to point out that the economic backdrop was at least partly a factor. “Here in Europe … the outlook is uncertain. High inflation, higher interest rates, the ongoing war in Ukraine, cost of energy and so on,” he said.

But it was Sander who eventually cut through all the noise to lay the decision fairly squarely at the door of electrification. “There is significantly less work to be done on drivetrains moving out of combustion engines,” he said. “We are moving into a world with less [sic] global platforms where less engineering work is necessary. This is why we have to make the adjustments.”

Full post
11) And finally: King Coal drives mining giant to record profit in blow to Net Zero
The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2023


Mining giant Glencore made record profits of $34.1bn (£28.2bn) last year as it reaped the benefits of backing coal mining.

The company will return more than $7bn (£5.8bn) to shareholders in dividends and buybacks after the commodities giant reported another blockbuster profit driven by its coal and trading divisions.

While the miner and its rivals have been positioning themselves to take advantage of rising demand for metals linked to the energy transition — such as copper for wiring and nickel for batteries — the commodity giant's profits last year were overwhelmingly driven by mining and trading fossil fuels.

Glencore's core profit rose 60pc to a record $34.1bn (£28.2bn), of which more than half — $17.9bn (£14.8bn) — came from coal production. The commodity trading unit earned $6.4bn (£5.3bn) in core profit, also its highest ever.

Glencore has been one of the biggest beneficiaries from the chaos in commodity markets caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The company's decision to keep mining coal while rivals exited has paid off massively, as the dirtiest fuel surged to a record last year, while its sprawling trading business has benefited from sharp price swings in energy markets across the world. 

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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