Friday, March 31, 2023

Net Zero Watch: Net Zero is coming apart before our very eyes


In this newsletter:

1) Net Zero ban on petrol cars in chaos after Brussels climbdown
The Daily Telegraph, 29 March 2023
2) Ross Clark: The EU's Net Zero plan is in tatters - and not a moment too soon
The Daily Telegraph, 29 March 2023

3) Ben Marlow: Banning petrol cars by 2030 is a needless act of self-sabotage
The Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2023

4) Chris Morrison: Net Zero is coming apart before our very eyes
The Daily Sceptic, 30 March 2023
5) Allister Heath: Net Zero is a Trojan horse for the total destruction of Western society
The Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2023
6) Europe’s next energy crisis is looming
Bloomberg, 29 March 2023
7) Robert Lyman: China is winning the climate policy game
Financial Post, 28 March 2023 

8) Andrew Montford: To activate, or not to activate?
Net Zero Watch, 29 March 2023
9) Judith Curry: UN’s climate panic is more politics than science
The Australian, 28 March 2023
10) And finally: 'Woke' barristers could be struck off after refusing to obey the rule of law
Daily Mail, 29 March 2023

Full details:

1) Net Zero ban on petrol cars in chaos after Brussels climbdown
The Daily Telegraph, 29 March 2023

A looming British ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars was thrown into chaos on Tuesday after Brussels watered down its own restrictions amid opposition from the German auto industry.

Experts and politicians warned that British rules due to take effect in 2030 are untenable following the European climbdown, which will allow internal combustion engines as long as they burn carbon-neutral petrol alternatives.

The European Union will now ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035 but permit these so-called e-fuels following a backroom compromise forced on it by the German authorities and signed off on Tuesday night.

Sources suggested that Whitehall was considering following the Commission's lead by also allowing an e-fuel exemption. British carmakers Aston Martin and McLaren are already understood to be examining e-fuels as an option for powering future models.

Critics of the Government's net zero plans seized on the European Union's decision as evidence that a total policy rethink is needed, while campaigners including Greenpeace have said that it could slow down electric vehicle adoption.

It comes as Grant Shapps, the Energy Secretary, prepares to announce new green measures as part of an “energy security day” on Thursday.

The former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “The 2030 deadline for the elimination of petrol and diesel engine cars in the UK is simply not achievable.

“Unless we delay, we hand a massive boost to the Chinese car manufacturers. They are already dominant.”

Britain is to ban the sale of new cars that run on petrol and diesel only in seven years' time under plans drawn up by former prime minister Boris Johnson.

New hybrids will still be allowed until 2035, at which point the UK will only permit fully electric cars and other zero-emission vehicles, such as those which burn hydrogen.

The EU's e-fuel exemption will allow a synthetic alternative to petrol which is made by mixing carbon dioxide captured from the air with hydrogen obtained by splitting water molecules using renewable energy.

This is expected to be far more expensive than petrol, meaning it will initially benefit high-end carmakers whose customers will not be put off by the costs involved.

However, Benedetto Vigna, the boss of Ferrari, said this week that he expects the price to fall in coming years and experts believe it could be the thin end of a wedge that would allow carmakers to focus on producing lower-cost e-fuels instead of expensive battery powered cars.

Andrew Graves, a car industry veteran and professor at the University of Bath, said: “I think it's a very exciting technology that we're looking at, so that we can not only use it for things like motorsport, but we can also more importantly use it for keeping existing vehicles on the road.

“I think there's a lot of things that the Government needs to look at before it goes hell bent on just having a blanket ban on diesel or petrol.”

Mr Graves added that there is already a risk that not enough electric car chargers and battery-making plants will have been built when the ban takes effect – a problem that may worsen if carmakers sense it is being watered down.

Brussels' decision is also likely to raise questions about how enforceable a British ban on petrol and diesel would be if similar rules are not followed in the EU – particularly given the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which could facilitate easy movement of new European vehicles.

It comes as Mr Shapps prepares to unveil ways to speed up Britain’s move towards nuclear energy, including the confirmation that the Government wants 25pc of UK electricity to be generated from nuclear by 2050.

He will also kick-start the use of small modular reactors in Britain, and improve the country’s capacity for carbon capture storage.

An announcement on the timetable for sales of new petrol and diesel cars is likely to form part of the package.

But the EU's actions will complicate the picture and embolden opponents.

Sir John Redwood, a former Tory cabinet minister, said: “Britain is in a desperate struggle to keep its car industry, and if we insist on phasing petrol and diesel out well before anyone else, we will find it harder to attract investment.

“The Government needs to listen to the Germans and take advice on this. The more permissive an economy is, and the fewer bans there are, the better to promote growth.”

Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor, said: “It comes down to the fact of the importance of a transition. What the Europeans are realising, and what we will realise quite shortly is that a transition is quite important.

“And a transition can't be a cliff-edge in 2025 or 2030. It is going to take longer to transition. Not just the technology, but for businesses and the economy to accommodate the abolition of certain technologies.

“I don't think it compromises the push to net zero. It just helps people realise that the transition has a longer tail than people realise.”

The EU climbdown followed months of lobbying by the German government on behalf of its car manufacturing industry. Porsche has invested $75m (£61m) in a pilot plant to make e-fuels.

The Telegraph understands that the British government is prepared to follow the EU's lead, with the Department for Transport understood to be amenable towards synthetic fuels so long as the industry can prove that they will be carbon neutral.

A government spokesman said: “We remain committed to ensuring all new cars and vans are zero emission at the tailpipe by 2035, and have invested more than £2bn to help people switch.

“Today drivers on England’s motorways and major A roads are never more than 25 miles from a rapid chargepoint, and we expect the charging network to expand tenfold by 2030.”

Greg Smith, a Tory MP who sits on the transport select committee, said: "Groupthink has dictated battery electric to be the way forward for too long when we're already seeing the technology fail and not develop at the pace people need.

"The 2030 ambition isn't realistic in the first place and we need the innovators and the automotive companies to be given the time and space to produce a time and space and not just jump to the betamax that's available now."

Philip Davies, a member of the Tory net zero scrutiny group, said: “It's a devil when you're getting more common sense out of the EU than you are the UK Government. This arbitrary, ridiculous 2030 deadline is idiotic and everybody knows it's idiotic. Nobody seems to be able to say that the emperor's got no clothes on, even though everybody can see it.

"If a rare outbreak of common sense in the EU is what it takes for the Government to change their position, hallelujah to that."

In the UK, Bentley is understood to be pressing ahead with its programme of electrification, shunning the extra expense of developing new combustion cars.

However, sources at Aston Martin and McLaren said the companies are interested in e-fuels.

Greenpeace described the Brussels climbdown as a "rotten compromise".
2) Ross Clark: The EU's Net Zero plan is in tatters - and not a moment too soon
The Daily Telegraph, 29 March 2023


The bloc is backtracking on its plan to ban combustion engines. It's time for Britain to follow suit

If anyone had any lingering doubts that the EU is run by German car-makers (in association with French farmers), they will surely have been dispelled by the news that the bloc is to backtrack on its plan to ban combustion engines from new vehicles by 2035. While petrol and diesel cars will still be banned, carbon neutral synthetic "e-fuels" will be permitted. While bringing the EU's green juggernaut to a skidding halt may have required some very powerful lobbying, it is also the right decision.

Proposed bans on petrol and diesel cars in the EU and in Britain were put in place without any proper consideration as to whether electric cars were capable of replacing them. It was simply assumed that improvements in technology would solve the issues of range, ease of recharging, the cost of buying electric cars and their over-reliance on rare metals such as cobalt – which are extracted in troubled parts of the world. Yet prices of electric cars – not to mention the electricity to run them – have remained stubbornly high. Moreover, their manufacture can involve rather more emissions than a petrol or diesel equivalent.

Some are already trying to play down the significance of the EU’s decision, arguing that "e-fuels" will be so expensive that internal combustion engines will become a high-end, niche product. Yet two decades ago, long before we had a net zero target, drivers in Wales found to their pleasure (and to the annoyance of the then HM Customs and Excise) that an ordinary diesel engine could run quite happily on waste oil from chip shops. Since then, the government has made petrol with a 10 per cent renewable ethanol component the British standard, so most of us are already running our cars partly on non-fossil fuels.

As for synthetic fuels made from carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water, the German Aerospace Centre estimates such fuels could be made for aviation purposes using existing technology for around 2.26 Euros (£2 per litre). That is expensive – it currently costs around 50 pence to produce a litre of unleaded, the rest being tax and distribution costs – but it is not much higher than recent at-pump prices. The EU’s change of heart means that the car industry can now work developing what could be the ideal compromise: plug-in vehicles which could run 50 miles or so in pure electric mode, but which have a small engine – powered by synthetic fuel – to keep the battery charged on longer trips.

But what will Britain do? The government is showing no signs that its own ban on petrol and diesel cars will not go ahead as planned – which would mean no new pure petrol and diesels sold after 2030, and no hybrids from 2035. This is foolish, and the government will be forced to reconsider. No manufacturer is going to make cars exclusively with the UK market in mind, so if the internal combustion engine does remain a standard product in Europe and elsewhere in the world, UK motorists are going to find themselves restricted to a handful of pure – and expensive – electric models. What remains of our car industry will be put under even greater pressure.

If the electric car makers do improve and bring down the cost of their product, then that's great – most of us will want to drive them. But in keeping options open for internal combustion engines the EU, for once, has done something sensible that Britain should emulate.

Not Zero: How an Irrational Target Will Impoverish You, Help China (and Won’t Even Save the Planet) by Ross Clark is published by Forum Press

3) Ben Marlow: Banning petrol cars by 2030 is a needless act of self-sabotage
The Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2023


It is pure fantasy to think that in just seven years, Britain will have phased out new petrol and diesel models and be in a position to support a largely electrified fleet.

It was the moment that the entire car industry – and the large majority of drivers – had been dreading: confirmation that a proposed ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 would go ahead as planned.

Last October’s announcement, from the then transport secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is a central plank of the Government’s ambitions of hitting net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Less than six months later, however, and the policy is in danger of coming apart at the seams after Brussels heavily watered down its restrictions amid growing opposition from Germany’s big carmakers.

With the European Union left fiercely backpedaling, there is little hope of the UK’s position holding.

It probably won’t be this Government that bites the bullet, but ultimately the deadline will have to be moved, probably back to 2035 so it is in line with other Western countries.

This is something that should be welcomed, and not because electrification is a terrible idea. On the contrary, the shift to electric cars has to happen, and indeed is already occurring at pace.

Broadly speaking, that is a good thing. Despite legitimate concerns about the carbon intensity of manufacturing an electric car, multiple studies show that they are considerably cleaner than a petrol or diesel equivalent over the typical lifetime of the car.

In countries such as Norway, which generates almost all its electricity from renewable hydropower, the break-even point would come after just 8,400 miles, according to a Reuters study from 2021.

But even where the power comes from a coal-fired grid as with China or Poland, an electric car still trumps the more traditional alternatives – it just takes considerably longer.

Electric cars are also much quieter and often better to drive.

Yet the simple truth is that the UK is not even close to being ready to switch over in the desperately short time it has been given because not enough has been done to prepare.

It is pure fantasy to think that in just seven years, Britain will have phased out new petrol and diesel models and be in a position to support a largely electrified fleet.

As senior car figures have pointed out, seven years is nothing in carmaking terms – it takes roughly that long to bring a new model to market.

Ministers have completely under-estimated the scale of the challenge facing society and the car industry, imposing a strict target without any thought to whether it can realistically be met.

As a consequence, on every single key measure – whether it is charging points, battery factories or the energy grid itself – we are way behind.

On chargers, the Government’s favourite retort is that a driver on a UK A-road or motorway is never more than 25 miles from a rapid charging point.

But what use is that if there’s a queue of cars snaking out of the car park when you get there, or worse, it is broken?

The ratio of chargers to cars has worsened from one per 16 cars in 2020 to one per 30 cars in 2022, while faster chargers account for just a fifth of the network and are being rolled out more slowly.

Meanwhile, in some major cities, a third of all chargers are broken. The network simply hasn’t kept pace with sales growth.

The same can be said for batteries.

Last month the boss of Vauxhall parent Stellantis, which has major manufacturing sites in Ellesmere Port and Luton, warned that unless the UK urgently builds the battery factories required to feed the major car plants, “the market will be in trouble”.

His comments echoed that of a top Nissan executive, who said: “The UK is becoming more challenging as a manufacturing footprint.” While Britain has just one operational gigafactory, China has built more than 100.

Besides, the energy grid is so decrepit that it isn’t even capable of handling more electricity.

There are parts of London where it is impossible to build new homes because there simply isn’t the capacity to support them.

The grid needs new connections, more pylons, underground copper cables, and interconnectors, or the threat of outages will become a reality once it is overloaded with electric cars.

Unless all of this catches up, then the cost to the economy doesn’t bear thinking about.

The UK risks being left with a vast fleet of electric cars rusting on driveways and residential streets up and down the country – that’s if anyone can afford them in the first place of course.

For all the hype around electric cars, they remain unaffordable for the majority of people.

There are other costs in failing to narrow the gap too.

Manufacturers can hardly escape blame – they were desperately late to the party and are now scrambling to catch up with regulation, but unless the infrastructure and supply chains are put in place, the big carmakers will decide it is more economical to be elsewhere, undermining the quest for electrification even further.

This is already happening – BMW-owned Mini has already chosen to produce electric models in China, where batteries are easier to come by, rather than at its Oxford factory, and there are fears that Tata Motors, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, will choose Spain over the UK as a base for its first European battery plant.

The year 2030 was always an arbitrary deadline anyway – dreamt up with seemingly little thought for the consequences by Boris Johnson in a bid to burnish his green credentials.

But it will soon be at odds with the EU and others.

As a result, Britain risks being left at an increasing disadvantage to the rest of the developed world. Ministers need to rethink this needless act of self-sabotage before it is too late.
4) Chris Morrison: Net Zero is coming apart before our very eyes
The Daily Sceptic, 30 March 2023


The collectivist Net Zero political project is starting to come apart before our very eyes. Making everyone poor, cold, hungry and confined to small living territories was always a tall political ask, but decades of green virtue-signalling, backed by a ‘settled’ version of science that cannot be debated in polite society, has kept the show on the road.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph last Wednesday, Sherelle Jacobs said there comes a time when the sacred mythology that underpins an orthodoxy simply crumbles. She was writing about liberalism in general, and the pieties behind mass illegal migration, but she could easily have been referring to Net Zero.
The recent decision by the European Union to allow the sale of internal combustion cars after 2035 was a small sign that reality is starting to intrude on those overseeing the destruction of Europe’s industrial base. There was a fig leaf to hide the blushes in the announcement suggesting that the cars must be run on carbon captured from the air and mixed with hydrogen produced from ‘green’ energy. As always with such hypothetical green technologies, one is inclined to discount those based on pure wishful thinking. The U.K. is still committed to banning the sale of internal combustion cars after 2030, but developments in Europe may produce a rethink.
The hard politics behind this decision is that Germany has enjoyed 70 years of unprecedented prosperity based on heavy industry reliant on cheap energy, recently secured from Russia. Its car industry is one of the most innovative and competitive in the world, and faces near destruction in the move to battery cars. This fate of course is likely to be shared by most European countries including the U.K., with China monopolising both the production of electric cars and the refining of vital minerals.
Writing recently in the Daily Sceptic, Andrew Montford, the Deputy Director of Net Zero Watch, said that inhabitants of the Westminster Village were happy to hype up fears of climate purgatory and fib about the cost of the renewable road to redemption. “Once the public understands the depth and extent of the deception, and the damage done to the economy and the prospects for our children, the trickery over Covid is going to look decidedly peripheral,” he added.
There have been few more egregious Net Zero deceptions than the suggestion that wind and solar power is far cheaper than fossil fuel. This canard has finally been put to bed with the recent news that Net Zero Watch has established through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that Contract for Difference (CfD) instruments are little more than taxpayer-funded guarantees that no matter the price of electricity, wind farms will always win.
Recent auctions have seen wind farms drive down the price at which they say they will supply electricity to the grid. This price is then guaranteed with a CfD under which the taxpayer picks up the tab if the wholesale electricity price drops lower. If the price rises past the guarantee, the wind farm pays the excess back to the taxpayer. That is the theory, and it is the basis of countless headlines in mainstream media and academia. “Offshore wind is now so cheap it could pay back money to consumers,” reported Imperial College in 2019. The reality, of course, is different.
Net Zero Watch says its recent Energy Department FOI “revealed that offshore wind farms and other generators are under no obligation whatsoever to take up their CfD options”. The Government has no power to enforce them. When electricity prices soar, as numerous restrictions on fossil fuels make likely, the wind farms ignore their options, and sell their power on the open market. While this racket continues, the British taxpayer pays total annual renewable subsidies of around £13 billion for a power source that still only accounts for barely 5% of total U.K. energy needs. Meanwhile, huge costs are incurred in providing energy back-up to compensate for the irregular nature of renewables. As more renewables come on stream, the more costly back-up is required.
Elections are always tricky when attempting mass collectivisation projects like Net Zero. The science can be settled and admirable ecological objectives can be hijacked, but when the electorate twigs that it is their holiday, their car and their beef steak that is under threat, they can cut up rough. Last Sunday’s ‘Berlin Climate Neutrality by 2030’ referendum failed to secure the 608,000 votes to pass, despite a massive and well-funded campaign by media, celebrities and activists. Reporting on the results, the German website No Tricks Zone noted that Berliners had been harassed for months by activists blocking traffic. Berliners were said to have seen the folly of the initiative, “and the high costs it would entail politically and financially”.
The German online publication Pleiteticker noted that members of the upper middle classes had declared war on the lower middle classes with their destructive climate measures. For years, these groups have been spreading their ideas “in a self-righteous, arrogant and sometimes aggressive manner”. It suggested that outside the Berlin political bubble and other urban feel-good oases, there is not much support for these causes.
Certainly there doesn’t seem to be much support for giving up food. Over in the Netherlands, recent farming protests were translated into spectacular electoral gains in the upper Senate for the farmer’s citizen movement (BBB). The Dutch Government plans to reduce nitrogen emissions by massively cutting livestock farming and buying up thousands of farms. The Netherlands is a massive food exporter, the industry being worth a reported £80 billion. Green activists are increasingly targeting food production, using the argument that nitrogen fertiliser is emitting nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.
David Legates is a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware, and he notes that if you want to stop N2O in the atmosphere, you have to stop agriculture. In the atmosphere, the gas is just 334 parts per billion. Because of margin of error considerations, Legates observes, climate models do not actually calculate any warming effect.
Guardian activist George Monbiot recently called for an end to animal farming. It is difficult to know when this madness will end. The academic economist Ralph Schoellhammer recently noted in an article in Newsweek that climate activism isn’t about the planet – it’s about the boredom of the bourgeoisie. It might be argued that pampered and indulged elites have had it easy for so long that they have lost all track of understanding how food, warmth, shelter and security from the ravages of nature are both produced and secured.
5) Allister Heath: Net Zero is a Trojan horse for the total destruction of Western society
The Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2023

Prepare for a people’s revolution against policies that will abolish choice and impoverish millions

I love my electric car, dear reader, I really do. The driving experience is revolutionary, the acceleration mind-blowing and there are no nasty exhaust fumes or engine noise. After almost three years, I’m not going back: it is far superior, for my purposes, to a petrol-powered vehicle.
But I’m lucky. I can easily charge it and I never drive long distances with it. The Government’s plan to impose a UK-wide ban on the sale of new, pure petrol cars in just six years and nine months’ time is insanely detached from reality. The country and the technology are nowhere near ready for a full roll-out. Sticking with this preposterous timetable will impoverish and inconvenience millions and trigger a seismic, anti-green popular revolt.
The EU has already backtracked: after lobbying from Germany, Brussels will allow some internal combustion engines powered by e-fuels. We must go further and scrap the deadlines altogether. The future of driving is zero emissions, but we should trust capitalism to deliver it when the time is right.
Longer range yet affordable models need to be available for people who need to drive hundreds of miles a day for work or leisure. Only 65 per cent of UK homes have off-street parking and, in some cases, only for one car, according to the RAC. In London, this falls to 44 per cent. Millions of on-street and at-work charging points will therefore be required; the roll-out to date has been pathetic. Electricity consumption will surge and yet the country is already on the brink of blackouts.

The cheapest new petrol-fuelled cars begin at around £12,500 for a Dacia Sandero; increasingly steep, but just about affordable on credit for Middle England. Will electric cars with a range of 300 to 400 miles be available at that price by 2030? I doubt it, which means calamity for millions. Eventually, cheap, long-ranged electric models will flood the market and an affordable second-hand market will develop, but not yet. If we really need a binding deadline, the Government should legislate that new electric cars will only be compulsory when there is sufficient on-street charging and generation capacity.
Until now, the costs of decarbonising society have been disparate or borne by industry – one reason why voters remain supportive. Fuel duty has been frozen. Home energy bills have gone up, but other factors have had a far greater impact on the cost of living. Taxes on long-haul flights have been hiked, hurting British-Asian and African communities, but the general public hasn’t really noticed. Voters have accepted the shift to reusable bags and paper straws and are happy to recycle. But those were easy – in some cases, costless – tweaks that haven’t required massive behavioural change and they fooled our elites into believing that voters will put up with endless misery to go green. They won’t.
Given enough time, a seamless transition to zero-emissions cars that don’t impact a person’s quality of life or their pocket is eminently possible. The same cannot be said of the proposed shift to heat pumps, or decarbonised air travel, or low-carbon construction, or reduced meat diets. These are likely to end up being explosively expensive and unpopular. We will eventually crack a new way of powering planes, but not a commercially viable one by 2050. The public will go wild if every home is forced to stump up a five-figure sum to retrofit a heating system that doesn’t even work properly when it gets really cold, or if foreign holidays are effectively banned.

The growing civil disobedience and furious rejection of low-traffic neighbourhoods and other anti-car diktats is a harbinger of things to come, as is the anti-Ulez movement which is galvanising many outer London and Home Counties demographics. These are notable given how few protests advocating explicitly centre-Right policies there have been over the past 40 years: the Countryside Alliance march, which failed, the fuel protests, which succeeded spectacularly, and the pro-Brexit demos, which eventually triumphed.
The speed at which the pro-car movement has grown is remarkable, as is the diversity of its grassroots leadership. The political elites and the net zero movement need to pay close attention: their policies have barely started to be implemented and yet they already risk triggering the British equivalent of the Dutch farmers’ party, which won the most seats in the provincial elections in fury at a savage green crackdown on agriculture.
There are two kinds of environmentalism. The first is the one exemplified by conservationists, nature lovers, green technologists, free-market environmentalists, Elon Musk, Boris Johnson before No 10, or my colleague Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. They love human civilisation as well as the natural world. They believe that new technologies – hydrogen, nuclear fusion, geoengineering, carbon capture, electric cars or cultured meat – are the solutions to environmental degradation. They dream of near-free, abundant clean energy and high-yielding agriculture; they seek new ways of enhancing our quality of life, feeding the world and growing our economy while not disrupting the environment. They support democracy, reason, choice, international travel, rising living standards and the universalisation of consumer goods.
The second kind of environmentalist are control freaks who have hijacked and warped a great cause. They don’t want to save the planet so much as to control its inhabitants. They love net zero – an extreme vision incapable of nuance, trade-offs or cost-benefit analysis – because it is a form of central planning. They are eternally disappointed by real-life human beings and their individualism.
Many have adopted a woke, quasi-religious worldview: we have sinned by damaging Gaia, we must repent, we must self-flagellate. They believe in “degrowth” and a weird form of autarkic feudalism. They dislike freedom and don’t want us to choose where to live, shop, eat or send our children to school. They want to reduce mobility. The Welsh government has banned road- building. One French minister called for the end of the detached house: we should all be forced into flats to minimise our carbon footprint, a cause now advocated by some UK commentators.
The public backs the first approach, not the latter. The net zero fanatics have already overreached. Our politicians must break with these extremists, or they will unleash a popular revolt that will make Brexit look like a gathering of Davos technocrats.
6) Europe’s next energy crisis is looming
Bloomberg, 29 March 2023
Europe has negotiated through the winter of a crisis that threatened to choke energy supplies and overwhelm its economy, but officials are warning that the squeeze may not yet be over.

Fears of blackouts and freezing homes have faded for now, and gas reserves remain far fuller than normal. The region is entering a crucial period of replenishing those stockpiles, and avoiding a crunch next winter hinges on its success. It won’t be able to rely on the usually massive supply of pipeline gas from Russia, and EU officials are leaning on companies to end LNG imports from the country.

The perils from a year ago will be fresh on policy makers’ minds. Heat waves, the worst drought in centuries, nuclear outages in France and overall panic about Russia’s dwindling gas exports resulted in a record surge in prices. They’ve fallen more than 80% since then, and the outlook holds few worries for the months ahead. BloombergNEF sees enough supplies available to fill inventories to the EU’s goal of 90% by the end of October.

The market remains wary a repeat of last year’s events will flip the balance once again. There are also new worries about a rebound in Chinese demand, and an even deeper curtailment in Russian supplies — pipeline and liquefied natural gas, said Andrew Walker, a vice president at major LNG provider Cheniere Energy Inc.

“There are a lot of key risks sitting out there,” he said at the European Gas Conference in Vienna.

With summer coming and small volumes of gas already starting to be sent into storage sites, here are some of the biggest concerns for the continent.

China and Fight for LNG

Record LNG imports formed the backbone of Europe’s efforts to tackle the crisis over the past year. But the jostling for cargoes could start increasing.

The International Energy Agency has warned that Europe still faces a risk of supply shortages this year, unless it further curbs consumption, with China’s LNG demand being the biggest unknown. The agency has a 40 billion cubic meters difference between its highest and lowest estimates for the nation’s net LNG imports this year. That’s the equivalent of about 8% of Europe’s total demand last year.

Some industry watchers, like Wood Mackenzie, are not very bullish, at least for now. The consultant expects China’s booming domestic gas production and continued increase in Russia’s pipeline supplies to limit the need for LNG imports, and keep them below the peak of 2021 even in a high-growth scenario.

On the other hand, cheaper LNG is also bringing back appetite from smaller buyers in Asia, which increases competition, according to trader Vitol Group.

Industrial Demand Recovery

Signs are emerging that gas use by industry — which made up almost half of total demand reduction in Europe last year — is rebounding. A recovery is showing in the oil refining and petrochemical industries in Spain, the Netherlands and France, where it is easier to switch fuels than in other sectors.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and SEB AB have warned that gas prices may more than double from current levels if industrial demand returns. But how big will the rebound be? Many manufacturers shut or relocated some operations last year as energy costs turned prohibitive, and there’s no certainty they will return. An unfolding banking crisis could also hit European industries.

Full story
7) Robert Lyman: China is winning the climate policy game
Financial Post, 28 March 2023


China’s leaders are placing both energy security and prosperity ahead of emissions-reduction goals
Search “strategy games” on the internet and you will find a seemingly endless list of computer games in which participants seek to win military or geopolitical competitions through careful planning, organization of forces, implementation of tactics to attain long-term advantage and, often, confusion of adversaries. The Rand Corporation and other U.S. think tanks have sometimes used similar gaming models to assess China’s efforts to supplant the United States as the world’s preeminent economic and military power.

What is seldom featured in such analysis, however, is China’s management of its global image as a “climate leader.” In 2020, President Xi Jinping promised China’s emissions would peak before 2030 and the country would reach carbon neutrality by 2060. China does lead the world in power generation from wind turbines and solar panels and it is the fastest-growing market for all-electric cars. Net-zero activists often praise the “China model” while condemning countries like Canada.

But activists’ assessments of China seldom focus on its additions to its coal-fired electricity generation capacity. Coal is the most carbon-intensive energy source, and China is by far the largest coal-consuming country, accounting for fully 53 per cent of global demand. China’s coal consumption increased from five billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) in 2000 to 14 billion in 2021, almost tripling in two decades.

In 2022, according to Bloomberg Business Review local governments in China permitted 106 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity, about four times more than in 2021 and the equivalent of two large coal-fired plants per week. For comparison, 106 gigawatts is over 70 per cent of Canada’s annual electricity generation from all sources. That may be worth repeating: in 2022 China’s permitted increase in its generation capacity from coal was equal to 70 per cent of Canada’s electricity consumption from all sources.

All the approved capacity is needed to meet large increases in demand. Last summer a severe heat wave led to record levels of demand in a country in which rising average incomes have brought greatly increased use of air conditioning. China also needs affordable and reliable energy to power its industrial facilities, as it is still the worlds’ largest manufacturer. Renewables will play a role, but Chinese officials have indicated that coal-fired generation offers critical baseline capacity to ensure the stability of the power grid and minimize blackout risks.

The facilities China is constructing are state-of-the-art, high-efficiency plants designed to avoid most of the air-contaminant emissions historically associated with burning coal. With proper maintenance, they should have operating lives of 40 to 60 years or more. It is highly unlikely that China would choose to spend many billions of dollars building such plants with the intention of shutting them down by 2050, just 27 years from now. Whatever they may commit to at international conferences, China’s leaders are clearly placing both energy security and prosperity ahead of emissions-reduction goals.

That is not the case in Canada and several other OECD countries. This county is steadily phasing out coal-fired power generation. The centrepiece of federal government climate policy is a carbon tax of $50 per tonne in provinces subject to the federal regime. That rate is scheduled to rise to $170 per tonne by 2030, which is placing Canadian firms at a competitive disadvantage compared to firms in countries that have either no or very low carbon taxes. The few regions of China that impose a carbon tax use an emissions trading system. According to the World Bank, the most recent permit price was just $US9.20 per tonne. No wonder industries are fleeing Canada for lower-cost jurisdictions, taking their investments, jobs and emissions with them.

At COP 27, the UN climate conference held last year in Egypt, the central subject of debate was how much the wealthier countries should commit to pay to subsidize the efforts of developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as to cover the “loss and damages” they have incurred due to weather events allegedly caused by industrialized countries’ historic emissions. The Group of 77 developing countries demanded at least $1.3 trillion per year from 2025 to 2030, and more thereafter. Canada has committed to $5.3 billion over five years. China, despite its high emissions and immense economy, is not included in the list of countries that are expected to pay. In fact, it may even qualify as a recipient.

In many parts of the world, global climate policy is not yet perceived as a competitive game in pursuit of long-term strategic advantage — which is one reason that so far China is winning it.

Robert Lyman is a retired energy economist.
8) Andrew Montford: To activate, or not to activate?
Net Zero Watch, 29 March 2023
When you stand back and look at the CfD scheme, it’s clear that it’s a win-win for the generators, and a lose-lose for consumers.
Back in 2017, when it was announced that windfarms had agreed Contracts for Difference (CfDs) to sell power to the grid at extraordinarily low prices, the mainstream media and the Green Blob went wild with claims that we were witnessing a revolution in costs.
Only us wicked sceptics said that it was a ridiculous suggestion, pointing out that there was no sign in the financial accounts or market announcements of windfarm operators to support such a claim.
It was therefore no surprise to the ‘denialist’ fringe when, at the start of 2021, major windfarms that had recently become fully operational suddenly decided that they would be delaying the start of their CfD contracts for a year. This enabled them to take advantage of market prices that had soared throughout 2021 and then gone stratospheric towards the end of the year in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
For the last twelve months, these windfarms have been making money hand over fist, but they are now facing another decision: activate their CfDs or delay for another year. The equation is not as simple as twelve months ago. While market prices are double the long-term norm, they are less than half the level of a year ago.
The operators’ views on pricing over the next few years look to be critical. Just this week, the accountancy firm KPMG suggested that things would not be back to normal in the next couple of years. It’s likely they will soar again this winter. That being the case, my guess is that they will delay once more. The upsides of doing so are potentially very large, and the downsides are limited. In fact, no final decision on activation needs to be made until 2025.
But it is possible that at that point they will finally sign up. There are valuable hidden subsidies available for those who are inside the CfD scheme, such as exemption from increases in soaring grid balancing charges, and exemption from windfall taxes.
When you stand back and look at the CfD scheme, it’s clear that it’s a win-win for the generators, and a lose-lose for consumers. It may be possible for the Government to claw back some of the billions of extra profits through a windfall tax on those generators who haven’t activated their CfDs, but it’s unlikely they would do that, in thrall to the Green Blob as they are. That being the case, all we can do is stand back and see which “win” the windfarms will choose.
9) Judith Curry: UN’s climate panic is more politics than science
The Australian, 28 March 2023

The IPCC reports have become “bumper sticker” climate science – making a political statement while using the overall reputation of science to give authority to a politically manufactured consensus.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a new Synthesis Report, with fanfare from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The climate time bomb is ticking but the latest IPCC report shows that we have the knowledge and resources to tackle the climate crisis. We need to act now to ensure a liveable planet in the future,” Guterres announced over Twitter earlier this month.

The new IPCC Report is a synthesis of the three reports that constitute the Sixth Assessment Report, plus three special reports. This Synthesis Report does not introduce any new information or findings. While the IPCC reports include some good material, the Summary for Policymakers for the Synthesis Report emphasises weakly justified findings on climate impacts driven by extreme emissions scenarios, and politicised policy recommendations on emissions reductions.

The most important finding of the past five years is that the extreme emissions scenarios RCP8.5 and SSP5-8.5, commonly referred to as “business-as-usual” scenarios, are now widely recognised as implausible. These extreme scenarios have been dropped by the UN Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Agreement. However, the new Synthesis Report continues to emphasise these extreme scenarios, while this important finding is buried in a footnote:

“Very high emission scenarios have become less likely but cannot be ruled out.”

The extreme emissions scenarios are associated with alarming projections of 4-5C of warming by 2100. The most recent Conference of the Parties (COP27) is working from a baseline temperature projection based on a medium emissions scenario of 2.5C by 2100. Since 1.2C of warming has already occurred from the baseline period in the late 19th century, the amount of warming projected for the remainder of the 21st century under the medium emissions scenario is only about one-third of the warming projections under the extreme emissions scenario.

The Synthesis Report emphasises “loss and damage” as a central reason why action is needed. It is therefore difficult to overstate the importance of the shift in expectations for future extreme weather events and sea level rise that is associated with rejection of the extreme emissions scenarios. Rejecting these extreme scenarios has rendered obsolete much of the climate impacts literature and assessments of the past decade, that have focused on these scenarios. In particular, the extreme emissions scenario dominates the impacts that are featured prominently in the new Synthesis Report.

Clearly, the climate “crisis” isn’t what it used to be. Rather than acknowledging this fact as good news, the IPCC and UN officials are doubling down on the “alarm” regarding the urgency of reducing emissions by eliminating fossil fuels. You might think that if warming is less than we thought, then the priorities would shift away from emissions reductions and towards reducing our vulnerability to weather and climate extremes. However, that hasn’t been the case.

The IPCC has been characterised as a “knowledge monopoly”, with its dominant authority in the UN climate deliberations. The IPCC claims it is “policy-neutral” and “never policy-prescriptive”.

However, the IPCC has strayed far from its chartered role of assessing the scientific literature in support of policymaking. The entire framing of the IPCC reports is now around the mitigation of climate change through emissions reductions.

Not only has the IPCC increasingly taken on a stance of explicit political advocacy, but it is misleading policymakers by its continued emphasis on extreme climate outcomes driven by the implausible extreme emissions scenarios. With its explicit political advocacy, combined with misleading information, the IPCC risks losing its privileged position in international policy debates.

The impact of these alarming IPCC reports and rhetoric by UN officials is this. Climate change has become a grand narrative in which human-caused climate change has become a dominant cause of societal problems. Everything that goes wrong reinforces the conviction that there is only one thing we can do to prevent societal problems – stop burning fossil fuels. This grand narrative leads us to think that if we solve the problem of burning fossil fuels, then these other problems would also be solved.

This belief leads us away from a deeper investigation of the true causes of these other problems. The end result is a narrowing of the viewpoints and policy options that we are willing to consider in dealing with complex issues such as energy systems, water resources, public health, weather disasters, and national security. The IPCC reports have become “bumper sticker” climate science – making a political statement while using the overall reputation of science to give authority to a politically manufactured consensus.

Judith Curry is president of Climate Forecast Applications Network.
10) And finally: 'Woke' barristers could be struck off after refusing to obey the rule of law
Daily Mail, 29 March 2023


A group of barristers could face disciplinary proceedings – including being struck off – after declaring that they will not prosecute ‘peaceful’ climate protesters.

Lawyers are Responsible, as the group calls itself, comprises some 120 barristers and solicitors who say they will object if they have to prosecute eco-groups such as Just Stop Oil – whose tactics include gluing themselves to roads to stop traffic.

Today they handed in their declaration to the Bar Standards Board, which regulates barristers. The declaration also says they will not act for companies involved in oil and gas projects.

The declaration puts their fitness to practise at risk because it directly flouts their professional code of conduct – that they keep their personal politics out of their job.

The so-called ‘cab rank rule’ stipulates that barristers takes on cases as long as they are competent to do so.

Their decision to abandon the rule – revealed in the Mail last week – has attracted a storm of criticism. Opponents include the Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Robert Buckland, the former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, the Bar Council and the Criminal Bar Association who say the move will undermine justice.
Full story

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


Robert Arthur said...

The concept of no i.c cars was farcical from the outset. Any problems with the national grid and the world is worse off than 250 years and more ago.It is whole of life whole world CO2 which matters. Concentration should be on reduced use and basic moderate weight, long life, readible and cheap serviceability, and encouragement not to replace with later. Huge CO2 savings could be made. A basic 1970s Toyota was recently reported with 2 million km! Even if not as efficient as the latest it has saved many tonnes of CO2.

Anonymous said...

If we think the oil companies hold consumers to ransom ( and with their slight of hand and other manipulations I have no doubt that they do) think of the power of the national grid and electricity companies. It will leave the oil companies green with envy!!!!
That is, until the oil companies start providing energy for electricity and rort the system even further up the supply chain