Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Plans to hit millions of motorists with backdated road tax rises of up to 245 pounds are being axed to head off a Labour revolt next week. Chancellor Alistair Darling has privately assured backbenchers that he will 'fix' the problem in his autumn pre-Budget report. The decision would mark another U-turn following the Government's humiliation over the 10p tax crisis.

Under proposals which will start to kick in next year, nearly 18million motorists - seven out of ten - will pay more to run their cars by 2010, depending on their greenhouse gas emissions. Rebel MPs are unhappy that the increases - sold as an environmental measure - will apply retrospectively to all vehicles bought between 2001 and 2006. Some 48 Labour backbenchers have signed a Commons motion demanding a rethink.

Parts of the vehicle excise duty shake-up will be debated in the Commons on Wednesday and there were fears that the rebels would seize the opportunity to demand the reforms are dumped. But, in a sign that Mr Darling has been forced to review the policy during private meetings, it appeared last night that they will not make a move.

More here


Reports by the US Dept of Energy (DOE) indicate that 97% of the annual carbon dioxide emissions come from Nature itself. The report also indicates that more than 98% of all the carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed again by Nature.

What does this mean?

It means that since the start of the Industrial Revolution the increase in carbon dioxide levels of about 103ppmv are 97% due to Nature itself, that is to say that only about 3ppmv of that increase is due to man-made emissions. The absorption by Nature of 98.5% of all carbon dioxide also means that of the annual man-made carbon dioxide emissions, only 1.5% stays behind in the atmosphere - 346 million tonnes in 2004, which is the equivalent of just 0.04% of the total annual carbon dioxide emissions by Nature and mankind combined.

Irrespective of its residence time or the absolute quantities, it shows that Nature is not only the main driver of carbon dioxide emissions but also that Nature is perfectly capable of dealing with those emissions, both natural and man-made.

UN IPCC is shown to have grossly overestimated the amount of man-made carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and has also grossly underestimated the amount of carbon dioxide that Nature absorbs and Nature can not distinguish man-made carbon dioxide from the naturally occurring variety. Immediate demands should be made of the UN IPCC to stop its advice to Policymakers for drastic carbon dioxide emission reductions and all carbon trading schemes should be abandoned.

UN IPCC advice is destroying economies around the world for no reason and neither emission reductions nor carbon trading will have any effect whatsoever on the naturally occurring carbon dioxide cycle. The greenhouse hypothesis - what most climatologists call "the basic science" - offers a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. What passes for climate science today is mostly science fiction.


The church of green

A kind of irrational nature worship separates environmentalism from the more fair-minded approach of conservationism

I admit it: I'm no environmentalist. But I like to think I'm something of a conservationist. No doubt for millions of Americans this is a distinction without a difference, as the two words are usually used interchangeably. But they're different things, and the country would be better off if we sharpened the distinctions between both word and concept. At its core, environmentalism is a kind of nature worship. It's a holistic ideology, shot through with religious sentiment. "If you look carefully," author Michael Crichton famously observed, "you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths."

Environmentalism's most renewable resources are fear, guilt and moral bullying. Its worldview casts man as a sinful creature who, through the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, abandoned our Edenic past. John Muir, who laid the philosophical foundations of modern environmentalism, described humans as "selfish, conceited creatures." Salvation comes from shedding our sins, rejecting our addictions (to oil, consumerism, etc.) and demonstrating through deeds an all-encompassing love of Mother Earth. Quoth Al Gore: "The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

I heard Gore on NPR the other day. He was asked what he made of evangelical pastor Joseph Hagee's absurd comment that Hurricane Katrina was God's wrath for New Orleans' sexual depravity. Naturally, Gore chuckled at such backwardness. But then the Nobel laureate went on to blame Katrina on man's energy sinfulness. It struck me that the two men were not so different. If only canoodling residents of the Big Easy had adhered to "The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally Friendly Sex."

Environmentalists are keen to insist that their movement is a secular one. But using the word "secular" no more makes you secular than using the word "Christian" automatically means you behave like a Christian. Pioneering green lawyer Joseph Sax, for example, describes environmentalists as "secular prophets, preaching a message of secular salvation." Gore too has often been dubbed a "prophet." It's no surprise that a green-themed California hotel provides Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" right next to the Bible and a Buddhist tome.

Whether it's adopted the trappings of religion or not, my biggest beef with environmentalism is how comfortably irrational it is. It touts ritual over reality, symbolism over substance, while claiming to be so much more rational and scientific than those silly sky-God worshipers and deranged oil addicts.

It often seems that displaying faith in the green cause is more important than advancing the green cause. The U.S. government just put polar bears on the threatened species list because climate change is shrinking the Arctic ice where they live. Never mind that polar bears are in fact thriving -- their numbers have quadrupled in the last 50 years. Never mind that full implementation of the Kyoto protocols on greenhouse gases would save exactly one polar bear, according to Danish social scientist Bjorn Lomborg, author of the 2007 book "Cool It!"

Yet about 300 to 500 polar bears could be saved every year, starting right now, Lomborg says, if there were a ban on hunting them in Canada. What's cheaper, trillions to trim carbon emissions or paying off the Canadians to stop killing polar bears?

Plastic grocery bags are being banned all over the place, even though they require less energy to make or recycle than paper ones. The whole country is being forced to subscribe to a modern version of transubstantiation, whereby corn is miraculously transformed into sinless energy even as it does worse damage than oil.

Conservation, which shares roots and meaning with conservatism, stands athwart this mass hysteria. Yes, conservationism can have a religious element to it as well, but that element stems from the biblical injunction to be a good steward of the Earth, rather than a worshiper of it. But stewardship involves economics, not mysticism.

Economics is the study of choosing between competing goods. Environmentalists view economics as the enemy because cost-benefit analysis is thoroughly unromantic. Lomborg is a heretic because he treats natural-world challenges like economic ones, seeking to spend money where it will maximize good, not just good feelings among environmentalists.

Many self-described environmentalists are in fact conservationists. But the environmental movement wins battles by blurring this distinction, arguing that all lovers of nature must follow their lead. At the same time, many people open to conservationist arguments, like hunters, are turned off by even reasonable efforts because they do not want to give aid and comfort to "wackos."

In the broadest sense, the environmental movement has won. Americans are "green" in that they are willing to spend a lot to keep their country ecologically healthy, which it is. But now it's time to save the environment from the environmentalists.


Beware green zealots

Comment from Australia

A fanatic, George Santayana famously said, is someone who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim. With July shaping up as climate change policy month, a good dose of fanaticism seems likely to come our way. Nowhere is the fanatic's touch more apparent than in the confused notion of an emissions reduction budget, the idea that there is a fixed quantum of emissions reduction we should achieve by a given date, with the result that if we reduce a bit less in one area, we will have to reduce by more elsewhere.

Reducing Australia's greenhouse emissions is not a goal in its own right; it is merely a way of trying to deal with the risks of potentially harmful climate change. How much we should devote to that goal depends on the costs and benefits involved. If the costs increase relative to the benefits, only the fanatic redoubles his efforts.

The fallacy involved is manifest in the debate about how trade exposed, emissions-intensive activities should be dealt with. It has become increasingly evident that if Australia, acting unilaterally, imposes a carbon tax on these activities, global emissions will not be reduced. Rather, they will simply shift to other countries, decreasing our welfare (as we have a comparative advantage in those activities) and welfare worldwide. As a result, without an international framework that would prevent emissions flight, putting a carbon tax on trade exposed, emissions-intensive activities serves no useful purpose.

Now, a rational person, faced with that fact, adjusts the target to reflect the greater cost of achieving it. If the target that would have been set in a world where emissions flight could not occur were to reduce emissions by, say, 20 per cent through a period of years, that person, faced with the reality of an emissions flight risk, would discount that target to some lower level.

In contrast the fanatic, acting as if the target had come from God, leaves the target unchanged and, if anything is conceded to the activities that could most readily move elsewhere, inflicts greater punishment on those that have the least scope to escape their clutches. This response is doubly perverse. To begin with, the economic cost of achieving any given emissions reduction target increases more than proportionately with the severity of the reduction being sought: doubling the target inflicts more than twice the cost. As a result, increasing the extent of the reduction sought from those activities that are least footloose makes the cost of any overall reduction all the greater. These added costs then are compounded by an increased distortion in resource allocation between the activities that are exempt and the now more heavily taxed ones that are not.

There is an additional, deeper reason the fanatic's response is perverse. The problem of emissions flight merely highlights the absence of an effective and comprehensive regime for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of such a regime, abatement in Australia, no matter how great, will have no direct impact on the risk of harmful climate change. The only reason for undertaking that abatement is the possibility that it will assist such a regime to come into place. However, whether abatement in Australia would have a "demonstration effect" internationally, and if so to what extent, is highly uncertain. Even if such an effect did exist, there is little reason to think the effect will be much greater if we pursue abatement at home with greater intensity.

As a result, a rational decision-maker would give the possibility of such an effect a low weight and one that justified an abatement effort that was, at most, modest.

This is all the more so as increasing the extent of present abatement reduces our ability to respond should an effective international regime not come into place. In that event, if those concerned about climate change are correct, we would have to invest in ways of living that are less vulnerable to unfavourable climatic conditions. Our capacity to undertake those investments without painful reductions in consumption depends on our wealth.

As a result, if there is a likelihood that harmful climate change will nonetheless occur, we should be responding not by reducing our incomes but by increasing them and accumulating precautionary savings. In that scenario, bearing greater abatement costs now will not reduce costs in the future but merely increase the future pain.

The desirability of focusing on raising our capacity to adjust by increasing incomes is made greater by the distribution of the costs and benefits of the various options.

At best, pursuing "demonstration effects" makes the world as a whole better off if it succeeds; but if it fails, its only consequence is to make Australians poorer.

In contrast, increasing our wealth so as to increase our capacity to innovate and adjust, should such adjustment be needed, seems highly likely to make Australians better off regardless of the ultimate outcome.

The case for abatement beyond a very modest level, consistent with a low carbon tax, therefore seems economically untenable. Moreover, anything that makes the marginal costs of abating now higher, or the community's willingness to bear those costs now lower, should induce us to reduce our overall abatement effort rather than sticking by some inherently arbitrary target.

Consequently, a heavy burden of proof should be placed on those who advocate ambitious fixed targets to be pursued with the ferocity of latter-day Savonarolas.

Reducing emissions is not an act in a morality play but a decision that has to be made by trading off benefits and sacrifices. Moreover, the community must be given a full opportunity to assess those benefits and sacrifices and decide whether they are worth bearing.

As a result, whatever recommendations are made by the Garnaut review or the Government's green paper must be backed by estimates of those recommendations' costs, and the modelling underpinning those estimates needs to be fully disclosed. If all we get is moralising waffle, the community will legitimately conclude that this particular emperor has no clothes. Should that occur, the Government will have no one to blame but itself when its proposals run into strong and sustained opposition.



Since Gordon Brown on Thursday launched what he called "the greatest revolution in our energy policy since the advent of nuclear power", centred on building thousands of new wind turbines, let us start with a simple fact. Nothing conveys the futility of wind power more vividly than this: that all the electricity generated by the 2,000 wind turbines already built in Britain is still less than that produced by a single medium-sized conventional power station. There are nearly 50 nuclear, gas or coal-fired power plants in Britain today each of which produces more electricity in a year than all those 2,000 turbines put together.

I make no apology for returning to this subject because the "100 billion pound green energy strategy" published last week, by what is now laughably known as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), contains not only many smaller deceptions and self-deceptions but one so great that almost everyone has fallen for it. The starting point is the EU's requirement that, to combat the "threat of climate change", we must drastically reduce our CO2 emissions, chiefly by building thousands more wind turbines.

It is quite clear from the paper that BERR's officials know we haven't the faintest hope of meeting our EU target in this way. So its number-crunchers have been working overtime to squeeze down the amount of energy we source from wind to the lowest figure it thinks can be made to sound plausible. Until last week BERR had been claiming that our EU requirement meant that we must generate 38 per cent of our electricity from renewables, the largest contribution coming from 11,000 offshore turbines, representing 33 gigawatts (GW) of capacity. But all this has changed dramatically. They now talk only about the need to meet 32 per cent of our total EU renewables target through our methods of electricity generation, with only 32 per cent of that needing to come from wind - and that, they say, can be done with a mere 7,000 new offshore and onshore turbines.

However, our present generating capacity is 76GW. By 2020, on projected demand, to replace one third of one third of our capacity with wind power would mean generating an average of 10GW. And herein lies the central misconception which bedevils the entire debate. Because of the wind's intermittency, turbines generate on average at less than a third of their capacity. Thus to contribute 10GW would need 30GW of capacity, which would require up to twice as many turbines as ministers are talking about - needing to be erected at a rate of more than four every working day between now and 2020.

In practical terms, even if they grossly bend the planning rules (as MPs voted for last week), there isn't the remotest chance that anything like this number of turbines could be built in time to meet their target. For instance, the world only has five of the giant barges that can install monster turbines offshore - and for more than half the year our weather conditions make installation impossible anyway.

But in addition we should also need to build at least 20 new conventional power stations simply to provide back-up for all the times when the wind is not blowing - at a time when, within seven years, we already stand to lose 40 per cent of our existing generating capacity through the closure of almost all our ageing nuclear power plants and half our major coal and oil-fired power stations (due to the crippling cost of complying with an EU anti-pollution directive).

It is a total mess. The reality is that, thanks to the dithering and wishful thinking of our politicians, it may already be too late to avert that breakdown of our electricity supply which would be one of the most serious disasters Britain has ever faced. And, ironically, no one at present looks more likely to inherit this mess than David Cameron - whose only response to last week' s pie-in-the-sky from Gordon Brown was to say that the Government should have been building all those useless windmills years ago.


British green energy plan 'will force more families into fuel poverty'

More families will be driven into fuel poverty as a push to generate more electricity from "green" sources like wind, wave and solar power sharply increases household fuel bills, the Government has said. Electricity bills could rise by 13 per cent and gas prices could go up by as much as 37 per cent as consumers are made to pay more to subsidise green energy production, ministers said in a new Renewable Energy Strategy. The move away from fossil fuels is likely to cause an increase in energy bills

At current levels, green tariffs make up around 14 per cent of average domestic electricity bills and 3 per cent of average gas bills. Those tariffs will have to increase as ministers bid to wean Britain off fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal. "Our policies to encourage renewable energy deployment in line with our 2020 goals will add further to energy bills," the strategy paper says. "Reflecting some of the costs of tackling climate change through energy prices means that prices more closely reflect the true social, economic and environmental costs of climate change."

By 2020, the document estimates that the full raft of new green energy proposals could increase domestic electricity bills by between 10 per cent and 13 per cent. Gas bills could rise by 18 per cent to 37 per cent. Petrol prices could go up by 4 per cent. Campaigners say that 4 million households are currently in fuel poverty, having to spend 10 per cent or more of their total income on electricity and gas. The Renewable Energy Strategy says: "It is likely that the measures we need to use to increase renewable energy will add to the challenges we face in combating fuel poverty."

Government officials said that the fuel bill increases were based on the assumption that world oil prices will average around $70, roughly half their current level. Were oil prices to stay above that level, the added cost of green energy would be smaller, because of the savings involved in cutting oil use.

John Hutton, the Industry Secretary, said the fuel bill increases were "reasonable and modest" while the cost of doing nothing to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be high. "Is the era of cheap energy over? We all know it is, and that presents us with some pretty stark choices we have to make," he said. "This is the time to make a decisive shift to a low-carbon economy."

Alan Duncan, the Conservative shadow business secretary, endorsed the Government's plan, but said ministers should go further. He said: "After a series of painful and reluctant U-turns, it seems like the Government is at last coming round to our vision of a greener Britain."

The shift to green power will mean 7,000 more wind turbines being built -often in the face of local opposition - across the countryside and around the coastline. The renewable energy strategy was presented by Gordon Brown, who pledged to break Britain's dependence on oil and to convert the country to a greener way of life.

The Prime Minister said the government's commitment to a target of producing 15 per cent of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020 amounted to a green revolution in the making. "It will be the most dramatic change in our energy policy since the advent of nuclear power," he told an energy conference in London.

Meeting the 15 per cent target will cost the UK economy between œ5 billion and œ6 billion a year, according to Mr Hutton's department. The Government published its energy strategy as Lord Stern, the former Treasury economist who called on the world to spend 1 per cent of its wealth fighting climate change said the price of averting environmental disaster had now doubled to 2 per cent.


Comment from Julian Morris [julian@policynetwork.net], Executive Director, International Policy Network, London. See www.policynetwork.net

According to this story in the Telegraph, Stern's estimate of the cost of taking action to reduce carbon emissions was out by 100%.

If the British government proceeds with its various plans to subsidise so-called 'renewables' it would divert vast resources into activities that result in fewer improvements in efficiency and productivity. It may create 'green' jobs but these would be at the expensive of higher value-added white and blue jobs. It would also, as the story notes, lead to increased 'fuel poverty' (i.e. people who are already poor would be forced to spend a higher proportion of their income on fuel and/or risk illness and death by not heating their homes sufficiently).

I also note that today's newspapers carry the sad story of an elderly gentleman who committed suicide after reading that the budget would make him poorer.

I find it difficult to believe that the Tories want to go further! How many jobs do they want to destroy? How much welfare-enhancing growth do they want to prevent? How many poor people do they want to force into fuel poverty or even suicide?


For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: