Taxpayers could stop subsidising onshore wind farms and solar power providers by the end of the decade, ministers claim. Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin has confirmed that financial support – currently worth around £400million – will have ‘disappeared’ by 2020.
George Osborne is believed to be arguing for a 25 per cent cut in renewable energy subsidies. But Mr Letwin revealed in an email to a campaigner that the cut could go much further.
‘I anticipate subsidies… will come down to zero over the next few years and should have disappeared by 2020, since these forms of energy are gradually becoming economic without the need for subsidies,’ he told Terry Stewart, president of the Dorset branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
Mr Stewart, who had written to Mr Letwin – his MP – to complain about plans for 160 wind turbines in Dorset, said: ‘The subsidy for wind turbines is iniquitous – it is a stealth tax.
‘It is being paid out to rich land owners and foreign energy companies and developers.’ Electricity companies have to pay twice the market price for energy from onshore wind farms. This is then passed on through higher bills.
While the Lib Dems are in favour of subsidising ‘green’ energy, more than 100 Tory MPs wrote to David Cameron in January to urge him not to blight the landscape with turbines. There are currently more than 3,000 onshore wind turbines in Britain, with another 4,500 expected to be erected.
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘This policy is not green, progressive or sensible. The Chancellor should take an axe to these subsidies.’
The revelation is embarrassing for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, due to attend the United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil tomorrow. The Lib Dem leader has argued national wealth should also be measured by how clean a country’s environment is, rather than just how much money it earns.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, will announce details of subsidies for renewable energy from 2013 to 2017 in the next few weeks. It will follow a consultation on whether subsidies should be cut by more than 10 per cent.
John Constable, director of the UK charity Renewable Energy Foundation, said: ‘Extremely high subsidies have harmed the reputation and integrity of the renewables sector, which has been corrupted by easy money and undeserved fortunes.
‘Reductions in subsidies are welcome, but may not be enough to protect the consumer in very hard times, and retrospective cuts, supported by windfall taxes, cannot be ruled out.’
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said the 2020 date referred to by Mr Letwin was an ‘aspiration’. She added: ‘It is always our aspiration to end subsidies for any energies.’
USA: Wind Farms Canceled, Layoffs Starting
Government dependence is risky business
The major federal tax and grant subsidies for windpower and other qualifying renewables are scheduled to expire at year-end. And claims of robust economics, competitiveness, and growth have given way to fear of a freer, less preferential market in 2013 and beyond. Wind’s artificial boom/upcoming bust is the risky business of political capitalism.
Last Friday’s edition of Environment & Energy Daily ran this story (sub. req.):
The American Wind Energy Association estimates that 10,000 jobs will be lost by September — primarily among manufacturers of wind turbines and components facing a dearth of orders for next year. By the end of the first quarter of 2013, the industry will have shed about 37,000 jobs without quick action on a PTC renewal, according to a widely cited study AWEA commissioned from Navigant Consulting. The industry estimates it employed about 78,000 people at the beginning of this year.
So in the next six-to-nine months, nearly one-half of the industry’s jobs will be gone just because a special tax break has lapsed? How lousy is this industry? What have we gotten for decades and tens of billions of dollars expended to date?
And what is the plan for the inevitable task of dismantling the industrial wind turbines that no longer spin but look like some industrial death scene from Planet of the Apes?
Competitive–or Almost So?
What about the repeated claims that windpower is almost competitive? Back in 1986, a representative of the American Wind Energy Association told Congress:
The U.S. wind industry has … demonstrated reliability and performance levels that make them very competitive. It has come to the point that the California Energy Commission has predicted windpower will be that State’s lowest cost source of energy in the 1990s, beating out even large-scale hydro. 
He added: “We are not quite there. We have hopes.”
Just last week (26 years later!) a new report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century stated that wind will be “fully competitive” with gas-fired power generation by 2016.
As reported by North American Windpower:
Based on current trends, it is predicted that the average onshore wind project worldwide will be fully competitive with combined-cycle gas turbine generation by 2016 – even in the U.S., where gas prices are expected to rebound to a point where they cover the cost of extraction, UNEP says. At present, this is true only of a minority of wind projects – those that use the most efficient turbines in locations with superior wind resources.
Such is just the latest in a long list of false hopes, exaggeration, and falsified promises from the industrial wind lobby. They present half-truths, white lies, and falsehoods to get taxpayer/ratepayer subsidies, and then warn against losing jobs to try to keep the government largesse going.
The same will be true in the future, as it has been in the past. Such is the inherent fate of dilute energy that is higher cost and intermittent, requiring blending with dense, reliable energy.
Back to the E&E News piece, here is more angst from the proponents of extending the PTC:
Wind farm developers generally say they have placed few, if any, turbine orders for next year because of uncertainty over the PTC’s fate, and several companies have already announced plans to cancel or suspend projects that already have been in development.
Just this week, developer Gamesa canceled a 30-turbine project in Pennsylvania, the third project cancellation in that state in less than a month, following Iberdrola Renewables’ decision in May to abandon two planned wind farms, according to press reports. Also last month, Invenergy delayed until at least 2015 plans for a 15- to 18-turbine wind farm in Roanoke, Va., citing uncertainty around the production tax credit.
NRG Systems, which manufactures turbine components, announced last month it would lay off 18 employees to reduce its work force to 100, with the company’s CEO saying at the time that the decision was required in the face of a “deeply unstable” industry.
“The constant threat of expiration of the PTC is an example of how government can negatively impact the private sector. … And the slowdown in the wind sector because of the games that Congress is playing with the PTC should serve as a canary in the coal mine for the broader economy,” said Joshua Freed, who directs the clean energy program at the centrist think tank Third Way.
Time is of the essence because of the 12- to 18-month lead time wind farms require before they can become operational and begin generating the tax benefits, industry sources say. Even if the credit is extended in November or December, industry representatives predict a significant downturn in 2013 compared to what is expected to be a banner year for turbine deployment this year.
The good news? Resources wasted in the wind sector can be redeployed in the resource-needy oil and gas sector! To wit: Dear Wind Industry: We Need Your Workers and Materials (and taxpayers need your cessation).
The environmental importance of a market economy
Vuk picks up on an important point about the Soviet economy of old. Growth in that economy was almost entirely a matter of greater inputs into the economy. This is a strategy that clearly runs out of steam when you've no more inputs to add: and run out of steam that sort of economy did. But we can take this argument further, as Paul Krugman did when examining the Japanese economy of the 80s and 90s. Here.
How, then, have today's advanced nations been able to achieve sustained growth in per capita income over the past 150 years? The answer is that technological advances have led to a continual increase in total factor productivity--a continual rise in national income for each unit of input. In a famous estimate, MIT Professor Robert Solow concluded that technological progress has accounted for 80 percent of the long-term rise in U.S. per capita income, with increased investment in capital explaining only the remaining 20 percent....()......But what they actually found was that Soviet growth was based on rapid--growth in inputs--end of story. The rate of efficiency growth was not only unspectacular, it was well below the rates achieved in Western economies. Indeed, by some estimates, it was virtually nonexistent.
What it boils down to uis that it is the strictures of the market that lead to that greater efficiency and technological progress. William Baumol has noted the reason why: either system can create the inventions, make the new technology. But only a market based system gives the freedom to experiment with it to increase that efficiency and then, as others become more efficient, that impetus for others to adopt in order not to go bankrupt.
The most important lesson of which in modern terms is for the various greens and environmentalists. If you really do want an economy in which resource use is reduced then you really do need to have a market economy. For planned ones just aren't any good at increasing efficiency: efficiency meaning here a reduction in resource use for any given level of output.
And when I meet, if I ever do, another environmentalist like me who argues for the free market precisely because it is environmentally sound to do so I shall rejoice. Until then, looking at the greens that we do have I can only consider them with horror. Why is it that they continually argue for policies like planning so inimical to their actual desire, reduced resource use?
Mr. Smoot vs. the Smart Meter: “Underground movement” goes mainstream
On Thursday the battle against mandatory Smart Meter deployment was taken up by the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's popular Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber.
Lieber covered background on what he called an "underground movement" against Smart Meters, reported on the current state of affairs and gave precise information on how and where to send comments to the PUC in his article, "Give Texas Public Utility Commission your opinion on smart electric meters."
Nationwide attention like this coupled with attacks on their profits are making public utilities pay attention. Yes, attacks on their profits.
Like computer geeks who hack into their high school's computer and change their failing grade to an A, people are hacking their own Smart Meters, and other people's meters for profit, changing the settings so the meters report lower usage than is actually being consumed.
According to KrebsOnSecurity.com, this can be done "using software that can be downloaded from the Internet and it "may have cost a single US electric utility hundreds of millions of dollars annually."
While libertarians would never condone theft of services this may be the one issue that will finally get the attention of America's corporatist-statist monopolist electric utility companies and make them pause in their headlong rush to deploy their not-so-smart meters on the nation's not-so-smart electric grid.
Certainly customer complaints about inaccurate readings, health and safety concerns, radiofrequency interference and privacy issues haven't deterred them a bit here in North Texas.
On June 4 Cindy Carriger of RefuseSmartMeters told the Dallas Libertarian Examiner, "I was called back by Oncor and they assured me there is no opt-out list or waiting list."
Neither the Ft. Worth resident code-named Mr. Smoot (his name is an acronym for Smart Meter Opt Out Texan) nor the Dallas Libertarian Examiner received any reply to their inquiries.
(And sure enough, Installer Number 5 knocked on Smoot's door even as this article was being written.)
Carriger continued the pressure. On June 5 she organized a meeting in Bedford which was attended by several dozen concerned citizens and one Dallas Morning News reporter/photographer who posted his article that evening.
That story quotes what is apparently the first Texas politician, Sen. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, to demand legislation "requiring utilities to allow customers to decline a Smart Meter" if the PUC doesn't set up an opt-out program "pronto."
No longer can detractors call Smart Meter resisters conspiracy nuts. It's mainstream now.
“Sustainable justice” = redistribution of SCARCITY
The UN Rio+20 agenda means less freedom, happiness, true justice and human rights progress
Presidential candidate Barack Obama promised that his Administration would “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” He gave a clue to exactly what he had in mind when he told now-congressional candidate Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher: “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
Not necessarily – especially when activists, regulators, politicians and ruling elites do all they can to ensure there is less and less wealth to spread around.
Just this week, the Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives released a new report to the United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit on Sustainable Development. The executive summary of No Future Without Justice begins with the heading, “The World Is in Need of Fundamental Change.” The document then offers “solutions,” which include “universal fiscal equalization” and a “massive and absolute decoupling of well-being from resource extraction and consumption.”
The 18-member Group includes no Americans – but condemns the US and other governments for their dedication to economic growth, rather than wealth redistribution, and demands that governments play a key role in promoting “sustainability” and welfare. They insist that all governments provide universal access to public health care, guaranteed state allowances for every child, guaranteed state support for the unemployed and underemployed, and basic universal pensions and universal social security.
It is, in short, the total nanny state – but with little or no resource extraction or economic growth to support it. In other words, it guarantees sustained injustice and redistribution of increasing scarcity.
The Group admits that human civilization “will still need some form of growth in large parts of the world, to expand the frontiers of maximum available resources for poor countries.” However, the massive investments needed to shift to a totally renewable energy and resource-based economy will require “massive de-growth (shrinkage) of products, sectors and activities that do not pass the sustainability test” – as devised by them, affiliated organizations and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Key financial support for the push toward “sustainability” includes a “greener” and “more progressive” tax system featuring a financial transaction tax, abolition of subsidies for all but renewable energy, cutting military spending while dramatically increasing “stimulus” spending, a compensation scheme to pay off “climate debts” to poor countries supposedly impacted by hydrocarbon-driven climate change, a new regulatory framework for financial markets, a financial product safety commission, and still more regulations for hedge funds and private equity funds. The Group also demands public control of financial rating agencies and a government takeover of international accounting standards.
To ensure that “sustainable development” permeates every aspect of society, the Group proposes a new “Sherpa” for Sustainability (with cabinet rank), a parliamentary committee on policy coherence for sustainability, a UN Sustainability Council, a Universal Periodic Review on Sustainability, and an Ombudsman for Intergenerational Justice and Future Generations. It also proposes an International Panel on Sustainability that builds on the “success” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Of course, guiding all this would be the world’s premiere political body and bastion of freedom, fairness, democracy and human rights – the UN General Assembly.
To guide this “fundamental” shift toward the sustainability paradigm, the Group laid down eight principles – the key being the “precautionary principle,” which forbids any activity that might involve risk or “do harm.” Its own sustainability prescriptions are, of course, exempted from any reviews under the precautionary principle.
The objective, they state, is to build economies that drastically limit carbon emissions, energy consumption, primary resource extraction, waste generation, and air and water pollution. Society must also stop the asserted and computer-modeled loss of species and ruination of ecosystems.
All this naturally will require mandatory changes in consumption patterns and lifestyles (at least for the common folk), and the recognition that work (unlike capital) is not a production factor. Indeed, says the Group, work is not even a commodity. Moreover, only “decent” work qualifies under the sustainability paradigm. (While “decent work” is never defined, it presumably includes backbreaking sunup-to-sundown labor at subsistence farming, which under the Group’s agenda would be called “traditional” or “organic” farming and would not be replaced by modern mechanized agriculture.)
What is the source of all of this gobbledygook? Agenda 21, the centerpiece of the original Rio Earth Summit – which is being perpetuated, refined and redefined at parallel proceedings in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, while the main sustainability discussions are ongoing in Rio de Janeiro.
Agenda 21 states, for example, that “achieving the goals of environmental quality and sustainable development will require ... changes in consumption patterns.” This too would be achieved under UN auspices because, as Earth Summit creator Maurice Strong has explained, the days of national sovereignty are over, and the world needs to embrace a system of wealth transfer to ensure environmental security.
In short, “sustainable development” is a system that requires a redefinition of business activity, away from the pursuit of personal profit – and of government activity, away from the pursuit of individual happiness and justice – and toward the pursuit of societal good, as defined by activists and the UN.
Simply put, as Brian Sussman points out in his new book, Eco-Tyranny, the ultimate goal of those who endorse the sustainability paradigm is to expunge “the most precious” rights expressed in the American Declaration of Independence: “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
The Agenda 21 and sustainability paradigm also rejects and undermines Adam Smith’s belief that mankind’s natural tendency toward self-interest, profit and self-improvement results in greater prosperity, opportunity, health, welfare and justice for all.
Most of all, the UN/Maurice Strong/ Civil Society Reflection Group vision is merely the latest embodiment of Plato’s Republic. Under Plato’s thesis, an educated, elite, but benevolent and mythical, ruling class acts on the belief that its self-appointed philosopher kings have all the right answers, and do not require the Consent of the Governed. The rest of humanity must fall into lockstep or face the consequences; however the results will be exemplary.
Unfortunately, as Alexander Hamilton observed, men are not angels. Moreover, it defies experience and common sense to suppose that the elitist UN, UNEP and environmental activist community will ever display wisdom detached from ardent ideology – or benevolence toward the humans they seek to govern.
Are fatties starving the poor?
The familiar zero-sum game fallacy
Overweight people are a threat to future food security and increasing population fatness could have the same implications for world food demands as an extra billion people, researchers have found.
Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined the average weight of adults across the globe and said tackling population weight was crucial for food security and ecological sustainability.
The United Nations predicts that by 2050 there could be a further 2.3 billion people on the planet and that the ecological implications of the rising population numbers will be exacerbated by increases in average body mass.
The world's adult population weighs 287 million tonnes, 15 million tonnes of which is due to being overweight and 3.5 million tonnes to obesity, according to the study, which is to be published in BMC Public Health.
The data, collected from the UN and the World Health Organisation, shows that while the average global weight per person is 62 kilograms in 2005, Britons weighed 75 kilograms. In the US, the average adult weighed 81 kilograms. Across Europe, the average was 70.8 kilograms compared with just 57.7 kilograms in Asia.
More than half of people living in Europe are overweight compared with only 24.2 per cent of Asian people. Almost three-quarters of people living in North America are overweight.
Researchers predict that if all people had the same average body mass index as Americans, the total human biomass would increase by 58 million tonnes.
The authors of the study say the energy requirement of humans depends not only on numbers but average mass.
"Increasing biomass will have important implications for global resource requirements, including food demand and the overall ecological footprint of our species," they wrote.
"Although the concept of biomass is rarely applied to the human species, the ecological implications of increasing body mass are significant and ought to be taken into account when evaluating future trends and planning for future resource challenges. Tackling population fatness may be critical to world food security and ecological sustainability."
Professor Ian Roberts, who led the research at LSHTM, said: "Everyone accepts that population growth threatens global environmental sustainability - our study shows that population fatness is also a major threat."
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