Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Liz Truss Appoints A Climate Skeptic As Energy Secretary

Britain appointed lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has expressed scepticism about the need to fight ‘climate change’ as the new business secretary, raising concerns that he could delay the target of reducing net zero emissions by 2050.

Rees-Mogg, nicknamed “the honorable gentleman from the 18th century” because of his poshness and trademark double-breasted suit, was on Tuesday put in charge of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is responsible for the government’s strategy on ‘climate change’.

In the past, Rees-Mogg has expressed concerns about “climate alarmism”, said humanity should adapt to, rather than mitigate, ‘climate change’, and warned that the drive to getting to net zero emissions is responsible for high energy prices.

After his appointment, Rees Mogg said his priority would be to provide help for people dealing with sharply higher energy bills and that the government will soon bring forward a package to help the public.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss has backed the (unfortunately) legally binding target of reducing net zero ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions by the middle of this century, but has supported scrapping green levies and bringing back fracking if there is local support.

One contentious issue facing Rees-Mogg is providing a clear and settled policy environment for business after successive Conservative governments have produced energy and industrial strategies that were abandoned just a few years later.

The 2017 Industrial Strategy, which aspired to make Britain the world’s most innovative economy, was abolished by Rees-Mogg’s predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng in 2021, who said it was a “pudding without a theme”.

British business leaders told Reuters they need certainty to underpin investment and expressed scepticism Rees-Mogg will be able to provide that assurance.

One British business leader said that Rees Mogg, who embraces his image as an English gentleman, “was more in tune with the Industrial Revolution than the digital revolution”.

Rees-Mogg, 53, the current minister for Brexit opportunities, has pushed to force all civil servants back to the office, which was dubbed by former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries as “Dickensian”.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously backed Rees-Mogg’s campaign. Johnson’s spokesman said everything needed to be done to get government officials to return to their normal office working environments after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The son of a former editor of The Times newspaper, Rees-Mogg was raised by his nanny – who now looks after his own six children – and then studied at Eton, an exclusive private school, and Oxford University, where he studied history.

Rees-Mogg joined J. Rothschild investment management in 1991, focusing on emerging markets, and later worked in Hong Kong. He then set up his own asset management company.

Since entering politics in 2010, Rees Mogg lobbied for a purist vision of Brexit and was appointed Leader of the House of Commons in 2019 in his first ministerial job.


CA Spends $54B to Fight Climate Change With ‘No Realistic Plan’

The California State legislature voted to spend $54 billion to fight climate change even though one expert has said “there’s no realistic plan for implementation.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom pushed the deal in the legislature, CalMatters reported, with only about three weeks left in the session.

The package of bills will prevent the state’s last nuclear power plant from closing, add new restrictions on oil and gas drilling, and require the state to no longer add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045.

The Golden State will have to cut emissions at least 85 percent by 2045 and offset the rest of the emissions by planting trees or “using still-unproven technologies like direct air capture, which collects gasses after they’ve already been discharged into the atmosphere,” The New York Times reported.

But the state isn’t even on track to meet its 2030 goals, according to Danny Cullenward, policy director at CarbonPlan, a nonprofit group that evaluates climate programs.

He said regulators in the state were holding out hope that a cap-and-trade program that imposes a ceiling on emissions from large polluters would work but hasn’t.

“If these new targets force state regulators to go back to the drawing board and come up with a credible new plan to cut emissions, that’s great,” Mr. Cullenward said, The NYT reported. “But in my view they still don’t have a realistic plan for implementation, and that’s the most important part.”

Among the $54 billion in spending is $6.1 billion for electric vehicles, $14.8 billion for transit and rail projects, more than $8 billion to clean up the electric grid, $2.7 billion to fight wildfires, and $2.8 billion in water programs to help the state deal with drought, The Times reported.


Scientists hope to feed primary school children edible insects to make the UK greener

Children are to be fed bugs as part of a plan to get a new generation to switch from meat to insects – and potentially persuade their parents to follow their lead.

Pupils at four primary schools in Wales are to be offered insects to eat as part of a project to gauge children’s appetite for “alternative protein” such as crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms.

Researchers hope their findings will give clues as to how best educate children on the environmental and nutritional benefits of edible insects across the UK, and potentially overseas – and, in turn, their parents, as the world looks to help the environment by cutting meat consumption.

The project, which starts this week, will use surveys, workshops, interviews and focus groups to explore young people’s understandings and experiences of alternative proteins.

The researchers have teamed up with teachers and hope many of the five to 11 year old’s in the study will be willing to taste some edible insects to see how they find them.

“We want the children to think about alternative proteins as real things for now, rather than just as foods for the future, so trying some of these foods is central to the research,” said Christopher Bear, of Cardiff University.

“Although edible insects are – for now – not sold widely in the UK, they form part of the diet of around 2 billion people worldwide. Much of this is in parts of the world where they are part of long-standing culinary traditions. And they are increasingly popular elsewhere,” he said.

The researchers stress that they will not be forcing children to eat insects.

But they hope to be able to offer a range of alternative proteins to try, if children wish to do so, as long as they have written parental consent.

These will include plant-based foods and may involve edible insects, depending on whether they have received ‘novel foods’ approval by the Food Standards Agency by that point.

They hope to offer them a product called VeXo, which combines insect- and plant-based proteins.

A 2020 study estimated that 9 million European consumers had eaten insects in 2019, and forecast that this would increase to 390 million by 2030, according to the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), the insect production charity.

They have been promoted by organisations such as the United Nations for their potential environmental and nutritional benefits, and as a potential contributor to global food security, Dr Bear pointed out.

Carl Evans, Headteacher of Roch Community Primary School in Pembrokeshire, which is taking part in the project, said: “There is an important connection between our local community, food production and wider global issues surrounding sustainable development.”

“These issues are important to children, but also difficult to make sense of and can often be confusing for them,” he added.

Verity Jones, of the University of the West of England in Bristol and who is also involved in the study, has previous experience of children and edible insects. She is confident they can be a powerful force for changing their parents’ behaviour in this matter.

“Many children have the power of pester, so in some cases can be great agents of dietary change within the family,” she said, adding that bits of insects find their way into many of the foods we eat daily.

“Everyone eats insects everyday – there’s over 30 parts of bugs in every 100g of chocolate … bread, fruit juices, hops … you name it, you’re eating insects,” she said.

“And I have found that, once children know that insects are already, by the very nature of processing, in many of the foods we eat; and are assured that they won’t become ill from eating them, they are very open to trying,” she said – although in most cases they are much happier eating them ground up than entire insects.

“All research, for adults and children, indicates whole insects are off-putting, but ground-up insects within foods are very acceptable. No one likes the idea of having a crunchy bit of wing or antenna between their teeth. But, in fact, children were more likely to choose food containing edible insects over usual meat products on a matter of sustainable credentials if given the option,” she said.

“Children can be squeamish, just like adults – but my previous research found that it’s all in the preparation and prior knowledge. If children are aware of where they are from, that they won’t make them ill, that they are actually healthy and in lots of food already (though in tiny amounts), this reduces the yuk factor and normalises it a bit more.”

“My research indicates, as with adults, that boys are more likely to be up for trying the new foods first – but overall both boys and girls seem to be willing to have a go in equal measure,” she said.

Many edible insects are rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients and have a much lower environmental impact per kilogram than meat.

Mealworms, for example, produce less than 1 per cent as much greenhouse gas as cows and about 10 per cent of a pig’s smaller carbon hoof print. House crickets polluted even less, according to a study in the journal PLoS ONE.

Another study, in the journal of Cleaner Production, found that insect farms emit 75 per cent less carbon and use half as much water as poultry farms, per kg.

Consumers in the UK have shown an increased demand for healthy, sustainable diets, with a focus on reducing traditional meat products such as beef and chicken.

A recent study by the Finder research group found that over seven million adults in the UK follow a meat-free diet and a further six million intended to shift to vegetarian or vegan diets.


Renewables push won’t bring down Australian power prices any time soon

Last week in parliament, Anthony Albanese attempted to explain how electricity prices were determined in this country: “It is not real­ly rocket science. You don’t need an economics degree … to know that if the market changes from a more expensive level of energy to a cheaper level of energy, you get cheaper energy prices … That is why (Australians) got solar panels on their roofs.”

It may as well be rocket science for the Prime Minister because he clearly doesn’t understand how electricity prices are set or the irrelevance of the example of the installation of small-scale solar panels by households.

It is the case that households are subsidised to install rooftop solar panels, with the precise arrangements varying from state to state. They are then further subsidised through generous feed-in tariffs for any surplus electricity that is fed back into the grid. These subventions are paid for by taxpayers and other electricity consumers without solar panels.

The households that got in early have done the best, with some of the most generous deals being grandfathered by state governments. Those that have taken up the offer to install solar panels recently have done less well. After taking account of the capital expenditure and the fact panels don’t last very long and can be unreliable, they offer a reasonable but not excessive return.

Most households with solar panels remain connected to the grid: after all, the sun goes down and there can be cloudy and wet days. While some have invested in small battery storage, this is an expensive option, although it is further subsidised in some juris­dic­tions such as South Australia.

Electricity retailers charge a service charge as well as a tariff based on usage. Across time, we should expect this service charge to grow proportionately as the penetration of solar panels increases further. In effect, this is the option price for customers for remaining connected to the grid. Albanese is correct that Australians have been encouraged to install solar panels because of the possibility of saving money on their bills. Where he is astray is to think this is an efficient way to reduce emissions as part of a climate change policy.

Abatement costs per tonne of CO2 are very high for these sorts of small-scale efforts relative to all other measures. And these types of subsidies are a case of Robin Hood in reverse – wealthier households with their own freestanding homes are effectively subsidised by other households, including renters and those living in apartments.

Let me return to how electricity prices are determined in the national electricity market, which links five states and the ACT. Albanese is adamant “renewables are the cheapest form of new energy” and “that we stand by our modelling”. But electricity is not like the market for most goods. Shifting up the supply curve at certain times of the day won’t necessarily reduce the overall price paid by consumers. Supply must meet demand at all times, 24 hours a day, every day. It is the marginal supplier that determines the price at any point, with suppliers bidding into the market and the operator ensuring the market clears.

What has emerged recently, as the penetration of large-scale renewable energy has risen, is large variations in the wholesale price of electricity across the day. On sunny and windy days, the price can be low, sometime negative, during the day, but the price shoots up at night when the sun sets and the wind often dies down. At this point, renewable energy is not useful and only reliable or firming generation (coal, gas, hydro) can be used to meet demand.

Another feature of the electricity market is that these diurnal variations in the price undermine the economics of firming generation, particularly coal. Because coal-fired plants operate on a continuous basis, the losses they incur during the day need to be offset by profits made at other times for them to stay in business. But with many plants ageing and the price of coal rising steeply, the likely effect of more renewable energy is to hasten the exit of plants, which puts upward pressure on electricity prices. Indeed, the higher the penetration of renewable energy, the greater the increase in prices unless new reasonably priced firming capacity quickly enters the market.

Californians are struggling to escape a scorching heatwave, as the state's power grid operator raised an…
Gas-peaking plants are an obvious answer but the price of gas is high and rising.

It is why there is much discussion and some investment in large-scale batteries. The trouble is that we have not reached the point of achieving economic, long-duration batteries – they can provide power for only a few hours. Given the shortage of minerals needed for construction of these batteries, the outlook for batteries to counterbalance the inherent intermittency of renewable energy is highly uncertain.

It is also why the Snowy 2.0 project is important because it provides a substantial source of storage that can be used to firm supply. But the costs and timeline of this project have blown out and 2027 looks like the earliest starting date. While there are investigations being initiated on other possible pumped-hydro projects, they are unlikely to make any difference for years.

The federal government also is placing much store by additional investment in transmission as a way of connecting far-flung renewable energy projects to the grid and potentially adding to the reliability of renewables generation. There are numerous problems with this solution, including that regulated transmission lines earn a guaranteed rate of return for owners and the price of transmission simply flows to consumers. Transmission and distribution costs amount to 40 per cent of the retail price, with the wholesale price another 25 per cent and the remainder mainly the retail margin.

The bottom line is our Prime Minister, even with his economics degree, has a lot to learn about electricity prices. The average wholesale price in the June quarter was triple the level of a year ago and the Australian Energy Regulator predicts prices will stay high for years. Retail customers are about to be hit with much higher bills. Elsewhere, the higher the penetration of renewable energy, the higher are electricity prices: think Denmark and California.

Albanese and Energy Minister Chris Bowen quickly need to walk back from their pledge that average household electricity bills will fall by $275 a year. It also would be useful if they acknowledged that pushing more renewable energy into the system as well as subsidising unpopular new transmission lines are not magic bullets. State energy ministers should take note.


My other blogs. Main ones below

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM )

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


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