Monday, October 24, 2022

MPs kill UK fracking prospects in huge gift to Putin

London, 20 October - Opposition and conservative rebel MPs have been accused of acting against the national interest by ringing the death knell for Britain’s shale gas prospects in the near to medium future.

While a majority of MPs last night voted against Labour’s motion to introduce a ban on fracking, it is now clear that no company will risk investing in the development of UK shale gas projects given that the next government is almost certain to pull the plug.

By killing the chances of exploiting Britain’s massive shale gas resources, anti-fracking MPs have caused significant economic damage while ensuring that the UK’s energy cost and supply crisis will get worse in coming years.

In the absence of Russian gas supplies, European countries will face an even worse energy crisis next winter after they have depleted gas they have stored for this winter, the International Energy Agency has warned.

While anti-fracking MPs don’t seem to realise the severity and existential threat of the energy crisis to households and businesses they have simply deferred the inevitable: There can be little doubt that at some point UK shale gas will have to be explored as the energy cost crisis threatens to devastate Britain’s economy and industry.

Net Zero Watch director Dr Benny Peiser said:

"The evident failure to embrace fracking is destroying the most promising chances of enhancing Britain’s energy security while driving up energy costs. MPs have been playing into the hands of Vladimir Putin as Britain will now be forced to rely more and more on costly gas imports rather than its massive shale resources.

If the Westminster bubble think the current economic and political crisis is bad, they are in for a shock next year when energy bills go through the roof and businesses go under."


Dr Benny Peiser
Director, Net Zero Watch
m: 07553 361717

Net Zero Bombshell: The World Does Not Have Enough Lithium and Cobalt to Replace All Batteries Every 10 Years

Influential elites are either in denial about the horrifying costs and consequences of Net Zero – witness last Wednesday’s substantial vote against fracking British gas in the House of Commons – or busy scooping up the almost unlimited amounts of money currently on offer for promoting pseudoscience climate scares and investing in impracticable green technologies. Until the lights start to go out and heating fails, they are unlikely to pay much attention to a recent 1,000 page alternative energy investigation undertaken for a Finnish Government agency by Associate Professor Simon Michaux. Referring to the U.K.’s 2050 Net Zero target, Michaux states there is “simply not enough time, nor resources to do this by the current target”.

To cite just one example of how un-costed Net Zero is, Michaux notes that “in theory” there are enough global reserves of nickel and lithium if they are exclusively used to produce batteries for electric vehicles. But there is not enough cobalt, and more will need to be discovered. It gets much worse. All the new batteries have a useful working life of only 8-10 years, so replacements will need to be regularly produced. “This is unlikely to be practical, which suggests the whole EV battery solution may need to be re-thought and a new solution is developed that is not so mineral intensive,” he says.

All of these problems occur in finding a mass of lithium for ion batteries weighting 286.6 million tonnes. But a “power buffer” of another 2.5 billion tonnes of batteries is also required to provide a four-week back-up for intermittent wind and solar electricity power. Of course, this is simply not available from global mineral reserves, but, states Michaux, it is not clear how the buffer could be delivered with an alternative system.

Michaux sounds a clear warning message. Current expectations are that global industrial businesses will replace a complex industrial energy ecosystem that took more than a century to build. It was built with the support of the highest calorifically dense source of energy the world has ever known (oil), in cheap abundant quantities, with easily available credit and seemingly unlimited mineral resources. The replacement, he notes, needs to be done when there is comparatively very expensive energy, a fragile finance system saturated in debt and not enough minerals. Most challenging of all, it has to be done within a few decades. Based on his copious calculations, the author is of the opinion that it will not go fully “as planned”.

Last Sunday, Sir David Attenborough concluded six episodes of pseudoscientific green agitprop Frozen Planet II by demanding that the world embrace Net Zero, “no matter how challenging it may be”. Net Zero is a political command-and-control project, the full horror of which is yet to be inflicted on the general population. Michaux is quite clear what it entails: “What may be required, therefore, is a significant reduction of societal demand for all resources, of all kinds. This implies a very different social contract and a radically different system of governance to what is in place today.”

Of course, a radically different system of government is available in the People’s Republic of China, but here the position on Net Zero is a tad more nuanced. Having lifted about a billion people out of starving poverty in the last 40 years and become the workshop for an increasingly complacent western world – all powered by fossil fuel – the cause does not seem so pressing. Speaking to the Communist Party Congress earlier this week, President Xi Jinping sounded a note of caution and said “prudence” would govern China’s efforts to peak and eventually zero-out carbon emissions. All of this would be in line with the principle of “getting the new before discarding the old”.

Meanwhile, China’s coal production is reported to have reached record levels, while the Congress was told that oil and gas exploration will be expanded as part of measures to ensure “energy security”.

Michaux points out that nearly 85% of world energy comes from fossil fuel. By his calculations, the annual global capacity of non-fossil electrical power will need to quadruple to 37,670.6 TWh. In a recent report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), Professor Michael Kelly estimates that the U.K. electricity grid would have to expand by 2.7 times. This will involve adding capacity at eight times the rate it has been added over the last 30 years. If calculations are made for the need to rewire homes, streets, local substations and powerlines to carry the new capacity, the extra cost will be nearly £1 trillion.

In another recent GWPF paper, the energy writer John Constable warned that the European Green Deal seems all but certain to break Europe’s economic and socio-political power, “rendering it a trivial and incapable backwater, reliant on – and subservient to – superior powers”.

History provides us with many examples of weak, or weakened, tribes being overrun by stronger tribes. In the animal kingdom it is known as natural evolution. A 96-year old ‘national treasure’ preaches we have to pay any price to satisfy the new cult of the green god. Better costed and more rational views are available.


Global Climate Summit Is Heading for a Geopolitical Hurricane

The last time world leaders got together for a climate summit, the backdrop was thoroughly menacing. A pandemic had decimated national budgets. Poor countries were up in arms over the hoarding of Covid-19 vaccines by the same wealthy nations whose fossil fuel consumption did most to warm the planet. Relations between the two largest emitters, the US and China, had devolved into zero sum skirmishes over everything from trade to Taiwan.

Those were the good old days.

As Egypt prepares to stage COP27, the geopolitical context that shapes all international diplomacy has gone from tense to precarious. The war in Ukraine has divided nations over what some saw as a fight between Russian and Western interests, and supercharged an energy crisis that risks shredding COP26’s most concrete achievement: a global consensus to cut down on coal.

As COP26 approached, falling prices for renewable energy seemed to have forced a reckoning for the dirtiest of fossil fuels. The final text of the summit included calls for a “phasedown” of coal power from any plant that doesn’t capture its carbon and an end to “inefficient” subsidies for fossil fuel. A year later, rampant energy price inflation has combined with a protracted energy crunch to revive demand for coal and put subsidies for fuel of any kind back on political agendas.

“COP27 is to be convened while the international community is facing a financial and debt crisis, an energy-prices crisis, a food crisis, and on top of them the climate crises,” says Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry, who’s also the conference’s president. “In light of the current geopolitical situation, it seems that transition will take longer than anticipated.”

The UK wrapped up its ­hosting duties at COP26 with a claim to have kept alive the Paris Agreement’s goal of capping warming at 1.5C above preindustrial levels. Those gains have now been at best stalled or at worst reversed by the wartime logic brought on by the invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has turned Europe’s energy spigot into an economic weapon in response to sanctions, and major developed economies faced with suddenly scarce natural gas supplies are racing to open up old coal-fired power stations.

The European Union voted in July to reclassify natural gas — in addition to nuclear power — as a climate-friendly fuel, improving prospects for investment.

The boost to fossil fuels may well prove temporary. The imperative for Europe to end its dependency on imported gas to heat homes and power industries has never been so clear. At the same time, the sheer cost of gas—as high as 10 times pre-crisis levels—should create a ­powerful incentive to look for alternatives, and the cheapest option will often be solar or wind power. US President Joe Biden has passed one of the most significant pieces of climate legislation to date. That will only accelerate on-the-ground growth in renewables, which already outpaces the expansion of power generation as a whole.

Yet it’s far from a given that either the war or the recent U-turn toward fossil fuels will be a blip. Now that Russia is intensifying its war effort with a recently announced mobilization, the race is on to lease or build new liquefied natural gas terminals all around Europe. If the continent with the most geopolitical pride in its climate commitments is backsliding, it doesn’t bode well for progress at Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh beach resort.

“There doesn’t need to be any more debate about gas,” Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua, the minister of hydrocarbons of the Republic of Congo, declared in September at an oil and gas conference that included Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea-Conakry. “We need to start producing as much as we can now.” Other African officials at the event echoed this up-with-­fossil-fuel sentiment.

“A lot of countries now say it is hypocritical” to call for forcing out dirty energy sources, says Bill Hare, chief executive and senior scientist for Climate Analytics, a Berlin-headquartered think-tank. “So you are seeing this really big push to renovate oil and gas projects that have been on the back burner for years in Africa and Australia, far exceeding the level required for the European gas crisis.”

For every renewable producer pressing the case for an accelerated transition, Hare sees a traditional energy company urging investment in a time of crisis. “I have rarely seen such a concerted effort by the oil and gas industry to, in one way or another, push back against the climate agenda,” he says.

Al Gore, the former US vice president and climate activist, warned late last month, that it was essential for governments to avoid signing long-term contracts for fossil fuels in a rush to plug short-term gaps caused by Russia’s war. Subsidies that support fossil fuel use doubled from 2020’s Covid-induced low, to 2021, and continue to rise sharply this year, according to a September report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an inter-governmental think tank in Paris.

There are other thorny issues that will be discussed at this year's climate summit, the first to be hosted by an African country in six years. Egypt is planning to focus this year’s COP meeting on how developing nations can get funding to adapt to rising temperatures and finance the transition to green energy. It’s also prioritizing loss and damage, a term for compensation for nations that did little to release greenhouse gases but are on the front lines of its effects.

Money to help less-developed nations mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change is still missing. Rich countries had agreed to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 and have fallen short by billions of dollars, pushing the target back to 2023. The Egyptian hosts are contending with inflation that spiked to 15% at the end of September from 5.9% at the start of the year. The national budget is being consumed by the need to provide basic food necessities, widening the current-account deficit in the first three months of this year by more than half, to ­$5.8 billion.

Shoukry wants COP27 to agree on additional sums to be transferred from rich to poor nations after 2025. The latest estimates to finance developing nations’ climate goals are in the scale of $6 trillion through 2030, according to the OECD. But with rich and poor economies alike grappling with rising inflation, falling revenue, and often political upheaval, finding that kind of money looks more difficult by the day. Shoukry acknowledged those concerns and called on governments to rise to the financial challenge, as they did during the pandemic.

Preliminary meetings held earlier this year in Bonn to discuss technical issues ahead of COP27 already saw flare-ups between the rich and poor camps, in particular over loss and damage. Those tensions are likely to be in evidence again at Sharm El-Sheikh.

“Rich nations have exploited and reaped the economic benefits of fossil fuels for decades,” says Gabriel Obiang Lima, Equatorial Guinea’s oil minister, describing calls on Africa to hold back on using hydrocarbons as simply unfair. “Now is our time to develop and monetize our resources, and developed countries should understand.”


Australia's collapsing electricity system

Climate catastrophists are very keen to talk about tipping points. So let me steal their thunder and talk about the tipping point of the National Electricity Market (NEM) that connects five states and the ACT.

We were given a preview of the potential for collapse earlier this year when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) suspended the market and took control as a last resort. Don’t think for a minute that this exercise was costless. There was an ex-post settling up with the companies ordered to provide power, adding several hundred million dollars to the escalating electricity bill that is then divvied up between households and businesses.

It’s worth pointing out here the ineptitude of AEMO. Most of us thought its leadership couldn’t get any worse than the now replaced American lawyer, Audrey Zibelman. (She left to join Google). But the current chief executive, Daniel Westerman, is even more committed to decarbonisation than Audrey, who at least placed a great deal of store on keeping the lights on.

Note here that there is a very small pool of potential candidates for this job – virtually all of them are big supporters of renewable energy. Because the states effectively own the NEM, they decide who gets the job. In other words, any reservation that the Coalition minister, Angus Taylor, might have had about this appointment would have made little difference.

The totally unbelievable modelling that AEMO puts out – see the latest Integrated System Plan – is a classic case of garbage in-garbage out. The assumptions ensure that there is no problem with the electricity grid quickly transforming to being almost totally reliant on renewable energy. In particular, heroic (and convenient) guesses are made about the average capacity factors of wind and solar – much higher than actual data from overseas – as well as the likelihood of lengthy periods in which wind and solar won’t work at all.

But when it comes to grid management, it’s not just about averages but also about catering for the tails of distributions – unlikely events but with potentially serious consequences. A grid cannot be deemed robust unless it is able to provide reliable power in these circumstances.

The alternative approach that AEMO uses is to hope these unusual events won’t occur but, in any case, some new affordable technology will miraculously emerge that should eliminate any problems. The more cautious approach to ensure continuous power is to insist that firming capacity is available on a 1:1 ratio – that is, enough firming capacity to fully stand in place of renewable energy for potentially lengthy periods. Needless to say, this redundancy makes the system very expensive, which is one of the reasons why higher electricity prices are inevitable.

Absent a capacity mechanism – the states won’t agree – and the ongoing early exit of 24/7 coal-fired plants, the NEM is becoming extraordinarily fragile. Where once it was extremely uncommon for AEMO to intervene in the daily operations of the grid, it is now a frequent occurrence. Further pressure will be felt with the closure of the Liddell coal-fired plant next year – at its peak, it had a capacity of 2000 megawatts.

Just three years later, the coal-fired and largest power plant in Australia, Origin Energy’s Eraring plant, is expected to close. Its current capacity is close to 3000 MW and supplies a quarter of New South Wales’ electricity demand. (It’s likely that the NSW government will have to step in to ensure that this plant continues to operate, in a deal akin to the secret arrangement that the Victorian government has with Energy Australia in respect of the Yallourn plant.)

The extremely badly run AGL Energy, egged on by major shareholder, Mike Cannon-Brookes (who holds just over 11 per cent of the registry), has announced that it will shut its coal-fired plant in Victoria – Loy Yang A – ten years earlier than expected, in 2035. This plant has a capacity of over 2000 MW, which is 30 per cent of Victoria’s demand. Not only is this plant relatively new but it also runs off brown coal for which there is no export potential. What this means is that a relatively low-cost input is guaranteed for this plant.

The broader point to be made is that the hastened exit of coal from the NEM – I haven’t mentioned that Queensland expects to be out of coal-fired generation by 2035 – should be ringing serious alarm bells right now. But if anything, the federal Climate Change and Energy Minister, Chris Bowen, seems to regard these developments as good news. After all, he keeps telling us about the importance of emissions reduction and the government’s legislated targets.

What he seems to be blissfully unaware of is the sheer impossibility of replacing coal-fired generation with alternative affordable and reliable sources within the necessary timeframe – if ever. He talks about the need for 10,000 additional kilometres of transmission lines. But given the need to obtain necessary easements (often in the face of strenuous local objections) and the shortage of workers and materials, that ain’t going to happen any time soon.

Even the rollout of renewable energy projects, including the growing popularity of the much more expensive offshore wind turbines, is likely to be slow notwithstanding the substantial subsidies that are on offer.

The decision by the states to essentially go their own ways by devising their own energy plans is further undermining any integrity the planning of the NEM may have had. It’s easy to see that, in the event of blackouts and power rationing, it will be each state for itself, with interconnectors possibly disabled.

The chief executive of one of the big energy operators, Alinta Energy, has belled the cat on what is going to happen with electricity prices. After rising by around 25 per cent this year, the expectation is that they will rise a further 35 per cent next year – figures endorsed by the Australian Energy Regulator. He points out that a coal-fired plant that cost his company $1 billion will need $8 billion in replacement expenditure on renewable installations and the necessary supports.

Of course, we can kiss goodbye to the $275 cut to the annual household electricity bill promised by our ‘I stand by the modelling’ Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. But that loss may prove small beer in the future scheme of things.




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