Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Italy leads revolt against Europe's electric vehicle transition

Italy's nationalist government is leading the revolt against European Union plans to tighten vehicle emissions limits, vowing to defend the automotive industry in a country still attached to the combustion engine. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's far-right coalition, which came into office last October, tried and failed to block EU plans to ban the sale of new cars running on fossil fuels by 2035, which her predecessor Mario Draghi had supported.

But this week the government shifted its fight to planned "Euro 7" standards on pollutants, joining seven other EU member states — including France and Poland — to demand Brussels scrap the limits due to come into force in July 2025.

"Italy is showing the way, our positions are more and more widely shared," said Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso, a fervent defender of national industry in the face of what he has called an "ideological vision" of climate change.

The EU plan "is clearly wrong and not even useful from an environmental point of view," added Transport Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, which shares power with Meloni's post-fascist Brothers of Italy.

Salvini led the failed charge against the ban on internal combustion engines, branding it "madness" that would "destroy thousands of jobs for Italian workers" while benefiting China, a leader in electric vehicles.

Federico Spadini from Greenpeace Italy lamented that "environmental and climate questions are always relegated to second place," blaming a "strong industrial lobby in Italy" in the automobile and energy sectors.

"None of the governments in recent years have been up to the environmental challenge," he told AFP.

"Unfortunately, Italy is not known in Europe as a climate champion. And it's clear that with Meloni's government, the situation has deteriorated," he said.

Jobs "orientated towards traditional engines"
In 2022, Italy had nearly 270,000 direct or indirect employees in the automotive sector, which accounted for 5.2 percent of GDP.

The European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) has warned that switching to all electric cars could lead to more than 60,000 job losses in Italy by 2035 for automobile suppliers alone.

"Since Fiat was absorbed by Stellantis in 2021, Italy no longer has a large automobile industry, but it remains big in terms of components, which are all orientated towards traditional engines," noted Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury.

Italians are attached to their cars, ranking fourth behind Liechtenstein, Iceland and Luxembourg with 670 passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants, according to the latest Eurostat figures from 2020.

But sales of electric cars fell by 26.9 percent in 2022, to just 3.7 percent of the market, against 12.1 percent for the EU average.

Subsidies to boost zero emissions vehicles fell flat, while Minister Urso has admitted that on infrastructure, "we are extremely behind."

Italy has just 36,000 electric charging stations, compared to 90,000 for the Netherlands, a country a fraction of the size of Italy, he revealed.

"There is no enthusiasm for electric cars in Italy," Felipe Munoz, an analyst with the automotive data company Jato Dynamics, told AFP. "The offer is meagre, with just one model manufactured by national carmaker Fiat."

In addition, "purchasing power is not very high, people cannot afford electric vehicles, which are expensive. So, the demand is low, unlike in Nordic countries."

Gerrit Marx, head of the Italian truck manufacturer Iveco, agrees. "We risk turning into a big Cuba, with very old cars still driving around for years, because a part of the population will not be able to afford an electric model," he said.


Germany’s Greens in free fall amid corruption allegations

“Could Germany get a Green chancellor?” asked many media outlets ahead of the country’s last federal elections in 2021. In the spring of that year, the party polled at 28% in some surveys, a record for them and the strongest of all parties at the time. But since then much has changed. Public scandals and unpopular politics have sent the party into free fall. A survey published this week put the Greens in fourth place, behind the far-Right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

Many commentators have pinned the increasing disaffection of voters on one of their most prominent leaders: Robert Habeck. Germany’s Vice Chancellor and economy minister was long hailed as the Greens’ strongest asset. With a reputation as a charismatic and pragmatic problem-solver, he seemed the right man to tackle the energy crisis that hit the country when Russia invaded Ukraine and exposed Berlin’s dependence on Moscow for fossil fuels. Habeck emerged as “Germany’s energy hero…the man of the hour,” as the Economist put it.

Now half of German voters want him to resign, according to a recent survey, putting him at 17th place in their popularity ranking of German politicians — the second lowest of all cabinet ministers.

Some hope that Habeck’s fall and that of his party will be temporary, caused only by a recent scandal involving Patrick Graichen, a close aide and deputy minister, who resigned last week following allegations of cronyism. But since then other people in Habeck’s inner circle have also come under closer scrutiny, much to the glee of opposition politicians. Julia Klöckner of the Christian Democrats (CDU) spoke of a “systematic issue due to the close connection between Green members of the government, climate activists, lobby groups and institutions”.

The CDU stands to gain much from the situation. Together with their Bavarian sister party, the CSU, with whom they form an electoral bloc, they currently poll as the strongest party at 30%. Even one of the Greens’ coalition partners, the Free Liberals (FDP), have distanced themselves from their policies. They stalled one of the Greens’ flagship projects: a ban of the installation of gas boilers in new houses starting next year.

Such policies are perceived as expensive and elitist by large segments of the German public. Surveys range from 50 to 80% of respondents against the gas boiler ban. The fact that Graichen had been one of the key advocates of the policy helped create a direct link between perceptions of corruption and Green Party policies. “Graichen goes…finally. Now the heating bill hammer [boiler ban] must also be taken off the table,” said the CDU’s Peter Liese.

But it’s not just centre-Right politicians who stand ready to capitalise from the loss of trust. The AfD polls in third place at the moment. Their activists have long used phrases like “linksgrün versifft” — “Left-green-dirty” — to whip up anti-establishment feeling. Corruption scandals around Green politicians and their networks confirm pre-existing anger and fan disaffection.

As it stands, the governing coalition is a long way off majority support from the public, if the surveys are accurate. Mainstream politicians would do well to remember that assuming your policies are right is no substitute for engaging with the electorate.


German police raid climate activists who blocked traffic

German police have carried out raids in seven states in a probe into climate campaigners suspected of forming or backing a criminal group because of their controversial activities.

Among those raided was Last Generation spokeswoman Carla Hinrichs, whose door was broken down by armed police while she was in bed, the group said.

For months Last Generation has disrupted traffic in German cities. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has condemned their campaign as "completely crazy".

For weeks in Germany there has been a ferocious culture war about whether Last Generation can be legally defined as a criminal organisation.

Conservative MPs have demanded tougher penalties including jail sentences, while left-wingers have warned of a dangerous authoritarian clampdown.

Some 170 police took part in Wednesday's raids on flats and other buildings in Berlin, Bavaria, Dresden, Hamburg and elsewhere, shutting down the group's website and freezing two accounts.

Ms Hinrichs's flat in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg was targeted at 07:00 on Wednesday by 25 police officers carrying guns, her colleagues said.

No arrests have been reported but seven people aged 22 to 38 are suspected of organising a campaign to collect at least €1.4m (£1.2m) in funding mainly to finance "further criminal acts". Police and prosecutors said the raids were aimed at establishing Last Generation's membership structure.

Two of the activists under investigation are suspected of trying to sabotage an oil pipeline running across the Alps from the Italian coast at Trieste to Ingolstadt last year.

In Berlin, Last Generation activists are making an impact. Roads blocked by activists have become a regular feature in radio traffic reports. Households have been getting leaflets inviting locals to Last Generation information or training events.

Last week,12 streets were blocked in the city as activists glued themselves to the road or to cars. But these street sit-ins have resulted in some drivers lashing out. Countless social media videos show outraged drivers screaming at campaigners.

In polls, most Germans disagree with the group's tactics. In a survey carried out by left-leaning magazine Der Spiegel this month, 79% of respondents said the group's actions were wrong, with only 16% agreeing with the activists.

But that doesn't mean all Germans support a clampdown either.

Many left-wing and Green politicians as well as commentators say they disagree with the group's tactics because they enrage people rather than win them over to environmentalism. But they argue activists should still have the right to campaign peacefully.

Last Generation criticised Wednesday's raids using the chancellor's "completely crazy" quote, VölligBekloppt, as a hashtag, asking when the authorities would instead search "lobby structures and confiscate government fossil funds".

Another climate action group, Ende Gelände, complained that the raids were targeting people seeking to "raise the alarm about the climate crisis rather those responsible for it".

Last Generation said it would continue its activities and some supporters online suggested the raids would galvanise support for their campaign.

The police response has been welcomed by conservatives, as well as some politicians from two ruling parties, the FDP and centre-left SPD. Some Green politicians said while they disagreed with the group's radical actions, they suggested the raids may have been too heavy-handed.

Left-wing and environmental groups announced a march in Berlin on Wednesday afternoon with further demonstrations in Leipzig, Munich and Potsdam. Greenpeace and politicians from the left-wing Linke party called the raids a "new level of escalation" from police that undermined the basic democratic right to protest.

Last Generation is campaigning for a speed limit on motorways of 100km/h (62mph).

It played a key role in protests against the expansion of an open coal mine in the village of Lützerath in January, where campaigner Greta Thunberg was briefly detained.

Last October two activists threw mashed potato at a Claude Monet painting at a museum in Potsdam near Berlin and then glued themselves to a wall, an action that mirrored similar protests in the UK by the climate action group Just Stop Oil.

Last Generation is not limited to Germany. Two activists glued themselves to an area in front of the Austrian parliament in Vienna on Wednesday, defying a ban on protests outside the building.

In Italy, three Italian activists were due in court on Wednesday for gluing themselves to a Vatican museum sculpture dating back to Roman times last August. Activists belonging to the group had also coloured the Trevi fountain in Rome black as a statement against fossil fuels.


Germany’s climate minister poised for climbdown on controversial gas boiler ban

Germany’s beleaguered climate minister had to make an embarrassing climbdown on plans to ban gas heating this week, as bad economic news cast a gloom over Berlin.

Robert Habeck, ‘super minister’ for the economy and climate, told a local newspaper that he wanted to “make his law better” as he stepped back from a hard deadline of banning all new gas heating installations at the beginning of next year.

Ever since the first details of the law emerged in March it has been picked apart by a diverse coalition of tradesmen, economists and homeowners, who claim that Germany lacks both the technical know-how and the production capacity to switch away from gas heating at the stroke of midnight on December 31st.

Mr Habeck’s ambition to install six million heat pumps, which run on electricity, by the end of the decade, is a number that critics counter with a current six-month waiting time for deliveries by one of Germany’s main manufacturers, Bosch.

"I take the criticism and social concerns very seriously," Mr Habeck told the Funke Media Group on Friday, saying he was prepared to weaken the deadline to mean that it would only apply to new houses at first.

"Given concerns about shortages of specialist tradesmen and supply bottlenecks, a little more time will also help," he conceded.

On the defensive on two fronts after a sleaze scandal was unexposed in his ministry, Mr Habeck has struggled to explain his marquee law to an unnerved public.

The bill has also exposed an ideological rift within Olaf Scholz’s centrist coalition, pitting Mr Habeck’s Greens, who want to take on billions of euros in new debt to radically drive down carbon emissions, against the small-state Free Democrats who are increasingly concerned about the country's economic competitiveness.

In the spring the Free Democrats agreed to a timeline for passing the law by the summer recess.

But, with just three weeks left until the Bundestag breaks up, they have held up the law in cabinet, claiming it needs to be "completely renovated”.




Tuesday, May 30, 2023

China is going for coal

Builders of electricity grids find themselves constantly navigating between crises.

Construct too few generators, and blackouts will spread whenever demand peaks. Construct too many, and you have a financial crunch, as an oversupply of electricity pushes prices below what investors expected. Add to that the risk of a climate catastrophe if you depend on fossil fuels rather than renewables and nuclear, and the road to success is a narrow one.

Right now, China seems to be worried only about the first problem. The country approved 20.45 gigawatts of new coal-fired power in the first three months of this year, more than it did during the entirety of 2021, according to a review last month by Greenpeace East Asia. Combined with the 90.72 GW given the green light last year, that’s equivalent to adding all the coal-fired generation in Japan, Germany and Poland — three of the biggest users of the fuel — in just 15 months.

Taking the shortest route to keeping the lights on in a dysfunctional grid is being prioritized above financial and environmental concerns. Those latter issues won’t go away, however, and threaten to come back to bite Beijing’s economic planners.

The problem for China is that it’s treating coal-fired power the way the US and Europe treat gas. Electricity demand tends to rise and fall throughout the day. To accommodate this variability, grids were traditionally structured around always-on, so-called “baseload” power plants, plus a fleet of “peaker” plants that could be switched on and off to follow the morning and evening surges in demand.

As anyone who’s tried cooking with both a gas and charcoal-fired grill will know, solid fuel is ill-suited to this sort of operation. Coal plants, like charcoal barbecues, take a long time to be coaxed to and from their operating temperatures. On top of that, the brute machinery needed to shuttle sooty rocks around means that they’re simply more expensive to build — around $505 per kilowatt of capacity in China at present, according to BloombergNEF estimates, compared to $290/kW for gas.

That makes it challenging to use coal to provide peaking power the way US and European grids use gas turbines. Their slow ramp-up and ramp-down means you’re more likely to be generating outside the peak and below your operating costs. The strain that the temperature cycles place on the structure of the plant shortens its operating life, too.

Those high expenses per kilowatt aren’t a problem if you’re operating 60% of the time, but Chinese coal plants hardly ever hit those levels. Generation costs go up as utilization goes down, so that a technology priced at $69 per kilowatt-hour in baseload operation may be several times more expensive when run as a peaker. Faced with a shortage of domestic gas supplies and an excess of coal, Chinese engineers have been working hard to design coal plants that can be switched up and down like gas plants. (Read this fascinating Twitter thread by Lantau Group analyst David Fishman for an example.) Still, the laws of physics and economics are unyielding.

It’s the latter that may prove most damaging. Those $505 per kilowatt costs mean that every gigawatt of coal adds half a billion dollars to China’s teetering $23 trillion mountain of debt.

Indeed, in many places it’s the stimulus provided by that lump of cash, rather than any fundamental need for fresh generation, that appears to be driving development. “Of the 25 coal power projects in development in Guangdong last year, 19 were in part intended to help boost local economies,” especially in undeveloped parts of the province, according to a study this month by Zhang Xiaoli, a consultant at the Beijing-based Green Development Program.

Worse still, excess capacity doesn’t just damage its own profitability, but that of the entire remaining fleet which must sell power into the same oversupplied market. More than half of China’s coal-fired power plants lost money in the first half of 2022, according to the China Electricity Council, an industry group. Losses in 2021 came to 101.7 billion yuan ($14.5 billion), based on official data.

Even after depreciation, China’s 1,129 gigawatts of coal plants represent hundreds of billions of dollars of assets, whose ability to create cashflow and pay off their debts is damaged every time a fresh generator is connected. There’s as much as 200 gigawatts of renewables coming online this year as well — power that’s usually cheaper and cleaner to run than even the lowest-cost coal plants.

The pockets of China’s state-owned enterprises seem so deep that it’s tempting to think losses simply don’t matter. But the fate of India’s indebted, state-owned electricity distributors shows that’s not the case. Their chronically late payments to utilities are one reason that generators have been keeping dangerously low coal stocks in recent years, since they lack the cash to buy more.

China’s provincial governments hope that adding excess coal will help save them from a power crisis — but in doing so, they’re raising the prospect of both a climate crisis, and a financial one.


Majority of United States Faces 'Elevated Risk' of Summer Power Blackouts Amid Green Energy Push

America's increased reliance on green energy in favor of coal and gas has a majority of the United States facing an "elevated risk" of summer power blackouts, according to a leading grid reliability watchdog.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) last week published its 2023 summer reliability assessment, which found that two-thirds of North America could face power shortages this summer during periods of extreme heat. That vulnerability, the watchdog group said, stems from America's increase in green power generation and decrease in fossil fuel power plants. While coal and natural gas plants can be turned on and off at the flip of a switch, green alternatives such as wind and solar rely on favorable weather conditions to operate at full capacity. If those conditions aren't met, power demand can outpace supply.

"The system is closer to the edge," NERC director of reliability assessment and performance analysis John Moura said last week. "More needs to be done."

Moura is far from the only expert sounding the alarm on America's unreliable power grid. Both state and federal officials in recent weeks have warned that high summer temperatures, combined with low nightly winds, could bring power blackouts across the country. "I'm afraid to say it, but I think the United States is heading towards a catastrophic situation," Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Mark Christie said during a May Senate hearing.

Despite those warnings, President Joe Biden has moved forward with plans to accelerate U.S. coal plant retirements. With nearly half of America's coal power already set to disappear by 2030, Biden's Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month unveiled new standards that force coal and gas power plants to slash their carbon emissions by a whopping 90 percent between 2035 and 2040. In order to meet the near-impossible standards, those plants will have to spend big on infrastructure upgrades—costs that may prompt the plants to shut down rather than comply.

"Coal is more than five times as dependable as wind and more than twice as dependable as solar when electricity demand is greatest," America's Power CEO Michelle Bloodworth said in a statement, "yet bad public policy and EPA regulations are forcing the closure of coal plants."

In addition to his far-reaching fossil fuel regulations, Biden has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks and subsidies aimed at increasing electric car use. And in April, Biden's Environmental Protection Agency announced a new rule that imposes strict tailpipe emission limits on vehicles sold—so strict that it effectively forces automakers to ensure that two-thirds of the cars they sell are electric by 2032.

Those moves could also put strain on the nation's power grid. As more Americans plug in their cars instead of filling them up with gasoline, grids across the country will need to put out more power to keep up. The issue has already plagued some U.S. states—in September, for example, California urged electric car drivers to stop charging their vehicles due to power grid strain. Still, the ordeal did not stop state officials from moving full steam ahead with plans to outlaw gas-powered vehicles and eradicate fossil fuel power plants.

"We understand we cannot have the lights go off," California Energy Commission vice chair Siva Gunda told the Washington Post. "But the fear of these questions being brought up is not a reason to slow down from what we know is morally and societally what we need to do."


Green Germany: Europe’s Economic Engine Is Breaking Down

Germany has been Europe’s economic engine for decades, pulling the region through one crisis after another. But that resilience is breaking down, and it spells danger for the whole continent.

Decades of flawed energy policy, the demise of combustion-engine cars and a sluggish transition to new technologies are converging to pose the most fundamental threat to the nation’s prosperity since reunification. But unlike in 1990, the political class lacks the leadership to tackle structural issues gnawing at the heart of the country’s competitiveness.

“We’ve been naïve as a society because everything seems fine,” BASF SE Chief Executive Officer Martin Brudermüller told Bloomberg. “These problems we have in Germany are accumulating. We have a period of change ahead of us; I don’t know if everyone realizes this.”

While Berlin has shown a knack for overcoming crises in the past, the question now is whether it can pursue a sustained strategy. The prospect looks remote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s make-shift coalition has reverted to petty infighting over everything from debt and spending to heat pumps and speed limits as soon as the risks of energy shortfalls eased.

But the warning signals are getting hard to ignore. Despite Scholz telling Bloomberg in January that Germany would ride out Russia’s energy squeeze without a recession this year, data published Thursday show that the economy has in fact been contracting since October and has only expanded twice in the past five quarters.

Economists see German growth lagging behind the rest of the region for years to come, and the International Monetary Fund estimates Germany will be the worst-performing G-7 economy this year. Nonetheless, Scholz again sounded upbeat.

“The prospects for the German economy are very good,” he told reporters in Berlin after the latest economic data. By unlocking market forces and cutting red tape, “we are solving the challenges that face us.”

The risk is that the latest numbers aren’t a one-off, but the sign of things to come.

Germany finds itself ill-suited to sustainably serve the energy needs of its industrial base; overly dependent on old-school engineering; and lacking the political and commercial agility to pivot to faster-growing sectors. The array of structural challenges points to a cold awakening for the center of European power, which has become accustomed to uninterrupted affluence.

To its credit, industrial behemoths like Volkswagen AG, Siemens AG and Bayer AG are flanked by thousands of smaller Mittelstand companies, and the country’s conservative spending habits put it on a stronger fiscal footing than its peers to support the transformation ahead. But it has little time to waste.

The most pressing issue for Germany is getting its energy transition on track. Affordable power is a key precondition for industrial competitiveness, and even before the end of Russian gas supplies, Germany had some of the highest electricity costs in Europe. Failure to stabilize the situation could transform a trickle of manufacturers heading elsewhere into a stampede.

Berlin is responding to concerns by seeking a cap on power prices for some energy-intensive industries like chemicals through 2030 — a plan that could cost taxpayers as much as €30 billion ($32 billion). But that would be a temporary patch, and shows Germany’s desperate situation in terms of supply.


Australia: The renewables backup problem

In the Snowy 2.0 project,‘Florence’, the gigantic tunneller, has fallen through some soft ground and become hopelessly stuck. She is now wedged in tonnes of earth and rocks and appears to be immovable.

But who can forget the promises made by Malcolm Turnbull, then prime minister, about the potential of Snowy 2.0? Pumped hydro would be one of the missing jigsaw pieces that would enable a deep penetration of wind and solar generation in our electricity grid. It was going to cost around $2 billion, although this had the same credibility as the original estimates of the cost of the NBN, which were devised on a drink coaster.

Moreover, the figure of $2 billion never included the cost of the additional transmission needed to hook the project up to the grid. That would cost more billions and would be subject to fierce local opposition as the required pylons and cables cut an ugly swath through rural land.

Even so, those were the salad days for the project. Water would be pumped up during the day to the upper dam – electricity prices would be cheap and generated mainly by renewable energy – and released when needed to the lower dam, thereby generating electricity. OK, there’s a lot of energy lost in the process and, of course, no new electricity is actually generated. And given the capital costs, it’s not clear it would ever generate a rate of return. But what the heck, when you are saving the planet.

We were told that Snowy 2.0 would act like a giant battery, providing needed backup to intermittent renewable energy. The nominal capacity was around 2,000 megawatts, about the size of a standard coal-fired power station, although it would only be able to operate for several hours each day. It was to be ready in 2023-24, which now sounds hopelessly optimistic.

The most likely scenario now is that the project will be completed by the end of the decade and the total cost, not including transmission, will be around $10 billion. Let’s not forget that stuck-Florence is costing an arm and leg because this type of specialised machinery – she was built in Germany – is leased and daily fees will still be ticking over. One way or another, the operators will find a way around the Florence problem.

The bigger picture is this: renewable energy will simply not work without sufficient backup and it’s the backup conundrum that has everyone stumped. Even if Snowy 2.0 had gone well, it is only a tiny part of the backup solution. The trouble is that Australia’s topography simply doesn’t lend itself to multiple pumped hydro projects.

The Kidston project in far-north Queensland has been nearly a decade in the making and this was starting, by chance, with two dams at different levels that existed because of a former mining operation. The biggest capital contribution to the project has come from governments, with the investors contributing a smaller amount. When it is eventually finished, it will help power households in the area but any cost-benefit analysis would show that this project should never have gone ahead.

The hope of the side was always batteries, the bigger the better. But the assumed technology leaps have simply not occurred. They provide a few hours of power and do help with stabilising the grid through frequency control. But given the components required to build these batteries – think lithium, cobalt, nickel – and the shortage of them, it’s not clear that batteries are a universal solution. They also remain expensive, in part because so many countries around the world are following the same path: renewable energy plus batteries.

Gas plants are the obvious solution, but they of course emit carbon dioxide. While closed-cycle gas turbines are much more efficient than the open-cycle ones – they use less gas and emit less carbon dioxide – it is the latter which are best designed for backup because they can be cranked up at short notice to cover shortfalls from renewable sources. In other words, to make solar and wind viable means of generating electricity, they need to be backed up by relatively emissions-intensive gas plants. You know it makes sense.

It’s also important to note here that the buildout of land-hungry wind and solar means that any existing coal-fired plant is made obsolete before its time. That is because these plants are simply not designed to provide backup power; rather they are designed to provide continuous power with constantly turning turbines. When made to provide backup power, their operating and maintenance costs skyrocket.

The fact is that even the pious Climate Change and Energy Minister, Chris Bowen, cannot make the wind blow or prevent the sun from setting. Even in his true-believing world, there is a need for backup power. Building more and more solar and wind installations doesn’t overcome this problem and is highly inefficient of itself.

A number of countries, including the UK, Canada and France, have become very lukewarm about nuclear energy but are now having second thoughts. These governments are committing to substantial investments in new nuclear installations, which are not necessarily well-designed to provide backup but can do so without any emissions.

Over time, these governments may conclude that it’s just easier (and cheaper) to go fully nuclear and forget the turbines and solar panels. After all, these renewable installations wear out quickly – probably off-shore turbines last only 15 years – and will need to be replaced. This will leave Australia in a pickle, with a motley collection of wind, solar, gas plants, ugly big batteries and possibly Snowy 2.0, adding up to unreliable and expensive power.

Just perhaps a future government will see sense and take a different path that involves nuclear power. This could be about the same time that Florence is finally rescued from her uncomfortable resting spot.




Monday, May 29, 2023

So much for sustainable non-polluting power

Greenies have always hated dams with a passion

WHEN you see the abandoned construction site, it isn’t hard to marvel at what could have been. We floated round a bend in the river on our raft and there it was: two colossal artificial banks beneath scarred hillsides, stranded diggers and cement hoppers.

These are the forlorn remains of the Kalivaç dam project on the Vjosa river in Albania, which has been dubbed “Europe’s last wild river”. If the developers had had their way, this would now be the site of a 43-metre-high hydroelectric dam with a vast reservoir behind it. Instead, in March, the Albanian government declared the entirety of the Vjosa and many of its tributaries a wild river national park, the first (and probably last) of its kind in Europe – saved in perpetuity from a fate that has befallen too many of the rivers in this part of the world.

The Vjosa is special because it is entirely free-flowing. Aside from the remains of the Kalivaç project, there are no dams, barriers or artificial banks. It will now stay that way. Mostly.

Dams generate hydroelectric power, but are disastrous for biodiversity and other crucial ecological gifts rivers bestow upon us. So the saving of the Vjosa is a big win for nature – including the critically endangered Balkan lynx and European eel – and an inspiration for other river conservation projects. It is also a rare bit of good news against the backdrop of the shocking state of many of the world’s rivers


Supreme Court Acknowledges God Was Right: ‘Land’ Really Is Different From ‘Water’

Michael and Chantell Sackett have waited for well over a decade to learn whether the federal government would allow them to build a home on land they own. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

How is that possible in America? That’s easy. America might be “the land of the free” and “the home of the brave” in the national anthem, but it’s in the stranglehold of the administrative state everywhere else.

“Land” and “water” might be different to most people. Indeed, we have it on good, long-standing authority that they are and that their separate nature is “good.” Just read Genesis 1:9-10 (King James Version: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear’ and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters He called the Seas, and God saw that it was good.”)

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mustn’t have read that. They claimed that the Sacketts’ land in Idaho is actually a “water of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, even though their land is not connected to an ocean, lake, river, or stream. Only a lawyer (or maybe a heathen) could make that argument.

The Sacketts wanted to build a home on land that was not on or touching water. The federal government claimed that the Sacketts needed a permit, however, because disrupting the land on their homesite might affect a “water of the United States.”

Fortunately, five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court found Genesis persuasive and ruled Thursday in favor of the Sacketts in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.

In His response to today’s opinion for those in the Great Beyond, God likely wrote: “And it was good.”

In an opinion for five members of the court, Justice Samuel Alito—joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett—concluded that the term “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act refers only to the following: (1) geographical features that “in ordinary parlance” would be described as oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams, and (2) adjacent wetlands that are, practically speaking, “indistinguishable” from those bodies of water because of a continuous surface connection with them.

Relying heavily on the Clean Water Act’s text and the common understanding of the terms “waters” and “navigable,” the majority concluded that the term “waters” reached only relatively permanent, standing, or continuously flowing bodies of water forming what in ordinary parlance are oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams.

The majority rejected the government’s interpretation because it would have required every body of water, however small or isolated, to be evaluated whether it is a Clean Water Act-covered “water.”

The other four justices agreed with the majority that the Sacketts’ land was not a “water.” (Whew! Common sense unanimously prevails.) But they would have left room for wetlands in the vicinity of oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams to qualify as “waters” in other cases.

How did this happen? How could the Sacketts’ case have taken two trips to the Supreme Court and two sets of opinions to resolve what, on its face, should have been an easy issue?

The answer, ironically, is rather simple. Two factors came together to make the Sacketts endure the trials of Job to be able to avoid $40,000 per day fines for what was once thought of as the American dream; namely, building a home on land you own.

First, Congress did not define the terms “navigable waters” and “waters of the United States” with the specificity necessary to prevent lawyers from turning this case into an environmental Jarndyce v. Jarndyce of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House” fame. (The latter has become a literary metaphor for seemingly interminable legal proceedings.)

Maybe Congress thought that those terms needed no further explication. That’s what Thomas, in a separate opinion joined by Gorsuch, thought.

Maybe the members of Congress decided to punt the interpretive problem to the courts to avoid having to negotiate and debate the issue. That’s a common problem with Congress today. Whatever the reason, agencies and their lawyers committed to environmentalism uber alles were able to muck up the Sacketts’ dream for 10-plus years.

Second, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers approached this issue with an environmental engineering mindset. They asked themselves, “How can we ensure that every actual and potential body of water, wetland, or even dry land that yearns to be wet can fall under the Clean Water Act?”

“That’s easy,” they concluded. “Just make any body of water or parcel of land that has any hydrological connection to a lake or river a ‘water of the United States.’”

The effect was to examine the issue not as a matter of deciding what water bodies can be navigated from one state to another, which was the approach that Thomas and Gorsuch found critical.

No, if H2O goes from Water Body A to Water Body/Land Parcel B, then the latter is a Clean Water Act-covered water. How can we know whether that transfer does or can occur? Again, the EPA and Army Corps concluded, “That’s easy. Just ask us, or hire your own expert hydrologists, botanists, biologists, or whatever-ists.”

Then, perhaps a decade later—and/or your wallet $50,000 to $100,000 lighter—you might know.

That’s nonsense, as the Alito majority rightly noted. The law is not always sane, but the Supreme Court surely was Thursday.


Giant Wind Turbines Keep Mysteriously Falling Over. This Shouldn't Be Happening

Multiple turbines that are taller than 750 feet are collapsing across the world, with the tallest—784 feet in stature—falling in Germany in September 2021. To put it in perspective, those turbines are taller than both the Space Needle in Seattle and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Even smaller turbines that recently took a tumble in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Wales, and Colorado were about the height of the Statue of Liberty.

Turbines are falling for the three largest players in the industry: General Electric, Vestas, and Siemens Gamesa. Why? “It takes time to stabilize production and quality on these new products,” Larry Culp, GE CEO, said last October on an earning call, according to Bloomberg. “Rapid innovation strains manufacturing and the broader supply chain.”

Without industrywide data chronicling the rise—and now fall—of turbines, we’re relying on industry experts to note the flaws in the wind farming. “We’re seeing these failures happening in a shorter time frame on the new turbines,” Fraser McLachlan, CEO of insurer GCube Underwriting, told Bloomberg, “and that’s quite concerning.”

The push to produce bigger wind-grabbing turbines has sped production of the growing apparatuses. Bloomberg reports that Siemens has endured quality control issues on a new design, Vestas has seen project delays and quality challenges, and GE has seen an uptick in warranty costs and repairs. And this all comes along with uncertain supply chain issues and fluctuating material pricing.

With heights stretching taller than 850 feet, blades 300 feet long, and energy generation abilities ratcheting up accordingly, the bigger the turbine, the more energy it can capture. But the bigger the turbine, the more that can go wrong—and the farther it falls.


Bleaching the truth about the reef

For years, the Australian public has been subjected to an unremitting narrative that the Great Barrier Reef faced an existential threat from climate change. Last year a UN-backed mission concluded the world’s biggest coral reef system should be placed on a list of endangered world heritage sites saying, climate change presented a ‘serious challenge’.

Who knew that last year, to very little fanfare, the Australian Institute of Marine Science found, despite six serious bleaching events since 2016, coral cover was the highest it had been in its 36 years of monitoring? Certainly not the Australian public. An Australian Environment Foundation survey of 1,004 Australians found only three per cent were aware of this reality.

Following a relentless campaign of formal complaints by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, the Australian Communication and Media Authority obligingly censured a segment on Sky News’s Outsiders programme for failing to mention that the reef’s splendid recovery was still at risk.

Perpetuating the image of a threatened Barrier Reef is critical for those who see global warming as a vehicle for social change. They worry that the AIMS report could lead impressionable adults to question the claims of climate change ‘experts’, thereby undermining the credibility of emissions abatement policies.

Australia’s state broadcaster, the ABC, is a serial worrier. Despite its declining audiences, it remains a reliable and important megaphone and a go-to for like-minded political advocates like the Bureau of Meteorology. It dutifully carried the AIMS report along with an environmentalist’s warning, ‘that unless fossil-fuel emissions are drastically cut, the reef remains in danger from rising temperatures and more mass-bleaching events’. In other words, don’t be misled.

Fear is an important weapon in the centralist’s arsenal and the ABC, and the mainstream media generally, are willing accomplices in uncritically spreading it. That’s not a conspiracy theory but reality. In this echo chamber only one view is allowed. After all, weighty issues like global warming, healthcare, education and pronouns are beyond the ken of most ordinary people and should be left to experts.

Thomas Jefferson was right. ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance’. That vigilance is visibly absent. Indeed, bribed with their own money and falling prey to a divisive political agenda, the public has become ever more obedient and dependent upon government. Likewise business. With the media ideologically aligned, carrots and coercion are deployed to control it. Political careerists conflate their desire for power with the national interest and recruit like-minded bureaucrats to further regulate an already over-regulated society. It’s a self-perpetuating coalition which thrives on controls and complacency.

Australia may not yet be China where there is a facial recognition camera for every five people, but as government expands, Australia’s political class is demonstrating an insatiable taste for power and, with it, a growing contempt for the rule of law.

For example, during Covid-19, governments seized extraordinary powers when they employed apps and QR codes to collect personal data. It was on the basis that information gathered was for ‘public health purposes only’. It would be destroyed 28 days after collection.

We now know that the Victorian government lied about access and tried to suppress a secret Supreme Court ruling which confirmed personal data did not have ‘absolute protection’. Then acting premier, Jacinta Allan, reassured Victorians that the government’s repeated and deliberate attempts to hide the information were to avoid a ‘baseless scare campaign’– never wrong, never accountable.

Still, there was no public outrage. Nor in South Australia when it was revealed its government had secretly kept personal data beyond the mandated four weeks. Nor in Western Australia after its police had used this information as part of criminal investigations. Where is that data now?

Contempt for the law and disdain for civil liberties thrived under Covid. Doctors who put their professional judgement ahead of health bureaucrats’ advice were threatened with disciplinary action if they undermined the national vaccination programme. Contrary views, however well-credentialed, were characterised as sourced from anti-vaxxers’.

Now it has come to light that the regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, knew that vaccines carried greater risks than it disclosed. Rather than ‘undermine public confidence’, it withheld vital causality data from health professionals and the public. This included hiding the deaths of two children, aged seven and nine, who died after Pfizer vaccinations.

In such an environment, wherever political authority can be established or expanded, it will be. Like the new monetary policy board which will politicise the Reserve Bank and deprive it of its traditional independence. Just one more subtle level of control.

Not even the justice system escapes political influence. The trial of Cardinal George Pell and, the ACT’s Sofronoff inquiry into the conduct of criminal justice agencies, demonstrate how the political vibe can override the presumption of innocence and the rules of evidence.

With their parents and grandparents behaving like frogs in slowly boiling water, seemingly in denial of the unrelenting intrusion of government into every aspect of their lives, younger generations believe this is the way things are around here. Indoctrinated in the classroom about their evil colonial heritage and the prospect of an uninhabitable planet and, the need for a more ‘caring’, and a ‘fairer’ society, they accept big government is good whilst believing that capitalism leads to selfishness and environmental destruction.

Banking on continued public complacency, Australian governments have gone where, outside of emergencies, they have never gone before. The blurring of lines between the major parties along with a divide-and-rule political agenda have created a de facto one-party state where opposition to the continuing erosion of civil liberties is not tolerated.

But in the end, even boiling frogs start to jump. When that time will come is difficult to determine. However, whenever it will be, Covid emergencies and climate change directives may have so weakened the public’s resilience and determination it may be unable to escape the pot. In which case, investing in facial recognition camera makers may be a wise precaution. ?




Sunday, May 28, 2023

Climate change could trigger gigantic deadly tsunamis from Antarctica, new study warns

This is all just theory but in any case the prehistoric events they are using as a model took place when the oceans were 3 degrees warmer than today. At the minuscule rate of global warming today, we are a long way off getting that far. Global warming at the moment is in fact stopped. Nobody knows if it will resume

Climate change could unleash gigantic tsunamis in the Southern Ocean by triggering underwater landslides in Antarctica, a new study warns.

By drilling into sediment cores hundreds of feet beneath the seafloor in Antarctica, scientists discovered that during previous periods of global warming — 3 million and 15 million years ago — loose sediment layers formed and slipped to send massive tsunami waves racing to the shores of South America, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.

And as climate change heats the oceans, the researchers think there's a possibility these tsunamis could be unleashed once more. Their findings were published May 18 in the journal Nature Communications.

"Submarine landslides are a major geohazard with the potential to trigger tsunamis that can lead to huge loss of life," Jenny Gales, a lecturer in hydrography and ocean exploration at the University of Plymouth in the U.K., said in a statement. "Our findings highlight how we urgently need to enhance our understanding of how global climate change might influence the stability of these regions and potential for future tsunamis."

Researchers first found evidence of ancient landslides off Antarctica in 2017 in the eastern Ross Sea. Trapped underneath these landslides are layers of weak sediment crammed with fossilized sea creatures known as phytoplankton.

Scientists returned to the area in 2018 and drilled deep into the seafloor to extract sediment cores — long, thin cylinders of the Earth’s crust that show, layer by layer, the geological history of the region.

By analyzing the sediment cores, the scientists learned that the layers of weak sediment formed during two periods, one around 3 million years ago in the mid-Pliocene warm period, and the other roughly 15 million years ago during the Miocene climate optimum. During these epochs, the waters around Antarctica were 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) warmer than today, leading to bursts of algal blooms that, after they had died, filled the seafloor below with a rich and slippery sediment — making the region prone to landslides.

"During subsequent cold climates and ice ages these slippery layers were overlain by thick layers of coarse gravel delivered by glaciers and icebergs," Robert McKay, director of the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington and co-chief scientist of International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 374 — which extracted the sediment cores in 2018 — told Live Science in an email.

The exact trigger for the region's past underwater landslides isn’t known for sure, but the researchers have found a most-likely culprit: the melting of glacier ice by a warming climate. The ending of Earth’s periodic glacial periods caused ice sheets to shrink and recede, lightening the load on Earth’s tectonic plates and making them rebound upwards in a process known as isostatic rebound.

After the layers of weak sediment had built up in sufficient quantities, Antarctica’s continental upspringing triggered earthquakes that caused the coarse gravel atop the slippery layers to slide off the continental shelf edge — causing landslides that unleashed tsunamis.

The scale and size of the ancient ocean waves is not known, but the scientists note two relatively recent submarine landslides that generated huge tsunamis and caused significant loss of life: The 1929 Grand Banks tsunami that generated 42-foot-high (13 meters) waves and killed around 28 people off Canada’s Newfoundland coast; and the 1998 Papua New Guinea tsunami that unleashed 49-foot-high (15 m) waves that claimed 2,200 lives.

With many layers of the sediment buried beneath the Antarctic seabed, and the glaciers on top of the landmass slowly melting away, the researchers warn that — if they’re right that glacial melting caused them in the past — future landslides, and tsunamis, could happen again.

"The same layers are still present on the outer continental shelf — so it is 'primed' for more of these slides to occur, but the big question is whether the trigger for the events is still in play." McKay said. "We proposed isostatic rebound as a logical potential trigger, but it could be random failure, or climate regulated shifts in ocean currents acting to erode sediment at key locations on the continental shelf that could trigger slope failure. This is something we could use computer models to assess for in future studies."


UK: We need to talk about Just Stop Oil’s class privilege

I have never felt such a strong desire to buy a man a pint as I did when I watched that builder clear Just Stop Oil protesters off the road. The clip has gone viral. We see an irate bloke take direct action against doom-mongering posh irritants. They were doing one of their funereal marches on Blackfriars Bridge in Central London, to raise awareness about the coming eco-apocalypse or some nonsense, when the man appeared out of nowhere, fuming.

He ripped their daft banners from their hands. He pushed one of them off the road. He looked furious, and why not? A man being prevented from getting to work by the upper middle-class retirees of the green death cult – we should all be angry about that. My WhatsApp has been buzzing all day with friends and family sharing the clip and cheering the heroic builder, the man with no name, the productive member of society who finally said to the road-blocking End-is-Nigh nutters: ‘Enough’.

The police, however, see things differently. They won’t be buying him a pint. In fact, they arrested him, roughly. One swore at him. It was a surreal scene. The builder was only doing what the police have flat-out refused to do – clear the public highway so that citizens can go about their business. And yet the police manhandled, cuffed and arrested him. Disgraceful behaviour by the state, if you ask me.

That builder should know that if he needs funds for a trial, there are many people out there who would be willing to help. The public has had enough of the road-blocking antics of eco-doomsayers. There have been many instances over the past couple of years of working-class people angrily confronting these self-indulgent disruptors of daily life. We’ve seen builders, truckers and busy mums stand up to the time-rich hysterics and tell them to stop making life harder for ordinary people.

A few months ago, on the Strand in London, I saw some very young men in paint-stained workgear pleading with a gaggle of Just Stop Oil activists to get off the road. ‘Let us go home’, one said. One of the very plummy eco-agitators mumbled something along the lines of: ‘We’re doing this for you, and for everyone.’ Their paternalism and arrogance was astounding.

What have the police done about all this? Nothing. Actually, it’s worse than that – they’re providing protection to the green road-blockers. We’ve seen cops offering Just Stop Oil water, and in one case feeding water to an eco-vicar who had glued himself to the road. The arrest of the heroic builder of Blackfriars Bridge is confirmation that the police are putting a forcefield around Just Stop Oil, to protect them from the plebs. They’re not policing these marches – they’re stewarding them.

We need to talk about Just Stop Oil’s class privilege. It isn’t hard to fathom why these protesters are treated with kid gloves by the cops and fawned over by the liberal media. It’s because they are ‘nice’ and well-to-do. It’s because they are adherents to the grim climate-change ideology that is supported by every wing of the establishment. Do you think Brexit voters, if they were to block the roads to register their frustration with the latest UK-EU deal, would be given such soft, cuddly treatment? Not a chance. They’d be truncheoned off the street and the Guardian would laugh.

Just Stop Oil and its mother-ship movement – Extinction Rebellion – are famously upper class. They’re all called Edred or Tilly. Harry Mount calls them ‘Econians’, a green spin on Etonians – the ‘public school boys and girls who rule the wokerati world’. A survey of the 6,000 XR people who brought London to a standstill in April 2019 found they were ‘overwhelmingly middle-class [and] highly educated’. The establishment likes these people because they look and sound so familiar. ‘They’re just like us.’

An unspoken class war is unfolding on the streets of Britain. The intermittent run-ins between working-class people and comfortably-off greens speaks to a deeper disagreement over the future of the country. Working people tend to want more growth, more wealth creation, decent jobs, and cheap and abundant energy. Greens, meanwhile, want less of everything: less development, less driving, less coal, less nuclear, less energy. The clash between that builder and the road-blockers was really a clash of competing visions, competing values, and I know whose side I’m on.

Isaac Foot, the Liberal MP and father of Michael, was fond of saying that he judged a man by one thing – which side he would have fought on in the Battle of Marston Moor during the English Civil War. We can do similar today. Are you on the side of the self-righteous peddlers of fact-lite doom, or ordinary people who want to keep earning a wage and keep the country running? We can tell an awful lot about you by your answer.


EU’s Burdensome Green Deal Has Some in France, Germany Seeing Red

There is a famous one-word line in Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” wherein our bourgeois heroine Emma has just about had it with her doctor husband Charles’s stultifying ways: “Enough,” she gasps, in French. That exasperation seems to encapsulate the new prevailing sentiment in France and Germany as the two countries push back against the European Union’s so-called Green Deal.

The lofty goals of that deal, which include zero net emissions of greenhouse gasses by 2050 and economic growth completely decoupled from resource use. Also, the European Commission is aggressively seeking to engineer the EU’s current energy, transportation, and taxation policies with a view to curtailing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.

The pressure from Brussels is not going down well at Paris and Berlin.

Earlier this month President Macron literally called for the EU to hit the “pause” button on its increasingly oppressive tangle of environmental regulations. Speaking at a meeting to promote a new “green industry” bill at the Elysée Palace, he said, “We have already passed a lot of regulations at the European level, more than our neighbors.… Now we have to execute, not make new rule changes, because otherwise we will lose all the players.”

“We don’t just want to be a green market, we also want to produce green on our soil,” Mr. Macron told a group of ministers, business leaders, and trade union representatives. More telling than what he said was where he said it — in the heart of Paris, not Brussels.

As France grapples with inflation and a rising cost of living, and with Mr. Macron slowly emerging from a nadir of popularity following his much-loathed pension reform, he is prioritizing protecting French workers over keeping Brussels bureaucrats happy. Now is the time to court new investments, not jeopardize existing ones.

In Germany, there is also growing discontent with the EU’s top-heavy green dictates. After months of political infighting over climate legislation, the country’s three ruling parties, the socialist SPD, the Greens, and the liberal FDP, came to an uneasy compromise over a ban on new gas boilers that threatened to unravel a landmark climate protection law passed in 2019 because parts of it had to be scrapped. By 2030, at least in theory, Germany wants to cut its emissions by 65 percent relative to 1990 levels before achieving so-called climate neutrality by 2045.

The political squabbling over how to put some of those aims into practice dovetails with a majority of Germans doubting that the government will achieve its climate targets, let alone those set by Brussels. For one thing, there is no getting around the shortfall in tax revenue that imperils the future subsidization of a full pivot to renewable energy.

The bickering picked up again this week as members of the three-party ruling coalition fought over new legislation concerning home heating. If passed, it would mandate that starting in 2024, newly installed heating systems will have to run 65 percent on renewable energy. But the heat pumps required for that cost more than $20,000 more than a standard boiler.

Disagreements over the bill are such that they threaten to splinter the coalition, which includes the Social Democrat party of Chancellor Scholz. Blows have been traded via Twitter, where the Greens lashed out at the FDP for what they say is unacceptable on formally submitting the bill to the Bundestag.

The Social Democrat whip, Matthias Miersch, said on social media, “People are increasingly fed up with the bickering over heating and want clarity.”

It is now very unlikely that any such clarity will come in the form of new legislation before the summer.

By some leading indicators Germany’s economy is now in recession. The country’s main statistics office released data released Thursday that showed Germany’s GDP dropped by 0.3 percent in the period between January and March. That isn’t much, but it followed a drop of 0.5 percent during the final quarter of 2022. By most definitions two consecutive quarters of contraction means a recession.

That is not good news for Europe’s biggest economy, nor for the health of the European project as a whole. Tiring too are the weeks of acrimony over such a simple thing as how to keep one’s house warm in winter. Genug, Madame Bovary might say — if she were German. ?


Australian Labor party’s coal-fired green dream

With cost-of-living pressures really starting to hurt Australians, Labor’s green dream would be a complete nightmare if it wasn’t for coal.

When then Treasurer Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into the House of Representatives, the left-leaning media were quick to respond:

‘What a bunch of clowns, hamming it up – while out in the real world an ominous and oppressive heat just won’t let up.’

Fast forward to 2023 and Labor’s budget surplus has little to do with sound economic management, and much to do with unexpectedly high prices for exports of fossil fuels. And this is despite Labor’s running mates, the Greens, doing everything to demonise coal and gas.

In the real world, it takes more than just dreams to power the nation.

But the economic bonus provided by plentiful coal and gas reserves is only the most obvious benefit. Our ability to provide coal and gas to Korea and Japan provides energy security for our strategic partners. This is important for the energy sector in Korea and Japan if they are to avoid Germany’s fate. The disruption of supply in coal and gas in Europe resulting from the war in Ukraine should be proof enough that Australian exports of coal and gas are more important than ever.

The government’s approval of a new coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin has barely raised an eyebrow from the major news media players. Nor should it. This is good news for the economy but confirms that Labor is facing up to the reality of its green energy dream.

Countries that pursued carbon emissions strategies by relying heavily on wind and solar farms are now changing tack. Nuclear is back on the agenda everywhere except for Germany and Australia it seems. The green dream is also impacting European farmers who are protesting against tax burdens created by ‘radical environmentalists far away from farms’. This trend is now starting to impact farmers in Australia.

Australian farmers make a major contribution to our budget bottom line, with wheat production reaching record levels in 2022-23. Although next year’s crop is expected to remain steady (a bit below record levels), Labor was quick to dip into farmers’ profits with a new ‘biosecurity tax’. It makes no sense for farmers to pay a tax to ensure imports from their offshore competitors do not create a biohazard. What’s worse, the levy will ultimately increase the price of fresh food at the checkout when the cost of living is already biting struggling families.

Europeans are starting to turn against Net Zero policies, led by French President Emmanuel Macron with his call for a ‘“pause” of more EU environmental red-tape’. The UK, however, appears to be pushing beyond the EU’s aspirations with goals to end internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030 compared with the EU’s later and less stringent vehicle laws lobbied for by the likes of German manufacturers BMW, Audi, VW, and Mercedes-Benz.

Labor’s push for increased fuel efficiency standards for vehicles is another area where the green dream can easily turn into a gas-guzzling nightmare. Fuel efficiency standards are meant to encourage smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles. The reality or indeed the perverse outcome of such policies is that vehicles are becoming bigger and more powerful.

The idea that consumers can’t wait to get their hands on an EV is not reflected in Australian vehicle sales, with the Ford Ranger currently the biggest selling vehicle, followed closely by the Toyota Hilux. Woke city folk forget that many Australians can’t get around in regional and remote communities on an electric scooter or in the best-selling EV that has a range of barely 500km.

The big problem at the moment is that there might not be enough electricity to live the green dream where everything is powered by renewables. With no Plan B, Australia’s energy security is at risk should Labor’s ‘crash through or crash’ approach to energy policy fail.

Energy industry leaders such as Dr Kerry Schott have cautioned against demonising coal and gas as part of the energy transition to renewables. And former head of Snowy Hydro Paul Broad recently called BS on the 80 per cent renewables energy target. But Warren Mundine summed it up most succinctly on Spectator TV last week, when he said ‘if you believe in climate change and you don’t believe in nuclear power, then you don’t believe in climate change’.

But Labor is pushing a certain type of green dream without facing up to the reality that Europeans are now realising – renewables alone can’t do the job. With some of the largest reserves of uranium in the world, it’s a no-brainer for Australia to embrace nuclear energy now rather than waiting to learn Europe’s lessons.

The Albanese government is happy to claim the glory for a budget surplus due to responsible economic management while minimising the importance of coal for the nation’s continuing prosperity.

In the meantime, without coal there is no green dream.




Thursday, May 25, 2023

Climate Change Gave Us the Great Salt Lake, but It’s Not the Reason It’s Shrinking Today

The Great Salt Lake, or the “Bad Water,” as it was known to the Shoshoni, exists thanks to climate change.

The present lake was formed from a much larger lake, Lake Bonneville, about 30,000 years ago. A drier climate reduced Lake Bonneville to the Great Salt Lake’s current dimensions. The lake has persisted within its historical size range for nearly 13,000 years. Records show the lake was largest in 1985 at 8,500 square kilometers, and then shrank to 2,500 square kilometers in 2021, only 40 years later.

The evaporation of the lake seemed imminent just last year. Such concerns can change quickly.

Up to 1985, rapid lake growth resulted in flooding. At that time, as older residents of Utah will remember, the West Desert Pumping Project diverted nearly a cubic mile of water into a depression to the west to prevent flooding of farms to the east of the lake. The pumping stopped in 1989 as inflows from the Bear River and smaller rivers again declined. The pumps are in place still, just in case.

Changes in climate over thousands of years reduced the depth of Lake Bonneville from nearly 1,000 feet to today’s average of only 16 feet for the Great Salt Lake. The lake still contains nearly 4.6 cubic miles of water. The Great Salt Lake is a terminal lake — that is, water flows in, but does not flow out. Lake Bonneville did drain to the Snake River, at times, before 13,000 years ago. Since then, as a terminal lake, the lake exists due to a balance between inflow from rainfall and rivers competing with evaporation by the sun.

A simple calculation shows that the sun heating the Great Salt Lake could evaporate all its water in a year, leaving only salt pans and saline puddles behind. For millennia, the lake has been constantly replenished by inflow, but the inflow is changing as humans increasingly divert water for other purposes.

Today, as much as two-thirds of the potential river inflow never reaches the lake. Consequently, the lake is shrinking. However, it is not climate change, but human water use that’s cutting the Great Salt Lake’s lifeline. Humans take the water and then mutter something about “climate change,” hoping that no one will notice what they’re doing to Utah’s most famous natural symbol.

Manicured green lawns consume vast amounts of water, not to mention fertilizers and pesticides. The proposed Bear River Development Project would take 30% of the average Bear River water flow, mostly to water lawns. Thirty percent of the average Bear River water flow amounts to 100% in dry years. Then, the lake would shrink or even vanish.

A perfect green lawn, once a symbol of suburban bliss, is seen increasingly as an environmental threat, not just in semi-arid regions like Utah, but all over America. For Utahns determined to have a green lawn, “gray water” — waste water from individual homes— could be a way to keep their lawns green. That was the solution at Pebble Beach Golf where perfect greens trumped imperfect water. A better solution is to dispense with the perfect green lawn entirely, substituting native plants, which are beautiful as well as commensurate with the local environment.

Let’s take a closer look at the long-term history of the water level in the Great Salt Lake. Hydrologists have reconstructed the level of the lake over the past 600 years. The level changes constantly, but the average remains close to 4,202 feet above sea level. Utah’s geology agency data shows the same variations for more than 180 years. The ups and downs closely correlate with rainfall changes. If rainfall is high, the lake rises, and if low, the lake level sinks, just as one expects for a lake in close equilibrium with the climate. If human-originated climate change were altering the lake, the average would decline (or rise), but nothing remarkable is found during the entire industrial age, from 1800 to today. Climate change, clearly, is not the main threat to the lake.

The Great Salt Lake has important environmental, ecological and dollar values. The lake is responsible for a local “lake effect precipitation” — typically 10% of the average 16 inches a year is provided to areas toward the east. The semi-arid Great Salt Lake region has highly variable annual rainfall. The year 1979 was the driest year on record with 8.70 inches of measured rainfall, while only four years later, 1983 was the wettest year on record, with 24.26 inches.

The large variation in annual rainfall is due to weather, not climate change. The “average” Great Salt Lake level has been nearly constant over hundreds of years. The rapid variation in area results from evaporation and water diversion in the shallow lake.

The Great Salt Lake is a major tourist attraction for water sports, for viewing migratory birds and for enjoying the spectacular Utah scenery in quiet contemplation. If the Great Salt Lake is strangled by water diversion, its benefits — and a part of the soul of Utah — disappear. The Great Salt Lake wetlands are, biologically, highly productive sites and a critical wildlife habitat. The lake’s wetlands are essential resting and feeding sites for migratory birds. The rapidly expanding wind turbine “farms” on the Great Plains are directly in the paths of migratory birds, increasingly slaughtering them. Eliminating the migratory bird habitats could easily be a coup de grâce for those beautiful birds.

“Climate change” is blamed for lots of things, but water diversion is the greatest threat to the Great Salt Lake. Utahns should oppose water diversion for real estate development, and work to maintain natural water flows into the lake. The lake will still fluctuate, but as for thousands of years, it will not disappear.

Decisions affecting Utah’s land and natural resources should be made by Utahns, not by unelected bureaucrats in the federal government or real estate developers. Utah needs to take back control of its land, as Eastern states have already done, and then do what’s best for Utah, and for its beautiful resource, the Great Salt Lake.


Those Crazy Environmentalists Are at It Again

Climate activists around the globe pull stunts from time to time to protest whatever latest grievance they have. Sometimes their complaint is against people using gas-powered cars; sometimes it’s against deforestation. This time some ecofascists in Italy were protesting fossil fuels and attacked one of Rome’s most famous landmarks.

Members from an environmentalist group called Ultima Generazione (“Last Generation”) clambered into the wading pool of an 18th-century marble masterpiece, the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is a beautiful landmark first designed by the famous sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini but was actually constructed and completed by two others: Nicola Salvi and Giuseppe Pannini. Completed in 1792, the fountain is a popular tourist destination. Legend says that if you turn around, close your eyes, and throw a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand, you’ll return to Rome someday. Throw two coins in the manner described, and you’ll find your true love!

The climate activists opted to throw something else into the Trevi Fountain: diluted charcoal. It turned the water a startling shade of black. Then the protestors shouted about how the country is dying.

The group later explained on its website that its attack was motivated by the recent flooding in northern Italy that killed 14 people. The activists believe that public subsidies that went toward fossil fuels were the cause of the floods … somehow.

Rome Capital Police quickly arrived and yanked the protestors out of the western marvel while tourists watched and hopefully cheered.

Then the real work began to save the fountain. Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri posted that the “indifferent environmental damage” that the thuggish protestors wrought is not insignificant. The fountain needed to be emptied of the tainted water first to prevent the black sludge from being sucked up by the porous marble, but also because the fountain functions as a water recycler (i.e., a closed system). It wasted roughly 300,000 liters (just shy of 80,000 gallons) of water.

Gualtieri went on to emphasize: “Such gestures are completely wrong and damaging, because they risk damaging precious common goods such as our monuments, and force public administrations into very expensive and environmentally impactful restoration interventions. So they are completely counterproductive, and they also risk reducing the consent in public opinion regarding the right battle for the environment and climate.”

With the exception of the slight pandering to the environmentalists at the end of his statement, this is a point that myself and others have repeatedly made, and yet the environmental cultists continue to wantonly attack works of art.

To quote a recent sentiment from historian Victor Davis Hanson, “Like Byzantines, Americans have become snarky iconoclasts, more eager to tear down art and sculpture that they no longer have the talent to create.” To which we’d add: Not just Americans, but anyone who cynically destroys art.

Ecofascists are happy to damage and destroy works of art, but their acts of terrorism never achieve anything except contempt. It’s hard to grasp their motivation.

Are they so bored with their own lives that they feel the need to spread that misery around? Or is it because of the dread of fictitious apocalyptic doom?

Either way, it’s inexcusable and akin to a petulant child throwing a tantrum.

Another aspect of that same line of thinking is that these wackos aren’t defacing modern art pieces. No activist has yet tried to stick themselves to Boston’s new Martin Luther King sculpture “The Embrace” to bring attention to climate change.

A prominent social media handle articulates a possible answer: “This is not about the climate, it’s about destroying Western civilization and anything it has built.”

The next question we have to ask is: Are we willing to let the “Byzantines” continue to degrade and corrupt our great works of art, or are we going to finally bring down the hammer?


Three bat species at risk of becoming endangered as wind turbines take heavy toll on wildlife

Wind turbines – towering emblems of the shift toward renewable energy – have been cited as a primary reason why three of Canada’s native bats species are in existential peril.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, an independent body that reports to the federal government, recommended on Wednesday that the three species be listed as endangered.

Such a designation would represent the highest level of risk under Canadian law – a fact made all the more striking because it is the first time any of those species have been assessed by the committee.

“There’s lots of indication that all three have been precipitously declining,” said Stephen Petersen, director of conservation and research at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, who co-chairs the committee’s work on terrestrial mammals.

Among the causes that the committee identified as contributors to the bats’ decreasing numbers, “the mortality at wind farms seems to be the top threat,” he said.

The recommendation for listing the species was issued following the committee’s semi-annual meeting, which concluded last week in Regina.

Included in the recommendation are the hoary bat, the silver-haired bat and the eastern red bat. All are high-flying migratory species that spend their winters in the southern United States or Mexico. The first two range across Canada during the summer, except in the Arctic, while the third mainly occurs in the central and eastern parts of the country.

During their migration, the bats encounter an array of human-made structures along their flight paths, both in the U.S. and Canada, including the swiftly whirling blades of wind turbines.

Studies based on counts of bat carcasses near wind turbines have shown that the toll can be heavy when multiplied across all the units that are currently operating. With each turbine killing on the order of 10 bats per year, the impact works out to tens of thousands of individual animals removed from the population annually in Canada alone.

In 2019, an Ontario government-led study used the trend in bat deaths at wind turbines in that province to demonstrate that populations of all three species, as well as the big brown bat, have declined significantly.

The study, which was part of the supporting evidence for the committee’s recommendation, ruled out the possibility that bats are learning to avoid the structures.

“We’re unintentionally harvesting them out of the air space every year,” said Christina Davy, a conservation scientist who was lead author on the study and who is now based at Carleton University in Ottawa.

The effect is compounded by habitat loss, pesticides in the food chain and other threats that bats must cope with.

“The good news is that we have tools to reduce the mortality from wind turbines,” Dr. Davy added. “They’re not ones the industry loves, but they work.”

Those tools include shutting turbines down during periods of low wind when bats are likely to be flying but the energy return is low, as well as during the peak of the fall migration season.

Brandy Giannetta, vice-president of the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, said the domestic wind industry is aware of the issue and has been taking steps to reduce the impact on bat populations.

“We are not surprised by the recommendation for listing,” she said.

She added that turbine operators, using sound-based devices, can also detect when bats are near and, in some cases, can emit sounds that are intended to ward bats away.

But others say the measures deployed to date are not sufficient, as is made apparent by the three species now recommended for listing.

The toll of wind turbines on bats is “one of the best-kept secrets – in a bad way,” said Cori Lausen, director of bat conservation with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.

WCSC and other groups have been warning of the danger posed to bats by wind turbines for years, but the warnings seemed to have little impact, she said.

Because bats can live for decades and tend to have only one pup per year, high losses because of wind turbines have an enduring effect that is difficult to reverse.

“They have no way to bounce back from that kind of mortality rate,” Dr. Lausen said.

The measured pace of Canada’s species law means that the committee’s recommendation will not be formally submitted until later this year. If Ottawa agrees with the recommendation and lists the three species as endangered, the designation will apply only on federal land. Such an outcome is unlikely to have a meaningful impact on bats unless it is supported by provincial regulators who oversee the wind industry.

“The provinces need to step up and recognize that these three species have a very dire outlook if something isn’t done soon,” Dr. Lausen said.

Dr. Petersen said that the committee’s recommendation can serve as a wake-up call that draws more attention to the issue.

“I’m hoping that even though this is not great news, it’ll spur some action,” he said.


New push to lower speed limits for SUVs and other high-emission vehicles in Australia to combat climate change

Lowering the speed limit for larger vehicles must seem easy for an academic but would be murder for drivers. A less onerous policy might be to make the registration costs so high that only those who need big vehicles for work would buy them

A top professor has called for Australia to lower motorway speed limits for SUVs and other high-emission vehicles to combat climate change.

Australia's love for dual-cab utes, large SUVs and older vehicles is making the country one of the biggest petrol consumers in the world, a new report by The Australia Institute found.

Professor Lennard Gillman from Auckland University of Technology said one way to drastically reduce petrol consumption and carbon dioxide emissions is to drive slightly slower.

He believes Australia should introduce differential speed limits for high-emission and low-emission vehicles so cars that put out more pollution are forced to drive slower to reduce their environmental impact.

'Lowering the speed limit for high emission vehicles has the double effect of cutting emissions but also incentivises people to buy low-emission cars,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

'In a vehicle like the Ford Ranger V6 you'll be expending 260g (of fuel) per kilometre. That's more than twice as much as a Toyota Corolla.'

He believes Australia should introduce differential speed limits for high-emission and low-emission vehicles so cars that put out more pollution are forced to drive slower to reduce their environmental impact.

'Lowering the speed limit for high emission vehicles has the double effect of cutting emissions but also incentivises people to buy low-emission cars,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

'In a vehicle like the Ford Ranger V6 you'll be expending 260g (of fuel) per kilometre. That's more than twice as much as a Toyota Corolla.'




Wednesday, May 24, 2023

How Climate Change and 'Heat Islands' are Killing Black People

There are some failures of logic here. The author acknowledges several reasons why blacks experience more hot weather but attempts no analyis of the quantum due to climate change. As the temperature change has been minuscle to absent in recent years, the effects of climate change would likely be nil.

If the late Marvin Gaye could add climate change to his ecological masterpiece “Mercy, Mercy Me,” he might ask: Where did all the cool nights go? Heatwaves in the ‘hood, no shade from the sky, no AC to keep grandma from dying.

Why might the late Motown crooner sing that? Because on Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization announced that Earth will almost assuredly see its warmest average temperature yet over the next five years. To that end, there is a better-than-even chance that one of those next five years will see the planet temporarily breach limits set by the Paris climate accords to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement recommended that nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions to hold Earth’s warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) over preindustrial levels.

The heat is already on this year, with the onset of summer still a month away. Las Vegas had a record day of 93 degrees in April. Seattle and Portland, which broke summer records two years ago with 108 and 116 degrees respectively, set new May records in the 90s. Globally, new spring records up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit were set across Portugal, Spain, Morocco Algeria, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

Temperatures like that mean death. Extreme heat kills more people in the United States annually than any other weather-related event, such as hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes. In North America, the most recent searing evidence of that was the more than 1,400 deaths under the “heat dome” in 2021 that suffocated Oregon, Washington state, and western Canada.

Because of the demographics of that part of North America, most of the victims of that historic heatwave happened to be white. But close attention to the key factors associated with the deaths in Vancouver, British Columbia, Portland and Seattle, reveals threads all too common with the day-in, day-out conditions of many African Americans. Typically, the victim was a socially and materially deprived elder, had underlying health conditions, and possessed no air conditioning in neighborhoods lacking the cooling effects of greenspace.

Black people share those conditions to the level of being disproportionately sealed under the dome of a hotter world, with dire consequences likely if the nation does not fight climate change. According to a 2021 study of the nation’s 175 largest urban areas, people of color in the U.S. were more likely than white people to live on what are called “heat islands.” This is the modern term for the “concrete jungle,” referring to parts of cities where the concentration of buildings, roofs, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots relentlessly absorb and radiate the sun’s heat. Such neighborhoods are often marked by a lack of trees, parks and ponds, creeks, and lakes that naturally cool and moisten the landscape.

Black people, according to the study of 175 cities, have the highest surface urban heat island exposure of any racial or ethnic group, with Hispanics coming in second. It is not an issue of poverty. The nation’s history of redlining and many other forms of housing discrimination in neighborhoods that white interests see as cooler—figuratively, and now, literally—have resulted in Black people being marooned on heat islands regardless of their income.

No one yet knows what that means in actual number of deaths. The federal government says about 700 people die annually in the U.S. from heat-related illnesses, but a 2020 study estimated that number is much closer to approximately 5,600 deaths a year. A Los Angeles Times analysis calculated that California alone suffered 3,900 heat-related deaths from 2010-2019.

What we do know is that Black people are being disproportionately affected. In New York City, where the health department says 370 people die annually from heat-related causes, Black people are twice as likely to die from heat stress than their white counterparts. A 2021 New York Times story found a 35-degree difference on a blazing day in August between the 119-degree sidewalk temperature on a tree-less section of the South Bronx and the 84-degree sidewalk temperature on the thickly-treed Upper West Side near the urban forest of Central Park.

In California, racial disparities have been bubbling up like lava from a volcano. From 2005 to 2015, the rate of emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses soared by 67 percent for African Americans, 63 percent for Latinos, and 53 percent for Asian Americans. It should be noted that the rate of Black emergency room visitors was more than twice the 27 percent increase for white Californians.

Technically, these disparities in heat risk are not new. In the 1995 Chicago heatwave that killed more than 700 people, Black residents had an age-adjusted death rate that was 50 percent higher than white residents. The highest risk was for Black seniors, who had a death rate nearly double that of white seniors.

Worse, it’s not like Black people don’t know they are in the crosshairs of a sizzling climate. A 2020 poll commissioned by the Harlem-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice and the Environmental Defense Fund found that 52 percent of Black respondents were “very concerned” about heatwaves, nearly double the 28 percent of white respondents who were very concerned.

The question is this: Will the part of our nation that enjoys the cooling cross breeze under an oak canopy ever sweat enough to care about climate change? Or even hear the S.O.S. from our blistering heat islands? Mercy, mercy me. Things ain’t what they used to be. What about this overheated land? What more abuse from man can she stand?


Cyclone Mocha: Don’t Fall for the Climate Bait

On May 14, Cyclone Mocha made landfall near Myanmar and Bangladesh. It was not surprising to see many mainstream media blame climate change for it. The pattern has now become common.

Every time there is a major cyclonic event, the media fan fear of climate change and argue that human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide are causing more extreme weather. However, an examination of relevant data shows such reports to be misleading.

As I write this, Mocha has made landfall close to the Myanmar–Bangladesh border. Residents of coastal districts of Chattogram and Barishal are likely to experience the worst impact of the cyclone for weeks to come.

Among the most vulnerable are refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar and have been living for half a decade in Bangladesh camps without the protection of storm-resistant shelter. As sad as the situation is, cyclones are not unprecedented for the region.

Incidence of Cyclonic Storms are Decreasing

According to the Indian Government’s “Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region,” overall cyclone frequency in the Indian Ocean is showing no increase. In fact, there has been a decrease.

“Long-term observations (1951–2018) indicate a significant reduction in annual frequency of tropical cyclones” in both the North Indian Ocean basin and the Bay of Bengal, the report states.

The data clearly show a decrease in frequency of cyclones for more than 100 years in the North Indian Ocean, the birthplace of storms affecting more than 1.5 billion people. However, this information is obscured by cherry picking data for shorter times frames to suggest alarming weather trends.

Hurricane Data Reveal Similar Decrease in U.S.

It is not just the Indian Ocean region. In the U.S., there has been a decrease in the number of landfalling hurricanes per decade since 1850. According to data from the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the number of major hurricanes have been declining since the 1950s.

“In summary, it is premature to conclude with high confidence that increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities have had a detectable impact on Atlantic basin hurricane activity,” NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory states.

The mainstream media is good at tricking people into believing a false emergency. In instances like Cyclone Mocha, they prey on people’s compassion for storm victims and use the calamity to drive fear into people’s minds.

Don’t fall for the climate bait. We will see more and more of it in the coming days, as the climate doomsday bandwagon loses steam in many parts of our world. And desperate times call for desperate deceptions embedded onto the public psyche through repetitive, aggressive media programming.


Lord Frost warns: Hurtling towards Net Zero at any cost will be a mistake

With 800,000 British car-making jobs on the line because we’re not making enough batteries for electric vehicles, leading motor manufacturers are demanding renegotiated trade rules with the EU to give us more time to catch up.

Lord Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator for Brexit from 2019 to 2021, is clear where the fault is.

“The underlying problem is that we’re rushing at electrification of cars far too fast for the technologies we’ve got,” he insists.

“What it shows is that the expectation we had in the trade agreement when we negotiated it was that things would have moved by 2024, and that is not true.”

Vauxhall’s parent company, Stellantis, told MPs earlier this week that it would be unable to keep a commitment to make electric vehicles in the UK without changes to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU.

From next year, under the agreement, 45 percent of an electric vehicle’s parts should originate in the UK or EU to qualify for tariff-free trade between the two.

Without meeting the requirements, cars made in the UK would face a 10 percent tariff if sold in the EU – ­rendering them uncompetitive. Electric car batteries are mainly sourced from Asia and can be up to 50 percent of a car’s value.

But it’s not only car manufacturing, Lord Frost believes, but that is also under intense pressure from the rush to achieve net zero – a government commitment to ensure the UK reduces its greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Express, Lord Frost insists: “Everyone can see we’re not ready. The [electricity supply] grid is not ready, the costs are too high; all we’re doing is needlessly causing problems for our own industry.”

Not only that but the poorest are hit hardest by the transformation.

“We are told constantly that net zero 2050 is not only something that must be done, but it’s also something that’s going to be good for you and is going to increase economic growth and everyone’s going to be better off,” he says.

“I don’t think that is true. We are replacing a lot of perfectly good ways of generating electricity with gas and nuclear for bad ways of generating it with wind and solar, so why would you not expect costs to go up?

“If we’re requiring poor technologies like heat pumps to be installed then that’s going to hit the poorest worst. If it’s good technology, people will install it anyway.

“If it’s bad and expensive technology, the Government has got to make people do it.”

Once dubbed the “greatest Frost since the Great Frost of 1709” by Boris Johnson, the 58-year-old is considered by many Tories to be a leading voice of common sense and even a potential future party leader.

A ­former diplomat, civil servant and Minister for State, he will be giving the annual lecture next week at the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

He strongly believes the Government’s policy of net zero going too fast will cause considerable damage to the UK economy, making us all poorer, especially the less well-off.

Lord Frost does not dispute that climate change is happening. Nor is he repudiating the need for green policies to combat global warming.

“But that’s not the same as saying we’re in climate crisis or emergency, and it’s not the same as saying the only choice we have is to do net zero by 2050,” he says.

“Those are political choices – they’re not scientific choices. And with all political choices, you’ve got to weigh up the pros and cons; the costs against the benefits. And that’s what we’re not doing. You don’t have to deny science to say we need to look at the way we’re going about this and whether it makes sense.”

Lord Frost says what’s especially frustrating about this debate is that many people assume if you’re sceptical about net zero then you’re not interested in protecting the environment. “They’re not the same thing at all,” he insists.

“We all want a cleaner environment. That has nothing to do with the net zero ideology. When this country was first industrialising, the environment was much more polluted than it is now. What has enabled us to improve the environment is economic growth; more efficient ways of doing things. When we get richer, we can spend on clearing up pollution.”

With China set to dominate the electric car market in Europe, and the US supplying us with shale gas, the former minister is incensed we are making other countries richer while making ourselves poorer.

“It obviously makes no sense as a policy,” he says. “As a country, we’re [responsible for] about two per cent of global emissions. We could shut down the British economy tomorrow and it would make no difference to the nature of the problem.

“We are helping [China] by off-shoring our own production and making energy more expensive. We’re going along with that and making ourselves weaker. It makes no sense in a world that’s got more dangerous.”

Energy security has to be a prime concern for Britain, especially as we import so much of our energy from unreliable foreign nations.

“More than ever now, since the Ukraine War, we need an energy system that is productive,” says Frost. “One that we can rely on and we have control over. We’re going in the other direction. We’re installing unreliable technology that has to be backed up. The wind doesn’t blow all the time so you need a back-up to fill the gap. Well, why would that not be more expensive?

“Why not just have the back-up and forget about the wind farms? With our current state of technology, the idea that renewables are going to make us more secure seems to be a total fallacy.”

He stresses how it’s all the more frustrating when we know what the solution is.

“It’s gas, moving to nuclear – that’s the way of reducing emissions in a way that powers the economy,” Lord Frost adds.

“It isn’t reducing our capacity to produce energy, crushing the economy, and making people live in a different way. I don’t think people are going to put up with that.”

Lord Frost is exasperated by the current moratorium on shale gas exploration.

“We have so much shale gas in this country that we could be tapping. A shale gas facility that’s about the size of Parliament Square can produce the same amount of power as a wind farm 10 times the size of Hyde Park.

“This is not a disruptive technology unless your vision of the future is that we don’t have any industry. All of us politicians have to care about voters but I think, in the interest of the country, you have to take on the argument.”

There’s a suggestion that we have removed the shackles of the EU, only to replace them with net zero.

“Yes, a lot of the net zero legislation is inherited through the EU and it is now in our hands to change it, but we don’t seem anxious to do so,” Frost says.

"I think people have got captured by this ideology. They believe the messaging without thinking about it rigorously.”


Forced labour in China is helping to fuel Australia's love affair with cheap solar

Ms Chanisheff is an ethnic Uyghur hailing from the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang, or East Turkistan as she calls it. Xinjiang is one of the world's biggest producers of polysilicon, a crucial ingredient in modern-day solar panels.

About 45 per cent of the world's supply comes from the province, where metallurgical grade silicon is crushed and purified in huge factories.

But researchers and human rights activists claim those factories are also home to the widespread use of forced Uyghur labour.

Ms Chanisheff says getting direct accounts from affected workers is hard because of what she says is a vast orchestrated crackdown on Uyghurs by Beijing.

Clouds gather over sunny story

But she says many people in the Uyghur diaspora in Australia and elsewhere in the world know of family members or friends caught up in the industry.

"The Uyghurs that live in Australia, they know their families are in these labour camps working for the solar panel industry," she said.

"But they're unwilling to speak up due to further persecution of their family members."From an almost non-existent base 20 years ago, China's solar industry has grown to become the world's dominant supplier of panels.

In polysilicon, China accounts for almost 90 per cent of production, having crushed competitors including the US during its rise. China's success has been a boon for consumers, who have benefited from sharp falls in the price of solar panels.

But ethical questions about parts of the industry in China appear to be growing. Despite insistences by Beijing that its policies in Xinjiang are aimed at countering terrorism and alleviating poverty, many remain unconvinced.

Nicholas Aberle, the director of energy generation and storage at the Clean Energy Council, says the reports of human rights abuses in the solar supply chain are a worry.

Dr Aberle said while "this is not an issue peculiar to solar", consumers and governments could not afford to turn a blind eye. "We condemn modern slavery and forced labour," Dr Aberle said.

"It's not something that anyone wants to see anywhere in the world or involved in any of the products that they're purchasing. "Unfortunately, there is some quite good evidence that this is occurring in Xinjiang in Western China."

Claims labour coercion rife

Strategic Analysis Australia director Michael Shoebridge said defining the use of Uyghur labour in the solar industry was difficult because workers, at least notionally, had a choice about whether to participate in it.

But Mr Shoebridge said the choice often seemed to involve working in the factories "for long hours and low rates of pay" or drawing the ire of authorities. As a result, he said many workers were effectively "coerced contractors".

"Really, the Xinjiang economy is propped up by cheap Uyghur labour," Mr Shoebridge said.

On top of this, Mr Shoebridge noted Xinjiang's polysilicon producers also relied on cheap, heavily subsidised coal power to maintain their cost advantage. "It's an underbelly of the solar panel industry," he said.

"People feel very virtuous slapping these solar panels on their roofs. "But if they understood the industry supply chain and its entanglement in the rather nasty human rights abuses and dirty coal in Xinjiang, they wouldn't feel quite so happy when the sun shone on their solar panels."