There has been no official announcement from the officials who preside over the official institutions of climate change hysteria and the glorious five-year plans for “energy transition,” but if you pay close attention you can make out the beginnings of an across-the-board retreat from the Net-Zero madness that has gripped governments everywhere except China and India.
Reality is starting to intrude on green dreams in two easily predictable ways: the economic cost is starting to bite, and the political cost—voters furious with the prospect of rising energy costs and mandates to buy inferior appliances they don’t want and can’t afford—is rising faster than inflation.
“Europe blinks in its commitment to a great green transition,” the Washington Post reported last week: “Europe made big, bold promises to slash carbon emissions to slow global warming, but now the bill is coming due, and governments are starting to blink at the cost — political and economic — needed to power the great transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.”
Net-Zero is right: U.K.'s Grant Schapps, John Kerry.
Start with Britain, where the ruling Conservative Party, facing electoral wipeout according to the polls just four years after its greatest electoral landslide in a century on account of its incompetent governance that included prominent commitment to Net-Zero emissions by 2050, was suddenly outflanked by the Labour Party, which cleverly began expressing opposition to the Tories’ draconian Net-Zero plans. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has done an abrupt 180, scrapping plans for strict anti-auto rules for London, and infuriating the Climate Cult by approving large new oil and gas development in the North Sea. (Norway, celebrated for its high number of electric cars, also just approved 19 new North Sea oil and gas projects.)
With these moves Sunak halted his slump in the polls and has started recovering. But with crazed activists from Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil alienating the public by stepping up their protests blocking roads and defacing monuments and artworks, both major parties in Britain will now be in competition to back away from Net-Zero. “The geopolitical ground is shifting beneath the eco-fanatics feet; this could be the beginning of the end of net zero,” The Telegraph observed.
France’s president Emmanuel Macron has called for a “regulatory break” by the European Union, whose proposal to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2035 set off such a backlash in Germany that even the German Green Party had to go along with weakening the proposal, while Poland’s government is suing the E.U. to block it altogether. In the Netherlands, a "climate-based" proposal to curtail fertilizer use in the agricultural sector set off a populist backlash that toppled the government in regional elections, and a new “Farmer-Citizen Movement” may win outright in a national election scheduled for the fall. A new Farmer's Alliance has just been formed in Ireland, where climate lunatics are threatening to cull the nation's cattle herds. Italy’s new populist prime minister Giorgia Meloni and her cabinet are openly rebelling against E.U. climate targets (and the E.U. generally).
Europe’s political elite is unlikely to give up formally on Net-Zero, but their actions are going to be more important. Even those governments that remain notionally committed to the Net-Zero fanaticism are showing a renewed interest in the one technology that actually works to reduce carbon emissions: nuclear power.
To the rescue, again.
France, which had pledged a few years ago to replace its aging fleet of nuclear power plants with wind and solar power, has decided instead to build a new generation of nuclear power plants. The nuke-revival legislation passed the National Assembly 399-100, with support from a dozen Communist MPs.
(I once asked a French friend how France was able to build 56 nuclear reactors in 15 years while the United States built zero. “Ah it is simple, you see: In France, our Communists supported nuclear power; in America, your Communists opposed it.” Sounds about right.)
Sweden also announced plans to build ten new nuclear reactors. Canada, which managed to build 23 reactors in 22 years before succumbing to the green madness a generation ago, is looking to reverse course. Quebec is considering reopening a nuclear plant it shut down a decade ago.
Germany, which has been the main driving force behind climate mania for over a decade, foolishly shut down its last three nuclear power plants this year, and has started importing more electricity, much of it from France’s nuclear fleet, while increasing its own use of coal to fill the gap. Germany’s ideologues are not happy about this, but the head of Germany’s largest utility has talked back to the government, saying they should stop hectoring France.
The United States -- represented by "Special Presidential Envoy for Climate" John Forbes Kerry -- is the laggard in having second thoughts and embracing sensible policy shifts. But then the U.S. was more than a decade behind Europe in jumping on the bandwagon of massive subsidies for “renewable” energy. Although the U.S. has had generous subsidies for wind and solar power since the 1970s in one form or another, it wasn’t until President Joe Biden passed his risible “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) in 2021 that the U.S. reached European levels of gargantuan waste and extravagant Net-Zero targets.
A curious thing is happening in the wake of the half-trillion-dollar Biden blowout. Renewable energy costs, which the Greens have been touting as cheaper than fossil fuels (a calculation that requires Enron-style accounting methods), are suddenly rising sharply—from 20 to 40 percent since the beginning of 2022—and wind and solar power interests are demanding still more subsidies to succeed.
Equally curious is that major American utility companies are selling their renewable assets. What do they know that they aren’t telling us? Likely that they know the grid won’t work with this flood of intermittent and unreliable power sources, and Democrats are unable to convince their powerful environmental faction that removing regulatory barriers to grid improvements are necessary, because the Greens lose sleep over the fact that it would allow more oil and gas pipelines to be built. They would rather we have blackouts than allow any expansion of natural gas, let alone oil. So the U.S. will go on spending billions to build nearly useless wind and solar power installations just to appease them.
The U.S. did finally start up its first major nuclear power plant in a generation last month, but for a fraction of the cost of Biden’s IRA the U.S. could be building a large new fleet of reactors that could supply electricity 24/7. But don’t expect much progress on this front any time soon. Last week radical Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker vetoed a bill the legislature had passed that would have lifted Illinois’ moratorium on new nuclear plants. Environmental groups rushed to issue press releases praising Pritzker. A recent Capital Research Center study found that the combined annual budgets of anti-nuclear environmental groups is $2.3 billion, reminding us once again that the greatest obstacle to low-emission energy development is old-school environmental fundamentalists.