Net Zero: Cost, Costs, and More Costs

Getting accurate estimates of the costs of going "Net-Zero" from the governments and global institutions that adopted the policy has been a difficult task from the first. That would have been so even if they had been honest and transparent in their accounting. Moving economies from dependence on cheap reliable fossil fuels to reliance on electrification fueled by renewables (i.e. wind and sun) would require massive expenditures on almost every aspect of life.

It also has the potential to be very alarming. If voters learn that the policy will result in higher fuel prices, higher taxes, and the need for them to spend large capital sums to transform their household economies by, for instance, replacing gas-fueled heaters and petrol-driven cars with electricity-fueled ground storage heaters and EVs, they may take fright and decide that the game isn't worth the dim flourescent bulb. Managing voters' opinions has therefore become an important element in the policy. It has to be "sold."

As it happens, the United Kingdom -- which has reduced carbon emissions more substantially than any other country -- has also put together the strongest political coalition in support of the Net-Zero policy. All the political parties represented in Parliament back it. So, overwhelmingly, does the media. So do all the major cultural institutions such as the BBC. Even bodies apparently remote from politics such as the National Trust (which looks after Britain's stately homes) are keen to be seen as relevant to the cause. When the Climate Change Act setting out legally-binding targets for carbon emissions reduction was passed, only five MPs voted against it.

That legislation created a climate change committee, rooted in parliament but independent of the government, and gave it the task of holding ministers to account over whether they have met the carbon reduction targets written into law. Its sixth annual report was issued at the end of last year. And it offers a very useful glimpse into the lifestyle changes and probable costs of the Net-Zero policy which most governments and agencies have been reluctant to publish or discuss in detail.

No, ministers

That's understandable. When wind and sun still contribute only a measly 1.5 percent of global energy consumption, as Matt Ridley pointed out recently, it's hard to estimate the costs of expanding that share to the 94 percent now contributed by fossil fuels of one kind or another. But the costs won't be small. And there will be a great many of them spreading into every area of life since the mere act of living consumes energy and is sensitive to its cost.

To prevent this article becoming an encyclopaedia, I'll examine only three kinds of cost: lifestyle costs, economic costs, and political costs. I have to admit that the committee's report is relatively honest about the lifestyle consequences of net-zero, though it wraps up its admissions in honeyed phrases. Here, for instance, is its cheerful summary of how "we" will reduce demand for carbon-intensive activities:

The U.K. wastes fewer resources and reduces its reliance on high-carbon goods . . . Diets change, reducing our consumption of high-carbon meat and dairy products by 20 percent by 2030, with further reductions in later years. There are fewer car miles travelled and demand for flights grows more slowly. These changes bring striking positive benefits for health and well-being.

And here's my grouchy response to it:

But what if our diets don’t change voluntarily? Or consumers don’t actually like the new low carbon foods predicted here? Or they want to use their cars and fly on vacation more often than the planners predict? Those "striking positive benefits for health and well-being" sound alarmingly like the medical authoritarianism currently running our lives in the fight against Covid-19. Will doctors and other planners change their presciptions if we don't like the medicine? Or will they ration the foods, car trips, and vacations that the consumers (who are also voters) are determined to enjoy?

My sarcasm notwithstanding, these recommended (a.k.a. imposed) lifestyle choices imply heavy economic costs as industry and agriculture change what they now produce in response to market demand to quite different goods and activities prescribed by ministers and civil servants. The U.K.'s decision to prohibit the sale of petrol-driven automobiles from 2030 in order to require a switch to electric vehicles will force both the taxpayer to finance the electrification of the entire country and the driver to buy a much more expensive car.

When we see the scale of this economic and industrial transformation, it's plain that it's a very expensive project indeed. As I pointed out last month, even the committee chairman concedes that if it is to make us richer rather than poorer, then "[l]ow carbon investment must scale up to £50 billion each year to deliver Net-Zero." Not to worry, however, because he also assures us that "our central estimate for costs is now below 1 percent of GDP throughout the next 30 years."

But these estimates were  immediately challenged by Dr. John Constable, energy editor of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, as "entirely divorced from reality":

Some of them are out by several hundred percent, meaning that the claim that we can decarbonise painlessly doesn’t stand up to even cursory scrutiny. Offshore wind is twice as expensive to build as the CCC assumes, and two to four times more expensive to operate. The resulting electricity will be many, many times more expensive than they claim, making the use of heat pumps and Electric Vehicles utterly unaffordable.

So the estimate that net-zero costs will be less than 1 percent of GDP annually for the next thirty years is a fanciful one. Almost all other estimates are higher, some several-fold. Net-zero is a plan fueled not by fossil deposits but by optimism.

And that takes us to the third cost: political costs. These are obvious. Everyone has accepted at the back of their minds that there'll be a price to be paid by governments in power when the higher taxes and energy prices fall due. But that won't be tomorrow or, with luck, before the next election. So MPs never seem to have done the calculation of how heavy the political costs might be -- until last week when the Onward think-tank in London produced an analysis of the political impact of net-zero and discovered that it would be formidably high.

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In particular the carbon-intensive industries most reliant on fossil fuels are concentrated in the Midlands and North of England -- the very regions where Boris Johnson broke Labour's "Red Wall" and won a slew of traditionally Labour sets to swell his parliamentary majority to eighty seats. Johnson has since acknowledged that he had only "borrowed" those voters and would have to justify their trust in him by leveling up their economic prosperity to that of Britain's booming South-East.

What the Onward report suggests is that Johnson's green industrial revolution risks pushing the poorer regions further down the prosperity index rather than levelling them up. Boris Johnson's green agenda is completely at variance with its post-Brexit policy of an infrastructure build-up to as well as being economically regressive

Consider, now, the report's analysis of how this will impact the seats won in 2019 as summarized by the Telegraph:

Some of the biggest concentrations of polluting jobs are in Conservative-won seats West Bromwich West, with 59pc, as well as Hyndburn in Lancashire and Stoke-on-Trent North with 55pc each, according to the Road to Zero report.

The East Midlands has the highest share of jobs in high-emitting industries at 42pc compared to London, the lowest, with 23pc.

The research suggests that up to 10m jobs could need to be replaced, or see workers retrained, as the UK aims to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

What makes this report so interesting is that Onward, a progressive Tory think tank, and the GWPF, a Thatcherite one, now agree on at least one aspect of the net zero policy: It's a political suicide note.

The Green Covid 'Relief' Bill

On Sunday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer announced that they had come to an agreement on the details of a second Covid-19 relief package. There had been a lot of public wrangling over what the bill should look like, with senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calling for $1,200 payments to Americans to compensate them for the economic disruption of the government-imposed lockdowns, a provision which President Trump supported but which was ultimately thwarted by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).

There was debate about whether businesses should be granted immunity from Covid-related lawsuits (to which the Democrats objected), and whether state and local governments adversely effected by the pandemic should be bailed out (to which the Republicans objected). In the end, after a number of compromises, senators were left with a neat, tidy bill which they could all be happy with.

Or at least, that was what leadership expected them to say. In fact, the text of the bill was more than 5,000 pages long, and wasn't released until two hours before it was to be voted on. For once, AOC is right:

Not reading it didn't stop Congress from passing the $2.3 trillion legislation by huge margins on Monday. To echo AOC's leader on another massive bill, I guess they had to pass it for us to find out what's in it.

That's exactly what we're finding out now, and there are quite a few howlers, from $10 million for Pakistani "gender programs" to the creation of a committee to combat performance enhancing drug use in horse racing. But the surprising provisions which feature the most prominently in the actual text of the bill are all climate related. This is from an AP report entitled "Congress takes aim at climate change in massive relief bill":

The huge pandemic relief and spending bill includes billions of dollars to promote clean energy such as wind and solar power while sharply reducing over time the use of potent coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators.... The energy and climate provisions, supported by lawmakers from both parties, were hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade. “Republicans and Democrats are working together to protect the environment through innovation,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The sprawling legislation also extends tax credits for solar and wind power that are a key part of President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to generate 100 percent “clean electricity” by 2035. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware... said the bill would cut pollution from school buses, air conditioners, refrigerators and more, while creating thousands of American jobs and helping “save our planet from the climate crisis.″ “Make no mistake,″ he said, the new legislation “will soon be some of the most significant climate solutions to pass out of Congress to date.″

For all of the hand wringing over this being the second largest bill in American history, as well as attempts by  Johnson and others to trim down benefits to individual Americans, Republicans and Democrats conspired to shower taxpayer dollars on questionable and controversial green priorities which have nothing to do with the virus, without saying a word about it in public.

It's almost as if the pandemic is just an excuse to do whatever they already wanted to do to begin with.

Canadian Ecopoets' Dream Is Albertan Nightmare

 Seamus O’Regan, Newfoundland pseudo-nonce-poet, Canada’s natural resources minister and all-round “weightless politician” (as Rex Murphy dubs him), has turned to poetry, offering a homiletic assessment of Canada’s bright Green future once Canada’s oil-and gas giant, the province of Alberta, has been economically destroyed. In a poem, or rather, a piece of anaphoric doggerel, entitled ALBERTA Is, the poet- minister informs us

Obviously, Alberta is, and can be, none of these. Hydrogen, batteries, geothermal, and electric vehicles are all dead letters. They are unworkable. The evidence is incontrovertible. Moreover, in a cramp of logical thinking, if Alberta is everything O’Regan says it is, then capture technology has no place in his catalogue. The Twitter post capping this feeble attempt at poetic afflatus, Alberta is vital to [Canada's] clean energy future, is an emblem of perilous inanity. As Michael Shellenberger has shown in article and book, clean energy is remarkably dirty. A functioning Alberta is vital not to a non-existent “clean energy future” but to Canada’s energy independence, industrial survival and national prosperity. O’Regan’s Alberta is a radical environmentalist’s baleful fantasy.

O’Regan may not be a poet in any meaningful sense of the word, anymore than he is an effective minister, but he has the backing of Canada’s poetic community. Acclaimed Canadian versifiers like Dionne Brand, Michael Ondaatje and George Elliott Clarke have signed on to an ecological movement known as The Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another, which has targeted Alberta for destruction by transitioning Canada away from fossil fuels.

A poetically influential school known as ecopoets or wilderness poets have added their collective voice to the call for deep-sixing the energy sector and replacing it with abortive renewables like wind and solar, which are known to be unaffordable, inadequate and environmentally disastrous.

For example, in “At the Center, A Woman” from Tourist to Ecstasy, voluminously published ecopoet Tim Lilburn revives an indigenous fable enjoining us to return to the feminine source of unspoiled existence and the spirit of nature— 

Her voice is black water under wheat’s erect earth.
Uh.    Uh.
Her teeth are armies.   Uh.
Her throat’s flex, tree, flowing mass. Cottonwood, beech.
She songs the forest. Energy mezzos.
Mmho  Mmho  Mmho  Ho Ho Ho Ho

Apparently, the time for a new understanding has arrived. We have come to “the edge of the known world,” he informs us, “and the beginning of philosophy.” The beginning of philosophy entails the end of the energy sector and the apotheosis of water, wheat and forest. O brave new world that has such poets in it. 

Ecopoetry’s most famous Canadian practitioner, award-winning Don McKay, argues in an essay for Making the Geologic Now, "[T]he intention of culture… has been all too richly realized, that there is little hope for an other that remains other, for wilderness that remains wild.” In order to assure a revivified nature, we must cease “digging up fossilized organisms and burning them, effectively turning earthbound carbon into atmospheric carbon, drastically altering the climate.

Rather we must affirm “the visionary experience of wilderness as undomesticated presence”—though domesticated, it turns out, by much scarred terrain where “rare earths” are mined and featuring landscape-devouring and soil-poisoning solar panels, 285 feet high wind turbines, unrecyclable blades and masts, bird hecatombs and, as Jean-Louis Butré writes in Figarovox/Tribune, lamenting the despoliation of the French countryside, “new concrete blockhouses to maintain these monsters.” The result is “le déversement de tonnes de bétons dans nos campagnes.”

O nature, pleine de grace.

The costs of eventual land reclamation will be, as he says, “pharaminous” and an insupportable burden on municipalities. How this fact consorts with McKay’s environmentally-conscious urging to “amend our lives, to live less exploitatively and consumptively,” and to honor spirit of place remains an open question.

Indifferent poets have also contributed to the wilderness-inspired trashing of reliable energy production. To take one example, in Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, Mari-Lou Rowley presents us with “Tar Sands, Going down”:

Look up! look way up-
nothing but haze and holes.
Look down!
bitumen bite in the
neck arms thighs of Earth
a boreal blistering,
boiling soil and smoke-slathered sky.

Environmental Catharism is now the name of the game. As Abraham Miller explains, lamenting the deterioration of California’s infrastructure, the Green mandate has shifted state expenditures to providing renewable energy rather than maintaining power lines. Rolling blackouts are the result. In addition, the environmental lobby has prevented prudent clear cutting in order to ensure “nutrients for the soil,” creating forests of highly combustible underbrush and dead trees. The trouble is, Miller warns, “What happens in California never stays in California.”

Very true. Once Alberta is decommissioned, California Dreamin’ is Canada’s future. So much for wilderness, the virgin bride of Canada’s poetic suitors. Unfortunately, Mmho  Mmho will not take us very far.

Just ask a real poet.

In his celebrated essay, A Defence of Poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley, among the great Romantic poets of the early 19th century, claimed that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Shelley was determined to refute the thesis of his friend Thomas Love Peacock, who in The Four Ages of Poetry had argued that poetry had become useless in the era of the Enlightenment. Rather, Shelley asserted, poets are innovators, revolutionaries, visionaries of the “highest order,” and the source of “those social sympathies [and] elementary laws from which society develops.” The true poet runs counter to the shibboleths of the time, rejecting the modish fancies and social trends that imbue the culture. His mandate is skepticism and critique.

Regrettably, our poets no longer challenge the fads and superstitions of the day. Like the politicians, journalists, and academics who have plunged headlong into Green, they have become supine followers of the climate mandarins, lobbying for renewable energy and the abolition of the oil and gas industry. Alberta bad. Energy disaster good. They have become Seamus O’Regan.

There may yet be hope. W.H. Auden, one of the best and most intelligent poets of the modern era, wrote that “Poetry makes nothing happen.” Alberta has a mighty struggle on its hands but, if Peacock and Auden are right, it need not worry about its poetic adversaries—except when, like O’Regan, they happen to be politicians.

With the Climate, Some Things Are Uncertain, Some Not

I attend a local Anglican church in a middle-class suburb of Sydney. As is common these days, most congregants are of an age. Churches were allowed to open in New South Wales some weeks ago, albeit with social-distancing rules and sans singing. Hymn singing along with playing wind instruments is well known, apparently, among epidemiologists advising governments, to speed transmission of the dreaded virus. And no, before you ask, no evidence has been adduced.

Who needs evidence to back scary talk? Make it scary enough and people are too busy worrying to think for themselves. In any event, in the mind of the church, St Paul (Romans 13:1-5) dispels any thought of rebelling against civil authorities. Yes, but how about Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Nelson Mandela? Weren’t they right to rebel, you might query? Never mind, that’s a story for another day.

Currently only half the congregants have returned. Evidently, the other half remain too scared to return. This is not surprising. Most will have been brought up on public broadcasting and remain umbilically attached. Funded wholly by tax payers, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, as media watcher Gerard Henderson (The Sydney Institute) often observes, is a conservative-free zone. Its staff-elected director aside, the government appoints the board, but the board has never, ever, shown itself to be anything other than the very model of a toothless tiger. A green/left staff collective runs the ABC. Alarmism is its forte, stirring grievances among supposed oppressed minorities its specialty.

For years climate alarmism has taken centre stage at the ABC. A hot day for the weatherman or woman is code for climate change. On the other hand, a cold day is just a cold day. Unusually, spring snow fell in parts of south-eastern Australia in late September. Nothing to see there. Incidentally, I’ve just clicked onto the ABC website. The first story I see is titled: “Human evolution and climate change.” Safer for one’s state of mind not to venture beyond the title.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the highest temperature yet recorded in Australia was 50.7 C at Oodnadatta Airport on 2 January 1960. Incidentally, the third highest was in January 1939. The people at my church wouldn’t know that and would have no interest in finding out, I suspect. Thus, I often have to put up with prayers on Sunday to save the environment from mankind. And, in this tremulous Age of Covid, prayers for those afflicted by the virus, which they have been taught by the ABC to regard with the same trepidation as the imminent apocalyptic collapse of ecosystems.

What about children dying of cancer, I whisper under my breath. But death, has become focussed on ‘the invisible enemy’ or, as I saw in my morning paper in a letter from a group of learned physicians living in premier Daniel Andrews’ fiefdom of Victoria, ‘the silent enemy.’ The virus is both invisible and silent. Who knew? What an extremely clever virus is this?

What I particularly notice about those about me at church is a lack of questioning on the issues of the day. My doubts about climate change or the virulence of the virus or, for example, about the factoid we have in Australia (and in the schools) that part-Aboriginal children were ‘stolen’ from their families, are met with absolute incredulity. I believe they think I’m simply eccentric and to be treated kindly (they are Anglicans after all) but condescendingly.

But, let me issue a challenge. Who is self-reflectively questioning in these days of sharply divided opinions? I spent some time some years ago, when I still could stand mixing with those on the left, with a chap who was at the time vice president of Australian Skeptics. I challenged him as to why he wasn’t the least bit skeptical about the received view on climate change. He was gracious enough to issue a mea culpa but remained obdurate; totally without doubt when it came to his certainty that mankind (personkind in Canadian English) is overheating the world.

In case you think I am picking on the Left -- which I admit to often doing -- I meet with a group of conservative friends each Friday morning over coffee. They are equally certain that CO2 is not heating the atmosphere to any material extent. One short-circuits the argument by denying that the recorded increase in CO2 has much, if anything, to do with burning fossil fuels in the first place. I believe I heard Richard Lindzen, or maybe it was another well-known skeptical climate scientist, express a similar view on a YouTube video, so I assume it isn’t outlandish. You notice I say assume because, really, I have no idea.

This brings me to a point. How can we be certain that we are right, particularly on matters outside of our expertise? Obviously, I am not referring to religion where faith is the defining arbiter. Take climate change.

Do I personally know, absolutely, and without possibility of error, that man-made CO2 is not destroying the planet? After all, David Attenborough and Prince Charles think it is; not to mention Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; and lots of other people, some of whom might actually have expertise in climate science. I believe I can say with certainty that the alarmist position is unproven. Thereafter, my opinion tends to be on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond doubt.

However, all is not lost in equivocation. Sometimes it's cloudy and the sun always goes down in the evening. The wind doesn’t always blow. Renewable power based on these two sources is therefore intermittent and unreliable. Of this, there is no doubt. Batteries cannot fill the gap. Of that there is also no doubt. If there were, I am sure Michael Moore (Planet of the Humans) would have said so. What this means is that wind and sun power need back-up; mostly, in practise, from coal, gas, or nuclear.

And, the more the wind and sun feed power to the grid, the more back-up is needed. And that, to speak colloquially, is the bleeding obvious. It is one thing to have the wind become still when providing about 7 percent of power, as it did on average in Australia in 2019. Quite another, if in the future, in green dreamland, it is providing 37 percent and more.

It is no accident that South Australia, the state relying most on wind and Tesla batteries, suffered blackouts in 2018. Blackouts have been avoided since by sourcing power, as needed, from Victoria which still has coal power. South Australia has none. The option of sourcing interstate power will progressively diminish as coal-fired power stations (providing 56 percent of the electricity supply nationwide) are demolished. Nine have closed in the past ten years. Of the twenty-four remaining, only six are less than twenty years old. One of the oldest, Liddell in the Hunter region, coal country in NSW, is scheduled for closure in early 2023. This, in a land which is the second largest exporter of thermal coal. Someone, somewhere, must be burning it?

Down Under

It says a lot about the mess we’re in that prime minister Scott Morrison (15 September) threatens to build a government-owned gas-fired power station, unless one or other of the electricity-generation companies replace Liddell with enough dispatchable power to keep the lights on. Gas in coal country you say? Well, that’s as good as it gets. And, of course, instructively, gas better backs up intermittent wind than does coal. Wind calls the tune.

My friend Rafe Champion, among other pursuits, is an avid wind watcher; while cautioning that “wind watching can be time-consuming and habit-forming.” He takes on the onerous task of informing any half-receptive politician he can find, that it isn’t the average amount of wind power delivered to the grid over any period of time that counts, but the minimum amount. Obvious, when you think about it, as the demand for power must be met continuously. Not so obvious to the political class.

It would be nice if those diametrically opposed on global warming could at least agree, if there is a problem, that wind and sun won’t solve it. Then we could put aside differences and work on effective (least-regret) solutions, which would likely include HELE-coal power, gas and nuclear. Alas, differences can’t be put aside. I need to go back to religion.

Faith, as I said, is the final arbiter when it comes to religion. In the final analysis, it is not subject to non-transcendental arguments. It is evident that renewable energy has become totemic of the new ersatz religion of climate change -- aka saving the planet from human pollution. Its dogma lives loudly within climate alarmists, the Extinction Rebellion crowd and the like; and, of course, within the ABC. Questioning the dogma is heretical. My fellow parishioners who listen to and/or watch the ABC need to understand that while high priests are indeed at its helm, their line can’t be traced to the Apostles.

'Resilient Recovery' to the Rescue!

The Trudeau government has a plan to save Canada's economy from post-Covid collapse. It advances a glorious shopping list of unsustainable programs and initiatives called the Task Force for Resilient Recovery, part of the so-called “Build Back Better” campaign, which is also Joe Biden’s campaign slogan. The plan claims that “Our focus should not be simply on returning to growth, but on growing smarter and cleaner to support a more resilient future.”

The intention is “to put our economy on a low-carbon [and] sustainable and competitive pathway [toward] net-zero,” thus supporting “Canada’s adaptation to climate impacts.” Its attention will be on “supporting the environment, clean competitiveness and climate resilience [while] addressing implementation, and with attention to youth, women, Indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups.” 

The emphasis will be on solar panels, new grids, hydrogen production, carbon pricing systems, clean energy sectors (i.e., wind farms) and zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). The project is being pushed by Deputy Prime Minister and newly-installed Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and by Trudeau crony Gerald Butts, which inspires zero-confidence in the outcome. Freeland is all fries and no burger. Butts is the next edition of the Terminator. Given their qualifications and record, the leadership of these two Trudeau stalwarts should inspire profound misgivings.

It can't be reasoned with, it can't be bargained with.

As Diane Francis writes in the Financial Post regarding “the loopy recommendations put forth this summer by Trudeau’s Task Force for a Resilient Recovery,” it is an anti-business outfit consisting of “a hand-picked task force that is a grab-bag of professional Liberals, green activists, former civil servants and self-described social entrepreneurs whose business models are all about getting grants and subsidies.” She continues:

Their recommendations would bankrupt the country. They include: $27.5 billion to build energy-efficient buildings; $49.9 billion to retrofit existing buildings; and a pledge to ‘jump-start production and adoption of electric vehicles,’ which does not include a price tag, but is sure to be a hefty one. When mixed with Trudeau’s continuing assault on Canada’s only engine of economic growth — the oil and resource sectors — the outcome is a foregone conclusion: Canadian taxpayers, who already pay some of the highest taxes in the world, will crumble or flee, along with their investors and employers.

The resilient recovery initiative is neither resilient nor oriented toward recovery. It is shaky and abortive and will crater on itself, dragging the economy down with it. A similar project was tried in Ontario under the Liberal governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynn. The aforementioned Butts was McGuinty’s senior advisor and also, as the CBC reports, the “brains behind… the ill-fated Green Energy Act.” He had no compunction about “signing onto dubious wind power projects and its cripplingly inefficient Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP).” Ontario is now the most heavily indebted sub-sovereign borrower in the world, plagued by systemic inefficiency, prohibitive electricity rates, and a debt load almost double that of the “fiscal train wreck” known as California, a triple whammy from which the province may never recover. 

The science on which the taskers predicate their version of the Green New Deal is deeply flawed. Writing in PowerLine, John Hinderaker lucidly exposes why Green energy is impossible. It is an article that should be read by every citizen concerned about the wind turbine being erected in his neighborhood. The problems are insurmountable. “Wind turbines produce energy around 40% of the time, and solar panels do much worse.” Battery storage, the Liberal default position, is a dead end. There is no feasible battery “that can store the entire output of a power plant or a wind farm,” apart from the fact “that battery storage is ruinously expensive.” Moreover, the materials needed for a single wind turbine—4.7 tons of copper, 3 tons of aluminum, 2 tons of rare earth elements, and 1,200 tons of concrete—should give us pause.

Depleting the planet's resources, one twirl at a time.

Figures for the U.S. grid taken as a whole show that the wind-solar-battery nexus “would consume around 70% of all of the copper currently mined in the world, 337% of global nickel production, 3,053% of the world’s total cobalt production, 355% of the U.S.’s iron output, and 284% of U.S. steel production, along with unfathomable quantities of concrete.” In addition, to have a perceptible effect on climate, “China, India, Brazil and the rest of the developing world would have to get all of their electricity from wind and solar, too. That would increase the above demand for materials by something like 15 to 20 times,” depleting the planet’s resources.

Meanwhile, in a crowning irony, radical environmentalists “bitterly oppose, and successfully frustrate, the very mining projects that would be needed to produce the materials for the turbines and solar panels they say are essential to the continued existence of the human race.” Altogether, it makes more sense to “harness the energy of unicorns running on treadmills.”

And what is driving this Green madness? Two things: “1) politics, and 2) enormous quantities of money being made by politically-connected wind and solar entrepreneurs.”

In a painstakingly detailed report for the Manhattan Institute, The New Energy Economy: an exercise in magical thinking, Mark Mills has also demonstrated that the green energy movement is wrong by orders of magnitude in every single claim it makes regarding cost, efficiency, underlying math, energy availability, disposal protocols, grid parity, incremental engineering improvements, digitalization and the ability to meet demand

Green energy, he points out, is no substitute for hydrocarbons, which are the world’s principal energy resource today “and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, meanwhile, constitute a small source of energy, and physics dictates that they will remain so… there is simply no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a ‘new energy economy.’” The mathematics is unforgiving.  “The path for improvements now follows what mathematicians call an asymptote; or, put in economic terms, improvements are subject to a law of diminishing returns.” As he explains:

This is a normal phenomenon in all physical systems… gains in efficiency… or other equivalent metrics such as energy density (power per unit of weight or volume) then shrink from double-digit percentages to fractional percentage changes. Whether it’s solar, wind tech, or aircraft turbines, the gains in performance are now all measured in single-digit percentage gains.

In other words,

The physics-constrained limits of energy systems are unequivocal. Solar arrays can’t convert more photons than those that arrive from the sun. Wind turbines can’t extract more energy than exists in the kinetic flows of moving air. Batteries are bound by the physical chemistry of the molecules chosen… The limits are long established and well understood.

Mills is talking about actual energy production and use, not about digital miniaturization, which follows different laws of efficiency. “Physics realities do not allow energy domains to undergo the kind of revolutionary change experienced on the digital frontiers,” he explains. Green enthusiasts believe that energy tech will follow Moore’s Law, namely, that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years, though the cost of computers is halved. Mills puts paid to the idea of domain parity:

Logic engines can use software to do things such as compress information… and thus reduce energy use. No comparable compression options exist in the world of humans and hardware. If photovoltaics scaled by Moore’s Law, a single postage-stamp-size solar array would power the Empire State Building. If batteries scaled by Moore’s Law, a battery the size of a book, costing three cents, could power an A380 to Asia. But only in the world of comic books does the physics of propulsion or energy production work like that.

Nonetheless, the scam persists thanks to “scientific” jobbery and self-interest, as well as the furthering of political schemes in favor of the Green agenda. Stuart Ritchie in his just-released Science Fictions refers to what is known as the Mertonian Norms (named after sociologist Robert Merton) that underpin all scientific research and progress. These comprise the four major scientific values:

So-called climate science is an example of how the Mertonian Norms—in particular the last two principles—have been consigned to the scrap heap, leading to data manipulation, massaging of results for propaganda purposes, belief in the improbable or impossible, and promotion of government projects however dubious or ill-advised.

Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

The newfound passion for ZEVs is a case in point. Transport Canada announced a national purchase incentive program for electric vehicles. Canadians who purchase electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids are eligible for an incentive of $2,500 to $5,000. It sounds good on bureaucratic paper, but as Mills clearly shows:

There are no subsidies and no engineering from Silicon Valley or elsewhere that can close the physics-centric gap in energy densities between batteries and oil. The energy stored per pound is the critical metric for vehicles… The maximum potential energy contained in oil molecules is about 1,500% greater, pound for pound, than the maximum in lithium chemistry.

Yet enthusiasm for these projects continues to grow. In a recent column, “The folly of green economics," Rex Murphy comments on the absurdity of the city of Toronto’s plan to outfit its ambulances with solar panels. “[S]o inventive, so original an initiative to stave off planetary oblivion,” he writes, will be little consolation to anyone who “has to be carted off at high speed to the emergency department… should  911 be called on a rainy day, or during the night.” But the symbolism of the project is not to be downplayed since it shows the world “how sublimely climate-virtuous we are.” 

Murphy can scarcely disguise his incredulous contempt. I take this folly as representative of what, in reality, is meant when Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks so confidently about a green recovery.” For there is nothing “so unpromising in practical terms, so irrelevant to the real challenges of our time… as subservience to green politics.” Come to think of it, if solar is so reliable and efficient that people’s lives are made to depend on it, why don’t solar panels or, say, lithium batteries power helicopters or passenger jets or ocean liners? As we’ve seen, adducing Moore’s Law to green the future simply cannot work in this energy context. 

I watch the tugs from my window hauling gigantic barges, massive cargo ships and endless log booms up the Fraser River toward the sawmills. Heavily laden mile-long freight trains rumble across the nearby trestle bridge dozens of times day and night. On the farther shore tall cranes, dredges and power shovels are at work putting up a fifty-seven storey condo tower. Tugs, barges, ships, freight trains, sawmills, bridges, dwellings—in short everything we rely on for our existence would cease to exist on solar, lithium and wind. Commerce would come to a standstill.

The fact is that the war against the energy sector and its replacement by green renewables will be calamitously unaffordable, trash the domestic power grid, and ultimately bankrupt the nation. And if carried out globally, it would devastate the planet. This should be a no-brainer but it escapes the progressivist mind with perfect serenity, in particular since neither Mertonian disinterestedness nor skepticism are cherished values.

Writing in the Financial Post about the “five years of suffering in eco-zealot purgatory under the Trudeau Liberals,” Gwyn Morgan cites Statistics Canada showing that “since election of the Trudeau government in 2015, investment in 10 of our 15 major business sectors has dropped by 17 percent, as both Canadian and foreign investors have fled. More than $185 billion left the country.” The full impact of the gargantuan restructuring of our vital business sectors in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic will be economically apocalyptic if based on green thinking. To make matters worse:

In the face of such alarming prospects, it seems the coronavirus has fostered escape to a fantasy state where reality is magically replaced by an imagined world that is whatever one wishes it to be. It’s baffling to hear our government declare the pandemic has created an ‘opportunity for public investment in green restructuring of the economy,’ which translates into subsidizing windmill and solar-power companies. How will that work out? Ask Ontarians.

Morgan concludes his fiscal obituary with a note “to our new Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland: Achieving private-sector investment and job creation is the only hope for keeping the good ship Canada from smashing onto the post-Covid rocks and sinking a nation that had such great potential.” Unfortunately, Minister Freeland knows nothing about finance and, like the rest of the Green coterie, is deaf to reason, science and economics. And it is unlikely they will undergo a change of heart or mind, being subject to Brandolini’s Law: The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

And so the Task Force for Resilient Recovery ploughs ahead toward the abyss, indifferent to the laws of nature, in defiance of the principles of scientific inquiry, and oblivious to the dictates of common sense. It is busy imposing its comic book designs upon the real world. As Graeme Gordon writes for CBC News, “The architects of Ontario's energy fiasco are now stationed in the PMO. The whole country should be wary of the financial disaster of that province being replicated nationwide.” 

It’s a foregone conclusion.

Down Under, What Price Virtue?

The drive to turn the world -- particularly, the Anglosphere -- Green is international, much like Communism. And the desire to virtue-signal seems equally strong, no matter what the cost. As Australia is now learning:

On average, Australia is spending $13 billion trying to get rid of coal and trying to interject renewable energy in the electricity market, according to economist Alan Moran. The Australian Energy Market Commission puts the cost of environmental policies on the consumer at around $90 per year, or 6.5 per cent of the household electricity bill.

But wait -- it gets worse.

However, Dr Moran said this estimate only covers around one sixth of the potential cost. The effect renewables have on the market, as well as the government loans and subsidies, among other costs brings the actual cost to the consumer to around $536 per year, or 39 per cent of the electricity bill. He said the total cost to the economy coming just from the consumer – which he said amounts to just under 50 per cent of the costs – would climb to $6.5 billion.

"Every year we’re spending $13 billion in trying to get rid of coal and trying to inject renewable energy in a system which is actually inherently making it much more expensive. Thirteen billion dollars is a huge albatross around the neck of the Australian public and Australian economy.”

Ah, but that's a small price to pay to Save the Planet and feel good about yourself at the same time. Even -- perhaps especially -- when it hardly makes a damn bit of difference.