BoJo's Bizarre Climate Scheme

Boris Johnson's Tories won the 2019 British election in a landslide on the strength of their promise to "Get Brexit Done," but for most of the time since they've been distracted by Covid-19 and by Boris's odd dalliance with climate hysteria. On the latter point, he seems to believe that expending political capital on building wind farms and mandating electric cars will help him maintain his hold on those working class, traditional Labour voters whose support he promised not to take for granted on election night.

This seems a bizarre play, as polling suggests that climate issues are fairly low priority to Brits in those former "Red Wall" seats in the North and the Midlands. Throughout Britain healthcare, the economy, and Brexit remain people's top concerns. A recent survey has what is referred to as the "climate emergency" prioritized by just 23 percent of the populace, and less than that (unsurprisingly) in those working class outposts which the P.M. is targeting.

Nevertheless, Johnson is determined to go full speed ahead with what he's calling Britain's "green industrial revolution." He recently released a 10-point plan, which includes pledges to ban the sale of combustion engine automobiles by 2030, quadruple offshore wind farms by the same year, invest heavily in the development of various "green" technologies, and to transform London into “the global centre of green finance.” This plan, BoJo assures us, will generate "up to 250,000 jobs," and all for the low, low cost of £12 billion!

In response, Matt Ridley has put forward a 10-point demolition in the Telegraph. First off, he points out, that jobs-for-pounds ratio isn't actually that impressive.

£48,000 per job is a lot. Cheaper... to create the same employment erecting a statue of Boris in every town. Anyway, it’s backwards: it’s not jobs in the generating of energy that count, but jobs that use it. Providing cheap, reliable energy enables the private sector to create jobs for free as far as the taxpayer is concerned.

Then there's the fact that Johnson is "hugely underestimating the cost." Among other things, he's relying on the wind industry's own claim that their costs are coming down, when the actual "accounts of wind energy companies show that both capital and operating expenditures of offshore wind farms continue to rise." Should wind energy be mandated, Britain's already high electricity prices will actually increase, which "will kill a lot more than 250,000 jobs."

Ridley makes several more important points, including that the prime minister "misreads how innovation works," and thus foolishly assumes that pumping money into the problem will necessarily generate new technology required to make his plan work. It won't. He concludes,

My fear is that we will carry out Boris’s promised 10-point plan, cripple our economy, ruin our seascapes and landscapes, and then half way through the 2030s along will come cheap, small, safe fusion reactors. The offshore wind industry, by then so stuffed with subsidies they can afford to lobby politicians and journalists even more than they do to today, will suck their teeth and say: “no, no, no – ignore the fusion crowd. We’re on the brink of solving the reliability issue, and don’t worry, the cost will come down eventually. Promise!”

Fingers crossed, no doubt.

Beware the 'Green Energy' Narrative

In the face of the most historic collusion between political activists, mainstream media, and big tech, it has never been . clearer that not every narrative being foisted upon America is actually true. Narratives are curated and shaped to achieve alternative objectives ranging from things like confiscatory tax and regulatory policies for business to increased environmental constraints on the public to political advantage in all its many forms.

With the complete collapse of the media’s credibility and big tech’s manipulation and censorship of what one sees on their social media feeds, we must now be even more vigilant when scrutinizing the merits of the assertions made in the name of “green energy.” We must constantly seek actual truth, not accept fabricated facts describing a future envisioned for us by others.

Consider the climate change narrative around renewable energy like wind farms or the destructive forces of wildfires allegedly caused by climate change. Wind, considered the least expensive clean energy, is commonly referred to as the future of energy production. The storyline is that fossil fuel is evil, renewables like wind and solar are good. Good people obviously embrace the wind and solar vision while those that support the fossil fuel industry or related by-products are bad. It is considered blasphemous for meteorologists, scientists, engineers or other professionals to assert alternative perspectives about the voracity or plausibility of the green narrative. If experts reject the narrative they are labeled anti-science, or are professionally harassed or altogether canceled. Agreement is the goal, not truth. Facts matter not.

Ah, the promise of Utopia...

But on the stage of the "green revolution," right next to the dehydrated fruit and composting toilets, there are a couple irritating little facts that make the utopian green dream a little less… green or utopian. First, according to the U.S. Department of Interior, as many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans.

That’s right, humans, not climate change. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava. Do any of those causes sound like climate change?

The 2020 fire season in Washington, Oregon and California was no different. One of the larger California fires this season was started by electronic equipment that malfunctioned at a gender-reveal party. That particular fire was repeatedly reported in the media as being the result of climate change. Other fires throughout the state were started by lightening. In fact, it was California’s poor forest management practices that allowed all of the fires to grow out of control. None were because of so-called climate change.

Thanks to California’s failed man-made forest management strategies, there were no controlled burns and too much fuel vis-s vis downed trees, branches and undergrowth that California state officials had failed to properly remove, setting up the forest lands for utter destruction. Incompetence by government officials should never be substituted with climate change.

Next, there are the thousands of windfarms and the tens of thousands of blades that spin the turbines of these monster-sized windmills. The green narrative claims wind is the cheapest kind of clean energy. But is it really? Not only do the composite blades wear out, they are doing so at a faster rate than was promised to investors, municipalities and policymakers alike. This means that tens of thousands of these aged-out blades will need to be replaced worldwide.

Further, their massive size is outweighed only by their large carbon footprints from manufacture to disposal. Currently, these blades can be used for nothing else after removal. They will literally lie forever in the landfills in which they are disposed.

There are some 8,000 blades per year for the next four years slated to come down in the U.S. alone. The municipal landfill in Casper, Wyoming, will be the final destination of 870 defunct blades, some of which are longer than the wing of a Boeing 747 jet. The other landfills where these blades are laid to rest are in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Lake Mills, Iowa. The days of these blades generating renewable energy came to an early end and now their only role is to take up large swaths of acreage at a landfill in otherwise beautiful states. Many will agree that an outcome like this requires one reframe the narrative that environmental stewardship is being achieved by using wind to generate electricity.

But the maintenance isn’t the only issue with these metal monsters. There are a slew of problems now evident that make windfarms far less ideal than the green narrative would have us believe. Not only are the old blades not recyclable, maintenance costs for wind farms are also high relative to their output.

It also turns out that wind is an erratic source of power and as such, according to a recent Harvard study, will require five to 20 times more land to sufficiently scale for the needed power generation into the future. Windfarms are also esthetically glum, quite dreadful against any landscape whether onshore or off-shore. And it turns out, windfarms are dangerous to birds, having created a change in migratory behavior in multiple species. All this while also interfering with weather radar.

Ugh... the reality of Dystopia.

Windfarms also create micro-climates that may be creating conditions in which grass fires are more common and larger in some western states by increasing temperatures and effecting relative humidity.

Perhaps most significant of all, is the issue of infrasound and low-frequency noise (ILFN). Experts and researchers now confirm that the spinning blades create a constant low frequency noise that engulfs homes and rural areas near where these windfarms are built and can cause an array of health symptoms for those living proximal (within approximately 18 miles) to the windfarms. Symptoms range from sleep disturbances, dizziness and headaches, to panic attacks and depression.

So while the public is constantly beaten about the head with the green narrative that it is saving the planet, it would behoove the oil and gas industry to go on the offense and begin to shape its own narrative about its  positive impact on the global economy, job creation, and U.S. energy independence. If not, thanks to a lack of narrative storytellers, fossil fuel will be written out of its own future. And that future is very bleak indeed. 

Madmen of La Mancha

A friend of mine of scientific pedigree, who I won’t name on the off chance I am misinterpreting him, suggests we might madly burn coal to make electricity and then scatter the residual ashes over the oceans to make them more alkaline. More alkaline oceans apparently absorb more CO2. And, Bob’s your uncle, problem solved. Another friend says this won’t do because the oceans are so vast it will make no difference. I also worry about the fish. Is all of this outlandish in any event?

Well, recall the suggestion by some scientists in 1975, when global cooling was the scare du jour, that soot might be strewn across the Antarctic to absorb heat from the sun. That rates more highly in the outlandish stakes, I think. But if you were to stand back and imagine something really, really, mad, then might you not come up with thousands upon thousands of giant windmills?

Imagined madness is reality. I googled, I’m ashamed to say, given the wokeness of that cancel-culture organisation, and found a figure of 341,000 wind turbines in the world as at September 2017. I found it hard to get an updated figure but, obviously, it will be bigger. The height of these totem poles (term used advisedly), including blades, is 100 metres and more. And, they’re getting taller. Reportedly, there is one in Germany, near Stuttgart, which soars some 246 metres. Now that’s got to be an eyesore.

As it’s windier the higher you go, who knows where it will end. Birds and bats won’t be the prey. Watch out aircraft and drones. And please parachutists be careful.

Apparently a 2-megawatt wind turbine requires a total area of about half a square kilometre, to allow for the circumference of the blades, the need for considerable space between each turbine and the need for a wind farm to have a buffer zone. So, on that basis, the area of land occupied by 341,00 turbines would be about 170,000 square kilometres, give or take. Michael Shellenberger (Apocalypse Never) refers to research which found that wind farms require “roughly 450 times more land than a natural gas power plant.” How that computes in acreage I don’t know, but you get the drift.

"Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them."

Wind now supplies around 5 percent of the world’s electricity (7 percent in Australia -- a pyrrhic boon indeed). If it were to supply 35 per cent -- which I am confident is the lower end of the range desired by green activists and certainly by the subsidy-addicted carpetbaggers on the gravy train -- then about 1.2 million square kilometres would appear to be required.

That is equivalent to Tasmania or Switzerland or West Virginia, times eighteen. That’s a lot of land when you consider the need to keep wind farms fairly close to power grids to keep transmission costs manageable. Of course, there is the sea. Even so, the blot on landscapes (and seascapes too) will surely be insufferable except to those whose pagan religiosity is excited by the sight.

What benefit have these towering monstrosities brought, you might ask innocently, if you’re abjectly un-woke. Presumably, they have reduced CO2 emissions. It’s too hard to lay bare this presumption.

You would need to calculate the amount of CO2, and perhaps other greenhouse gasses, which result from the mining of the minerals and ores used in their making, their manufacture and transport and installation, and their maintenance and eventual disposal. And you have to add in the emissions from the back-up power that is essential to have when the wind doesn’t blow. Where the sum ends up, I don’t know. But, as I say, I presume over a period of the life of a turbine, say, 20 years, a saving in CO2 emissions will accrue.

However, thus far, the saving is not visible on the world stage. CO2 emissions worldwide continue to grow year-on-year, at least they did up until 2020. Covid has done a splendid job of reducing emissions in 2020. But, relying on governments reacting panickily to a pandemic is not, hopefully, an enduring strategy. Of course, it is plausible to argue that CO2 emissions would have been even higher but for wind, and that may be true. Still, the overall picture doesn’t look impressive. Where’s the tangible gain for the pain?

"When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?"

Part of the pain has been felt in electricity prices – not to mention blackouts. Residential electricity prices in Australia have near doubled in the past ten years, as cheap coal power has been driven out by intermittent wind power (and solar). Alan Moran, Australian commentator on all things climate, in a recent report (The Hidden Cost of Climate Policies and Renewables, 19 August 2020) estimates that “government-imposed climate policies and renewable subsidies account for 39% of householders’ electricity costs.” And that is not the end of it. Government subsidies should logically be added back into electricity prices to get a true price. After all, those who consume electricity pay taxes to pay for the subsidies.

Part of the pain is the loss of competitive advantage and, thus, manufacturing jobs. The competitive advantage Australia used to have in generating cheap energy from coal is now lost. Using International Energy Agency figures, the average price per kWh for residential electricity is roughly twice that of the United States and Canada, and three times that in China; which, surprise, surprise, imports lots of Australian coal. As does India. Both are building new coal power stations as Australia’s are closing. Incidentally, Germany’s prices are over 40 percent higher again than Australia’s.

Taking a lead from research in Spain, Moran argues that for every green job created 2.2 others are lost. It is obviously hard to back up this estimate. At the same time, it would be surprising if a country with a relatively small population, suffering a tyranny of distance, yet with an abundance of high-quality easily extractable coal, could afford to give away that latter advantage and have its manufacturing sector remain unscathed. It was bad enough, as it was, without the onset of ruinously high energy prices.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported (10 December 2019) on job growth in Australia over the 25 years from September 1995 to September 2019. Total jobs filled increased by 64.6 percent. In contrast, manufacturing jobs fell by 270,000; from 13.4 percent of total jobs to just 6.3 percent. Manufacturing has been significantly offshored. The last remnants of car manufacturing in Australia disappeared at the beginning of this year. High energy prices won’t help keep what remains of Australian manufacturing. The steel and aluminium industries, heavy users of electricity, are always on the brink.

Want to go all Greta Thunberg and penalise the whole world and all of mankind by going to wind and solar? Fine, muttered dubiously, if self-denial is ubiquitous, omnipresent, universal. But western industrial nations should be wary of getting too far ahead of the pack, or ahead at all. In Australia, sadly, both sides of politics differ only in their degree of enthusiasm for striding out and embracing national self-harm.