Thursday, April 25, 2024
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Carney, Starmer and Sunak talk a zero amount of sense


THE Daily Telegraph has featured a full-page interview with Mark Carney, the Canadian former governor of the Bank of England. As well as blaming inflation on Brexit, Carney took a swipe at another of his bêtes noires, fossil fuels.

‘The old [fossil fuel] system was not fit for purpose,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t provide energy security.’ Response: If the UK had developed its own more-than-ample reserves it could have been totally secure. Carney went on to say that our current energy system is expensive, volatile, unreliable and unsustainable. Response: That’s because we have let everybody else pump oil, mine coal and frack for gas.

His remedy is to get to Net Zero. (Remedy!) The UK, he said, is a leader in the transition up to this point. One of the great puzzles of UK global warming policy is why is it not recognised that there is in fact no ‘race’ to Net Zero? We are not leaders because there are so few competitors. The teams of China, India and most of the major greenhouse-gas emitters are still back in barracks and seem to be arranging this Net Zero business in their own way and in their own time.

Mr Carney: ‘A lot of the UK’s electricity needs are already met by zero carbon sources . . . in May 44 per cent of electricity was generated this way.’ Fact: In the first quarter of the year only about one third of Britain’s electricity came from wind farms and about the same from gas-fired power plants. Solar provided less than one tenth of our needs.

Why do so many people think that the wind always blows? As I’m writing this the turbines are giving us around a fifth of the total demand. For the coldest six months solar provides nothing for the morning and evening peak times.

Claim: ‘The impacts of climate change . . . we’re already feeling in this country.’ Counter-claim: If he means we are suffering more floods, heatwaves, droughts and whatever, he is wrong. We have always had them. We get floods because we have lost the people who used to dredge channels and clear drains. We have always had occasional warm and dry summers.

The shock to our living standards, Carney says, ‘is because of the fossil fuel system (which) has proven itself time and time again to be volatile, to be unreliable and ultimately unsustainable’. He had already said that, so he must think it important. The point, of course, is that it is all those things only because we have chosen to import other countries’ fossil fuels rather than using our own. He goes on: ‘Or do we transition to a system that is the exact opposite?’

This can only be the Net Zero nonsense, in which he seems to have a lot of mistaken faith. The costs for this, he says, ‘will be manageable and mean cheaper energy down the road’. The only way we will ever have both cheap energy and Net Zero will be when all our electricity comes from nuclear. This is such a long way off that it is not even part of the UK’s future plans.

Sir Keir Starmer suffers from the same delusions. He has just put forward ‘Five Bold Missions for a Better Britain’, one of which is to ‘make Britain a clean energy superpower . . . with zero-carbon electricity by 2030, accelerating to Net Zero’. If Labour should win the next election, that gives him six years.  

You cannot believe this vapid nonsense. Zero-carbon electricity means relying utterly on wind and sun, as our nuclear capacity will provide only about one tenth of what we need for many years to come, unless we somehow build five more nuclear plants in the next seven years. In the depths of winter, when the sun isn’t shining and a frosty calm descends on these islands, a lucky few will be huddled round wood-burners. The others will freeze.

Mind, Rishi Sunak is just as bad with his ‘Top Five Priorities’. He, like Starmer, hasn’t a hope of achieving any of them but at least he hasn’t included climate change. The current government plan is for 25 per cent nuclear by 2050, the other three-quarters coming from wind and solar. Hopeless!

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Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams is a freelance writer and has been a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1984.

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