Green virtue-signalling has made a comeback at the top of government. The era of ‘let’s cut the green crap’ is over, and a new age is being heralded by some increasingly absurd and hubristic new policies. These include banning cars that actually work and reducing CO2 emissions to zero. All no doubt giving ministers a warm fuzzy feeling, but distracting them from the issues really affecting lives.
A contrived concern about climate change has blinded politicians to those who care far more about whether they can afford to heat their homes. It may come as a surprise, but this is a far bigger demographic than those pining for new on-shore wind subsidies or extra charging points for electric vehicles.
Theresa May should therefore make lowering the cost of energy central to her mission. This aim formed part of her 2017 manifesto, and delivering upon it would show people that the Government truly was on their side. She would be hard-pressed to find a clearer or more noble objective.
While some would say this puts her on a collision course with the ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’, most people just aren’t interested in, or aware of, the ins and outs of the climate debate. Governments in Germany and Japan are already turning their back on the green agenda; it’s become clear that they need to put living standards and jobs first.
From the very start the green agenda has been deeply regressive: taking from the poor to give to the rich. The wealthy have made a fortune from having wind farms built on their estates, being paid to heat their (sometimes empty) properties with biomass boilers, having their electric cars subsidised, as well as their solar panels. All from the public purse while millions struggle in energy poverty.
This is a national scandal, which has been carefully covered up by a number of misleading narratives.
The rapid expansion and fall in costs of renewables, for example, has been hailed as a great success. But why? If you make subsidies available for building sandcastles you will certainly get huge growth in the numbers of sandcastles; entrepreneurs will automate the process of building them and prices will inevitably come down. You might even be said to have the benefit of ‘international leadership’ in sandcastles. None of which would make sandcastles a sensible replacement for real houses.
Similarly, an argument that reductions in the cost of renewables mean that we should plough on with decarbonisation is hopelessly naïve. The question that always has to be asked is whether the spend justifies the harms avoided, and on this score renewables fall laughably short.
Even so-called climate change economists found that emitting a ton of CO2 caused only $29 of damage. Yet to reduce our CO2 emissions by an equivalent amount we are spending four times that amount on onshore wind, ten times as much on offshore wind, or fifty times as much for small rooftop solar systems.
These costs aren’t going away. As the influential energy economist Dieter Helm points out, 90 per cent of the subsidy bill by 2030 has already been determined. So there will be practically no benefit from cheaper strike prices for renewables, even if they are delivered.
Of course, the power sector is only one part of the story. Meeting the targets of the Climate Change Act will require the decarbonisation of transport, heat, industry and agriculture. These areas have been avoided up to now because of the sheer infeasibility and cost. We can reasonably expect that this enormous challenge will come with an equally enormous bill.
Renewables have not only been an economic blight, they have also been an environmental and ethical disaster. Wind turbines have blighted lives, landscapes and wildlife across the country, while solar panels look to be an environmental disaster in waiting: a recently published study showed that they leak toxic chemicals when they break.
The world’s poorest people pay the highest price for the Western preoccupation with renewables. Liquid biofuels, an earlier ‘solution’ demanded by the green lobby, led to widespread hunger across the developing world. Since then, many have been killed by diarrhoea and indoor air pollution, the latter from crude cooking arrangements. Preventing these unnecessary deaths requires electric grids, not a fobbing off with stoves and a handful of solar panels.
Does the Government really want to cast these people aside so it can pursue an economically foolish, environmentally disastrous, and ultimately entirely futile decarbonisation policy? All as a PR ruse that won’t even work.