Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeCOVID-19If only Johnson & Co were joking . . .

If only Johnson & Co were joking . . .


APRIL Fool’s Day brought some interesting japes from the government. Firstly Chris Whitty said that there should be no more lockdowns. Of course he is right – a shame it’s taken so long for the government to catch up with the (peeved and increasingly economically damaged) public.

At about the same time the police informed the government that social distancing was unenforceable – again, blindingly obvious given the UK is (theoretically) policed with consent. True to form, many town hall gauleiters simply shut their parks. One wonders how effective a padlock will be against a tide of people lawfully seeking sun and space if just one of them has the nous to put some bolt cutters in the picnic hamper.

But the out-and-out winner was the Ministry of Defence – specifically the British Army. You may recall that in a flurry of announcements the government revealed their cunning plan for ‘Global Britain’, which includes policing the seas with fewer ships, giving up on surveillance of UK airspace for at least two years (in other words no air defence) and then trying to get three planes to do what five used to. The Army’s contribution has been to bring a few tanks up to date (it’s taken them 20 years), rename an existing group of infantry battalions as ‘rangers’ (it seems that we are now engaged in combat by branding), retain lots of dismounted infantry battalions (with 1930s-style lorry transport) and continue to pretend that we have heavy armour brigades (despite deleting most of their armour). This is so that, at some unspecified time in the future, clever weaponry will fill all the gaps.

Earlier this week the Army revealed their pièce de resistance: they are going carbon neutral. They are serious about this – the programme is being led by a Lieutenant General, which is the same rank as the head of the Army. In a rambling interview he revealed that the Army is testing hybrid vehicles, planting trees and seeking to switch to renewable fuels while reducing meat consumption and emissions.

There are very good military reasons why diesel-electric vehicles are potentially attractive. The short version is making them lower (and thus a smaller target), possibly increasing fuel economy and possibly enabling a silent running capability. But that’s not quite a hybrid in the green energy sense.

Better weaponry is a sensible field of research, but seeking new fuels etc is not, for the simple reason that fighting vehicles have very extreme requirements and there are not many of them. For sure, at some stage there are likely to be fuel cell-powered truck engines that could form the basis of armoured vehicle propulsion systems. Similarly, at some stage there may be hydrogen jet engines that can be adapted for future fighters. But these technologies are much better developed in the commercial world where the applications are wider and the economics of scale kick in quickly. (The Army’s new Boxer vehicle is being delivered at the rate of about one a week. Over-hyped, over-valued Tesla produces 3,500 cars a week; Toyota makes 210,000 per week, of which some 30,000 are electric.)

Climate change is far from the Army’s biggest problem, which is ensuring that they learn the right lessons from recent debacles. Nor do the Armed Forces exist to fight climate change – they’re supposed to be defending the Realm – although it is increasingly apparent that they’re not doing that either and have no credible plan to do so any time soon.

While the woke warriors of government fret about armed forces’ emissions (an area of ‘accounting’ that is fraught with complexity and obscuration) who is checking that Ben Wallace and General Carter’s plans make sense?

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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