THE run-up to the COP26 boondoggle in Glasgow is certainly producing lots of hot air. Sadly, not enough to heat the homes of the UK. But what does the government machine care about that?
Now, this (and previous) governments have been very clever at financial chicanery to keep the money flowing. While Chancellor Rishi Sunak seems aware that there is no magic money tree, that inflation is rising and therefore interest rates will rise and his budget collapse, he doesn’t seem to have been able to explain that to our spendaholic Prime Minister.
Behind the scenes, the two are reportedly at odds over Johnson’s headlong dash towards Net Zero, with Sunak worried about the astronomical costs – said to be a trillion pounds or more.
Johnson doesn’t seem that worried, though. Who knows, maybe someone can invent quantitive easing squared, and kick the financial can (more correctly known as our grandchildren’s tax bills), further down the road?
Unfortunately, the laws of thermodynamics are not so accommodating; you can’t create energy from nothing. Have electron, eat electron, is not possible. Which is where the PM’s plans fall over. Using 2019 figures (the most recent year of full economic activity):
Clean electricity generation (ie wind, solar, hydro and nuclear) totalled 177 terawatt hours (TWh) – about ten per cent of the UK’s energy. Domestic electricity consumption was 104 TWh.
Replacing fossil fuel requires about 140 TWh for cars and another 40 TWh for lorries and buses. Replacing domestic gas heating with heat pumps (if possible) will need about 120 TWh. Using hydrogen will require about 390 TWh.
All of which means that we need to acquire lots more electricity generation that will work on cold, dark nights. As my book (Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK’s Zero Emission Ambition) shows, that’s some 30-plus nuclear power stations with the capacity of Sizewell C. This government has yet to pass the planning on one … Sizewell C itself.
Even now, our energy situation is so precarious that there’s speculation over whether we can do a deal with Russia’s President Putin for gas supplies to see Britain through the winter without blackouts.
There is absolutely no room for debate about these facts. It matters not if one believes in global warming or not. There is no scope for modelling, no scope for spin, no opportunity to hide with jargon.
Running the economy and keeping us warm takes energy, the amounts of which are well known and well documented. We have, perhaps, as a generation taken for granted the huge amount of science and engineering that means that when we turn a switch, electricity flows. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there or can be replaced.
It shows how bad things are when we’re seeing the normally somnolent and compliant mainstream media finally waking up to the impending crisis.
In the Spectator, Fraser Nelson says the Net Zero strategy doesn’t add up, while in the Daily Mail, Richard Littlejohn calls Johnson’s ‘green is good’ document ‘the longest suicide note in history’ and the Telegraph’s Allister Heath is calling for a referendum on the whole issue.
Basically, they and the rest of us all want an answer to the simple, vital question: ‘Where is the energy – and the money to pay for it – coming from?’ Over to you, Boris.