Monday 6 January 2014

Energy: Green Really Is Crap

The late, great Times columnist Bernard Levin once stated that if you placed a man in a hall made up entirely of fake mirrors he will, quite certainly, go off his head.

Just so, and that is what it feels like to discuss energy policy. The whole thing is now so mad that it is intellectually very difficult to challenge - how do you apply even basic logic to an area of policy that has become demonstrably completely insane?

The recent revelation that wind turbine companies were actually paid to turn off their turbines during the recent Christmas storms, because the National Grid could not cope with the amount of electricity being produced, is just the latest chapter in a litany of despair. In itself, it shows the folly of relying too heavily on energy sources that by their nature are ultimately beyond human control: the wind blows, or it doesn't, and there is nothing much we can do about it. Even so, the difficulties of supply management may be acceptable if wind power was otherwise competitive, but of course it is not: as UKIP has shown, the very unpredictability of wind power means that gas turbine backup must always be available for spinning up - or down - depending on whether or not the wind decides to blow. As constantly spinning up backup gas turbine capacity means they run at sub-optimal efficiency, the whole wind package is grotesquely uneconomic.

Of course, all that is just to scratch the surface in the total madness of energy policy: a non-exhaustive list follows:

  • Green surcharges have added huge amounts to household energy bills at a time of prolonged recession, greatly exacerbating fuel poverty, and forced much needed manufacturing capacity - and jobs -  abroad. 
  • Price rises have been blamed by the public on profiteering by the big energy companies, significantly damaging the reputation of capitalism in the process. Meanwhile, subsidies for wind farms create huge profits for the small minority with landed estates, transferring resources from the poor to the rich!
  • Almost unbelievably, Britain faces supply shortages as perfectly good coal-fired stations are closed to meet emission targets. Our energy supply problems are now so desperate that we have recently signed an outrageous deal with EDF to build a new nuclear power station with a "strike" (i.e. floor) price for the electricity produced by the plant that was roughly twice the price of electricity at the time the deal was announced
  • Thanks to the current obsession with "green crap", Britain has been slow to exploit the potential of fracking to lower energy bills and to power an industrial renaissance.
  • The EU has shelved plans to look into Thorium reactors, even though the fuel is both green and much safer than Uranium. This fact has, of course, nothing at all to do with France's heavy investment in Uranium fuel technology.
  • Tony Blair, always keen to ingratiate himself with people who in future may give him a nice job or three, allowed state-controlled foreign energy companies to takeover British suppliers, thereby ultimately handing political control of energy production to the French and German governments.
So why has energy policy descended into what can only be described as the policies of the madhouse?

You know the answer already. Such policies could only be dreamed up by an effete and unworldly Political Class, most of whom would never dream of getting their hands dirty in industry and prefer cosy deals with large corporations and interest groups to courage or genuine enterprise.  As long as the get to feel sanctimonious, show off their green credentials  and masturbate their egos, they don't really care if what remains of our industry closes, capitalism is brought into long-term disrepute  and the little people shiver. In the process, of course, many of them also make a very nice living out of it.

Meanwhile, in the relatively sane outside world, Norway proceeds with it's "Thor" thorium reactor trials, and the Chinese are looking to do the same.

To whom do you think the future belongs?