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“Green” UK – A Cautionary Tale

A bit of ego, a little dab of moral vanity, a smidge of hubris all driven by an agenda and you have the perfect definition of the political class worldwide.  Of course I understate the smidges, bits and dabs by quite a bit. But that class has a problem.  Other than boring economic stuff they are apparently lacking a great moral cause.   So, it appears, they’ve decided to make one up with predicable results.

Dominic Lawson brings us up to date with the goings on in the UK beginning with helping us understand where the “green” movement has gotten them:

I was irresistibly reminded of this by Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, in his launch of plans to cut carbon emissions by switching to “renewables” for more than 30% of our energy use. This, he claimed, would “rise to the moral challenge of climate change”.

Miliband is of the generation of politicians struggling to find a great moral cause. Earlier in the Labour administration Tony Blair thought he had found it with wars of choice far from home, but that has, to put it mildly, lost its lustre. Now it is the “war against climate change”, given additional moral potency by the notion that the greatest concentration of sufferers from global rising temperatures would be among the world’s poorest.

Given the mostly positive press the fulminations of one Al Gore has received, what pol worth his salt could resist the call to save the world. “Go Green” young man and don’t dally because the earth has a fever!

And so Britain has tried to lead the effort. With high flying rhetoric and an aim to save Africa (really? Yup, so says Lawson), British politicans have bravely decided to throttle back their emissions and, apparently, kill their steel industry. Of course other than see the last vestiges of that industry leave forever, Lawson wonders, in the big scheme of things, if it’s worth it:

The UK is responsible for less than 2% of global carbon emissions – a figure set to fall sharply, regardless of what we do, as a result of the startlingly rapid industrial-isation of countries such as China and India: each year the increase in Chinese CO2 emissions alone is greater than those produced by the entire British economy. On the fashionable assumption that climate change is entirely driven by CO2 emissions, the effect on global temperatures of Britain closing every fossil fuel power station would be much smaller than the statistical margin of error: in effect, zero.

You see, Lawson, like many, has figured out the unfashionable truth – unless the big 3rd world emitters play ball, whatever dinky emitters like the UK do won’t amount to any net change. Whether or not you believe in AGW or not, running your economy on the shoals for no net gain seems something only a politican would do. And you’re right.

But those great moral crusades are beckoning and the political flesh is weak. Who wants to show up and serve their time in the spotlight with nothing but mundane governing to do. Politicians are driven to make a difference:

Gordon Brown claims: “Britain is leading the world in the battle against climate change.” Such remarks are regarded as absurd in the chancelleries of Europe: if you do take as a measure of such commitment the proportion of domestic energy already supplied by renewables, the UK occupies 25th place in the European Union league table, above only Malta and Luxembourg.

Never the less, “leading” certainly has had an effect, at least domestically. With a yawning energy gap promising huge problems in he very near future, the UK is leading by committing itself to 7,000 offshore wind generators.

Two problems with that. One they should have learned from Germany:

Indeed, Paul Golby, who runs the British operations of E.ON, Europe’s biggest wind-power producer, has told the government that a 90% fossil fuel or nuclear back-up will be needed for any of the National Grid’s future wind-power capacity. As Martin Fuchs, his German boss, pointed out: “The wind, sadly, does not blow where large quantities of power are required . . . on September 12 last year wind power contributed 38% of our grid power requirements at all times, but on September 30 the figure went down to 0.2%.”

Yes that’s right – wind is so unreliable that it must be backed up with more conventional methods of power generation up to the 90% mark. And:

The powerful wind-turbine lobby in Germany constantly harps on about the number of jobs “created” by its subsidised investment, quite ignoring the number of jobs destroyed by high-cost energy, or indeed the greater number of jobs that could be created if the same amounts were invested in more profitable activities. This is why the Bremen Energy Institute argues that “wind energy macro-economically has a negative employment impact”.

Peachy. Germany isn’t the only one that has learned “green” means fewer jobs, not more. Spain has also learned that lesson. A study of what has happened in Spain since it took essentially the same path as the UK in 2000 yielded these results:

* For every green job financed by Spanish taxpayers, 2.2 real jobs were lost as an opportunity cost;
* 9 out of 10 green jobs created by Spain over the past 10 years are no longer in existence today;
* Since 2000, Spain has spent €571,138 ($753,778) to create each “green job,” including subsidies of more than €1 million ($1,319,783) per wind industry job;
* Those programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 113,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy and;
* Each “green” megawatt installed destroyed 5.39 jobs in non-energy sectors of the Spanish economy.”

And what about all that wonderful green energy promised by the UK wind machines? Well, unfortunately it’s very expensive:

Miliband claimed last week that the result of his proposals would be an increase in costs to energy users of about 17%. However, the business and enterprise department admitted last year that Britain’s existing “climate policies” – even before Miliband’s latest Big New Idea – would add an extra 55% to energy bills. It’s obvious where this will lead: to the exit from Britain (and, indeed, Europe) of much of what remains of energy-intensive manufacturing industry – the euphemistic jargon term is “carbon leakage”.

Sure enough, that’s precisely what is happening:

Jeremy Nicholson, the director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, which represents such industries as steel and aluminium, is exasperated beyond measure: “A future administration will have to say in public what ministers and their officials already admit in private, that the renewables target is neither practical nor affordable. Outsourcing our emissions is not a solution to a global problem. Politicians need to understand that unilateral action will come at a terrible cost in terms of UK manufacturing jobs, investment and export revenue, for no discernible environmental gain – is that really what they want?”

Apparently so, since that is precisely the road the US and UK, without either China, India or the rest of the 3rd world, is headed.

What about the “exasperated” steel and aluminum industuries in Britain?

Well their demise has already begun:

Thousands of British steelworkers and their families are holding a protest march Saturday in a town in northeast England where the looming closure of a Corus steel plant threatens to throw families into poverty.

[...]

Closure is expected to result in the loss of 2,000 jobs at the plant, and another 1,000 elsewhere.

But others say the status of the plant, known as Teesside Cast Products, as one of the main regional employers means its closure will result in a loss of local high street spending that could balloon into nearly 10,000 job losses.

Aluminum too:

On the day Nicholson said this to me, last Thursday, Anglesey Aluminium, the biggest consumer of electricity in Wales, announced that it would cease production, precisely because it could see no prospect of signing up to a long-term supply of electricity at a rate at which it could make a profit. And on the day of Miliband’s announcement, a group of Labour MPs presented a “Save Our Steel” petition, saying: “We need to make sure we act before the light goes out.”

It may well be that the English steel mills will become unable to compete globally, even at current domestic energy prices; but deliberately to make them uncompetitive is industrial vandalism – and even madness when the consequence of Miliband’s Martin Luther King moment may be the lights going out not just for producers but for all of us in our homes. This is worse than a futile gesture: it is immoral.

Indeed. But the moral vanity and hubris involved in the belief one is “saving the world” apparently trumps any concern for the lives of others and the reality such policy brings in its execution.

The immoral part, as it pertains to the US, is we know this from watching what has happened in Europe and elsewhere. Yet apparently, if the administration has its way, we’re going to see the same immorality visited on us here shortly.

~McQ