Downing Street's green emperor has no clothes

Boris Johnson's government is in denial over the crisis it has created

In a hole, Boris Johnson is still digging — oblivious to the toxic rubble he’s piling up in the process. 

Off to the US to persuade the Biden administration to stop dragging its feet over “climate change” targets at next month’s COP 26 climate summit, Britain’s prime minister played down the chances of world leaders agreeing to a $100 billion fund to help the developing world “go green”. Said Johnson: 

It's going to be tough. But people need to understand that this is crucial for the world. 

Ye gods! How can such an intelligent man be so bone-headedly…dumb??  It’s Boris Johnson who needs to understand that the policy he is promoting of Net Zero carbon emissions is leading his country and the world off the edge of an economic and social cliff.

In view of the energy crisis now consuming his government, what he should have said was: “I am tearing up Net Zero and putting our energy assumptions into sharp reverse”.

For while Boris Johnson is twisting other leaders’ arms to commit their countries to drastic reductions in CO₂ emissions, the irony of ironies — as I wrote here yesterday for my premium subscribers — is that Britain is now threatened with a terrible hit through having too little carbon dioxide.  

Far from being a pollutant about to cause the end of Life As We know It, CO₂ is absolutely essential for fresh food packaging and the transport of frozen goods, as well as for stunning animals prior to slaughter; it’s also used by hospitals and the nuclear power industry, among others.

The immediate cause of the current crisis is that much CO₂ is made from fertiliser.  However, soaring gas prices caused by gas shortages — the cost of natural gas shot up by no less than 800 per cent in August — have caused CF Fertilisers, the UK’s main fertiliser provider, to shut its plants, threatening to break the food supply chain and to empty supermarket shelves. 

In addition, the price rises are forcing many small energy producers to go to the wall. In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports Andrew Large, the outgoing chairman of the Energy Intensive Users Group, saying: 

“It is potentially catastrophic. We’re already seeing plant closures at a time of year when the weather is still warm and domestic heating is low. Fast forward two months and this could be an acute crisis. 

“CF Fertilisers have already stopped output and they account for 40pc to 60pc of the UK supply, which could have disastrous effects on the supply chain. The steel, cement, ceramics, glass, industrial chemicals, and the paper sector are all at risk. Individual companies are facing the very serious question of whether they can continue to operate.”

Gas futures contracts on the ICE exchange have risen fourfold over the last year to 165 pence per therm, while intraday electricity prices have become unhinged. Last week the National Grid was having to pay £4,000 per megawatt hour to secure back-up electricity at short notice.

The deeper cause of this crisis is that the obsession with reducing carbon emissions has turned renewables into a key component of energy supply. But the one thing about renewables upon which you can absolutely rely is that they are unreliable. When the wind drops, so does the power produced by wind turbines.

This is not rocket science. 

Indeed, it’s what’s been taking place over the last few months in wind-becalmed Britain and much of Europe. 

The British government assumed it could depend on gas to meet any such shortfall; and it also thought it could depend on interconnections to import electricity from Europe. It seems never to have occurred to these geniuses that if something went wrong with the gas supply or the interconnectors, Britain’s reliance on unreliable renewables might cause a crisis. 

That’s precisely what’s now happened in a perfect storm. Gas supplies have been hit by a combination of things: increased demand as the economy recovers from Covid; the interconnector between Britain and France shutting down through a fire; and most important of all, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin playing malicious geopolitics by reducing gas supplies from Russia. 

Yet Britain and much of Europe are now heavily dependent upon gas from Russia. And why is that? Because in a strategy of stupendous ideological idiocy and irresponsibility, they have deliberately been running down their own fossil fuel industries to reduce their countries’ carbon footprint. 

As Paul Homewood writes on the Not A Lot Of People Know That website:  

Arguably the biggest factor this year has been the doubling of EU carbon prices, deliberately engineered by the EU to force fossil fuels out of the mix, in favour of renewable energy. UK carbon prices have followed suit.

As coal has the highest carbon footprint, this has encouraged the switch of generation from coal to dearer gas power, thus increasing demand for natural gas already in short supply. Both coal and gas generators have to pay this carbon price, forcing up their costs and consequently prices even further.

What Britain and the EU should have done to protect themselves from people like Putin was to boost their own gas infrastructure. As an exasperated Alex Brummer observes in the Mail

The fact is that the UK is at the end of a very long pipeline, with supplies pretty much dependent on Putin’s whim. And yet we have an eco-minded government that, because of its determination to meet carbon targets, is determined to end our use of coal and reluctant to grant new oil-drilling licences, for instance, to firms wishing to further develop the Cambo oilfield near Shetland.

 Other European nations, such as the Netherlands, have dealt with the Moscow threat by building huge storage capacity which can withstand months of disruption. In the UK our biggest storage at Rough off the coast of East Yorkshire was shut down in 2017 because of safety and leakage concerns.

The belief was that secure liquid natural gas supplies, arriving from Qatar, would ensure constant availability.That judgment has proved flawed. The surge in gas prices in August and September has been truly frightening and is why the fertiliser processor CF Industries — quoted on the Nasdaq stock market in the US — closed down its operations, strangling supplies of carbon dioxide for the food industry.

The result of the obsession with reducing carbon is that Britain's energy supplies have no resilience against shocks resulting from natural or political challenges. And the result of that is a crisis which now threatens alike householders and big energy users such as the steel industry with soaring increases in fuel prices which could trigger a catastrophic rise in inflation. Such a crisis threatens to slow down the recovery from Covid and cripple the opportunities for British competitiveness post-Brexit.

And all of this is the result of the west’s obsession with a theory of apocalyptic “climate change” caused by man-made global warming — a theory for which no reputable evidence exists, which has been created by dodgy computer modelling and which is based on the ludicrous premise that any policies can alter the course of the climate, the most complex, non-linear and chaotic system in the natural world.

Some of us have been saying all this for years. But even now, government ministers won’t be listening because those trying to inject some reality into this situation — however stellar the scientific reputation of some of them may be — have been well and truly marginalised as cranks and “climate deniers”. 

The response to this crisis by most of the media and political class illustrates the problem. Alex Brummer aside, there are today virtually no voices in mainstream debate saying what needs to be said — that the green emperor in Downing Street has no clothes.

The political and intellectual class has been well and truly greenwashed. There have been more than three decades of unchallenged green propaganda in the schools. Years ago, the BBC tore up the basic rules of journalism by refusing to report the other side to man-made global warming theory at all. Its argument was that there was no reputable “other side” because “the science was settled” — in itself a statement of staggering scientific illiteracy, since in science nothing is ever settled.

And it seems that in Whitehall, where green group-think rules, no officials are telling ministers the inconvenient truth that they have set the country on the road to disaster. 

As the Telegraph reports, Clive Moffatt, a gas consultant and former government adviser on energy security, noted that the UK has slashed its strategic gas storage to barely 1.7 per cent of annual demand by closing the Rough facility off the Yorkshire coast, subcontracting the costly task of storage to Germany and the Netherlands. Yet when in key meetings with British officials he warned that closing Rough was a dangerous decision, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy dug in its heels. 

“They refused to listen and kept saying that we had diversity of supply: they misunderstood the responsiveness of liquefied natural gas to short-term shocks,” he said. “The Government has been playing dangerous games with the grid and has allowed a situation to develop that is outside their control. It’s terribly depressing.”

That’s surely the understatement of the week. 

Recent posts

My most recent exclusive post for my premium subscribers is about the panic over food supplies. This is how the piece begins:

Melanie Phillips
A perfect storm of imbecility
The irony is rich. Day in, day out we’re lectured and hectored that current rates of carbon dioxide emissions will end Life As We know It. The world is being told that unless it achieves Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 it will be finished. The message has been unequivocal; we must produce far, far less carbon dioxide if w…
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And you can read my most recent post that’s available to everyone, about the cowardly enablers of thuggery, by clicking here.

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