As the Abbott government ponders the political realities of making needed changes to the economically damaging Mandatory Renewable Energy Tariff (MRET) scheme, late last year the European Union took the giant step backwards of combining climate change and energy matters into a single Commission portfolio.
In line with this, but nonetheless remarkably, nearly all governments currently view climate change and energy supply as closely related policy issues. Yet climate change issues are concerned with environmental hazards, whereas energy policy is concerned with supplying cheap, reliable and secure electricity supplies to industry and the populace. Where is the relationship?
Until the 1980s there was no relationship between energy policy and climate change. That one is perceived now testifies only to the effectiveness of relentless lobbying by environmentalists, NGOs and commercial special interests towards the cause of connecting climate and energy policies. Truth, scientific balance and commonsense have been casualties along the way.
The conflation has been brought about by evangelizing the view that carbon dioxide emissions from power-generation using hydrocarbon-based fuels will cause dangerous global warming. That (false) view has become embedded in society to the point where even heads of state misuse “carbon” as a shorthand for “carbon dioxide”, and then label it as a pollutant to boot. The ignorance that this misuse of scientific language signals is frightening.
In truth, carbon dioxide is environmentally beneficial; it is the elixir of life for most of our planetary ecosystems and greens the planet. To badge it as a pollutant is therefore grotesque rather than just wrong.
Second, the amount of carbon dioxide produced by human industrial processes is small compared with existing natural fluxes through the atmosphere and ocean (human emissions being less than 5% of natural emissions).
Third, and most important of all, despite carbon dioxide being a greenhouse gas no evidence exists that the amount humans have added to the atmosphere is producing dangerous warming; or, indeed, any measurable warming at all.
Many negative consequences flow from conflating the energy and global warming issues, but foremost amongst them has been a lemming-like rush by governments to massively subsidize what are otherwise uneconomic sources of power – especially solar and wind power generation.
These alternative sources are painted by lobby groups and governments alike as environmentally virtuous, because they are claimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well as being both “renewable” and “clean” sources of energy.
Well, yes, wind and solar energy are indeed renewable when the wind blows and the Sun shines, but they are absent otherwise and tough luck if that is when you want to boil the kettle.
Wind and especially solar energy are very expensive, and their intermittency makes them unsuitable to be major contributors to a national energy grid.
In addition to their expense and impracticality, the claims as to the “cleanliness” and environmental friendliness of both solar and wind power generation are routinely overstated to the point of propagandization.
A wilful increase in the cost and complexity of energy supply systems has occurred worldwide over the last two decades, and that for generally negative environmental and social return. Yet despite the expenditure of trillions of dollars of public money in subsidy of “clean” energy sources, and huge political pressure on the citizenry to adopt them, wind and solar power generation still barely exceed 1% of the world’s energy supply.
Thanks to 30 years of sustained propaganda and gross profligacy with taxpayer money, power prices have escalated sharply. Nowhere has this happened to a greater degree than in Australia, which once had the cheapest electricity in the industrialized world; remember that?
As the political pressures build, so even the European Union is being forced to confront reality. For example, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger stated in Berlin in 2012 that European energy policy must change from being climate driven to being driven by the needs of industry – which is why the recent decision to combine the two into a single portfolio seems so strange.
What, then, needs to be done to improve the situation?
It is that individual nations return to the formerly clear separation that they recognized between energy policy and climate policy, and analyse and plan for each with respect to their own separate requirements and resources.
This means abandoning the woolly conflation of the two that has been so skilfully foisted on society by powerful vested interests over the last three decades. It also entails abandoning the monopoly IPCC advice about global warming and the use of fossil fuels, advice that engendered most of the confusion in the first place and continues to do so.