The Green Delusions Of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

By Paul Homewood




As we know, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard often writes quite delusional pieces in the Telegraph, about climate and energy policy.

So I thought it would be a good time to review some of his past gems, and see how they have worked out:


Let’s start in 2008, when apparently he was still quite sensible.

He interviewed Wulf Bernotat, head of German power giant e.on, who did not seem too keen on the UK’s “romantic” energy policy:


The UK is in a very bad situation. Roughly 40pc of its power is from coal, and 20pc from nuclear. It all needs to be replaced. But is anybody in the British Government out there making the case for clean coal? I don’t see anybody," he said.

Dr Bernotat praised Downing Street for settling on some sort of energy strategy at long last after years of drift and muddle, but said Labour seemed to have gone overboard all of a sudden with a "romantic" enthusiasm for green power.

"You cannot replace 60pc of the country’s generating capacity just by betting on renewables, which is what the pressure groups are demanding. It will be decades before we reach that point, and until then Britain is going to need coal-fired units. I hope some realism comes through in energy policy," he said…

But green power alone cannot plug the gaping holes in Britain’s grid.

Britain is not alone in its dreamy approach to energy security. Germany is turning its back on nuclear power altogether, and coal is out of fashion. That could one day leave the country almost entirely beholden to Kremlin gas supplies.

Prescient indeed, Ambrose. Now, of course, he believes the total opposite, that we can run the country on green power, despite the fact that nothing has changed technologically since.

Fast forward to 2013, and his views still had not changed:


Germany is committing slow economic suicide. It has staked its future on heavy industry and manufacturing, yet has no energy policy to back this up.

Instead, the country has a ruinously expensive green dream, priced at €700bn (£590bn) from now until the late 2030s by environment minister Peter Altmaier if costs are slashed – and €1 trillion if they are not. The Germans are surely the most romantic nation on earth.

The full implications of this may become clear over the next decade, just as Germany’s ageing crisis hits with maximum force and its engineers retire; and just as German voters discover – what they suspect already – that it costs real money to hold a half-baked euro together.

The likelihood is that Germany will start to lose its economic halo soon, “de-rated” like others before it.

Two years later though, he must have been at the Kool Aid:


The political noose is tightening on the global fossil fuel industry. It is a fair bet that world leaders will agree this year to impose a draconian “tax” on carbon emissions that entirely changes the financial calculus for coal, oil, and gas, and may ultimately devalue much of their asset base to zero. …

It is becoming clearer that last year’s sweeping deal on climate change between the US and China was an historical inflexion point, the beginning of the end for a century of fossil dominance…

Some countries have been startlingly bold. Mexico has vowed to cut gases by 40pc within fifteen years

Well, we’re still waiting for that “draconian carbon tax, and far from ending the dominance of fossil fuels, that “sweeping deal” was simply Obama being taken to the cleaners by China.

Fossil fuel consumption continues to rise unabated, and still account for 85% of the world’s energy. By contrast renewables only supply a pitifully dismal 4%.



BP Energy Review

And Mexico?

Emissions have actually increased by 4% since AEP wrote his article:


BP Energy Review

By 2016, AEP seems to have totally lost the plot, writing a series of articles about our glorious new green future:


To be fair, costs of offshore wind at the latest CfD auction have come down more quickly than expected, but are still well above market prices.

However, he utterly fails to explain how the grid can cope with wind’s intermittency without expensive back up from proper dispatchable power sources, or a dangerous reliance on imported electricity.

All he can offer is:

Intermittency remains a curse but claims that anticyclones can halt the offshore wind industry for weeks at a time are a dinner party myth. "Calm conditions persisting for one day are extremely rare. When they do occur, they cover a small fraction of the UK, and there is no evidence to suggest that they persist for long periods of time," says Graham Sinden from Oxford University.

It turns out that this comment is based on an obsolete 2004 study. In fact, it is very common for such calm conditions to last a day or two, and that certainly applies to the UK as a whole. On one day last month, for instance, wind power was contributing just 0.7% of our electricity.

And only last month, we had five days straight when wind power ran at only 10% of capacity.

From a cost point of view, wind power can only justify itself if its TOTAL COST is less than the MARGINAL COST of alternatives such as CCGT. This would mean a price in the region of £40/MWh. This is achievable in the foreseeable future. Even then you would need to account for other system costs, such as extra grid infrastructure and system balancing.

But, perhaps most damning of all, AEP still does not seem to understand that, if you build too much wind capacity, you end up with many occasions when there is surplus generation, which the grid simply cannot absorb. And the more you build, the more extreme this problem becomes.

According to AEP, the solution to all of our intermittency problems lies with battery storage:


The world’s next energy revolution is probably no more than five or ten years away. Cutting-edge research into cheap and clean forms of electricity storage is moving so fast that we may never again need to build 20th Century power plants in this country, let alone a nuclear white elephant such as Hinkley Point….

Every big decision on energy strategy by the British government or any other government must henceforth be based on the working premise that cheap energy storage will soon be a reality.

This country can achieve total self-sufficiency in power at viable cost from our own sun, wind, and waters within a generation.

Well, maybe, just maybe, some genius will invent a battery that can cheaply store millions of MWh, but in the meantime it would be wise for governments not to rely on that.

What AEP still does not appear to get, is that battery storage is fine for holding a few hours worth of energy, enough say to store solar power during the day, for use at night.

But there simply is no technology which can store enough to last for days and weeks on end, never mind last all winter, as his comments about solar power imply.

Lord Oxburgh made all this perfectly plain, in his Report to Parliament in 2016, just after AEP wrote his fantasy piece:


Lowest Cost Decarbonisation for the UK: The Critical Role of CCS – P 65

Following his delusions about wind power and storage, AEP capped it all with his dream of carbon capture, again from 2016:


Renaissance beckons for the once great industrial hubs of northern England and Scotland, and the unexpected catalyst may be stringent global climate controls.

What looks at first sight like an economic threat could instead play elegantly to Britain’s competitive advantage, for almost no other country on earth is so well-placed to combine energy-intensive manufacturing with carbon capture at a viable cost.

The industrial clusters of the Tees Valley and the Humber are linked by a network of pipelines to depleted and well-mapped oil and gas fields in the North Sea, offering rare access to infrastructure for carbon storage deep underground.

Such sites may not be worth much today – with carbon prices in Europe too low to matter at barely $5 a tonne – but the COP21 climate deal agreed in Paris last December transforms the long-term calculus.

It implies a tightening regime of higher carbon penalties for the next half century, ending in net zero CO2 emissions. Once prices approach $50 a tonne the equation changes. Beyond $100 it inverts the pyramid of energy wealth: profits accrue to those with access to the cheapest low carbon power.


The drastic implications of COP21 are still sinking in. A maximum ‘carbon budget’ of 3,000 gigatonnes – deemed necessary to stop temperatures rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – may mean zero emissions from the power sector by mid-century.

The accord was signed by 195 countries, led by the US and China. It makes no difference whether you accept the hypothesis of man-made global warming. The deal constitutes the political will of the world, and will be legally-binding in the sense that each state transposes its commitments into domestic law.

It’s to hard to imagine how somebody could be so wrong about so much!

As already noted, there is no “global carbon price”, and attempts to impose ever rising carbon prices in Europe will simply drive yet more industries abroad.

Indeed, it is hard to see how there will be much “energy-intensive manufacturing” left in Britain in a few years time, to take advantage of this imaginary carbon storage.

The idea that China, India or most other countries will be prepared to see their industries go down the plug hole, as a result of obsession with western ideas about climate change, is patently absurd. Their main objective is to see us commit hari kari first.

The Paris Agreement, (COP21),  never agreed any “maximum carbon budget”, of 3000 gigatonnes or anything else. On the contrary, even the UNFCCC specifically recognised that the pledges made at Paris would drastically increase annual emissions and not cut them.

The whole idea, perpetuated by AEP and others of his ilk, that the rest of the world cares enough about carbon emissions to wreck their economies is ludicrous, and reveals how badly out of touch he is.

As for that deal which constitutes the political will of the world, and will be legally-binding in the sense that each state transposes its commitments into domestic law.

Well, we know about the Paris Agreement, except for dear old Ambrose apparently.

There is in fact nothing legally binding about it at all, and there are certainly no commitments written into anybody’s domestic law.

The whole thing was never more than a combination of western obsession with climate change, and a desire amongst the rest to make as much money and economic advantage out of it as possible.

It is quite astonishing that a journalist as astute as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard could be so taken in by the machinations of western governments, and their creatures, the IMF and IEA, and yet remain blind to what is going on in the real world.


February 25, 2019 at 05:01PM

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