Boris ‘Bonkers’ Johnson’s plan to ‘power’ Britain on wishes, sunshine and breezes is more like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole. Intriguing and fascinating, yes. But also a complete and utter fantasy.
The concept smacks of delusion, at every level. Neil Collins tackles the topic from the economic perspective.
This green fantasy will bankrupt us
20 November 2020
It’s 2050. You wake in your cosy, insulated house, turn on the windfarm-powered lights, cook up a breakfast and coffee on the hydrogen stove before jumping into your electric car. You whizz silently along roads with air as fresh as a mountain stream past happy e-bikers and carbon-neutral schools to your heat-pump powered office.
So, viewed from Britain in 2020, can you spot the odd one out? Here’s a clue: the e-bikers get no subsidy. Everything else on this list loses money, and needs state support on a massive scale to get even halfway to the nirvana glimpsed by the prime minister this week. Today’s subsidy, of course, is tomorrow’s tax rise.
Home insulation? £2bn is barely enough to get some sort of programme started. The disruption from insulating your home will be enough to discourage us from taking up this offer, almost regardless of the accompanying bribe. As we saw with double glazing and solar panels, the cowboy installers and fraudsters will be the principal beneficiaries.
WIndfarms? The easier sites are already filled up, driving development further offshore to have any chance of quadrupling today’s contribution. The bulk of new contracts are going to overseas manufacturers, while evidence of catastrophic damage to seabirds is growing, and nobody knows the long-term cost of maintaining this hi-tech engineering in a hostile environment.
Hydrogen home cooking? Hydrogen is much harder to handle than natural gas, and a compulsory conversion programme – the only practical way to exploit the existing pipework – would meet stiff resistance. Besides, like electricity, hydrogen is not a fuel but an energy transmission mechanism. Making it from actual fuel is like trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
Heat pumps? The capital cost typically runs into tens of thousands of pounds per dwelling, even where your garden is big enough to take one. They are also likely to be rather more expensive to maintain than your ‘fridge.
As for the electric car, despite subsidies of thousands of pounds per vehicle, with promises to spend billions more on sockets to charge them, motorists remain suspicious. After all, it is only a few short years since we were being urged to buy a diesel car, to make each barrel of oil go further. Now diesel is officially an evil producer of particulates that kill children.
Reconfiguring the electricity grid for electric vehicles will cost much more than the £2.5bn allocated in the government’s plan. Then there is the £40bn a year raised from fuel duties which will disappear if electricity takes over. It is almost a rounding error in the context of the hundreds of billions which the UK is going to waste with this week’s fashionable projects. They may indeed create thousands of jobs, but then so would digging large holes and filling them in again. Jobs that destroy wealth rather than creating it make us all poorer.
The government’s cheerleaders may argue that no price is too high to pay for “saving the planet”, but this week’s programme, if it is really implemented, will be ruinously expensive. After a year when the UK economy has shrunk by a tenth, we cannot afford more government repression, even cloaked in greenery. A smaller economy makes paying for the NHS, for example, much harder. Worse still, Britain’s self-harm makes almost no difference to global CO2 emissions, when China makes meaningless pledges of good behaviour while building two coal-fired power stations a week. How they must be laughing at us.
via STOP THESE THINGS
December 11, 2020 at 12:31AM