Engineering reality: fossil fuels are indispensable
The UK Climate Change Act precursor to the Net Zero CO2 Emissions policy came into law in 2008. The graph below shows a decade of actual data since 2008, taken from the annual “BP Statistical Review of World Energy”, followed by projections with impossible slopes which show that there is no hope of reaching Net Zero by 2050 or indeed anytime this century.
The UK data (blue) show that after a decade of Climate Change Act striving, we are still 79% dependent on fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) for our primary energy supply. What’s more, the graph shows that the falling trend has slowed markedly over the last five years. The electricity supply from UK flagship renewables wind and solar equated to just 3.5% of 2019 UK primary energy consumption (output based).
The world data show that after a decade of forlorn UN IPCC exhortations, the world as a whole is still 84% dependent on fossil fuels. What’s more, the electricity supply from global wind and solar languished at just 1.3% of 2019 world primary energy consumption.
A simplistic linear projection based on the last five years would indicates a UK Net Zero date sometime early next century. However such an extrapolation is meaningless as the task of decarbonisation gets progressively more unachievable and costly (probably £ trillions) as it goes on, i.e. having to transform the entire economy, not just the “easy” part of electricity generation which is already near the technical upper limits of renewables penetration, as explained further here, here and here.
This endeavour has already led to fuel poverty of over 25% here in chilly Scotland yet the trivial emissions savings have made imperceptible difference to the decades-long rising trend in global CO2 emissions as the global demand for energy has risen. All the main UK political parties, not just the SNP in Scotland, seem more concerned about grandstanding on the climate world stage than caring about the wellbeing of the Scottish people.
The world data trend projects global Net Zero to sometime many centuries in the future.
Shame on our politicians and the scaremongering mainstream media for hiding these show-stopping facts from the general public. The sudden switch to Net Zero, an unspinnable net zero fossil fuels, has caught them out because for years they have got away with bamboozling everyone with implausible statistics on alleged progress towards the easily-fiddled Climate Change Act emissions reduction targets (exposed below).
The UK 2035 intermediate target of 66% fossil fuel dependency was stated by BEIS in this 2019 correspondence with ex-Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom. That point is well adrift of the UN IPCC-mandated target of 45% (global) emissions reduction by 2030 to avoid “1.5 degrees”. Progress from there would require a much faster rate of reduction between 2035 and 2050 than has ever been achieved, except possibly during the 2008-9 global financial crash (and probably the Coronavirus recession, held on next year’s BP Energy Review).
The 2020 BP Review also shows that UK total energy consumption in 2019 was down by 8% since 2009 but by only 1% since 2014. Energy consumption was supposed to fall by 20% by 2020 under the EU 20-20-20 energy directive enacted in 2009. We hear little of that directive these days because not just the UK but the entire EU is failing badly on meeting its energy efficiency target. Like Kyoto before it and the latest Net Zero fantasy (aka the Green New Deal), EU 20-20-20 is yet another example of a pie-in-the-sky energy scheme dreamt up by technically untutored politicians totally divorced from engineering reality.
The UK has wasted the past decade in ineffectual technical tinkering which has resulted in inflated energy prices (ref. fuel poverty) and industries forced to close down or move abroad (e.g. Redcar steel). This self-harming domestic tinkering has been doubly pointless as global CO2 emissions have risen about 15% since 2009. Politicians need to “get real”, to shake themselves out of their groupthinking bubble of self-delusion and face up to reality ASAP before they lead the country into a self-inflicted disaster.
Bogus emission reductions and ineffectual renewables
UK emissions reductions to date have been achieved partly by unrepeatable one-offs and by accountancy jiggery-pokery to claim “achievement” of political goals, for example by:
- One-off running down of high-emissions coal power (which still managed to keep the lights on during the 2018 Beast from the East),
- declaring inefficient, expensive biomass – felled forests shipped across the Atlantic for burning in power stations such as Drax – to be “carbon-neutral” despite generating higher CO2 emissions than coal,
- promoting biofuels with catastrophic unintended consequences of tropical deforestation, rare species endangerment and increased, unaccounted for global CO2 emissions,
- surreptitiously not accounting for the foreign fossil fuel consumption used to supply our imports, including dangerously-insecure interconnector-supplied electricity: “Hidden import emissions amounted to 46% of the UK’s overall carbon footprint in 2019, up from 14% in 1990”. Dissembling Tory politicians never admit this in their stock boast that “since 1990 we have cut emissions by 42% while our economy has grown by two thirds”. Clearly that economic growth was achieved despite their damaging climate policies,
- cheating by Volkswagen to fake the emissions ratings of their diesel cars, yet the EU did not require this German company to pay any compensation,
- Energy suppliers fraudulently claiming to supply “100% renewables” electricity, explained in this Dutch exposé where 69% of the country had been sold the 100% lie, a mathematical impossibility without even considering the details of the chicanery.
The UK government seemingly has no idea how to implement Net Zero other than by building yet more intermittent, unscalable, polluting wind turbines and solar panels, leading the country into a disastrous energy supply cul-de-sac. Electricity still only accounts for about a quarter of UK final energy consumption, dwarfed by the heating, transport and industry sectors which overwhelmingly rely on fossil fuels.
My perhaps atypical household uses about eight times more kWh of gas (mainly for heating) than electricity. Fortunately, gas is many times cheaper than electricity per unit of energy. Attempting to use scaled-up electricity – or hydrogen inefficiently produced using scaled-up electricity – in place of natural gas for heating would send customer bills through the roof.
Gas could even be cheaper and our dependency on some very dubious foreign suppliers could be much reduced if only politicians would allow fracking.
Expensive, user-unfriendly (charge points, charging times, range anxiety, breakdown hazard) electric vehicles which will require a huge increase in grid electricity supply and will achieve only marginal (if any) net overall CO2 emissions savings at huge mineral resource, environmental and ecological cost will probably flop with the general public, especially when the purchase price, road tax and congestion charge subsidies are inevitably withdrawn. Politicians are setting up the auto industry for an even bigger fall over EVs than they did with diesel cars.
The penny has not yet dropped that all current UK wind turbines will have to be replaced before 2050 because of their short service life, perhaps twice for some of the offshore fleet exposed to extreme operating conditions, never mind expanding the capacity. Similar problems of short lifespan and high maintenance costs apply to solar panels.
Adding yet more intermittent wind power degrades the stability of the grid, with UK consumers already facing a £ multi-billion annual bill to prevent blackouts. Moreover it is delusional to think that grid-scale battery storage could bridge not-infrequent UK-wide multi-day becalmings. Weather-dependent renewables like wind and solar have to be 100% duplicated by conventional power stations (and even “dirty” diesel generators) for essential grid balancing and synchronisation and to take over completely when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
The crowning lunacy of this political obtuseness is that the life-cycle net system-wide CO2 emissions savings of wind electricity generation are actually quite modest, despite the simplistic appeal of supposedly “free” wind. The same arguments apply to solar power.
Meanwhile, all but one of our remaining nuclear (emissions-free) power stations will be at the end of their lives by 2030. Nuclear power currently supplies about 20% of UK electricity.
Politicians were warned a decade ago by the then chief scientific advisor Professor Sir David Mackay that trying to power the UK economy with intermittent renewables was an “appalling delusion” but in their quasi-religious climate change fervour they wilfully chose to ignore him and defy the laws of engineering and physics. Some technically naive politicians still think that their precious renewables are sustainable but this has never been the case due to their low ERoEI – Energy Return on Energy Invested.
After a wasted decade spent pushing unstable, unclean, unscalable, expensive, low productivity renewables, politicians need to admit that their fantasy “low-carbon economy” (the pre-Net Zero political catchphrase) is a dead duck – unless they give priority to zero-emissions nuclear power. Nuclear together with medium-emissions gas for grid balancing would be a far more sustainable approach than the present Heath Robinson mishmash of short lifespan weather-dependent renewables cobbled together with expensive technical sticking plasters.
The dangers of “following the (wrong) science”
The following pair of graphs relate to NAOO’s Mauna Loa recording of atmospheric CO2 (the Keeling Curve). The small annual oscillations are due to the seasonal variations in the growth and decay of global vegetation.
The graphs show that the 2020 global economic slump caused by Coronavirus has had indiscernible impact on the steadily-increasing level of atmospheric CO2. The detailed vertically-stacked years show a higher increase in warming El Nino years (e.g. 2016 and 2019) and lower in cooling La Nina years (e.g. 2018) but show ENSO-neutral, ultra-low emissions 2020 as “about average”.
The science behind the Keeling curve’s relentless increase remains a disputed subject of debate – some say it is due to higher temperatures resulting from the natural recovery from the Little Ice Age. Regardless of “the science”, the empirical reality is that since 1958 when the Keeling curve measurements started, global temperatures bear scant correlation with its slope. If the large naturally warming El Ninos of 2016 and 2019 are disregarded, the only sustained global warming to date since before 1950 occurred during the long-ago 1980s and 90s, when natural El Ninos predominated.
According to the Met Office: “To halt the CO2 rise and prevent further global warming, global CO2 emissions would initially need to halve, and reduce by even more in the long term”. What if this Met Office/UN IPCC unverified “Project Fear” theory of dangerous but still indiscernible man-made CO2 global warming were actually correct? It would mean that “tackling Net Zero” would require the equivalent of a never-ending Coronavirus-style lockdown of the entire world economy.
Is this dire prospect really what our politicians want to showcase at the COP26 climate summit in full view of the world’s general public, most of whom don’t give two hoots about “climate change”? Or will they kick the can down the road as per usual, digging a deeper and deeper hole for themselves? Or will they finally have the common sense to face up to reality?
The engineering reality showing the infeasibility of Net Zero has been staring politicians in the face for years but they have kept their heads resolutely in the sand. They have also turned a blind eye to the scientific reality that the UN IPCC climate models are seriously flawed, as shown by the graph below from the 2016 testimony to the US Senate by a professor of climate science. It shows modelled temperatures racing ahead of actual temperatures. Needless to say it was ignored by most (not all) politicians.
Coronavirus has again shown the dangers of trusting unvalidated computer models and blindly following discredited “experts” who get feted by the gullible mainstream media. It is striking (see graphs below) how the UN IPCC’s exaggerated predictions of runaway global warming mirror Professor Neil Ferguson’s exaggerated predictions of runaway Covid-19 deaths, e.g. 40,000 in Sweden, actual outcome about 6,000 with minimal lockdown.
The political over-reactions to climate change and Coronavirus have resulted in misjudged “cures” which are arguably more damaging than the actual “diseases”. Politicians need to be more sceptical (exactly the right word) when dealing with scientific uncertainty, to take decisions based on empirical evidence rather than conjecture and not be unduly influenced by hysteria whipped up by the scaremongering, biased mainstream media.
The obsessive political fixation on Net Zero
The UN IPCC Net Zero target allows that some fossil fuels could continue to be used if abated by expensive, inefficient CO2 sequestration schemes such as “bonkers” carbon capture and storage. The Paris Accord stalemate shows that few, if any, non-Western countries want to go down the Net Zero road and hobble their economies with such follies, so unilateral Net Zero action by the UK (which contributes just 1% of global CO2 emissions) would only make us more and more uncompetitive and do nothing for the global climate.
The clue to the anticipated failure of COP26 to agree “ambitious” (i.e. economy-damaging) global emissions reduction targets is in the “26” of the name, signifying a never-ending series of wrangles over irreconcilable political and ideological differences. The developing countries are not bound by the Paris Accord and “climate change” is low in their priorities. As they grow their economies to lift their people out of poverty they are all, like China and India, expanding their use of cheap, reliable, abundant fossil fuels, resulting in steadily-rising global emissions.
The forlorn political conceit that “by setting a good example” in decarbonising our own economy – which in practice means de-industrialising and becoming less competitive – we can persuade the developing countries to follow suit has been tested to destruction over the past decade.
The Western fixation on pursuing Net Zero unconditionally and without even reviewing the science or engineering feasibility is sheer lunacy. It seems the more the Net Zero endeavour is shown to be futile, the more cognitive dissonance kicks in and the more the Net Zero cultists double-down on their obsession. Fittingly, this psychological trait was academically confirmed in a study of a group who believed in flying saucers.
The irony is that if the whole world went fully Net Zero – which it can’t and won’t – the effects would be so globally debilitating that we in the UK would have to manufacture (or do without) nearly all the things we currently import and naively account for as emissions-free.
Perhaps if our politicians had not been so monomaniacally obsessed with “climate change” they might have been better prepared to deal with Coronavirus, or the many other natural and societal disasters which could strike at any time in the future.
The apparatchiks of the UN IPCC have never hidden their aim of bureaucratic, undemocratic world governance – like the EU writ large? – on the pretext of “saving the planet”. Fortunately for the general public who have never voted for any such imposition, their desperate “last throw of the dice” plan to impose global Net Zero “is certain to fail”.
It is obvious that “climate change” – not to be conflated with uncontroversial, generally-agreed environmental concerns – is simply a woke crusade for politicians (mostly left-wing) to flaunt their internationalist outlook and misconceived self-righteousness. (It also enables a great many “follow the money” individuals and businesses to profit financially). The reality is that their groupthink is exactly the opposite of virtuous as their misguided climate policies condemn the world to pointless economic debilitation, with the poor suffering the most.
It is also clear that politicians are not even serious about tackling the “existential threat” of alleged man-made climate change as they have so far done next to nothing to develop the only emissions-free energy technology which could realistically supply our future energy needs, i.e. nuclear power, never mind other drastic measures they could have imposed but have not, e.g. rationing of travel and heating.
In the ruins of Coronavirus it is time to call a halt to the great global warming swindle. The UK general public is fed up with the establishment’s obsession with “climate change” based on overhyped pseudo-science, unbelievable apocalyptic warnings and state-sponsored brainwashing. Worrying about climate change has always been a rich society’s luxury, an ideology-driven, virtue-signalling, identity-politics charade, an excuse to hold the general public in a state of fear and to disparage anyone not holding a suitably correct “liberal” worldview.
Now that the Coronavirus age of unemployment and debt has suddenly supplanted our prior age of affluence and absolved any guilt-trip need for hairshirt atonement, we need to repeal the unachievable economy-shackling Net Zero legislation, disband the pointless Committee on Climate Change, sideline COP26 and return to a more rational and sovereign climate policy of adaption as and when necessary.
We urgently need new policies to revive industry and level up across the regions, as promised in the December general election, not the old policies which lead inexorably to de-industrialisation, reduced productivity and lower standards of living. We need efficient, cheap energy to help boost the economy through the post-Coronavirus recovery, not the expensive, insecure energy we are stuck with at present thanks to all the costly wind and solar schemes and their associated green taxes and renewables subsidies.
We need to ignore the likes of Greta Thunberg, Caroline Lucas, the Committee on Climate Change, the self-described “Zero Carbon Commission”, the Extinction Rebellion-inspired Climate Assembly, shadow energy minister Ed Miliband, the BBC and the EU who would all happily sacrifice the economy on the altar of their misguided climate change religion. We should ignore snake-oil subsidy-harvesting renewables companies with their low energy density products who, together with the aforementioned Green Gollums, would take society back to the subsistence living of the seventeenth century.
We don’t need to panic about the fake “climate emergency“ or heed the fake “97% consensus” arguments. We need to examine all the facts no matter how “inconvenient” (to paraphrase science abuser Al Gore) and think, rationally. We need a dose of healthy scepticism to overturn the prevailing leftist ideological compulsion to “tackle climate change” no matter how ineffectual and costly, which is leading us to certain disaster.
Douglas S Brodie, Nairn, July 2020