“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”
Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
A couple of years back we had a winter that went on and on, dragged through a cold dark February, a dull, still March, a cold, dark and still April. Those on oil central heating cursed the darkness and ordered more from their supplier. Those lucky enough to be on the gas grid turned up the thermostat and worried about the bill. Those on electrical heating shivered because they didn’t want to be bankrupted.
The UK was down to two weeks supply of natural gas, the gas used by the combined cycle power stations that are the basis of our electrical supply. Without a top-up the lights would have gone out. Without energy – and when the clouds gather and the winds drop that means hydrocarbon energy – everything stops. Cars. Lights. Hearts.
A car is made only incidentally of steel. The brain of the man who manipulates the computer controlling the production line is made only incidentally of food. The computer chip in this computer on which I type this is made only incidentally of silicon. All of them are made of energy, and chiefly in our civilisation they are made of electrical energy. Electricity drives the line, grows the food, powers the foundries, pumps the water and clears the sewage. And electricity is primarily, overwhelmingly made by the combustion of hydrocarbons.
If some invading alien were to power down the electrical Grid then our civilisation would descend into chaos in days.
Let me introduce you to that composite alien, the multi-bodied creature that has for the last eleven years been working tirelessly to break the Grid, to turn off our lights, close our factories and kill hundreds of thousands of our people in inadequately-heated winter homes. These are the Secretaries of State for Energy and Climate Change:
Ed Milliband. PPE Corpus Christi Oxford. MSc LSE in economics. Straight into politics after completing his degrees, initially in television then as a bag carrier to various Labour grandees. Science background, nil. Industry nil. Practical world experience nil.
Chris Huhne. PPE Magdalen College Oxford. Worked in the City and financial journalism. Science background nil, unless you count economics. Which I don’t.
Ed Davey. PPE Jesus College Oxford. MSc Birkbeck College London in economics. Economics policy developer for the LibDems. Industry experience: worked in a pork pie factory as a teenager. Was sufficiently aware of the need for reliable energy to advocate exploitation of UK shale gas.
Amber Rudd. History, Edinburgh. Various jobs in financial management, apparently thanks to family contacts, without conspicuous success. Contact with the real world as aristocracy coordinator for Four Weddings and a Funeral.
In 2016 the role was taken over by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the relevant minister being:
Greg Clarke. Economics, Magdalene College Cambridge.
Are we seeing a pattern here? Could that pattern be the reason that the UK is suicidally signing up to every crackpot decarbonisation scheme, wilfully ignoring the potential (and actual) costs of being a world leader in turning the lights out? That’s “world leader” as in first lemming over the cliff – I’d prefer to leave that to Germany which has jumped off the reliable energy generation cliff and is at the ‘it’s OK so far’ stage in the tumble to the rocks below.
The DNA of the renewable energy scam comes from City spivs crossed with a load of politicians who fancy themselves at the same game. Here’s what wiki says about energy CfDs:
“Contracts for Difference (CfD) are a system of reverse auctions intended to give investors the confidence and certainty they need to invest in low carbon electricity generation. CfDs have also been agreed on a bilateral basis, such as the agreement struck for the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.
CfDs work by fixing the prices received by low carbon generation, reducing the risks they face, and ensuring that eligible technology receives a price for generated power that supports investment. CfDs also reduce costs by fixing the price consumers pay for low carbon electricity. This requires generators to pay money back when wholesale electricity prices are higher than the strike price, and provides financial support when the wholesale electricity prices are lower.
The costs of the CfD scheme are funded by a statutory levy on all UK-based licensed electricity suppliers (known as the ‘Supplier Obligation’), which is passed on to consumers.”
And now in English? It looks to me as if CfDs are just a fancy way of hiding the fact that big companies are allowed to build inadequate power schemes – inadequate because they give no guarantees for continuity of supply – and they will be paid top-whack regardless. In any market in the UK this is known as the ‘open your wallet and repeat after me ‘Help yourself’ agreement.
But it’s OK. After the market huckster has emptied your wallet, the great British public is forced to fill it up again – you did see that ‘which is passed on to consumers’? Who pays most? The old. The poor. The sick. The people who proportionately spend most on electricity. This is not just inefficient, unreliable and wasteful. It’s immoral.
We dodged the bullet in that cold dark spring. With two weeks to go, two Liquified Natural Gas carrier ships arrived from Qatar, with two weeks to go to the lights going out. That’s how close we were to a real emergency.
How did we get here?
We got here by electing a lot of career politicians who wouldn’t know a Guy Fawkes rocket from a Saturn 5.