A judge I once knew used to tell the parties to his mediation sessions that they may have to bleed for a while longer, before accepting sensible settlement proposals. We in North America may also have the need to bleed for a while longer while our governments continue fighting to bring CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 (and by 2030, a 40 percent reduction in just 7.3 years).
The government policy of mandating unreliable and unaffordable energy, forcing many families to choose between heating and eating, is not a socially just transition. The energy catastrophe in Germany and the UK are already making their citizens bleed financially, due to massively increased energy costs. This started long before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made European energy even costlier.
Natural gas prices in Europe skyrocketed more than 1,500% from August 2019 to July 2022. Families in Germany and the UK have seen energy costs increase over ten times what they were a few years ago. The top UK energy bill is set to be almost triple the level of last winter.
The [UK’s] energy-price cap is forecast to leap to a record … in January, to about £3,360 pounds [$5,079 Canadian].Bloomberg: The Energy Price Shock:
Economic activity is energy transformed.
All of the economic activity that gives our societies food, home heating/cooling, transportation, and the jobs to provide our goods and services, comes from transforming energy. The cruelty of net zero — condemning millions of families to energy poverty — is unsustainable in a democracy.
Many thanks to Josh at http://www.cartoonsbyjosh.com/ for his kind permission to post his cartoon.
As Canadian energy guru Vaclav Smil has explained:
“Given that vegans extol eating plants, and that the media have reported extensively on the high environmental cost of meat, you might think that ….the energy cost of chicken [is greater than] the cultivation and marketing of vegetables. …. The opposite has been true, in fact, and there is no better example to illustrate these surprisingly high energy burdens than taking a close look at tomatoes. They have it all – an attractive colour, a variety of shapes, smooth skin, and a juicy interior.…
This means that …, tomatoes …. have a stunningly high embedded production and transportation energy cost. Its total is equivalent to… more than five tablespoonfuls… of diesel fuel per medium-sized tomato.… How many vegans enjoying [their] salad are aware of its substantial fossil fuel pedigree?Vaclav Smil, How the World Really Works, p. 59-61
The proposed “green” transition by 2050 from reliable hydrocarbon energy to weather dependent, unreliable wind and solar energy would, if pursued, destroy the energy system. If we destroy the energy system we destroy everything that keeps people alive and well.
When politicians declare a war against, e.g., Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, drugs, or poverty, it takes perhaps 2 decades of bleeding before the war is abandoned as costly and futile. So will it be with the politicians’ war against CO2.
Renewables aren’t really cheaper than hydrocarbons or they wouldn’t need massive subsidies (many times larger than those for the fossil fuel industry), special contractual benefits and expensive fossil fuel backup. As a rule of thumb, if wind and solar account for more than around 30 percent of electricity generation capacity, the electricity grid becomes unstable without very costly, duplicative fossil fuel or nuclear backup. Without this backup excessive reliance on renewables causes blackouts. Blackouts can cause deaths in both winter cold and summer heat — preventable with electricity generation that is not dependent on weather (or on Russian gas).
Let Them Freeze in the Dark
When Pierre Trudeau created the National Energy Program in 1980, which effectively nationalized much of the value of Alberta’s oil, we saw a lot of bumper stickers in Calgary saying “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark”. Today, with Canada’s overly aggressive green policies, the motto of Ottawa’s well paid and handsomely pensioned climate bureaucrats could be perfectly expressed with bumper stickers saying “Let the Poor Freeze in the Dark.”
The Unjust Transition to Nowhere
Canadian/US climate policy is: The planet needs our leadership to fight the global climate crisis. Let’s create a war on our domestic fossil fuels to save the planet.
Unfortunately, this policy will create a domestic energy crisis, without saving the planet. Over the next decade or two many Canadian and American families will suffer energy poverty, unable to afford food and home heating/cooling, while the global use of hydrocarbons continues to rise. Our domestic energy policy is unsustainable.
If government policy and the disinvestment of fossil fuels movement reduces energy supply without reducing demand we will have to import more energy and food, at higher prices, from undemocratic regimes with higher emissions. That’s not fighting climate change, it’s fighting our living standards.
Politicians’ Ego Games
Politicians selling the cure for the invisible, deadly “pollutant” CO2 have to keep selling the fear or have no political product to sell. Today, every federal, provincial and municipal government and every large corporation has to have a so-called climate plan, to help save the planet. This is in Canada, a country representing a mere 1.6 percent of global CO2 emissions, when other countries, representing 2/3 of the global population, are rapidly increasing their emissions (as permitted by the terms of the Paris Agreement). I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or to start singing “To dream the impossible dream…”.
If “building back better” really means rapidly replacing reliable energy with weather dependent energy, that isn’t better. It’s worse. The faster we speed down this blind alley the harder will be the impact when we hit the brick wall. And the political sales slogans of “the great reset” and “the just transition” will be recognized as fantasy, leading to what I have called The Great U-Turn.
The promised “green” transition is really all about political ego. Biden wants his climate leadership to outgreen Merkel, Scholtz and the German Green Party; and Trudeau wants to outgreen Biden.
When several countries’ politicians adopt the same ego projects and reinforce each other’s egos, the multinational bleeding lasts longer. Ten years after Merkel, Scholtz, Johnson, Biden and Trudeau are all gone, we will start to see media columns asking “Why was our climate policy so wrong for so long?” Just as the initially popular fights against the Viet Cong and the Taliban, and the prohibitions against alcoholic beverages and cannabis were eventually abandoned as futile, one can only hope that the same will happen sooner rather than later to the unwinnable fight for net zero.
Most Countries are Climate Crisis Skeptics
The Russian, Chinese, Indian and African governments, among many others, obviously do not believe in the apocalyptic predictions of only ten years to save the planet. Their political leaders aren’t following the Western obsession with net zero by 2050. With 2/3 of the world’s population rapidly increasing their fossil fuel use, Western energy policy is globally irrelevant.
As long as the virtuous posturing of climate fighting leadership was free, or low cost, it wasn’t seriously challenged. However, as both energy costs and blackouts increase, while global emissions also increase, politicians will struggle to explain why we are hurting ourselves for no discernible difference in planetary CO2 or climate change.
North American politicians have not yet recognized the risk of serious civil unrest if energy is made unaffordable and causes further inflation. Our poor, and much of our middle class, may suffer until the futility of net zero by 2050 is recognized and, as in Europe, we start The Great U-turn.
Is it time to stop the bleeding soon? I hope so, for the sake of my children and grandchildren.