A WAR ON REASON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a paragraph everyone should read. It will seem quite familiar, if slightly out of true, as if from a half forgotten newspaper article. It is in fact from a 35 year old book. Even so, to grasp the full depth of the nightmare that is Trump you need to read it.

“It had really begun. The issues were drawn, false issues; the real issues were post war fear and uncertainty. Around the country he flew, reckless and audacious, stopping long enough to make a new charge, to exhibit a new list, a good newsworthy press conference at the airport, hail fellow well met with the reporters, and then on to the next stop, the emptiness of the charges never catching up with him, the American press exploited in its false sense of objectivity (if a high official said something, then it was news, if not fact, and the role of the reporter was to print it straight without commenting, without assaulting the credibility of the incredulous, that was objectivity). It was like a circus; he was always on the move, his figures varied, his work was erratic and sloppy, he seemed to have no genuine interest in any true nature of security. It sometimes seemed as if he too were surprised by the whole thing, how easy it was, how little resistance he met, and so he hurtled forward to newer, larger charges. But if they did not stick, and they did not, his charges had an equally damaging effect: they poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things unless there was something to it. And so the contamination remained after the facts, or lack of them, evaporated; long after the specifics had faded into obscurity, the stain remained.” 

This is from David Halberstam’s book “The Best and the Brightest”. He is writing about Senator Joe McCarthy. McCarthy led the notorious campaign against alleged communist traitors in The United States at the beginning of the fifties. The populist poison he fomented is as virulent today as it was then.

Indeed it is the same poison. The vicious manipulation of fear and hatred practised by McCarthy then and by Trump today share a lineage. The witchfinder general of McCarthy’s assault on reason was a young lawyer named Roy Cohn. When McCarthy’s campaign imploded from its surfeit of excess the young lawyer withdrew to New York.

There, in the seventies he became a friend and mentor to rising real estate mogul Donald Trump. Cohn was both gay and homophobic – an unusual combination. He had a clear philosophy: always deny, never settle, always countersue. As we see, it has been fully absorbed by his apprentice.

Cohn died of AIDS in 1986. His place as a Trump guru has been taken by Stephen Bannon, now the chief political strategist in the White House. Bannon is reputed to be the intellectual driving force, such as there is, of the Trump Administration. Journalists have taken to reporting the books he reads.

Among them is Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”; which is how I came to be re-reading it and so discovered the paragraph above. A New York Times journalist spotted him reading it at an airport. “I’m having everyone in the transition read it” said Bannon. Ironically, the book is an 800 page treatise on why fervour and confidence is no substitute for expertise for those in high office.

The Trump we see is the one we are going to get for the next four years. The American people have played a monumental joke on their own history by reincarnating Joe McCarthy as President. Trump will not change. McCarthyism is written into the DNA of his Administration. But like his doppelganger he will fail, drowned by his own excesses.

However, if we permit it, his failure will leave an indelible stain on the world. He has declared a war on reason. It is a war that could last well beyond his years in the White House. Churchill believed that in war “truth must wear a bodyguard of lies”. To win this war on reason we must build a wall of truth, a bodyguard of facts, to contain the toxic vomit of doubt and confusion, nacht und nebel, which is Trump’s preferred weapon.

We can start by being direct about the things he says that are not true. They are deliberate, witting, attempts to divide and mislead. Editors and politicians, priests, professors and the rest of us should not be squeamish about calling them what they are: lies. A war on reason is a war on democracy. It is not one the environment and those who speak for it can afford to lose.

 

Tom Burke

London

March 19th 2017

 

 

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Debate with Myron Ebell on Trump and climate policy – BBC World News – 21 FEB 17

 

 

BBC World News: President Trump is preparing two executive orders, aimed at scaling back Obama era policies on climate and water pollution, according to reports that we are seeing in the US media. Over the weekend hundreds of scientists, young and old, rallied because they were concerned over President Trump’s disregard for science and his denial of the impact of climate change. There is lots of talk about this, all over the world, about what a Trump administration is going to mean now for the environment and for our planet.

So, let’s talk about it, I am Join from Washington by Myron Ebell who is Donald Trump’s former advisor on climate change, and a well-known climate change sceptic. And here in the studio with me is Tom Burke, chairman of E3G or Third Generation Environmentalism, an environmental think tank. Myron, if I can start with you, you advised Donald Trump on climate change before he was elected, during the campaign. We are still not sure what to expect from President Trump, can you enlighten us?

Myron Ebell: President Trump promised during the campaign to withdrawn from the Paris Climate Treaty, defund United Nations climate programs, and undo all the executive and regulatory actions that President Obama undertook on climate policy, without the approval or involvement of the US congress.

BBC World News: And you expect him to follow through on all of those, now that he is the president?

Myron Ebell: Yes, I don’t know that he will do everything today or get everything started today, but it has been reported that some of his promises will begin to be fulfilled with executive actions today, now that we have an EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, who was confirmed last week.

BBC World News: And Myron, can you confirm for us that Donald Trump is in fact genuinely a climate change sceptic? He doesn’t believe that it is man-made?

Myron Ebell: President Trump said a number of things during the campaign, ranging from it’s a hoax, which he later walked back from, to just saying that he is not a big believer in it. He doesn’t think that it’s a major problem, and he doesn’t think that it’s a crisis.

BBC World News: Ok, Tom 97% of scientists, we saw some of them on the streets of America over the weekend, disagree with the president, they are worried about the views that he has expressed, are you worried?

Tom Burke: It’s not just scientists, the whole of the American intelligence community is worried about it, and has put climate change as one of the top threats to security for the world going forward. Most American people disagree with both the President and Myron Ebell. In fact, most of Trump’s own supporters disagree, a recent poll from Yale showed. So, what I suspect we will see is even further walking back by the president. I doubt that he will leave the Paris Agreement, to do so he would have to over-rule his own newly appointed secretary of state, who said that America should keep a seat at the table. So, I suspect that there will be quite a lot of headlines, but not necessarily all that much action.

BBC World News: What about Scott Pruitt heading up the EPA, fiercely critical of the agency that he is now in control of.

Tom Burke: I think Scott Pruitt will do a lot of damage to the American environment, and I think that he will try to slow down environmental regulations, particularly those on climate change, as much as he can. But actually, what’s really driving the change in emissions is not so much government policy, it’s actually opportunity seeking, by people like Elon Musk, by the people who are wanting to build the low-carbon economy, and are making lots of money out of it. It’s a very interesting thing, that now renewable energy in the united states employs about four times as many people as the fossil fuel industry. That’s really what’s going to drive the change.

BBC World News: So, there is an economic argument there as well. Myron if we can come back to you, listening to Tom, and some of the figures that are being bandied about, about who does believe in climate change and who doesn’t, and the scientific community involved in that as well. People would really like to understand your thinking, and the presidents thinking as well, why are you a sceptic? What is it that you disagree with exactly?

Myron Ebell: I think that the ‘climate crisis’ is overblown, I don’t think that we have an imminent crisis. I think that we have very modest warming, with very modest impacts, I think that’s the scientific consensus.  I think that there is a small alarmist community that is pushing this on behalf of very large economic interests, the climate industrial complex, that is getting rich off the backs of taxpayers and consumers. Elon Musk is a classic example, his solar business is based on huge federal subsidies, and in many cases state mandates, that require people to have renewable energy. So, all of this stuff about employment numbers, yeah, a lot of people work in the renewable energy industry, but they don’t earn a lot of money, these are largely low-paid workers. So, this is not a booming renewable economy, if you take away the taxpayer subsidies and the mandates.

BBC World News:  What would you say to that Tom?

Tom Burke: Well, I would say, if you took away the fossil fuel subsidies you would have a level playing field, coal would be gone, gas would be in trouble. Which is what we are seeing around the world now already…

Myron Ebell: This is rubbish…This is rubbish…

Tom Burke: Well, I’m sorry, just don’t be rude Myron, you will get a chance speak without being rude…

Myron Ebell: President Obama discovered four billion dollar per year for the oil and gas industry, total subsidy, four billion dollars…

Tom Burke: The fossil fuel industry receives ten million dollars a minute in subsidies, and that is an IMF figure. You can choose to believe your alternative facts if you like, but the reality is investment….

Myron Ebell: You’re confusing subsidies in countries that produce oil, like Saudi Arabia, that subsidise the price of gasoline for their consumers. That has nothing to do with what goes on in the West, in the United States and Europe. Yes, in Venezuela gas costs seventy-five cents per gallon, or something, but that’s what they do to buy off their own people in the petrostates. That has nothing to do with the subsidies in the United States or Europe, which are massive for renewable energy.

BBC World News:  Tom, I just wanted to leave with a final thought from you, about what the world feels about the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement?

Tom Burke: It’s not that bothered, frankly. The rest of the world will go on doing what they are doing. What countries were doing by signing the Paris Agreement was pursuing their national interest, as they see it. It would be much better if America joined the rest of the world, but if America wants to be last, why should we worry?

BBC World News: Tom and Myron, I was expecting it to be feisty, it was indeed. Thanks very much for joining us.

 

 

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Toshiba scales back on nuclear – Channel 4 News – 14 Feb 17

 

 

Toshiba is basically bust, and it has been broken, in fact, by a nuclear project. So the idea that it won’t want to get rid of Moorside for whatever value it can realise, seems to be very, very unlikely.  They will try to sell it, I’m not sure that they will find a buyer.

What there is a real risk of here, is pouring good money after bad, because the headlines would be so awful if they just said that they were giving up.

 

 

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Discussing government failure in controlling air pollution – Radio 4 – 2 Feb 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the consequence of complete failure by the government to tackle a problem that it has known about for a long time. It is now in breach of our own laws about controlling air pollution, and it has known about that and it has done nothing, even though Client Earth succeeded in a high court action for them to come up with a plan.

Compulsory purchase addresses the wrong end of the problem. You can’t blame the people and make the people pay for a problem that is a failure of government. I do understand the frustrations, not just in Cornwall, it’s in Birmingham, it’s in London, you have got councils that have been dumped with the problem by failure of government to take an action that it knows it should take.

The local councils are trying really hard to deal with the problem where they can, and where they can make a difference at the margin, lots of councils are doing that. The problem is now getting to a state where you have got to spend millions of pounds on a bypass, you are getting beyond what local councils can really be expected to do. With a compulsory purchasing order to move people away from the pollution, you are going beyond what local councils can do. So there are lots of local councils who should be applauded for what they are doing, but they can’t make up for the failures of central government.

The motor industry cheated on the air quality test standards, so you can’t go on blaming the people for a problem that government really does need to address. We have the technologies to produce vehicles, and all the mobility that people want, without killing them, and incidentally adding to the burden on the health service. We have the technology to do that, but government had to set a lead. It is failing to do that. On diesels, we could be shifting them over to liquid petroleum gas, to get rid of that particular problem.

 

 

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Ladybird Book on climate change by Prince Charles – Sky News – 22 Jan 17

 

 

The duty of a constitutional monarch in Britain is to advise warn and encourage, and that is exactly what he is doing with this book [on climate change]. He is advising us about a problem that we really need to pay attention to. He’s been doing that for about 40 years now, and the only people who have ever seemed to have objected to it are unelected editors and few politicians who disagree with him. Actually, I think that he has probably been more in tune with the public than most of our political leader and commentators.

I think that it will reach an audience that it not often reached by a lot of the other media and the other channels that are available, but also because it has got his imprimatur, this is probably, after Mr Trump, one of the most well known figures in the world, and the fact that he is speaking out on [climate change] at a time when all of the evidence in people’s lives is beginning to come through. Exactly what the scientists said would happen. We have seen the hottest winter in the arctic that we have ever seen. We have seen an extraordinary increase in floods and extreme weather events all around the world. We have our own flood events happening here. So all of the things that the scientists were telling us thirty years ago were likely to happen, we are now starting to see happening.

Trump is not in a reality TV show. He is in the real world, and in the real world the climate is not going to pay any attention to what Mr Trump thinks. What I am more concerned about is the fact that one this creates an enormous opportunity for the Chinese to fill the space left by the Americans, and therefore to build support for a country that you want to be careful about. But also, actually it means America last, because what is going to happen is that the rest of the world is going to go on taking the opportunities of building a low carbon economy, and he is going to slow down the effort of the united states to take on the new smart technologies, which is where we are actually going to go anyway.

I don’t think that there is a problem with the public. I think the public, by enlarge, ‘gets it’ on climate change. I think that there are some, very small groups of people who don’t get it. The public is a bit less alert to what it should do, and it’s looking to governments to do more than they are doing, to give a lead, as it were. I think ladybird will reach an audience of people who don’t spend a lot of time looking at news channels, and don’t spend a lot of time looking at newspapers, but actually will use the book and, partly because it is a Ladybird Book, will be using it with their kids.

 

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Donald Trump will have to deal with climate change – Sky News

 

 

 

Sky News: The adventurer Sir David Hempleman-Adams has called on politicians to stop stalling and keep their promises to slow climate change. It was after he witnessed the impact of global warming during an expedition to the Arctic. The journey, via the north-east and north-west passages, traditionally takes three years to complete but his team managed it in just four months and one day.

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He has completed more than thirty arctic expeditions, and has just been knighted by the queen, but adventurer David Hempleman-Adams has today spoken out about the impact of global warming. Something he says that he has witnessed first-hand.

Sir David Hempleman-Adams: There will be just pure ocean at the North Pole in a few years time. I actually believe that. I have seen that change. I think it will be that radically different. And it is only then, I think, that politicians, once we get continuous flooding and continuous storms, and we are spending billions of pounds on repairs, that politicians will actually wake up.

Sky News: Last year David completed a four month expedition around the Arctic on this yacht, a journey that would traditionally take around three years. But, as these drone pictures show, there has been a significant loss of ice.

Sir David Hempleman-Adams: The north-west passage, we did that in literally fourteen days, and we were a sailing boat. If we had a speed boat we could probably to it in a few days. We didn’t see any ice what so ever, I mean, we didn’t even find enough ice for a gin and tonic. It was very, very scary.

Sky News: The impact of global warming had in recent years been very well documented, with the British government playing its part to try to reduce greenhouse gases. But Britain can’t work alone. There are now concerns about president elect Donald Trump’s views on the subject.

Donald Trump: “We are going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement, and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs”.

Sky News: He has even chosen Scott Prewitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, who criticised President Obama’s climate change policies.

Tom Burke: I think that Mr Trump is going to discover that he is no longer on a reality TV show. He is going to run head on into the reality of climate change, and he is going to have to accommodate the facts and not the other way around. There is no doubt that he is very sceptical, and that he has appointed a very sceptical cabinet, but they are still going to actually have to deal with the problem.

Sky News: Ice has declined by more than 30% over the last 25 years, and there are now concerns about the impact that is having on animals like the polar bear. Sir David’s warning is that action must be taken now, before we all start witnessing greater flooding and famine around the world.

 

 

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The UK has formally signed up to the Paris climate change agreement – Sky News

 

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Sky News: The UK has formally signed up to the first climate change agreement that covers every country on earth. It comes as there is uncertainty over America’s role in the Paris Agreement. Donald Trump had described climate change as a hoax invented by China. I’m joined now by Tom Burke, chairman of Third Generation Environmentalism, and former senior advisor to the Foreign Secretary’s special representative on Climate Change. Good evening to you, Tom Burke. So the UK has formerly ratified this, signed up to today. What is the significance of the Paris Agreement?

Tom Burke:  Well the real significance of the Paris Agreement is the way that it represents a real turning point when the political risk equation is changing, for governments now the political risk of failing to act on climate change is increasing, meanwhile the political risks of acting is decreasing, as the cost of renewables goes through the floor. So the events that the scientists have been predicting are now happening with increasing frequency, and really driving home to political leaders everywhere that this is a problem that is going to have major political impact on people’s prosperity and their security, and at the same time we are seeing that the cost of dealing with the problem are really going through the floor, as the cost of renewables goes down, the cost of storage goes down, we are beginning to see people take up all of the opportunities in a low-carbon economy.

Sky News:  Yeah, what about the political risks, as you describe them, of Donald Trump?  Who is a climate sceptic, he has previously claimed that climate change didn’t exist and he has threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement, and promised a coal revival.

Tom Burke:  Yeah, he is probably a political risk to more than the climate as well. But the reality is that there is not a huge amount that he can actually do to stop the momentum. He can certainly slow down the regulatory push. He can do things domestically that mean that legislation doesn’t drive a low-carbon economy forward faster in the US. He can’t really do much to stop the international community going forward. If you remember the Bush Administration pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, meanwhile the rest of the world got on with it and achieved the objectives. In that sense he can’t stop the world going ahead. The Chinese aren’t doing something about climate change because they care about what the President of the United States is thinking, they are doing something about climate change because it immediately affects their people, and they are going to go on doing that. So I don’t think that we are going to see a very dramatic change globally. Domestically, in the US, I think that we are going to see a slowing down of their efforts there. But you have to remember that in the US the reach of the president doesn’t run everywhere, there are going to be a lot of states, like California and other states, that are going to go on driving forward to take up the opportunities in a low-carbon economy, there are going to be a lot of cities going ahead and doing things, so I don’t think that we are going to see quite the same cataclysm that some people have said. I think we are going to discover that Elon Musk, the guy who is producing the electric vehicles at Tesla, is a much better businessman than Donald Trump.

Sky News: You talked about the costs of dealing with the problem of climate change, and I wonder if the economics might influence Donald Trump to change his position slightly, he is a businessman; he is a numbers man after all.

Tom Burke: I think that you are right about that. What might well influence Donald Trump, as it really should be influencing our own government, is the fact that the rest of the world really is moving on very fast with an energy transition, an energy revolution, that really is driving forward towards low-carbon. And because we have been a bit incoherent in our policy, are getting left behind, and there is a real risk that if Donald Trump does what he has been talking about, then the same thing will happen in the United States. So we will be surrendering massive amounts of market opportunities to the Chinese and the European countries, that are getting on with the energy revolution.

Sky News: How bigger challenge is it to meet this commitment that the Paris Agreement sets, and what changes will the UK and other countries have to make in order to do that.

Tom Burke: It is a very big challenge to meet it, and we are not going fast enough with what we are doing, so we are going to have to do more. Now that was recognised in the Paris Agreement, it was recognised that this was a start, and that we would have to keep upping what we are doing regularly. There is a so called ratchet mechanism that would drive things forward every five years. So we are going to have to go faster. What I suspect will happen is that we will end up making much better use of our resources in generating capacity, being much more efficient in the way that we use energy in our own homes, lowering our own bills, and in particular in many parts of the world it’s going to improve air quality, as we take out the emissions from vehicles and from power stations. So actually what we are going to see as we get on with this energy revolution, is lots of aspect of our lives improving, not just reducing the threat of climate change.

Sky News: And if we needed a reminder of why the Paris Agreement is necessary, we had the news this week that it is the warmest year on record.

Tom Burke: I think that is absolutely right, and we have seen this year, for instance, the hurricane season in the Indian and Pacific oceans was very aggressive. We are seeing a huge increase in the number of deaths and the amount of damage that is done by extreme weather events, and that is only one of the manifestations of an increasing climate. Almost every year this decade has been warmer than the year before, and that is a pretty alarming sign, as we what that scientists told us twenty years ago was going to happen, is actually happening a bit faster than they said.

Sky News: Ok. Tom Burke, thank you very much for joining us this evening on Sky News.

 

 

 

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IEA projection of oil consumption peak goes against what many in the industry believe – Share Radio

 

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Share Radio:  Let’s take a look at oil, because oil consumption is tipped to peak no sooner than 2040, even if the Paris climate agreement is implemented, that is according to the outlook of the International Energy Agency, the IEA. This projection goes against what many in the industry believe, such as the CFO of Shell Simon Henry, who predicted that supply could peak within 5 to 15 years. So who is right? For his thoughts on this story, I am joined on the line by Tom Burke, who is Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism. Tom, a very good day to you, what’s you take on this report?

Tom Burke: Good Afternoon. I think it reflects the reality that we are going to see a very volatile future for the oil price, as the cycle of investment slows down, and that works through to prices. But into that gap I think that we are going to see a far faster acceleration of the deployment of renewables than the IEA is currently projecting. All their previous projections for the rate at which the cost of renewables will go down and the uptake of those renewable will go up, they have all enormously underestimated the take up of renewables. The same is true of storage and the cost of batteries and the way they are going down. So I suspect that the long run future for oil is going to be closer the Simon Henry’s view than the IEA’s view.

Share Radio: Which is quite extraordinary really, because not many people would have actually thought that someone who head up, or is at least a key player in, an oil company will actually say, you know what, demand for our product will actually tail off in between 5 and 15 years.

Tom Burke: Yes, but there is some wrinkle that you need to be aware of in Simon’s decision. Shell is now mostly a gas company, more of its product is gas than oil, and so what you’re really looking at is to petrol consumption, because the bulk of oil is used in transport, and the high value piece of that is in petrol for vehicles and I think that what we are going to be seeing is a race between Elon Musk and the oil companies, for how quickly we drive forward with electric vehicles. And if that takes out the top end of the barrel, then it is much more likely that Simon Henry will be right, than it is that the IEA will be right.

Share Radio: Yes, but clearly if that forecast holds true, and it really is putting pressure on the oil companies, the other players in the field, to have their “wake up and smell the coffee moment”, unless this is it.

Tom Burke: I think that you are absolutely right about that. And I think that what is very important to bear in mind is, that if Simon Henry is right, the consequences for everybody are quite dramatic. We get in Britain, around 60 billion per year in tax revenues from the oil and gas industry, and we get about 20% of our pension fund dividends, so you would begin to see an impact, over that time frame, you will begin to see an impact on those revenue flows and tax flows, and we need to be pretty thoughtful about how we replace them.

Share Radio: And certainly, if we take Simon Henry’s forecast, and that really does appear to suggest that oil prices will fall under phenomenal pressure, and we have actually seen that this year, how oil went from three digit growth around 2015, and before that in fact, to where it is now registering at about 45-50, dollars per barrel. So if it begins to deplete where can we actually see prices being if we look forward? Could we actually have a return to those three digits?

Tom Burke: I doubt it. Well, you could get spikes where the price goes up. You’ve got the underline transition out of whatever is going on, especially if interest rates go up, and the world continues to be pretty turbulent politically, then you are going to see a deep reluctance in being will to invest in the kind of project that the oil companies run, which are highly capital intensive, very long life projects, with a big gap between spend starting and revenues coming in. I think that there will be a real lack of appetite for those kinds of projects. Renewables are going to look much more attractive, because they are much lower capital intensity, you can do them on a much more modular scale. So in terms of capital allocation, it is easy to see how in these circumstances of very high volatility and political turbulence, investment in renewables doesn’t only look more appealing from an energy or climate perspective, it also looks more attractive from a financial security perspective.

Share Radio: And given the pendulum swing as well we shouldn’t forget that the move away from oil does have geopolitical ramifications as well, particularly for the likes of OPEC.

Tom Burke: I think that’s exactly right. Mr Putin is pretty dependant on oil revenues for sustaining his popularity at home. I would be more concerned about what we do about countries like Mozambique or Egypt, for whom a gas resource is a very important part of their ability to generate revenues going forward. So you are absolutely right, there could be very significant geopolitical consequences, if we don’t think through how this is going to work, and what else we need to do other than sit in our cars and take advantage of low petrol prices.

Share Radio: Yes of course. In the introduction I mentioned the Paris climate accord, negotiated in fact in December last year, so where does this fit into the jigsaw puzzle, because they set emission targets and of course there are concerns as to whether America can fulfil those targets given the change at the White House next year, and Donald Trump’s own scepticism about global warming.

Tom Burke: Yes, I get that. I think that is important. I think the thing to remember is that Paris marked a really significant turning point in the whole debate on climate change. Really what’s happened now is that the political risks to governments of not doing something  on climate change are growing, and the political risks of doing something are falling as the cost of renewable falls. So you have more extreme weather events, more of the effects that scientists have predicted occurring, putting real pressure on governments to do something, meanwhile the costs of doing something are going down. Up until Paris, the regulatory push was the thing that was driving us towards a low-carbon economy, but what I think that we are beginning to see now is a much stronger opportunity pull. Now Mr Trump can maybe slow down the regulatory push, though probably not as much as he thinks, but he can’t do anything to stop the opportunity pull. So what you are seeing is the Elon Musk’s, the people with better technologies, really coming in. If you think about the IEA projections about the oil going out to 2040, 60% or more of fossil fuel use is waste heat. To start a company like Uber or Air BNB, that is exactly the kind of thing that looks like an opportunity, to eliminate that waste heat.  I think that we are going to see a lot more creativity in that sort of area. So I think that things will happen faster and the opportunity pull will become increasingly important as we go forward.

Share Radio: Ok Tom, we have to leave it there. It was an absolute pleasure speaking to you. That was Tom Burke who is chairman of E3G, giving his reaction to the IEA’s latest oil report. Basically, saying that oil consumption will peak no sooner than 2040. Although that view puts them in collision with the CFO OF Shell who predicts that supply could peak within 5-15 years. A debate which will go on, I’m sure, for some time.

 

 

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2016 is set to be the hottest year on record – BBC News – 14 Nov 16

 

 

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BBC News: Let’s talk to Tom Burke, Chairman of the environment think tank E3G, also a former government advisor on climate change. Thanks for being with us. So, 2016 looks set to be the warmest year on record, following 2015, that was the warmest. Is this just going to go on and on progressively?

Tom Burke: Yes. That’s the thing this is cumulative problem. It gets worse if you don’t do something about it. It will get worse year on year. And the problems for people’s lives, for prosperity and for security, will also get worse.

BBC News: So for people like Donald Trump the new president of the United States, who has said in the past that climate change is a hoax, or the idea that climate change is man-made is a hoax, is this evidence to the contrary?

Tom Burke: Yes, it’s very definitely evidence to the contrary. Mr Trump is going to have to deal with reality, and understand that science doesn’t pay any attention to the illusions, or delusions, of politicians, in this case. There is very little that he can actually do to stop the rest of the world from getting on with what it wants to do. We are seeing in Marrakesh now, the reaction of other counties has been to say, well, we are going to go on anyway.  He can slow down the way that the world addresses the problem, but he can’t actually stop it. As indeed his predecessors found out, when Bush pulled out of Kyoto protocol, the rest of the world went on and delivered what it had set out to do.

BBC News: But he has threatened to pull American out of the climate change agreement, surely that would be an enormous blow to that agreement, wouldn’t it?

Tom Burke: It would be a blow, because it would reinforced those laggard countries to keep trying to slow things down.

BBC News: Who are the laggard countries?

Tom Burke: Countries like Saudi Arabia for instance, and Russia to some extent. But only part of the response to climate change is being driven by a regulatory push. There is now an enormous amount on opportunity pull, pulling people into a low-carbon economy. Elon Musk, and the delivery of electric vehicles lowering the cost of storage, for instance. You’re not seeing a simple idea, to constrain the economy from putting more carbon into the atmosphere. You’re seeing lots and lots of people seeing how they are going to make money, and make the economy work better, by actually delivering that low-carbon economy.

BBC News: And now even China is getting in to renewables in quite a big way.

Tom Burke: China is expecting to make and absolute fortune from electric vehicles in the same way that it has done with solar panels, by getting ahead. And that is the danger for America, of Trump pulling it out, is that America gets left behind in and energy revolution that is going on all over the world, and gathering pace.

BBC News:  So actually, you sound quite optimistic? The world is getting its act together if you like. But is it too late?

Tom Burke: It might well be too late. I think that is part of the news that we are hearing now. We are at 1.2 degrees. Climate begins to get really unmanageable when you pass 2 degrees of temperature rise, so we’re not going fast enough, that’s for sure. So I am optimistic in the sense that Mr Trump can’t stop us from doing things, but I do think that were are not doing enough, and we are not doing it fast enough to really tackle the problem.

BBC News: Great to talk to you Tom Burke, thank you so much for being with us.

 

 

Posted in BBC, Business, Climate Change, Economics, Economics, Energy, Energy Security, In the media, International, People, Politics, renewables, Security, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evidence submitted to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee investigation into energy policy

 

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Evidence I submitted to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee investigation into energy policy

 

In justifying its decision to go ahead with Hinkley the Government has emphasised the fact that EDF will bear its construction risk. This is true, albeit with some generous performance standards. However, the commercial risk will fall wholly on Britain’s energy consumers. This underlines the importance of the judgement of whether or not this investment represents value for money.

The Government’s three page assessment of this question amounts to little more than an invitation to take its word for it. Not enough evidence is provided to make any independent assessment of the validity of its conclusions. The recent NAO report on Hinkley provides a reason to treat them with considerable scepticism. It found that the Government’s own estimate of the additional cost of Hinkley to consumers had increased fourfold between October 2015 and the report’s publication in July 2016.

The contract with EDF to build Hinkley does not represent value for money for consumers. It is a 35 year index linked ‘take or pay’ contract at an additional cost to consumers of £37 billion for 90% of 3.2GW of electricity. The attached schedule lists some of other options that are cheaper, faster, cleaner and more reliable ways to meet our need for affordable, secure low carbon electricity without Hinkley.

The costs of renewables and batteries continue to fall each year. It is likely that they will have fallen sufficiently to no longer require subsidy before Hinkley is operational. There is no likelihood that nuclear costs will have fallen below the need for subsidy across the whole of the proposed 16GW programme, not the least because the Government is repeating the mistake of the AGR programme in having four different vendors each offering a different technology thus eliminating even the prospect of series learning.

The Government seems unaware of the profound changes that electricity systems are undergoing globally as the digital revolution transforms them. It continues to formulate policy in terms of technology choice rather than system architecture. This prevents it from securing the best available package of benefits for both consumers and taxpayers.

There is a very broad consensus on the goal of Britain’s electricity policy. It must provide electricity that is secure, affordable and low carbon. Currently, peak demand for electricity in Britain is about 60GW for a very short time on the coldest day. Baseload, the demand that must always be met, is some 30GW. The total generating capacity available to the grid is some 85GW.

This means a great deal of our national investment in electricity generation capacity is unproductive – generating no electricity or revenue much of the time. The critical policy question is how best to match demand and supply so as to make the most productive use of our investment in generating capacity. This is a more useful question than simply asking what technology should be chosen to replace retiring capacity.

Modern data handling capacity and sophisticated software makes it possible to do this much more effectively than was possible even in the fairly recent past. This puts premium on flexibility rather than volume. Both the economics and the nature of the technology make nuclear very inflexible and thus a bad fit with a system architecture that is seeking to maximise flexibility in order to improve capital productivity and lower costs to consumers.

Two examples make this point.

In order to maintain security of supply a grid containing Hinkley must have 3.2GW of additional supply instantly available in case of an unplanned outage – these occur frequently in the current nuclear fleet, largely for non-nuclear reasons. Supply from renewables is variable but its variability can be forecast

with high confidence thus permitting a wide range of flexibility measures to be brought into play at lower cost.

On current forecasts we are likely to be able to meet our baseload demand entirely from zero marginal cost renewables for long periods during the year during the twenty thirties. Under the contract with EDF we would have to forego 3.2GW of that zero marginal cost supply in order to use the electricity from Hinkley.

Hinkley, and the rest of the nuclear programme if financed on a similar take or pay basis, would, in effect, set an unjustifiably high floor on the price at which electricity could be supplied to consumers.

Furthermore, the current 16 GW programme represents a £100 billion bet that electricity systems will retain essentially its current architecture over the next fifty years.

In short, the Government has overvalued the importance of Hinkley’s contribution to baseload and undervalued the importance of flexibility in a modern electricity system.

Despite the certainty implied by the headlines accompanying the Government’s decision to proceed, it still not certain that the project will go ahead. There remain significant doubts over the financing, including the current case in the European Court seeking to annul the State Aids clearance, the possibility of a further State Aids obstacle to the re-financing of EDF necessary for it to proceed and the financial implications of the wide range of investigations by the French nuclear regulator to which EDF is subject.

The Government should restructure the electricity market around the creation of an independent system operator with a duty to ensure a level playing field between supply and demand management options. This would guarantee that Britain makes the most productive use of its generating suite and thus captures most benefit for consumers.

 

 

Tom Burke CBE

Chairman

 

 

Posted in Business, Domestic, Economics, Economics, Energy, Energy Efficiency, EU, European, Finance, Hinkley, House of Lords, Nuclear, Politics, renewables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment