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How Heavingly Stupid Can You Be About A Green New Deal

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The Green New Deal is the idea that – according to one adherent at least – we must spend £100 billion a year in order to change Britain to beat climate change. Well, it’s a view at least.

Yes, we can go into detail about why climate change isn’t going to be as bad as all that. That the worst projections – RCP 8.5 – are already proven not to be possible. We could argue about the best way to deal with the problem, a carbon tax rather than every loudmouth insisting upon their special plan. We could even point out the outcome of all the IPCC models which is that the solution is globalised capitalism with a carbon tax.

But instead let us just wonder at quite how heavingly stupid certain of these adherents are. Take this as an example:

OK, large scale solar is the cheap way of gaining electric power these days. Cool.

No, don’t argue that they’re not including variability or intermittency. That connection costs are summat. Let’s just take their own evidence at face value. Large scale solar is cheaper than any other form of energy generation – OK, or collection if you prefer. So, we don’t need any Green New Deal, do we? We’ve already solved the problem.

As Bjorn Lomborg pointed out a couple of decades back. If, as it had been and showed no signs of stopping, solar goes down in price by 20% a year then at some point it becomes the power source of economic choice. At which point all new power sources are solar, none anything else, and we’ve solved climate change. Things like insulating every house in the country don’t matter if heating is electric and solar. We don’t have to overthrow capitalism because an electric powered capitalism will work just fine.

So, what are the fools telling us now that solar is – as they claim at least – the cheapest source of power?

We need a Green New Deal.

No we don’t. The Green New Deal is the insistence that dumping fossil fuels will impose vast costs upon society therefore we’ve got to force the issue and invest heavily. But we’ve just done an end run around that by making solar power cheap. The cheapest even as is the insistence. If we’ve now got cheap energy the rest of the plan is a nonsense. All we’ve got to do is wait while we squeeze the last bit of use out of our extant fossil fuel infrastructure and the new installations will be solar. Because, as they say, this is now the cheap way of getting our desired ‘leccie.

The only way this won’t happen is if solar isn’t the cheapest form of electricity.

Cheap solar power entirely obviates the need to do anything else about climate change. Yea, even makes redundant the Green New Deal.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Solar isn’t that good in the UK, especially in the winter when the sun is low and cool in the sky and the days are short. It’s also the time when we need power the most. However down in the middle east the days are longer, fairly constant and the suns rays are more powerful. Solar electricity down there is many times cheaper, currently building for 1.35 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour. The problem is that you can’t transmit that cheap electricity from there to here. You could however use it to electrolyse water to make hydrogen that you “could” ship here but hydrogen is not a good fuel to transport. A better solution would be use that hydrogen in a Sabatier reaction to combine it with CO2 cheaply extracted from sea water. The output is methane or methanol both things you can transport. These would be “green” products as the CO2 used to make them was sucked out of the environment so they are carbon neutral. Methanol might be easier to transport but liquified methane i.e. liquified natural gas is already something we readily transport using pipelines and ships. Just ship this “green” natural gas to the UK where we already have the terminals to unload it and pump it into our existing natural gas storage and distribution network. From there it would be used like fossil natural gas to heat homes and generate electricity in gas turbine power stations. Mixing “green” and “fossil” gas in the network is not a problem: it’s the same chemical.

    Solar power efficiency keeps improving so if in the early adoption days it costs more than fossil gas you have two options. You can allow people to pay a premium for the “green” stuff just as they currently can pay a premium for renewable electricity. Alternatively you can put a progressive tax on the fossil gas to drive consumers away from it. Either way it means getting full use out the existing gas infrastructure and the gas power stations that currently supply on average 40% of our UK electricity and are capable of much more for those frequent days when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

    It’s 100% green. It doesn’t cost the hundreds of billions per year to replace the nations power infrastructure and everyone’s heating system. It eliminates the risk of the lights going out when the weather is “wrong” and the mostly yet to be built renewable power storage systems are insufficient. It means we don’t have cover the country with low efficiency solar power plants and out costal waters with expensive offshore wind farms. All we have to do is support the investment in the middle east solar power stations, the Sabatier plants to turn it into methane and create extra port and shipping capacity to get it to the UK. If you want to be super green you could even power the new ships from this methane. The only downside is if the producers try to ransom us by withholding their gas, and that would be an empty threat. In times of duress we could still feed fossil gas into our network.

    • I’d agree that, if you take climate change seriously, extracting carbon and hydrogen from the environment and using it to store non-CO2 emitting energy is the way to go.

      My major whinge is the reliance on the Middle Easterners and other foul fiendish foreigners. That’s why I’d prefer breeder reactors that can burn the UK’s stockpile of spent fuel and depleted uranium. If necessary they could burn thorium or uranium could be extracted from seawater to run things.

  2. UK anthropocentric CO2 emissions are just 1 part in a million of the atmosphere. It may be that CO2 is warming the planet, although there is actually no evidence that this is the case, correlation not being causation; however, even if warming due to anthropocentric CO2 is actually happening, is the UK’s contribution significant and even if it is, is that such a bad thing?

    Nearly 1/4 of the earth’s land surface is permanently frozen, in the northern hemisphere winter that rises temporarily to nearly 1/3, these huge frozen areas have very low levels of flora and fauna. There is reason to celebrate warming as it would increase fertile areas, rainfall, biodiversity and crop production. There is no doubt that anthropocentric CO2 is helping towards increasing planet growth and causing deserts to shrink, although by how much is open to debate.

    It could well be that cutting CO2 emissions, regardless of the efficiency of solar technology, is undesirable. Add to that the fact that fossil fuels are in fact stored solar energy. Natural gas, which the UK has temporarily placed a moratorium on the exploration of, could have huge potential and could be used on the UK’s sunless winter days and night, solar definitely can not.

    • On a point of information, the number of CO2 molecules in one cubic centimeter of atmospheric gas at STP is? You may be surprised to find that it is approximately 1.0 E+15, give or take a nought. If you have average size fingers, one cubic centimeter is roughly the volume of your pinky from the tip down to the base of the fingernail. 1,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of CO2 in that volume. Add up all those insignificant contributions, like my own to the fiscus, and it becomes quite a lot.

  3. Technology is not the issue. It is agreed policy.
    A carbon tax is the most optimal way of reducing emissions. But it is only net beneficial (i.e. costs of forgone climate change are greater than costs of the carbon tax) if applied globally. There is a fundamental problem here. The Paris Agreement Article 4.1 specifically exempts developing countries from any obligation to even constrain their emissions growth in the near future. The burden is put upon developed countries. So whilst a uniform carbon tax will be net beneficial, a carbon tax applied to only developed countries (with less than 40% of total emissions) will be net harmful to those countries)
    Also, excluding developing countries put a constraint on the level of emissions reductions.
    Some simplified maths based on the “UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2018” in GtCO2e.
    Global emissions in 2017 were 55, projected to rise to 60 in 2030.
    Developing countries were 35, rising to 40 in 2030.
    The 1.5C target requires a 55% reduction by 2030. That is a reduction of 30. On average developing countries must reduce their emissions by 175% (30+5)/20 to reach the global target. The policy maths does not work.

    https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement

  4. Two points
    If we need to spend £100billion a year to make the UK green then presumably we need to spend £13 trillion a year on China which emits 13X as much CO2 as the UK. Any volunteers to pay that £13 trillion?
    Right now – in August! – the UK is burning coal because Ed Millionaireband decided to subsidise unreliables at the expense of reliables so made the newbuild of efficient nuclear and CCGT uneconomic.

    Large scale solar is quite a good idea but in the UK it only works to top-slice the daily demand peaks which tend to be durng daylight when factories and offices that work single-shift draw power from the grid.
    Windpower reduces fossil fuel consumption when the wind blows but is totally unreliable with minimum production less than 0.1% of peak production, itself only around 60% of rated capacity. No matter how many widfarms you build you still need to build the same amount of *reliable* production capacity. What I find particularly irritating is that windpower production is inversely correlated with demand for electricity.
    The German Greens pushed Merkel into closing German nuclear plants so Germany replaced them with new generators burning BROWN COAL.
    Denmark went big on windpower but was so reliant on Sweden’s nuclear plants for back-up that it had a “brown-out” when a cable failed.
    Let’s have windpower for stuff that doesn’t need a reliable power source but do NOT give up our reliable sources for anything that is vital.

  5. Out here in Californiastan, they went green in a big way. Thus reducing us to third world status when the green power wasn’t enough to keep the state running. Rolling blackouts were the rule of the day.

    Entirely forseeable as we have a high pressure episode every summer. The high cuts the sea breeze, nobbling the wind power, followed by sunset killing the solar. Not much hydro here in the summertime. Temperature still 40-45 all over the state.

    Gas, coal, nuclear; too many plants gone. Sacrificed on the Green altar. Gov. Nuisance deflecting blame every which way. Global warming he cries. Funny thing is that a lot of the temperature records were set in the 1920’s. Got to wonder what the streets of San Francisco smelled like.

  6. The whole point is to cripple western economies. The planet is just an excuse.
    It would be worthwhile checking from where green funding originates.

    • I understand that Shellenberger believes the nonsense is financed by the gas industry, to eliminate competition from coal and nukes. Of course it certainly makes sense for foreign fossil fuel producers like the Middle Easterners or the Russians to eliminate local production as well. And no doubt now the renewables industry is established, it would know that without the Green propaganda and the subsidies it generates, it’d go down the plug hole.

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