Why Renewables Are Doomed and Fossil Fuels Are the Future

We’re on the verge of a new energy revolution. Except it’s the exact opposite of the one the “experts” at places like BP,  the International Energy Agency and ‚Äì ahem ‚Äì the Guardian are predicting.

For years we’ve been assured by politicians, energy industry specialists and green advocates that renewables such as wind and solar are getting more and more cost-competitive while dirty fossil fuels are so discredited and wrong and evil we’ll soon have to leave them in the ground.

But to believe this you’d have to believe in a world where Donald Trump and Brexit hadn’t happened; where taxpayers were still prepared to bankroll, ad infinitum, the expensive, inefficient, environmentally-damaging produce of favoured crony-capitalists; where no one had access on the internet to articles showing how the whole climate change industry is such a scam.

That world doesn’t exist.

This is why we need to take with a massive pinch of salt, for example, the latest BP Energy Outlook 2017 which claims that renewables are set to grow and grow over the next two decades:

Renewables in power are set to be the fastest growing source of energy – at 7.6% per year to 2035, more than quadrupling over the Outlook period. Renewables account for 40% of the growth in power generation, causing their share of global power to increase from 7% in 2015 to nearly 20% by 2035.

It’s why we should laugh to scorn articles like this one in Vox boasting about how the US solar industry employs more people than the US coal industry.

And why economics writers like the normally sensible Jeremy Warner do themselves no favours when they produce tosh like this in the op-ed columns of that once respectable newspaper The Daily Telegraph. In a piece with the virtue-signalling headline “Bad news, petrol heads; Trump or no Trump, the green revolution is coming to get you,” Warner claims:

We may not be there quite yet, but we are close. Green technologies are reaching a tipping point of take-up, cost and efficiency which make their eventual wholesale adoption virtually inevitable, regardless of anything that might be done to reinvigorate fossil fuel industries in the meantime.

Actually, it’s not the fossil fuel industry that needs invigorating. As even the BP Energy Outlook report admits, fossil fuels are doing just fine and will do for the foreseeable.

But while I’m sure the BP report is right about the growth of fossil fuels ‚Äì we’ve got to get our energy from somewhere ‚Äì it seems to me that its forecast for renewables comes from a mix of wishful thinking and heroic assumptions based on conditions that no longer exist.

First, let me deal with the wishful thinking part.

It is an unfortunate fact that over the last forty years, the Climate Industrial Complex ‚Äì as Myron Ebell calls it ‚Äì has slipped its slimy green tentacles into pretty much every institution you could name from government bodies like NASA and NOAA through our schools and universities and the mainstream media (BBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Guardian, Vanity Fair, the Times) even unto the Big Oil companies such as the people responsible for this energy report, BP.

If you can’t quite believe the last bit ‚Äì and I don’t blame you: I too, as a BP shareholder would prefer BP to engage in its core business rather than promote green flummery ‚Äì look at this interview given by Spencer Dale, the BP Group Chief Economist who produced the BP Energy Outlook Report.

The global energy industry ‚Äì governments, regulators,  resource owners, producers like BP ‚Äì faces two massive challenges over the next 20-30 years. The first is to ensure that we use energy in a sustainable way consistent with the long-term health of the planet. At the same time, it’s important to make sure there are plentiful energy supplies for the fast-growing economies of the world ‚Äì so that many hundreds of millions of people can be lifted out of low incomes, out of fuel poverty.

Paris was a significant step forward in addressing the first challenge. One of the messages from both our annual Energy Outlook and the BP Statistical Review of World Energy is the scale of the change that we will need to see to get close to achieving the goals set out in Paris – in terms of both energy efficiency and the fuel mix. That will require significant changes in policy, technology and consumer behaviour.

Your response on reading this eco-drivel is I hope the same as mine was: WTF???

Let me just repeat:  Spencer Dale is the Chief Economist for one of the world’s biggest oil companies, responsible for one of the world’s most influential energy reports. Yet the way he talks about energy issues he might just as well be writing a press release for Greenpeace. This may be shocking but it really oughtn’t to be surprising. Most people in positions of authority have been required to think this way for decades. It’s what’s known as Groupthink: if you don’t observe the correct pieties, you don’t get promoted.

But consider, for a moment, what a toxic effect such groupthink has had on our ability to differentiate the true from the false, the realistic from the unrealistic, the rational from the lunatic in the key area of energy. If even the guy in charge of the BP Energy Report can’t be relied on to give an objective opinion, is it any wonder that our politicians and businessmen and financial institutions alike are prey to such muddled thinking?

Now for my second reason for believing that renewables are toast (well, toast-ish…: of course they’ll trundle on because too many people are making too much money and spending a fortune on lobbying): what I call the “heroic assumptions based on conditions that no longer exist.”

The key point that almost no one seems to understand about renewables, not even the energy “experts”, is that they’re only justifiable if you believe in the Climate Fairy.

There used to be another reason called “Peak Oil” ‚Äì or “when fossil fuels run out” ‚Äì but no one takes that one seriously any more. So the only reason we’re left with for putting up all those bat-chomping eco-crucifixes and bird-frying solar arrays is the notion that, somehow, they’re saving the planet by reducing “carbon” emissions.

No one would build these things otherwise because they’re just not commercially viable. The energy they produce is unreliable, unpredictable, intermittent, destabilising (prone to surges and lulls), environmentally damaging (from their huge concrete bases to their use of poisonous rare earth minerals), and very expensive. That’s why they have to be subsidised by taxpayers. And the only reason taxpayers subsidise them is because they’re forced to do so by government legislation which has been framed in the belief that this is a necessary measure to “combat climate change.”

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